by Roger Biermann
Few manufacturers can boast a single model running for ten generations, but the fact that the Honda Civic has been going that long immediately suggests its staying power in the compact segment where other manufacturers are dropping their compacts in favor of crossovers. Offering something for everyone, the Civic Sedan is the more grown-up option of the three body styles but still trades on the strong suits of the hatchback such as a spacious, premium interior and an endearing chassis - because growing up doesn’t mean you stop having fun. Against the likes of the Mazda 3 Sedan, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Jetta the Civic faces stern competition but undercuts the mental pricing barrier with models starting under $20,000 for the first of five trims. Power is supplied by a base 158-horsepower 2.0-liter engine and an available 174-hp 1.5-liter turbo driving the front wheels through a CVT transmission, and for the purists, a six-speed manual gearbox.
With a mid-cycle refresh alongside the Coupe, the 2019 Civic Sedan gets revised front end styling with a cleaner appearance and two new exterior colors (Platinum White Pearl and Molten Lava Pearl), while Honda has bolstered the offering by adding a Sport trim to the line-up. Safety has been increased with the inclusion of Honda Sensing driver assistance features standard across all models. Inside, the steering wheel controls have been redesigned, larger cupholders have been fitted, and more sound insulation has been added. The biggest upgrade comes in the form of an updated touchscreen infotainment system with a volume knob and physical controls, rectifying gripes with the old system.
Available turbo engine provides performance and economy
Fun to drive, especially with the manual gearbox
Comfortable ride quality
Safety features now standard
Touchscreen infotainment unintuitive
Styling not to everyone’s tastes
Manual gearbox not available with the turbocharged engine
The Civic Sedan shares similar styling updates to the Civic Coupe, receiving a smoother front end design compared to last year’s model. Foglights only make an appearance from the Sport trim upwards, while LED headlights are only available on the range-topping Touring trim, which also receives chrome door handles. A power sunroof is available from the EX trim as is a shark fin roof antenna. The Sport model receives a range of bespoke styling details, including a center-mounted exhaust outlet to set it apart as a new-for-2019 model.
Size-wise, the Civic Sedan rides on the same 106.3-inch wheelbase as other Civic body styles, but measures longer overall. At a maximum curb weight of 2,923 lbs, it slots between the Coupe and Hatch in terms of weight. 16-inch wheels fill the arches of the LX trim, while the EX and EX-L receive 17-inch alloys. The Sport and Touring trims both get a set of 18-inch alloy wheels.
Both the Civic Sedan LX and Sport trims are equipped with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine developing 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque. By default, it’s mated to a six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels, while a CVT is optional. From the EX, only the CVT transmission is available and finds itself paired with a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine developing 174 hp and 162 lb-ft. The 1.5T engine is the better of the two, but it’s a tragedy Honda hasn’t paired the turbo engine with the manual gearbox as it’s the better transmission. However, even without it, the turbo engines are quicker, with 0-60 mph dispatched in under seven seconds. It’s more potent around town and gets up to speed rapidly while overtaking maneuvers are dealt with swiftly even at highway speeds.
At the forefront of the Civic Sedan’s arsenal of skills is an athletic chassis that enjoys being driven and rewards the driver for taking the winding route home. The steering is direct and turn-in sharp, while changes of direction are handled swiftly and without much body-roll. The Sport’s suspension is particularly well-suited to enthusiastic driving with a slightly stiffer setup. But comfort is uncompromised by the enthusiastic nature of the Civic, riding pliantly on all surfaces, cushioning large bumps, and ironing out smaller ones with ease. It does so without removing the communication factor, though, which is why the Civic is the top driver’s car in the segment. Where it falters, ever so slightly, is in the braking department. Despite a firm feel and good feedback, the Civic’s stopping power isn’t quite up to the standard of rivals from Mazda and Volkswagen.
The turbocharged 1.5-liter powertrain is the most efficient of the two engines available, with EPA mileage estimates of 36 mpg combined compared to the base 2.0-liter engine’s 32 mpg with the CVT (29 mpg with the manual). With estimates of 32 mpg in the city, 42 mpg on the highway, and a 12.39-gallon gas tank, maximum expected range on the 1.5T-equipped Civic is 446 miles in mixed driving conditions.
The Civic Sedan boasts an upscale interior with an abundance of soft-touch materials and solid build quality. But it pairs these traits with one of the most spacious cabins in the compact segment. The Civic Sedan comfortably seats five occupants with generous headroom and legroom ensuring adults are comfortable in the rear, while the decent array of seating adjustment (manual on lower trims, power adjustable from the EX-L) equates to a good driving position with the best levels of visibility across the Civic range. Leather seating surfaces, meanwhile, are equipped from the EX-L trim in black or ivory, with lower trims receiving black cloth upholstery.
The Honda Civic boasts a trunk of 15.1 cubic feet in size on all but the Touring trim which is smaller at 14.7, both of which still measure larger than the Corolla at 13 cubic feet. The trunk opening is large and practical allowing easy loading of large suitcases and groceries. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split for extra storage of longer items. Throughout the cabin, there’s an abundance of small storage cubbies for items such as keys and smartphones, including seatback pockets, decently sized door pockets, a large storage area in the center console, and new larger cupholders upfront as part of the 2019 updates.
