Blending into the crowd
THE GOOD
  • Decent performance
  • Decent efficiency
  • Decent value
THE BAD
  • No AWD
  • Dated design
  • Not a rare sight on the road
2020 Honda Civic Review

The current Civic has been a remarkable success for Honda, having won the praise of the automotive media – not to mention hundreds of thousands of Canadian buyers.

In fact, looking back beyond the introduction of this 10th generation model, it’s been the top-selling car in Canada for more than two decades, surpassed in the sales charts only by a few pickup trucks and crossovers. Since the latest version arrived for the 2016 model year, I’ve reviewed every iteration of the Civic and heaped accolades on each one of them. I’ve even recommended the Honda Civic to more than a few friends, who have reported back with mostly positive feedback.

2020 is the fifth production year for this generation, which in modern automotive lifecycles puts it in the latter half of its lifespan. And while the Civic’s performance, efficiency, safety, and features seemed segment-changing when it launched, much of the competition has been renewed in the years since, and Honda’s biggest seller no longer stands out as much as it once did.

Styling: 6.5/10

Honda gave the latest Civic plenty of sharp creases, angles, and black plastic inlets – some real; most fake – across much of its body. It certainly bears some family resemblance to its larger Accord sibling, but to these eyes it comes across as being overwrought. The chrome moustache found on the grille of earlier Civics has graciously been painted black, but the bling has now migrated to the door handles of this Touring trim car. (Raise your hand if you still like chrome.... Don’t worry – neither do I.)

The bright blue paint on this tester looks great, and the 18-inch wheels fill out the wells nicely, making this sedan the least radical of the Civic lineup, but it still falls well short of the Mazda3‘s elegance, or even the handsome sportiness of the new Nissan Sentra. Likewise, while functionally laid out, the Civic’s interior is styled with plenty of hard angles and sharp lines, and falls short of the sophistication found in some competitor cars.

Comfort: 7/10

While still considered a compact car, the Civic has grown to the proportions of midsize sedans from a few generations ago. All that size equates to added passenger space, allowing Civic’s occupants to have significant head-, shoulder-, and legroom front and rear. Back-seat passengers will want to call dibs on the outer seats, as the middle spot remains cramped for adults. Plus, like the front seats, the two rear outboard spots are heated in this Touring trim.

Both front seats are power-actuated, with the driver’s throne also offering adjustable lumbar support. Being the most luxurious Civic, the seats here are also wrapped in perforated leather, though the leather is stiff and feels cheap despite the decent comfort offered by the seats themselves. The Civic seems at least as quiet as its competitors for engine and wind noise, but it could do with more insulation from road rumble.

Features: 7/10

The rate at which technology and high-tech features trickle down into affordable models these days is amazing. The Civic comes equipped with onboard navigation, a power sunroof, and a 425-watt sound system, but it’s also got LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, and a wireless phone charger. The competition offers all the same goodies now, too, and some of them also have fully digital instrumentation, ventilated seats, and a heated steering wheel, none of which are available on the Civic.

User Friendliness: 7.5/10

A few years ago, Honda heard the cries of the owners and journalists alike who begged for a proper volume knob for the stereo instead of the tedious touchpad that existed before. With that little knob in place, a decent touchscreen infotainment system, and easy-to-operate buttons and knobs for the climate control system, the Civic is a paradigm of user-friendliness.

The Civic has also had Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard across the model line up since this generation’s inception. However, the car I tested would not enable CarPlay – even after switching cables (and trying an alternate phone). The same phone and cables have worked fine in every other car I’ve reviewed lately, and while I’d like to call it an anomaly, the system in the 2020 Honda Passport I drove had serious glitches, too. [autoTRADER.ca Road Test Editor Dan Ilika experienced a serious system malfunction in the 2020 Honda Odyssey he tested earlier this year. – Ed.]

Driving Feel: 7.5/10

Honda has done a decent job of balancing a comfortable ride with the Civic’s capable handling. Where some other cars in the class have reverted to torsion beam rear suspensions, the Civic continues with a more sophisticated multi-link setup that helps it feel connected to the road, even when cornering on bumpy surfaces.

