The ultra-popular Honda Civic celebrates 50 years this year, introduced as a 1973 model at a time when Elvis’ “Burning Love” and Elton’s “Rocket Man” were buzzing the airwaves, and the U.S. was trying to maneuver itself out of Vietnam.
The tiny, economy model was a breath of fresh air for many with a sticker price that matched its model year ($1,973). Back to the future: The Civic, coming off a massive redesign last year, has a more upscale look and is the top seller in its compact-sedan segment.
The 11th-generation Civic received a longer and sleeker body, improved handling traits, and a more refined cabin with upgraded technology. About the only thing the Japanese carmaker left unchanged are the two powertrains, a 2.0-liter four and a turbocharged 1.5-liter, both paired with a CVT (continuously variable transmission).
Oh, and Honda dropped the manual tranny from the sedan. But if you’re looking for kicks, Honda brought back the racy Civic Type R for 2023. The hot hatch, available only with 6-speed manual, has a sport-tuned suspension for crisper handling, Brembo brakes, and can hit 60 mph in 5.5 ticks. An enormous rear wing sets it apart.
But far more practical and popular among the Civic-minded will be the Sport and Touring trims.
Designers gave the Civic a more aggressive profile, slightly wider track, and stretched the body by 1.4 inches. The top-line Touring has flashier 18-inch wheels, flat-black grille accents and LED headlights and foggers.
The Touring, not surprisingly, also gets the peppier of the two engines. The 1.5-liter turbo turns out 180 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. The power is sent to the front wheels only; no all-wheel-drive here.
Low-end torque means brisk starts from the traffic light, while 0-60 mph comes at 7.5 seconds and the quarter-mile at 15.8. Activate Sport mode and the Civic gets more taut and lengthens the CVT’s simulated shifts. Other drive modes include Normal and Econ.
Steering is nicely weighted and pulling into tight parking spaces is a breeze. An updated suspension
keeps Civic stable on corners, but it’s tuned more for comfort.
On the highway, the ride is smooth and stable with minimal noise from the road or wind. Honda says to expect upwards of 38 mpg on the highway with the turbo, with 31 city and 34 combined.
The cabin has a clean look, accented by a broad honeycomb-patterned strip that stretches across the dash – pretty cool and it hides the AC vents. Soft-touch materials cover doors and the center console.
Leather-trimmed seats are heated, supportive and comfortable with good space even for six-footers. With 8-way power adjustments and tilt/telescoping wheel, finding an advantageous driving position shouldn’t be a problem for anyone.
Head- and leg-room in the rear is a bit more snug, but adequate. There are no rear AC vents so make sure to cool your guests, too. Cargo space is decent at 14.4 cubic feet, thanks to its low floor.
Sitting atop the dash is a 9-inch touchscreen – the other trims get 7-inchers. It houses the latest infotainment system which is simple to figure out and use. It includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, too, plus a wireless phone changer — just lay it in the tray.
The driver gets a reconfigurable digital display with an LCD data display offering speed limit, traffic signs and navigation instructions from Google maps. Optional is a 12-speaker Bose audio system, and it’s among the best in the segment.
Safety features within the Honda Sensing system include adaptive cruise control with emergency braking and a new camera system for better detection of pedestrians and bicyclists. The system has traffic-jam assist for stop-and-go driving and redesigned air bags.
With 12 million sold since its inception, the Honda Civic remains not only best in its segment but the third-best-selling sedan in the U.S. Not bad, considering it came into the world as a meek little 50-hp buggy.
Barry Spyker was the automotive editor and columnist for the Miami Herald
What’s all the excitement about? Styling tweaks, well designed cabin with improved infotainment and instrument displays and tech safety
Powertrain: 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine mated to CVT transmission with simulated shifts
How’s the performance? Reliable handling, quiet and stable on the highway; 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds
Fuel economy: EPA-estimated 34 mpg combined