By Jim Bray
"Half the doors. Twice the fun." That's how Honda Canada's website describes the new Civic Coupe and it's a pretty decent description of the newest version of the award-winning Civic.
It's still over styled and has annoying interfaces, but I agree with Honda that the coupe provides a lovely helping of the fun to drive factor that can make small cars such a blast - and which the new sedan version lacks. It's a Honda that feels more like Hondas of old, and that's great.
According to Honda Canada, virtually everything about the 2016 Civic Coupe is new. It "sports" a new architecture, a new interior (though it's pretty much like the new sedan's) and new exterior styling. It looks better from inside than out, thanks to Honda's decision to add creases and stuff to the exterior. Its bum looks particular chubby, but that seems to be a common thing in today's society, and I'm not talking about cars…
Still, I think the coupe looks better than the rather bulbous sedan. That, of course, is merely my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
Honda says the coupe's interior is bigger than the previous model's, which may help those getting into and out of the back seat of this two door, front wheel drive vehicle.
You can choose from two engine options for your Civic coupe, though right now you can't get the best combination of engine and transmission. There's the 158 horsepower (174 lb.-ft. @ 6000) 1.5 litre turbo of Honda's "Touring" sample, though you can only get it with a CVT transmission right now, and a 158 horsepower non-turbocharged two litre engine paired with six speed manual or the CVT.
What it really needs is the stick to be available with the turbo and I hope that happens soon because the only thing I didn't really like about driving the coupe was the damn CVT which, like most of them, is loud and annoying and which - since it doesn't shift - takes a lot of the driver involvement out of life. And since Honda's manual transmissions are generally great, offering the stick to customers who want to maximize the car's sportiness seems like a no brainer. Especially when you proclaim "half the doors, twice the fun" on your website.
The turbo engine is sweet and you get a lovely turbo whoosh of acceleration starting at low revs. It's a good match to the car.
The suspension is independent all around, with stabilizer bars at both ends, and it feels nice and tight - more sporty than "econobox." The variable ratio electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering feels just right, too, and the brake pedal works and feels as it should, and the four wheel discs do a good job of bringing the car to a safe stop.
Naturally, sport mode is the most fun among the driving choices and Honda has given the car paddles so you can pretend it has a real transmission. I found them mostly useless, though, when it came to making the car feel like a conventional auto/manual.
The interior, whose materials look and feel of fine quality, eschews the previous generation's double decker dashboard; the new one is laid out well and is easy to read at a glance. That's as it should be, though the nannies (which you can shut off to a certain extent, fortunately) are as intrusive as before. For example, one time when I pulled out to pass a vehicle, the car freaked out, flashing "BRAKE" on the instrument panel because its robotic brain thought I was about to rear end it, which wasn't true in the least. I thought I had shut off that nanny, but the coupe apparently didn't care.
The driving position is very nice - about as good as you could want - imparting the impression that the driver is truly a part of the process, CVT and nannies notwithstanding.
Alas, Honda still eschews a real volume knob on the audio system on the centre stack, and it's really annoying if you're the front seat passenger and want to crank things up (or down). There's a slider on the LCD, but your finger will slide off it at the first bump or frost heave. Fortunately, Honda has put an interesting new volume control on the left spoke of the steering wheel - a touch-sensitive lever thingy that lets the driver adjust the volume by pressing on its top or bottom edge for fine adjustment, or scroll your thumb up or down the middle section for faster service. It's the same as on the sedan and while I didn't like it at first, I made peace with it before long and in some ways prefer it to the simple up/down rocker on many cars' steering wheels.
As with other recent Hondas I've tried, the Civic coupe's Bluetooth pairing process is ridiculous. I went through the normal pairing routine and it wouldn't pair to my Android phone (a friend and associate of mine had no issues with his iPhone, however) and I had to try again using their "if you can't pair it that way, try this way" methodology, which worked fine but shouldn't be necessary since it's only Hondas that do this (of all the cars I've driven, anyway). And while I could use my phone as a phone with no problems once it was paired and connected, it wouldn't stream properly the online radio stations I like to listen to. They sounded like a tape played back at really slow speed, making them completely useless.
You can get the full meal deal when it comes to the nannies that are becoming common on today's cars, including adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, collision mitigation braking and road departure fighter, and you can also get Honda's unique (fortunately!) "Lane Watch" system that gives you a "camera's eye view" of the right side of the car every time you turn on the right signal light (or press a button on the end of the lights' stalk on the steering column). I hate this feature, too, because it draws my attention away from the world outside - though most people to which I've shown it think it's great. You can shut it off in the menu system and it'll stay off unless you press the stalk-mounted button, and that's the way I kept it.
Despite my angst over the looks and the typically Honda annoyances, I really enjoyed driving the Civic coupe. It feels like how I remember Hondas of old: light and nimble and fun (not including CVT angst of course). If they'd slap the manual into the turbo version, they'd have a real winner, even with the Hondaisms inside.
The Civic coupe starts at $19,455 CAD for the base model and goes up to $27,555 for the Touring version.
Copyright 2016 Jim Bray
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