The steering offers enough weight to resemble something like sportiness, and there’s a reasonable amount of feedback transmitted to the steering wheel to give the driver some sense of what the front tires are doing. Both the Mazda3 and the Sentra in their top trims provide sportier handling, while the Volkswagen Jetta provides a more supple ride. Braking, meanwhile, is adequate for the Civic, but I’d like more initial bite.

Power: 7/10

Displacing 1.5L, the Civic’s engine is one of the smallest in the class, but uses a turbocharger to boost output to 174 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque available. While providing the Civic with adequate oomph to get up and go, the continuously variable transmission (CVT) to which it’s mated tends to soften the feel of acceleration. Now that both the Jetta and Mazda3 offer more torque, there are more energetic options out there, especially from stoplight to stoplight.

Honda provides paddle shifters with the Touring trim which the driver can use to shift between artificial steps programmed into the CVT (it has no actual gears). While it’s not nearly as aggressive as a dual-clutch automatic transmission, it will likely satisfy most drivers looking for the occasional sportier thrill, but if you’re even slightly on the fence about it, I’d highly recommend the Civic with a manual transmission instead, and drivers wanting more power can make the modest step up to the Civic Si.

Fuel Economy: 8/10

In each of my past experiences with the Civic I’ve been impressed by its efficiency, and this review is no different. After a week of mixed driving, the trip computer showed an average of 6.2 L/100 km, which is actually what the government has rated the Civic at for average highway consumption. Driving with the eco setting on and with a lighter throttle foot than I have, it’s easy to get the Civic below 6.0 L/100 km.

Still, Hyundai’s Elantra and the Volkswagen Jetta are both rated for greater efficiency across the board, and with each of those competitors having larger fuel tanks than the Civic’s 47 L, their range is significantly greater than the 650 km or so I covered on a single tank. Regular-grade gasoline is all that’s required.

Practicality: 7/10

With room for five occupants, the Civic offers at least as much passenger utility as its competitors, and the compact crossover SUVs that are stealing so many sales from this once-loved segment. The sport-ute faithful claim it’s practicality that has made them jump ship from cars, but the Civic’s trunk swallows a respectable 416 L of cargo (for those needing to haul bulkier items, there’s the Civic hatchback). The Civic sedan is second to only the Sentra for largest in class when it comes to trunk space.

All-weather capability can factor into to practicality, too, and while the Civic’s front-wheel drive setup with a set of decent winter tires should tackle most of what Mother Nature can throw at it, all-wheel drive is becoming increasingly important to buyers but it’s currently only the Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza that offer it in this segment.

Safety: 8/10

Honda made a serious commitment to safety a few years ago by offering an extensive list of active features as standard equipment on most models, including the Civic. There’s a forward collision warning system and automated emergency braking, plus Honda’s lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control system that have been well programmed to work seamlessly even in moderate highway traffic.

In lieu of blind-spot monitoring, Honda has a camera built into its passenger side mirror that reveals that side of the car on the infotainment screen. It requires the driver to make an extra eye movement in addition to the mirror, and in reality the driver should still do a proper shoulder check anyway. The back-up camera’s resolution could be improved, and in future models, we’d like to see the top-down camera view that some of the competitors now employ.

Value: 8/10

The Civic has always offered solid value, with good quality and efficiency at an affordable price. The current generation adds impressive technology and decent driving dynamics to that formula, and even in Touring trim with all the bells and whistles, still rings in under $30,000. When comparing the Civic against its rivals, Honda has priced the Touring slightly above most of the competitors, however, smart shoppers will also know that the Civic’s strong residual values can make the car notably more affordable to lease than some others.

The Verdict

As it has been since its introduction for the 2016 model year, this Honda Civic remains a solid choice that’s holding up well despite its relative age. Still, where the Civic seemed head and shoulders above its competitors five years ago, there are now several truly viable alternatives, some of which offer more efficiency, performance, value, and features.

Blending into the crowd 10/6/2020 6:30:00 AM

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 1.5L   Model Tested 2020 Honda Civic Sedan Touring
Engine Cylinders Turbo I4   Base Price $28,900
Peak Horsepower 174 hp @ 6,000 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 162 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm   Destination Fee $1,670
Fuel Economy 7.8/6.2/7.1 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $30,670
Cargo Space 416 L  
Optional Equipment
None