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2016 Honda Civic Touring Long-Term Verdict
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2016 Honda Civic Touring Long-Term Verdict


A 15-month search for that Honda magic

It’s been 15 months since we welcomed our long-term 2016 Honda Civic Touring to the #MTGarage and asked, “Has the Honda magic returned?” That’s a tough question to answer because magic isn’t quantifiable, but it came to mind every time I hopped into our Rallye Red test car. Regardless of its return, the Civic is an outstanding sales success for Honda, especially here in California, where it’s been the best-selling car for two years. With an achievement like that, we were eager for a long-term evaluation.

One big draw is likely the Civic’s new 1.5-liter turbo-four paired to a continuously variable transmission. For starters it’s relatively good at sipping fuel, which is something many Californians care about now that they pay an average of $3.23 for a gallon of fuel, the highest in the nation (as of this writing). Our test car was hard at work the minute it arrived—it spent many hours slogging through L.A. traffic, withstood numerous heat waves (with A/C on blast), and endured editors who know nothing else but to go hard on the gas pedal. That said, our Civic’s observed average fuel economy was a solid 32.2 mpg. And a look at the fuel log reveals five occasions where our Civic exceeded 40 mpg between fill-ups.

The powertrain had a peppy side to it, too. Acceleration was smooth and brisk, and the engine never felt out of breath lugging around five passengers or climbing steep inclines. The transmission was responsive and always on point—one the best CVTs we’ve experienced in recent memory. And many trips to the Malibu Canyon roads revealed that Honda didn’t skimp on chassis development, either. With a suspension system that combines standard MacPherson struts up front and a multilink setup out back, the Civic eagerly stayed planted through corners and was simply satisfying to navigate through twisty roads. Its variable-ratio steering system worked as advertised, especially with low-speed agility, which I especially appreciated while maneuvering tricky parking spots.

Some notable incidents pulled our Civic out of the MT Garage rotation. A hit-and-run incident while it was parked on the street caused substantial damage to the driver-side rear fender and door, requiring almost two weeks of body repair. Then there was the worrying ordeal due to a faulty transmission control module, which completely bricked our test car and required a tow truck for a rescue trip to the dealer. This occurred while our Civic was still relatively new, but other than that, it was trouble-free for the remainder of its stay.

Despite the down time, we managed to rack up 30,828 miles on the odometer. Our Civic looked just as fresh as it did when we first took delivery, including the leather seats and other interior touch points that are prone to wear and tear. No squeaks or rattles to report, either. Four routine maintenance visits cost us $483.20, though that total could’ve been about $100 less if it weren’t for one dealer that was twice as expensive as the others. For comparison, our previous long-term 2014 Mazda3 S GT set us back $162.55 for two service visits in 22,000 miles, and our 2013 Volkswagen Jetta GLI cost us nothing, thanks to complimentary maintenance for three years/36,000 miles.

Notes and comments from staffers were mostly positive. The infotainment system, however, was one common source of frustration, with its jumbled interface and clumsy capacitive-touch volume slider. Honda can do better, and it has—the new 2018 Accord, for example, gets a next-gen infotainment system that’s more responsive, sharper, and has a good old-fashioned volume knob. Other than that, we were impressed with the overall build quality, ergonomics, best-in-class legroom, and plenty of features showcasing Honda’s thoughtful engineering and attention to detail—the center storage console, for example, is not only spacious but also features multiple tiers of sliding trays and cupholders, a USB port, and an armrest that’s perfectly lined up with the one on the door. Then there’s the long list of tech, including remote start, adaptive cruise control, and a driver-assist system that automatically provides mild steering inputs to keep you in your lane.

One intern, who had lots of seat time in our Civic and a friend’s Audi A3, declared that the Honda was a “worthy adversary” to the fancy German sedan and “an amazing value.” It’s hard to argue with that assessment when you consider the Civic Touring’s premium features and a price tag just under $28,000. A similarly equipped front-drive A3 commands almost $10,000 more.

So back to that magic. Senior features editor Jonny Lieberman explained it pretty well following a Big Test compact sedan comparison that the Civic handily won. “Honda magic is tricky to define, but to me it means that in a given competitive set
, the Honda product stands out,” Lieberman said. “It drives better, it feels better, it’s engineered better, and it’s got special sauce—the X factor.” And after spending a year with the 10th-gen Civic, we’re even more convinced that Honda’s magic wand is stronger than ever.

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