There’s an abundance of features equipped to the Civic Sedan, from a reverse camera standard across the range to heated front and rear seats on the Touring trim, while a sunroof makes an appearance from the EX. From the Sport trim, there’s remote engine start, while eight-way power driver’s seat adjustment is equipped from the EX trim. Also standard from the EX is Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot camera, while Honda Sensing is equipped to the full range, comprising road departure mitigation, collision mitigation braking, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control.
The base LX derivative is equipped with a five-inch color infotainment screen with AM/FM functionality, Bluetooth media streaming and hands-free, and four speakers. From the Sport trim, buyers get access to the revised for 2019 seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Bluetooth. The Sport retains four speakers, while the EX and EX-L get eight, but only the Touring receives a ten-speaker sound system and built-in navigation. SiriusXM and HD radio are only equipped to the EX, EX-L, and Touring trims.
The current generation Civic has been recalled a couple of times, including one for the lack of an owner’s manual in the vehicle, while the most serious recall pertained to the 2017-2018 year models which had a magnet potentially come loose on the power steering system, affecting the ability to control the vehicle properly. The number of consumer complaints has reduced throughout the Civic’s lifespan, so the 2019 year model should be the most trouble-free yet. Honda’s three-year/36,000-mile limited vehicle and five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties are standard.
The NHTSA is yet to test the Civic Sedan for 2019, but last year’s model scored an overall rating of five out of five stars when Honda Sensing was not standard across the range. In IIHS crash tests, the Civic Sedan scored best available ratings of Good in all areas except Poor headlights and Acceptable use of LATCH anchors. For 2019, Honda Sensing is standard on all trims, equipping adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, collision mitigation braking, and road departure mitigation.
The Civic Sedan delivers a complete package that soars to the top of the rankings for the compact sedan segment. Driver and passengers alike will appreciate the cavernous cabin and ample cargo space, while the high-quality materials and solid fit and finish belies the Civic’s budget price tag. The updated physical controls for the infotainment are a welcome upgrade, but the system is still unintuitive and clunky to use, one of the Civic’s few flaws.
But some of the Civic Sedan’s best attributes lie out on the open road, where an athletic chassis beckons enthusiasts to enjoy the drive. Honda has even seen fit to equip a wonderful six-speed manual gearbox, but this comes with a caveat as the manual is only available with the less-torquey, less-efficient naturally aspirated engine, the weaker of the two powertrains available. Despite the flaws, the Civic Sedan is a comprehensive class leader ticking all the boxes. While it caters to a modicum of performance, those wishing for genuine performance should perhaps seek a Civic Si Sedan.
The starting price for the cheapest Honda Civic is $19,450 for an LX model with a manual gearbox, while a CVT-equipped model costs $800 more. From there, four remaining trims make up the rest of the line-up, with the Sport starting at $21,150, the EX at $23,400, and the E-L at $24,600. The range-topping model comes with the Touring denomination and is priced at $27,300. All prices are manufacturer’s suggested retail price and are subject to the addition of tax, registration, and a $920 destination charge.
|LX||2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Manual, Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$18,082||$19,450|
|Sport||2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Manual, Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$19,656||$21,150|
|EX||1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$21,739||$23,400|
|EX-L||1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$22,850||$24,600|
|Touring||1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$25,349||$27,300|
While we adore the six-speed manual gifted to the base LX and Sport trims, it’s difficult to recommend either trim. The LX might have all the safety of Honda Sensing, but lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and while the Sport trim may add these with a touchscreen infotainment system and boast a sportier suspension, both models are only available with the weaker, less efficient naturally aspirated 2.0-liter engine. It’s for this reason we recommend the stretch to the EX trim, which combines the 1.5-liter turbo 174-horsepower output with a standard raft of safety features, advanced connectivity, and creature comforts in the form of a power sunroof, and power adjustable driver’s seat. The sacrifice of a manual gearbox is worthwhile for the engine. The EX misses out on the leather upholstery, heated front seats, and auto-dimming rearview mirror of the EX-L and the premium sound system, satellite navigation, heated rear seats, and LED headlights of the Touring, but represents the best value for money combination of the line-up.
Even though the Honda Accord is a midsize sedan senior to the Civic in the Honda line-up, there’s a certain amount of overlap between the mid-to-upper specification Civics and the entry level Accords. Being a larger vehicle, the Accord has a roomier cabin and a larger trunk, while the interior also boasts greater refinement than the Civic. Higher trim Accords are vastly more powerful, but the entry-level models share a 1.5-liter engine with the Civic, albeit offering 192 horsepower to the Civic’s 174. But with less weight and more compact dimensions, the Civic not only achieves better gas mileage, but its performance feels more enjoyable than the Accord, which feels its weight even if it is one of the more athletic midsize sedans. It comes down to necessities, really, and if you require more space and prefer a more premium feel, the Accord will be better suited, but if your spatial requirements aren’t huge, the Civic gives you a more enjoyable drive at an affordable price.
The Toyota Corolla may have built up a longstanding reputation of reliability and comfort, but in this current iteration, it simply can’t match the Civic Sedan overall. The Corolla’s performance is staid with neither available engine offering much joy, while the ride is soft and unsporting, yet incapable of dealing with large bumps effectively. The Civic Sedan, however, gives buyers more of everything; more interior space, more cargo space, more quality, more miles-per-gallon, more performance, and more enjoyment. The Corolla may pull one back with an easier to use infotainment system, but it lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. The only real thing going for the Toyota is a better predicted reliability score, but that’s hardly enough to recommend it over the Civic which is better in every other metric.