A cheapie coupe was once the go-to car for the young and restless new driver.
Today, young drivers (millenials) are choosing four-door vehicles for their technological capabilities and space. Two-doors have become the niche choice because they have become expensive.
Honda hopes to mine some millennial gold with the 2016 Civic coupe. There are few small, entry-level front-wheel drive coupes today. The Kia Rio and Scion (a Toyota brand) tC are just about the only true competitors. Honda has several Civic variants planned, including the sportier Si, the sportiest Type R and a five-door hatchback.
The hunky 2016 coupe wows with its styling. Design credit goes to the millennial-aged British designer Guy Melville-Brown, 34. Honda knows that coupe buyers often decide to buy the Civic from seeing it on the road. It is an image-oriented purchase, Honda says.
The new coupe has a new chassis and body with two new engine options and a choice of six-speed manual transmission (on the base LX coupe only) or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). It is sold in five trim levels. The starting price ranges from $19,885 to $26,960 for the loaded Touring model, which is today’s tester.
Entry LX models have the 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It has fuel economy ratings of 26 mpg city, 38 highway and 31 mpg combined with the manual transmission, which increases by about 3 mpg to 30/41/34 with the CVT.
The EX and Touring models have the more technologically evolved 174-horsepower, 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with direct injection. It has mileage ratings of 31/41/35 mpg on the recommended 87 octane, and has a jump on the base engine with 162 foot-ponds of torque (24 foot-pounds more than the 2.0-liter) from 1,700 to 5,500 rpm. That’s a good spread of pulling power, but it is somewhat blunted by the mild-mannered CVT. Acceleration is acceptable, but speed enthusiasts will want to hold off for the sportier Si model.
The cabin is chic and contemporary with plug-in ports and generous storage areas, including a deep center console. The Touring has a lineup of desirable extras, including smart-key entry and locking with push-button ignition start, leather-trimmed upholstery, heated front seats, a power moonroof, a multi-angle rearview camera with guidance lines and the Honda LaneWatch side camera.
There is a 10-speaker (450-watt) audio system with a 7-inch touch screen that works with Apple CarPlay or the Android Auto app and infotainment access, plus two USB ports (1.0 and 1.5 amperes). But despite such largesse of extras, there is no passenger-seat height adjustment.
The Touring model also has the Honda Sensing package, which includes adaptive cruise control, collision-mitigation braking, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist system and road-departure mitigation.
The new coupe exudes style and substance on a solid platform. The car is lower and wider with short front and rear overhangs, larger wheels and larger 16- or 17-inch tires. The wheelbase is 3.1 inches longer, which improved the ride quality and interior packaging with more room. (The coupe is 5.4 inches shorter than the Civic sedan.)
Though it has the muscled styling of a hatchback, the trunk is quite usable at almost 12 cubic feet. Additionally, the back seats fold 60/40 for more access.
It is technically a four-seater, but Honda added a rear center seat belt and headrest to steer shoppers to the Civic and away from five-seat sporty cars. However, that seat is narrow and only comfortable for the short term. Additionally, the coupe is a small car with big doors, which complicates entry and exit from both rows in tight parking situations.
For the first time, Honda has applied its Agile Handling Assist system, which uses the stability-control system to apply the brake of the front inside wheel when entering a corner to improve cornering feel and stability.
The electric power steering is tight and precise. It is also the first use of a variable gear ratio, which is an upscale feature that helps everything from parking to stability at fast speeds.
The independent suspension hangs tough during enthusiastic driving, but doesn’t jostle occupants during the daily commute. Four-wheel disc brakes for all models have 11-inch vented front rotors and 10.2-inch solid rear rotors.
Like stylish new shoes, coupes sometimes offer a mix of pleasure and pain: they are an image statement, but not always comfortable for everyone. But Honda knows that once it has a young buyer, the buyer is likely to stay with the brand and move on to a larger vehicle. Call this business strategy the Civic’s duty.
Everything about this generation coupe demonstrates an evolution of quality, technology and presence.
Mark Maynard is online at email@example.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage