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PowerSteering: 2017 Honda Civic Review

PowerSteering: 2017 Honda Civic Review

By Christian Wardlaw, September 27, 2017

Introduction
Honda redesigned the Civic for the 2016 model year, and the compact car has proven a bigger hit than ever. In fact, as of August 2017, it had surpassed even the venerable Toyota Camry as the best-selling passenger car in America during calendar year 2017.

Spend some time with a Civic and its popularity is easy to understand. While the styling isn’t to everyone’s tastes, the Civic’s roomy interior, evident quality, and engaging driving dynamics make it a genuine value. Plus, for 2017, the lineup expanded to include a 5-door hatchback in addition to a 2-door coupe and 4-door sedan.

2017 Honda Civic Si Sedan front quarter left photoNow, toward the end of the 2017 model run, Honda has unleashed the sporty Si in coupe and sedan body styles, as well as the performance-tuned Type R hatch. For this review we evaluated a 2017 Civic Si sedan equipped with optional summer performance tires. The price came to $24,975, including the $875 destination charge.



What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2017 Civic, it’s helpful to understand who buys this compact car and what they like most and least about it.

Civic buyers are primarily men (58%) but this aligns with the Compact Car segment average (57%). They are younger in terms of median age (45 years vs. 49) and they are wealthier in terms of median household income ($80,625 vs. $74,387). The Civic attracts higher numbers of Gen Y (those born 1977 to 1994) and Gen Z (1995 and later) buyers (43% vs. 36%).

Price and practicality are the primary drivers for a compact car purchase, especially for Civic buyers. J.D. Power data shows that 78% of Civic buyers identify themselves either as a price buyer or a practical buyer, compared with 65% of compact car buyers. Not surprisingly, fewer Civic buyers prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company when compared with the segment (37% vs. 42%).

Styling is important to Civic buyers. Among those who like a vehicle that stands out from the crowd, 79% of Civic buyers agreed compared with 66% of compact car buyers. Civic buyers also like a vehicle that offers responsive handling and powerful acceleration (91% vs. 86%). Perhaps reflecting the availability of a 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan, and 5-door hatchback, 82% of Civic buyers agree that they need a versatile vehicle to accommodate their busy lifestyles, compared with 78% of compact car buyers.

Buyers say their favorite things about the Civic are (in descending order) the exterior styling, interior design, engine/transmission, driving dynamics, and storage and space. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about the Civic are (in descending order) the fuel economy, visibility and safety, seats, infotainment system, and climate control system.


What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own assessment of how the 2017 Civic performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM

Exterior
Naturally, given the Civic Si’s mission within the model’s lineup, it looks wild in comparison to a standard model yet mild in comparison to the winged and spoilered Type R.

To set the Civic Si apart, Honda installs matching, oversized, simulated air intake and diffuser panels, the fronts punctuated with fog lights and the rears housing vertical red reflectors. The grille and headlamp surrounds are painted gloss black, the side sills feature subtle flaring between standard 18-in. aluminum wheels, a tasteful spoiler is affixed to the trunk, and a center outlet exhaust pokes out from beneath the rear bumper.

As a result of these changes, the Civic Si looks the part it intends to play, but without getting up and into anyone’s face about it. After all, that role falls to the far more powerful Type R.

Interior
Like the Civic Si’s exterior, the interior is dressed up with unique bits and pieces that signal its sporting intentions.

Most important, the front seats feature more substantial side bolstering to keep the driver and front passenger firmly secured while exploring the car’s impressive handling characteristics. Additionally, red stitching, red instrument illumination, an aluminum shift knob, metallic pedal covers, and carbon-style trim underscore the Si’s more sporting nature. Subtle enough that adults won’t mind, yet different enough that the car looks and feels special, the Civic Si’s detailing is expertly executed.

Otherwise, the cabin is much like that found in other Civics. The layered dashboard presents logically arranged controls and clear digital displays, and secondary switchgear is easy to find and use. There are a few complaints to be levied against the infotainment system, and they’ve covered in a section that follows.

Seats
Though more substantially bolstered than the Civic’s standard seats, the Si’s front chairs are nevertheless comfortable and easy to get into and out of. A wide range of adjustment, combined with a tilt and telescopic sport steering wheel with comfortably shaped thumb rests, creates an excellent driving position. All that’s missing to achieve perfection is a separate thigh support adjuster.

Rear-seat occupants enjoy plenty of legroom, though it takes some precision for grown-ups to enter or exit the car gracefully due to its low roof and restrictive foot wells. Sit back there and you’ll understand the Civic’s popularity. It’s almost as accommodating as a typical midsize sedan, and because the bottom cushion is positioned high off the floor with good thigh support, passengers remain comfortable during longer trips.

Climate Control System
Civic buyers rate the climate control system as their least favorite thing about this car. During the test period, triple-digit heat baked Southern California. While the air conditioning system did require extra time to cool the Si’s black interior, this is to be expected under extreme weather conditions.

Buyers of this trim should, however, take note of the aluminum shift knob’s heat-soaking capability. After this car is parked in the sun you might as well be reaching into a fire pit to grasp a glowing ember. Get something to cover the shifter during the summer.

Infotainment System
Rated by buyers as the second-most dissatisfying thing about the Civic, the touch-screen infotainment system looks and works like a smartphone. The flush glass display screen employs touch-sensitive icons and applications, and the driver can swipe from screen to screen to access information.

While this certainly represents a modern approach, there is a reason many states have outlawed the use of smartphones while driving, and that reason is distraction.
The Civic’s infotainment system can be distracting.

In an attempt to ameliorate this problem, Honda supplies steering wheel controls that allow the driver to activate hands-free calling, use the voice-recognition system, adjust stereo volume, and switch between audio sources and pre-set radio stations. Once you’ve trained yourself to use them, the infotainment system is less distracting.

Still, nothing beats volume and tuning knobs, which can be used intuitively without looking away from the road.

Storage and Space
Honda provides plenty of storage space within the Civic’s cabin. Beneath the sliding center armrest, a tiered system including a bin, tray, and cupholders awaits to store your stuff. Another tray is available forward of the shifter, tucked behind the console. The glove box is sizable, as are the door panel bins.

Trunk space is generous, too. Measuring 14.7 cu. ft., the Civic’s trunk is nearly identical to a Mazda 6 midsize car. Between the roomy interior and the roomy trunk, it’s no wonder people are choosing to buy the Civic over every other car in America.*

*Based on year-to-date sales through August 2017

Visibility and Safety
By federal government and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) standards, the Honda Civic excels at protecting its occupants in a collision. The car’s headlights rate poorly, according to the IIHS, and the test car’s lighting met that standard. A vehicle designed for speed really ought to have standard LED headlights.

Because the Civic Si comes only with a manual gearbox, it is unavailable with the company’s Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistance and collision-avoidance technologies. That means the Civic Si doesn’t have adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and prevention, or lane-keeping assist systems.

The test car did have Lane Watch, which uses a camera mounted to the right mirror to monitor traffic in the right lane. Signal a turn and it automatically transfers a video feed to the infotainment screen. Lane Watch does not work for the left side of the car, and the image is shown on the dashboard out of the field of vision for a person who is referencing the side mirror.

Lane Watch is not a proper substitute for a blind-spot warning system that works for both sides of the car. Also, since the Civic has oversized mirrors, it really isn’t necessary as long as the driver properly positions the right-side mirror.

Engine/Transmission
Turbocharging resolves the 2017 Civic Si’s torque deficit. For years, this sport-tuned Civic has made its maximum horsepower and torque high in the engine’s rev range, requiring regular runs to redline in order to extract maximum performance.

Now, thanks to its turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, the Civic Si makes the same 205 horsepower as it did before, but at 1,300 lower rpm. Torque output jumps to 192 lb.-ft., available from 2,100 rpm all the way to 5,000 rpm. The result of this fatter and broader power curve is a far more responsive vehicle that effortlessly builds speed.

As mentioned, a 6-speed manual gearbox is the only transmission choice. It’s a close-ratio, short-throw gearbox, and is a delight for an enthusiast driver to use.

Fuel Economy
Compared with how the subject rates with vehicle owners in most segments, Civic buyers are relatively happy with this car’s fuel economy. It isn’t hard to understand why. The test car was EPA-rated to deliver 32 mpg, and it achieved 31.7 mpg on the testing loop. Given the level of performance and fun to be had while driving this version of the Civic, this is an impressive result.

Driving Dynamics
Honda transforms the Civic Si with a new adaptive damping suspension. Previously, this car rode stiffly, which was to be expected. Now, the ride quality remains taut, but the new Si does a much better job of filtering unwanted harshness from the pavement.

Press the Sport button and the suspension firms up, throttle response quickens, and the steering adds heft. Working the wheel on California’s Mulholland Highway, the steering was agreeable enough while the rest of the Civic Si performed brilliantly. Especially with its optional summer performance tires, the adaptive-damped Si caressed the pavement, flitting from corner to corner with remarkable grace and sophistication.

Indeed, the car’s personality is transformed. Drivers no longer need to rev to redline to access maximum motive force, and Honda has sanded off the rough edges without dulling dynamics. The exception here is the steering, which feels too artificial under a variety of conditions. If there is room for dynamic improvement, this is where Honda engineers ought to start.


Final Impressions
Finding this amount of safety, reliability, practicality, and performance for under $25,000 is difficult, but not impossible.

Case in point: the turbocharged Hyundai Elantra Sport. It costs thousands less, includes a better connected services and warranty program, and can be fitted with a dual-clutch transmission in place of its standard 6-speed manual gearbox. Otherwise, the Civic Si’s primary competitors start at least a grand higher before adding any options. And that means you add value to the car’s long list of appealing attributes.

Unfortunately, sales of this version of the Civic are restricted to people who know how to use a clutch pedal. Perhaps, though, this is as it should be, given the long history of and hardcore fan base for sport-injected Civics.

American Honda Motor Company supplied the vehicle used for this 2017 Honda Civic review.

For more information about our test driver and our methodology, please see our reviewer profile.


Additional Research:


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