The Honda Civic is available in three body styles – sedan, two-door coupe, and four-door hatchback – and no fewer than eleven named trim levels distributed among those shapes. There are whole car companies that offer fewer model choices than the Civic lineup. (One of those trim levels, the hardcore speed-machine Type R, is enough of its own creation to be covered in a separate CarsDirect article).
The Civic generally follows the standard Honda LX-EX-Touring trim level progression, with a few variations per body style tucked into the mix: the EX-L sedan includes leather upholstery, for example, and the hatchback features Sport lines unavailable on its trunked sisters. The Si coupe and sedan stand apart from the ladder of mainstream offerings. Most options are either low-priced port- or dealer-installed details, like cargo bins and wheel locks, or overpriced dress packages for the Sport and Si models.
One of our few frustrations with Honda's trim and option setup is that the Honda Sensing safety suite - automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruse control, and other sensor-assisted safeguards - is only available with the continuously-variable transmission (an $800 option when not standard), depriving safety-minded drivers of the joys of Honda's excellent six-speed manual gearbox.
With that in mind, we still recommend Honda Sensing for most drivers and include it as part of the following configuration:
- Model: 2018 Honda Civic EX-T Sedan
- Engine: 1.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder
- Output: 174 hp / 162 lb-ft
- Transmission:Continuously-variable transmission (CVT)
- Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
- MPG: 32 City/ 42 Hwy
- Options: Continuously variable transmission ($800), Honda Sensing ($1,000, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control)
- Base Price: $22,490 (including $890 destination charge)
- Best Value Price:$24,290
The base 2.0-liter engine is good; the turbocharged 1.5-liter motor is better. Although either powerplant is well-mannered and responsive, the turbo's all-around power and usability – with no efficiency penalty – justify the extra cost. Honda's CVT is better than average, but if you're willing to be mindful and exercise your left foot the six-speed manual transmission is a delight to use. Regardless of engine or transmission choice, fuel economy is excellent; most mileage estimates across the range are in the thirties around town and over 40 mpg on the highway.
Handling in everyday driving is typical Honda, a bit more direct and focused than most competitors without being edgy. The surprise is ride quality, which is uncannily good for a small car. Credit goes to both careful calibration and trick fluid-filled bushings on more upscale models.
The Civic Si sedan and coupe shift all this to another level. An increase in turbocharger boost pushes enough air through the smallish 1.5-liter motor to produce a maximum of 205 horsepower. The manual transmission is mandatory and a limited-slip differential helps get that power to the road. The Si's suspension tuning is the highlight, giving the car an agile feel missing from many costly, heavy sports sedans.
Drawbacks? There aren't a lot. Steering feedback isn't great on the non-Si models, and the 2.0-liter sounds wheezy under hard throttle, even though the performance is fine. And that's about is – the Civic is arguably the best all-around car in its segment in terms of driving dynamics.
The Civic's interior echoes that comfort-and-control chassis mindset with a startling amount of interior space - legroom in particular is worthy of a bigger car - backed by typically excellent Honda ergonomics. The designers have thankfully moved away from the science-fiction excesses of the recent past and (for the most part) back towards straightforward logic; yes, as with any feature-filled modern car there are plenty of controls, but they tend to be placed where expected and work without drawing attention away from the road.
On the outside, the Civic's 2015 redesign still looks fresh. The sheet metal wears a series of contemporary creases that don't overwhelm the basic shape, and the grille's unibrow - which seemed bold upon introduction - now resolves well with the rest of the design. The hatchback's styling is less polished, dominated by large air vents and multiple rear spoilers that play to a more aggro market segment; some will think it's rad, some will find it a touch immoderate.
The Best and Worst Things
Honda's tag line used to be "We make it simple." Their modern line could be "We make it feel simple." All the advanced technology packed into a Civic – variable-ratio steering, CVT, fluid-filled suspension bushings, safety sensors – works as intended without being feeling odd or overbearing, which cannot always be said about similar systems in much more expensive machines.
Gripes are few: The hatchback's proportions are attractive but the details can be excessive. Seating for three across in back can get a bit tight. The Si's chassis is sublime but its 205-horsepower motor is outgunned by bigger-engined rivals like the Volkswagen GTI and Ford Focus ST. And the virtual-slider touchscreen volume control for the sound system continues to be an ergonomic annoyance.
Right For? Wrong For?
Young singles: The Civic is the star of the compact segment, promising the right-sized packaging, the smart, intuitive technology, and the reasonable pricing to appeal to today's newest, least attached buyers.
Um... no one? With so many trims, three body styles, and several performance varieties, the Civic is the rare car that could make any buyer in today's market happy.
The Bottom Line
Buyers looking for a moderately-sized car most likely have a visit to the local Honda dealer on their agendas for obvious reasons. Filtering personal preferences through the trim-level matrix may take some time and consideration, but regardless of body style or driveline the Civic remains an all-around excellent car.