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2019 Honda Civic Review

Safety upgrades this year make the 2019 Honda Civic as compelling as ever.
The 2019 Honda Civic injects more personality into the driving experience than we’re used to with most compact cars. For 2019, the Civic also adds standard active safety gear to the equation.


It’s hard to make a great car even better, but with the 2019 Civic, Honda has done so. We rate the entire Civic range at 6.4 out of 10. 

The Civic lineup includes coupes, sedans, and hatchbacks, and starts in LX trim, with EX, Sport, EX-L, EX-T, and Touring taking the range from simple to luxurious. The manual transmission-only Civic Si and Type R high-performance variants make up for what they lack in subtlety with a thrilling driving experience. Honda hasn’t yet said what changes will come to the sportier Civics for 2019, so our evaluations here are based on the 2018.

This year, the Civic lineup gains updated styling outside, expanded availability of the Sport trim level, and standard automatic emergency braking.

Base Civic LX, Sport, and EX sedans and coupes use a 158-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4, while hatchbacks as well as sedan and coupe EX-T and Touring trims feature a zippier 174-hp 1.5-liter turbo-4.

The Civic Si subs in a 205-hp version of the turbo-4 and an adaptive suspension. The hatchback-only Civic Type R tacks on love-it-or-hate-it aero styling bits and love-it-or-you’re-crazy 306-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-4 paired to excellent suspension tuning. The Civic Si may lack the all-wheel drive of some rivals, but it’s hard to beat for its balance of fun, refinement, and frugality. We could say that about a Civic LX, too.

Most non-Si and Type R Civics on dealer lots feature a docile continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), but Honda is unusual among compact-car builders in that a 6-speed manual transmission enjoys wide availability.

Chief among the Civic’s assets are its fluid handling and comfortable ride. Inside, its interior is roomy in sedan guise. The hatchback offers better cargo utility and would be our choice. A 5.0-inch infotainment screen comes on the base Civic LX, but all other models use a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Styling
From mild to wild, the 2019 Honda Civic has a look and a bodystyle for everyone.
With three body configurations and considerable differentiation between trim levels, it’s hard to rate the 2019 Honda Civic lineup’s styling with just one number. We land on a 7 out of 10, giving it a point above average for its daring exterior and another for its classy interior.

The sedan is the most popular 2019 Civic body style, even if it’s easy to mistake as a hatchback at first. Its silhouette channels the Audi A7, the poster child for svelte styling. But where the Audi’s tail ends in a utilitarian hatchback, the Civic features a conventional trunk. This year’s styling updates swap chrome for glossy black accents up front for a cleaner look.

The Civic Coupe is the fashion model of the lineup with dramatic character lines running the length of its body. It looks especially good in this year’s new Sport trim with its 18-inch alloy wheels and additional black accents.

It’s a shame that the Civic hatchback’s busy styling winds up being our least favorite since it has the most utility of the lineup. The hatchback rides on the same 106.3-inch wheelbase as the rest of the range, but its truncated tail drops 4.4 inches from behind the rear wheels.    

Civic Si trims—coupe and sedan only—tack on different exterior trim and sportier wheels. The hatchback-only Civic Type R goes a few steps too far with its boy-racer looks. We’re in favor of a dressed-down Civic Type R for adults, but the good news is you don’t have to look at body kit from the driver’s seat.

Inside, the Civic takes a comparatively conservative approach with a wide center console, numerous pockets and bins for smaller items, and tasteful trim bits. The standard 5.0-inch screen looks too small, but it’s reserved for the Civic LX trim only. Other Civics use a 7.0-inch touchscreen that fits the dash better.

Performance
The 2019 Honda Civic shines for its balance, even in fire-breathing Type R guise.
Unless you need a pickup bed or all-wheel drive, there’s a 2019 Honda Civic that’s right for you. For our scoring, we look at the Civics most commonly found on dealer lots. They rate above average for their ride and for their handling, earning them a 7 out of 10 on our performance scale.

The Civic Type R is worth another point for its underhood muscle, but we realize that the appeal of a rocket-ship Honda Civic is limited.

Civic LX, Sport, and EX trims feature a 158-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4 paired to either a 6-speed manual or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The Civic’s base engine is quiet enough and provides decent power for commuting duties. Honda’s CVT doesn’t work like a conventional automatic, but it gets the job done well. Its gear and pulley system simulates a single gear that adjusts continuously to maximize power or efficiency. If all CVTs were like Honda’s, they’d lose their iffy reputation. This transmission works perfectly for commuting duty.

Opt for the EX-T, EX-L, and Touring trims or any version of the Civic hatchback and Honda swaps in a 1.5-liter turbo-4 rated at 174 hp in some configurations and 180 hp in others. Not only is the turbo-4 more powerful, it can be more fuel-efficient in normal driving conditions. This gem of an engine emits a gentle underhood rumble and pairs best to the standard 6-speed manual transmission. The optional CVT can exacerbate the engine’s turbo lag, which requires some acclimation.

