The cars we loved.
A new Civic is just around the corner. I haven’t been this excited about Honda’s best-selling compact since the Razor was a new phone. My first car was actually a Civic, a 1980 1300 four speed manual. I loved that car and it served me well through my transition from broke college student to broke college graduate. Over the years my love affair of the Civic would peak and crest while buying other cars. I had a few BMW 3 series and a handful of Eagle Talons and loved them all, but secretly I yearned for a Honda again, preferably a Civic. The Accord was finally growing into a sporting sedan with looks that matched its high resale value. The Civic seemed to stagnate.
Problem was that after the early 2000s, the Civic dropped off on the interest meter for me. First went the double wishbone suspension, then the distinctive crisp lines that made a Honda a recognizable Honda. Recently the Civic was never even on my radar as it’s awkward cab forward design was difficult to fall in love with. Even worse the interior dash became overbearing with an odd two display system.
In addition to falling behind in many other respects, the Civic was no longer the fun to drive car it had been for most of its life. It was so bad that I bought a Ford Focus as an every day car when the time came for a small automotive appliance.
All of that just might change.
Honda recently unveiled the 2016 Civic sedan. Its quite the looker. It’s low wide profile is more grown up and its rakish appearance is both aggressive and sophisticated. Little is know about the exact mechanical specs, but Honda makes issue of the new Civic having the most powerful base engine in Civic history.
On the face of it that’s not saying much. Even the most humble Fiesta or Rio out guns today’s base Civic. Even if power starts at 150 for the 1.8, much of the automotive world had passed that barrier in 2012. The new Civics will start with 2.0 liter fours, so power is likely to be in the 160-175 hp range for LX and EX. A six speed manual will be available for the 7% of us who like shifting our own gears. For more the eco minded buyer who hates the ideal of a Prius, there will be 1.5 liter mated to a turbocharger and continuously variable transmission.
Still, the Civic looks dynamic and it’s makers promise to bring back the fun that made the Civic so special to people like the younger less wealthy me. Honda will be rolling out other body styles including a five door hatch, two door coupe and the Type R. The two door coupe is another confirmed knockout. There will be a Civic for every budget and performance requirement it seems.
The sedan as presented is striking with its fastback rear profile (like a Audi A5/A7). That feature alone got my attention. Some of the fussiness of the front end could stand to be simplified, but its attractive and looks upscale in a sporting way. My opinion of the Civic might be changing after I see it in person.
After years of selling the Civic as a (white) middle-income suburban appliance (Honda Financing was actually caught charging minorities higher interests rates), Honda is trying to re position it’s already reliable compact as a trendy and stylish appliance. Will the rappers join the heavy metal tuner boys who once sang the Civic’s praises? Honda seems to be saying come back to the 5 and dime Jimmy Dean, come back. To let the kiddies know it’s for real this time, the Civic’s launch event included performances by a trendy modern rock act. The MTV styled awards show/documentary featured designers in skinny jeans describing their inspiration for the rad new Civic.
Although the roll out event was clearly not for my age demographic, Honda has no intentions to throw those of us over 40 under the bus. The interior, one of my favorite aspects of the new design, has that grown up swooping center console look like it might come from a Lexus or Audi. The Mazda 3 captures some of that high-end ora and the Civic seems to have master it at a lower price point as well. It’s a look and functionality the whole family could enjoy.
Variable degrees of style crowd the small car market at the moment. Cars like the Corolla, Cruze,Focus and Elantra have become nice to look at and sometimes drive. So far, even the best of those has some kind of design compromise (usually the interior). The Civic looks bigger and more expensive than it’s would be rivals and appears to be free from those restraints from a design perspective. It certainly has presence, something that many sub $20k cars lack.
I will have to see if the new Civic will woo me just like the old ones did decades ago. For now I’m excited that I might have something other than the Mazda 3 to consider as a replacement for my Focus and old 325ci when the time comes. It’ll be like a homecoming.