Despite being somewhat pricey with an average base engine, and boy-racer styling on some models, the 2019 Honda Civic remains at the top of the compact car class with good fuel economy, a terrific ride and handling, and a trio of exhilarating turbocharged engines.

Best Value

At a time when many manufacturers are limiting or dropping small cars from their portfolios, Honda continues to offer the Civic in a dizzying array of body styles (sedan, two-door coupe, four-door hatchback), trim levels (LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, EX-L Navi, Touring, Sport Touring), and performance types (Si, Type R), for a total of 11 named variants (the hardcore Type R is so unique it's reviewed separately).

The big news for 2019 is that Honda Sensing – the brand's suite of active safety systems that features forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist – is standard across a lineup that includes manually-equipped models. Alongside these systems, the base LX boasts the typical power features plus LED taillights, automatic climate control, a five-inch LCD screen, and Bluetooth.

Progressing up the model ladder, with a few variations per body style, the Sport trim adds 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a center exhaust outlet, a gloss black rear spoiler, smart keyless push-button start, sport pedals, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a seven-inch touchscreen that supports an 180-watt audio system, HondaLink telematics, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Stepping up to the EX adds the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, Honda's LaneWatch passenger-side blind-spot camera system, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors and front seats, variable intermittent wipers, a moonroof, a rear center armrest, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power driver's seat, and satellite and HD radio.

The EX-L includes leather upholstery, HomeLink, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, while the EX-L Navi adds navigation. Top-level Touring model additions include steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, 18-inch alloy wheels, outside mirror-integrated turn signals, rain-sensing wipers, auto on/off LED headlights, a power front passenger seat, a 450-watt audio system, and satellite-linked navigation with HD digital traffic. The Sport Touring model adds sport pedals, heated outboard rear seats, a center outlet exhaust, unique front and rear fascias, and lower side sills.

In addition, while they share a number of body panels, Si coupe and sedan models are marketed separately, and all Civic trims are mono-spec, aside from accessories that are either port- or dealer-installed. With that in mind, we opt for the entry-level turbocharged model, the EX, in the following configuration:

  • Model:2019 Honda Civic EX Sedan
  • Engine:1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Output:174 hp / 162 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Continuously variable transmission (CVT)
  • Drivetrain:Front-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy:32 City / 42 Hwy
  • Options:None
  • Base Price: $24,320 (including the $920 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $24,320

Performance

Honda Civic

Both engines are well-mannered and responsive. The base 2.0-liter can be matched to either a six-speed manual, or CVT. Developing 158 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque, it's quiet enough and provides decent power and, when mated to the better-than-average CVT, is the perfect combination for a daily commuter.

The turbocharged 1.5-liter motor, however, is better. Found on EX and above trims, horsepower is up by 16 to 174, along with a whopping 24 lb-ft increase in maximum torque to 162 lb-ft, available at just 1,700 rpm. In fact, the turbo's additional power and low-end torque come with no fuel efficiency penalty, easily justifying the additional cost.

In addition to the CVT, a slick six-speed manual is offered, although it's only available with the smaller engine on the LX sedan and Sport sedan, hatchback, and coupe trims. Regardless of engine or transmission choice, fuel economy is excellent. Models equipped with the 2.0-liter engine achieve an EPA-estimated 25 miles per gallon city, 36 mpg highway, and 29 combined with the six-speed manual and 30/38/33 mpg (city/highway/combined) with the CVT. Meanwhile, the 1.5-liter turbo scores up to 32/42/36 mpg.

Steering is both quick and direct, while the compliant suspension – exceptionally good for a small car – offers a smooth ride over everything from rutted and congested city streets to curvy back roads. Highway cruising is relaxed and serene, while turbocharged models, with hydraulic rear suspension bushings, offer even more precise handling.

Both the Civic Si sedan and coupe take this goodness to the next level. An increase in boost pushes the turbocharged 1.5-liter engine to 205 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. Specs include a high-flow turbo, an electric wastegate, larger front and rear stabilizer bars, quicker steering, larger brakes, a short-throw, six-speed manual, and a limited-slip differential, resulting in a more responsive drivetrain and even more precise handling.

Nits are few. Feedback through the steering wheel on non-Si models could be better, the brakes on Si models could be stronger, the smaller turbo could use a six-speed manual, while the 2.0-liter sounds strained when you put your foot into it, even though performance is unaffected.

Style

With three body types and significant differences between trims, the Civic's styling ranges from mild to wild and remains fresh, despite few changes since bowing in 2015.

The most popular is the svelte sedan, with a silhouette similar to the Audi A7, but ending in a trunk, rather than the Audi's hatch. For 2019, gloss black replaces chrome for the large front grille bar, while the flat black fog light trim is now bright chrome. In back, a chrome trim strip has been added to the lower valance panel. The coupe is the fashion maven of the lineup offering a bolder front fascia, a more aggressive rear fascia with a full-width taillight and larger lower valance panel, and dramatic character lines running the length of the body. Si models add various exterior trim bits and sportier wheels, while the Type R wades into the deep end with boy-racer looks that wouldn't look out of place in a Fast and Furious movie.

Inside, the Civic has recovered nicely from the major stumble that marked the interiors of the first two years of the ninth-generation model (2012 and 2013). The latest look is decidedly conservative, with a wide center console, various pockets and bins, tasteful soft-touch surfaces, low-sheen plastics, and a surprising amount of space.

The chairs up front are comfortable, covered in either sturdy cloth or leather, and offer enough head room for tall occupants, while the controls tend to be placed where expected, and work without drawing attention away from the road. Access to the rear seat is excellent on sedan and hatchback models, with the sedan offering the most leg room (37.4 inches), while the sedan's 15.1 cubic feet of trunk space approaches that of some mid-size sedans. Hatchbacks are shorter, yet roomier, offering 27.2 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats up, and 46.2 cubes with those seats folded, although it can still haul a 52cm road bike – albeit with the front wheel removed.

At the same time, despite having the most utility of the lineup, the Civic hatchback’s busy styling is polarizing at best, the standard five-inch screen on the base LX looks too small, access to the coupe's second row is challenging, and it sacrifices roominess for style with just 12 cubic feet of cargo space.

The Best and Worst Things

The combination of a terrific ride and handling – courtesy of variable-ratio steering, a slick CVT, and fluid-filled suspension bushings – along with a wide array of advanced safety systems make the latest Civic a compelling choice.

On the other hand, the hatchback's proportions are attractive but the details are excessive, seating for three in back can get a bit tight, while the Si, with 205 hp, is outgunned by the Volkswagen GTI and Ford Focus ST.

Right For? Wrong For?

Honda Civic

Young singles will appreciate the Civic's packaging, handling, intuitive technology, and reasonable pricing.

Empty-nesters will find that, despite the Civic's versatility, it's still a compact sedan that lack the higher ride height and easier ingress and egress of a crossover SUV.

The Bottom Line

Despite an average base engine, pricey upper trims, and polarizing boy-racer styling on Si and Type R models, the 2019 Honda Civic's great ride and handling, slick turbo engines, advanced safety features, and good fuel economy place it among the best in the compact class.