As Honda's oldest active nameplate and its best selling model on a global scale, the Civic is a vitally important vehicle for the company. Looking back at the past four generations of the Civic, one might think otherwise. In that span, one could argue that there has really only been one generation that moved the needle even a little bit. That was the 8th generation Civic, and while it was a solid overall vehicle, the main reason we loved the 8th gen Civic was the return of the "Real" Si with its fabulous 8000rpm K20 engine, hooked to a superb 6-speed manual transmission and a torsen LSD.
Fortunately, somebody at Honda seems to have noticed that the Civic has been largely a stale item for the better part of 20 years, and it's obvious that numerous resources were put towards correcting the situation for the 10th generation model. Sadly, that doesn't mean that they went back to double wishbones up front (my gosh, we're so OLD), but it's been a LONG time since we can remember Honda putting this level of effort into a Civic redesign. It is literally a clean sheet design.
A Platform of Engineering
For the first time since the Clinton administration, there's an entirely new architecture underpinning the Civic. This one makes the Civic lower (-0.8"), wider (+1.8") , and longer (+2.9") than ever before. This new configuration delivers a lower driving position (H-point) than previous Civics. For people who have grown weary of the vast and depressing sea of tippy crossover vehicles that litter the landscape, this move makes a lot of sense. What exactly is the point of making a sedan that tries to drive like a crossover, after all?
With larger exterior dimensions, it's no surprise that the new Civic has a larger interior volume. That number comes in at 95.0 cubic feet for all but the LX – the LX is the only trim level which doesn't have a standard moon roof, so it's listed at 97.8 cubic feet. The 95.0 number represents an increase of 2.9 cubic feet compared to the 2015 Civic, and these interior volume figures put the Civic out in front of the pack for the C-segment, almost nudging into D-segment territory. From behind the wheel, it feels spacious and roomy. While it does feel a bit roomier inside in terms of width, it's not a tremendous difference compared to the 2015 model, and taller rear seat passengers may still feel a bit crowded by the headliner.
As with pretty much every updated generation of automobile, the new Civic is stiffer and stronger than ever before. Improvements in these areas are designed to translate to improvements in pretty much everything about the car - safety, handling, and ride quality are key targets. The new body structure employs some advanced construction techniques that Honda developed (explained best in this video), enabling it to perform better in terms of crash performance, while reducing the front overhang AND reducing the "body-in-white" weight by 68lbs. As with other recent updated models, Honda has worked hard to close up a lot of the air gaps which allow noise into the passenger cabin, and as a result, they claim an improvement of 58% in "body sealing" and a 12% improvement in aerodynamics (CdA).
For the first time in the Civic's history, for the 10th generation Civic, Honda has employed a true subframe for the rear suspension. They've used subframes up front for ages, but with the rear subframe design, they can feasibly offer numerous configurations (including AWD??) to meet market demands. For NVH purposes, Honda uses hydraulic bushings up front on all Civics to insulate the main chassis from the subframe, and all 1.5T models use hydraulic bushings on the rear subframe as well, to further enhance Honda's targets for premium feel.
It's long been known that the 10th generation Civic would share its platform with the next generation Accord (and likely other models), but for those who don't follow Honda closely, it bears repeating. This is good news for the Civic, as it truly drives like a "class-up" vehicle, clearly benefiting from the engineering details required to carry cars like the Accord or those with Acura badges. On the flip side, it does make us wonder if the Accord (and future ILX) models will be able to sufficiently distance themselves from the Civic, but that doesn't really matter to the Civic buyer, who benefits the most from this type of approach.
When we said the Civic was a clean sheet design, we meant it. Not only is the chassis all new, the Civic benefits from an entirely new family of powertrains. Most new Civics will roll with an all-new turbocharged 1.5L DOHC 4-cylinder engine, but for the LX there is actually an "all-new" 2.0L naturally aspirated engine as well. Upon hearing of this 2.0 model, a lot of folks cynically expected a DOHC variant of the underloved and undersquare R-series engine, but this new 2.0 uses most of the geometry of the beloved K20, complete with the K20's mostly square 86x85.9mm bore and stroke. Somebody at Honda has been paying attention.
Both engines are offered with a CVT, but you can actually (on paper, at least) get a Civic with a 6-speed manual transmission. For now, your only shot at a 6MT Civic is by purchasing an LX with the 2.0L engine. Earlier this summer, the internal network for Honda dealers was showing that a 6MT EX 1.5T model would be offered, but it seems to have been a late scratch. We were told that a 6MT 1.5T Civic will be coming, but we were not given a timeframe.
A few engine deets
The 1.5T shares its geometry with the Fit's L15, but that's about it. Bore and Stroke are essentially the same, but everything else is unique. The little turbo (that's practically fused with the cylinder head) spools up to a max boost of 16.5 psi. It is designed to deliver peak torque of 162 lb-ft at 1700rpm, and then (thanks in large part to its electronic wastegate), it holds that torque all the way until 5500rpm. Peak output is rated at 174hp at 6000rpm. The engine employs Direct Injection (DI) as well as dual overhead camshafts, both of which are independently phased in a variable fashion (VTC). Interestingly, Honda has opted OUT of VTEC, for this engine, however, and each camshaft has but a single lobe per actuated valve. In speaking with the chief powertrain engineer, we mused aloud that more power could likely be extracted with some variable lift action, and the engineer agreed - there is more power to be had from this tiny little package if necessary.
We were pretty excited when we learned that the 2.0 was in fact a modern-day take on the K20. This version is a bit unique as it features full cam phasing control (VTC) on both the intake and exhaust cams, but variable lift (VTEC) is limited to the intake side. Past K-series engines have featured VTC only on the intake side and VTEC on either the intake side or both sides, depending upon performance requirements. Currently, fuel efficiency and emissions requirements have apparently forced Honda to employ dual VTC to meet those standards.
There are so many things to discuss concerning the 10th generation Civic, but one of the biggest topics in recent years is fuel economy, and the Civic should be proud of the numbers that it brings. Here is the bottom line:
- 2.0 6MT: 27/40/31 (city/hwy/combined)
- 2.0 CVT: 31/41/35
- 1.5 CVT: 31/42/35
Click on to the "Next Page" link below to read our "on the road" impressions of the 10th Generation Honda Civic