First drive: 2016 Honda Civic 2.0 in the UAE
The Honda Civic has been struggling to retain its relevance in recent years, what with strong competition from rivals that offer better overall value. Everyone would agree that the last truly-innovative Civic was the one that debuted in 2006, so a decade later, Honda has pulled out all the stops in an attempt to become the benchmark of the compact segment again, as can be seen by the daringly-designed exterior.
With design elements such as the hammerhead grille and claw-like tail lamps, opinions are split on its looks, but at least Honda is trying again. The new profile is as sporty as it gets for a compact car, with a liftback-style rear and “longer” looks that can fool the less-informed into thinking it’s a midsizer. In fact, the new Civic has gained less than 80mm in extra length, as well as being about 40mm wider and 40mm lower.
Inside, the new dashboard design is very modern, with soft-touch surfaces and screens for the central controls as well as part of the gauges. There’s also soft-touch areas on the doors and centre-armrest parts, but then we noticed the cost-cutting, such as the barely-padded armrests, the fully hard-plastic rear-door panels, the lack of a cover for the centre-armrest cubby, and the generally tinny feeling when you slam the doors shut.
Owners won’t care though, as the space inside is very generous, almost at midsize levels. Even the cargo volume under that tinny boot-lid is impressive, although the opening is now smaller.
The tech in our mid-range 2.0-litre model is enough to wow the layman, with the capacitive touchscreen and the full-colour info display in the gauges, as well as the rear camera with guiding lines and the right blind-spot camera. There’s also some nifty design ideas such as the double-decker centre-console storage so you can hide your phone charger below the shifter, and the volume-control button on the steering wheel that can also be controlled by sliding your thumb over it. With that said, we didn’t have time to explore all the features, but we did notice the lack of physical knobs for the radio volume and a/c fan, requiring a dig through the screen options to use them.
Again, we didn’t get a whole lot of time to drive the car, but we can say that power is merely adequate, even with the larger 158 hp 2.0-litre engine. Stepping on the throttle generates a lot of the typical Honda roar, but forward movement isn’t impressive, even with the new CVT automatic that’s supposed to extract more juice out of the motor. On a positive note, fuel consumption is a decent 9.0 litres/100 km, with a fair bit of city driving.
We also liked the ride and handling — nothing spectacular, mind you, but the balance between fun and comfort is good enough, with a quicker-than-average ratio steering that’s well-weighted, instantly-responsive throttle, adequate brakes that act linearly, and good body control. It’s easy to run out of grip if you push it, but understeer at the limit is clean and easily managed. And it’s a quieter than before, although not a class leader by any means.
So that’s the new 2016 Civic for you — a spacious commuter car that’s oddly satisfying to drive as long as you don’t think it’s a sports car. It’s expensive for its class, especially when compared to the always-on-discount Koreans, but at least you get more metal for your money now.
For UAE/GCC prices and specs, visit the Honda buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.