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Canada's best-selling car gets better

The top of the line Civic Touring at $28,000-plus is very much a bargain for a car its size and carrying the features it does.

The top of the line Civic Touring at $28,000-plus is very much a bargain for a car its size and carrying the features it does. There are so many positives about this four-door sedan that it’s no wonder the 2016 Civic won Canadian Car of the Year from the Automobile Journalists of Canada. If that alone isn’t enough honour for the Civic, it continues to be Canada’s bestselling car – a title it has held since 1998.

After enjoying the Civic Touring for a week, I wondered what the entry level LX Civic is like. So I went to St. Albert Honda and asked Gio Baldassarre to let me look. Although it lacked the features the Touring model had, the fit and finish of the LX is still pleasing to the senses. Add the right options and you would still have a great Civic for less than $20,000. A more basic DX model is offered at a lower price point for very cost-conscious people or fleet owners. There are two other models above the LX – EX, EXT and then the Touring sedan.

On the outside, the Touring is much better looking than previous generations of Civic. Enough that people who asked were surprised it was a Civic and not a more expensive model of Honda. On the inside, the two-level instrument cluster is gone and good riddance. The new layout is uncluttered and is easy to read. Controls are well positioned with every switch and knob at the driver’s fingertips. The heated seats warm up quickly and can get your buns quite warm. Two thumbs up for those on a cold winter day. The interior is spacious, the seats comfortable and well bolstered for most bodies. Legroom in the rear is sufficient for adults even with seats moved back for taller folk in the front. The Touring model had a recharge pad for a cellphone and the usual USB plugs, etc., underneath the two-tiered console.

At speed, the Civic is very quiet inside. After the first day on the road, I wondered why someone would buy an Accord with the Civic being so refined and comfortable – even for long-distance driving. This brings me to ride and handling. In the Touring model, engineers have done a remarkable job of tuning the suspension to extract excellent handling without compromising the smoothness and comfort owners would expect. Taking the Touring through my favourite twisty road one day and pushing the car through, I was impressed at its steering response and tenacious grip through the curves. It really puts some German sedans to shame.

The 1.5 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is as smooth as you would expect in a Honda vehicle. It puts out a respectable 174 horsepower and pulls very well from zero to 100 km/ph. So you can certainly have a lot of fun in this car but it’s also a fuel sipper delivering 6.7L/100km combined driving. Very close to what I achieved. On the highway, the engine sips fuel at 5.5L/100km. This makes for a long cruising range on road trips depending of course on your speed. There is only one transmission option with the Touring model, a CVT.

I’m not a big fan of these transmissions in a performance-oriented automobile, but this combo works well. A 2.0 litre 4-cylinder engine is offered in three other Civic models rated at 158 horsepower.

The trunk is roomy enough for two people. There is plenty of length and the rear seatback folds down to increase cargo capacity.

Honda offers a wide variety of options to personalize the Civic to your own tastes and needs. This means even a more basic model can be personalized at reasonable cost. The Touring itself is a bargain starting at $26,990 and loaded with features at that price. Add on the freight and you’re a little above the $28,000 mark.

So I have to say, considering how well the Civic Touring is equipped, why would anyone pay more for an Accord? More interior and cargo room certainly. But you’re not going to feel cramped inside the Civic. Personally I like my cars small for running around the city. As previous owners of Civics have found out this model is really good value for the money with a reliable power train, economical operation, refined fit and finish and long-term durability. If it is to be purchased as a first car, you can be sure the Civic can be enjoyed for many years and kilometres and will hold its value quite well at trade-in time.

Garry Melnyk is a St. Albert resident and lifelong car buff who has written about new cars and trucks for radio and print publications since the ’70s.