Quick, direct steering and a taut, but compliant, suspension makes the Civic as capable rushing down curvy road as it is slogging through a congested city. Civics with the standard 16- and 17-inch alloy wheels ride the best. The 18-inch wheels on Civic Sport and Touring versions look good but transmit more road imperfections to the cabin. Turbocharged coupes and sedans and certain versions of the hatchback have rear suspension bushings filled with hydraulic fluid that make them feel even more composed.

On the highway, the Civic tracks well and settles into comfortable, relaxing cruiser mode.

Civic Si and Type R
Fast but not furious, the Civic’s performance models offer two takes on driving fun.

The Civic Si takes the standard car’s turbo engine and boosts it to 205 hp. A 6-speed manual with shorter throws than the standard car’s gearbox is the only transmission choice.

Though the latest Civic Si doesn’t have the old model’s VTEC (that’s variable valve timing fanciness) zest, it is a model of approachable performance. A two-mode adjustable suspension lets drivers toggle between normal and sport modes at the tap of a button, which seems like a fair trade-off for the loss of VTEC.

If we had our druthers, we’d ask Honda to improve the Civic Si’s brakes. An extra 20 hp wouldn’t hurt, either.

If your calendar is filled with track days and/or you live where maps are full of squiggly lines, the Civic Type R should be on your shopping list. The Type R uses a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at a hefty 306 hp thanks to VTEC. This “little engine that could” loves to rev and pairs beautifully to the standard 6-speed manual.

The Civic Type R shuttles power to the front wheels, which would worry us if not for its standard helical limited-slip differential and high-performance tires. The Type R displays remarkable balance for sending that much power forward.

Comfort & Quality
The 2019 Honda Civic pairs compact proportions with mid-size space, not to mention an upscale feel.
Given its small size, the 2019 Honda Civic has an impressively spacious cabin—albeit with some compromises, depending on the Civic you select.

We rate the Civic range at 6 out of 10, landing there with a point above average for its roomy rear seats.

Up front, drivers enjoy good vision and conveniently arrayed controls. The standard seats are comfortable enough, with good adjustment for tall occupants, and are wrapped in tough-feeling cloth upholstery on LX, Sport, and EX trims. A power-adjustable driver’s seat comes with leather upholstery on EX-L and Touring trims.

Rear-seat riders have good leg room and excellent access in sedan and hatchback models. Coupes, predictably, make the second row more challenging to access. Despite a wheelbase shared across all three body styles, the Civic sedan has the most leg room (37.4 inches, compared to about 36 for hatchbacks and coupes).

Civic Si and Type R models have sports seats up front wrapped in track-ready grippy cloth.

The Civic sedan’s 15.1 cubic-feet of cargo capacity approaches some mid-size sedans. Hatchbacks are shorter yet much roomier: 25.7 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 46.2 cubes with the rear seats folded flat. The sloping rear window limits utility compared to a crossover SUV, but the Civic Hatchback will still swallow a bicycle with its front wheel removed. Coupes sacrifice space for style and come in with just 12 cubic feet of cargo space.

Notably, a subwoofer included in the Civic Touring trim level eats into some cargo space.

Civics we’ve driven have exhibited a quality feel with ample use of soft-touch materials and low-sheen plastics.

Safety
This year’s addition of active safety tech to all models makes the 2019 Honda Civic an even better choice.
New headlights and newly standard active safety gear should make the 2019 Honda Civic even safer than before, but we’ll have to wait for the IIHS to weigh in to assign it a score.

This year, the 2019 Civic includes automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, and adaptive cruise control as standard equipment. When it was optional last year, the IIHS rated Honda’s active safety tech as “Superior.”

The tech joins a full complement of airbags, stability control, and a rearview camera on the Civic.

In its crash tests, the IIHS rated last year’s Civic “Good” in every test and we expect those scores to carry over into 2019. Last year’s headlights were rated “Poor,” but new designs this year may change that rating.

The NHTSA rates the 2018 Civic at five stars overall for most models, although Civic Coupes earned four stars in the frontal crash test for the passenger side.

Features
The 2019 Honda Civic wants for little and offers a wide range of trims.
With its myriad trim levels, body styles, and powertrain options, the 2019 Honda Civic can be configured to suit just about any buyer’s needs.

We rate it at 6 out of 10 for that flexibility. The base Civic LX lacks a few key features that would push that score to 7.

Honda offers more configurations of the 2019 Civic sedan and coupe than other body styles: LX, Sport, EX, EX-L, EX-T, Touring, and Si. Hatchbacks take most of those middle trims and add in the rorty Civic Type R at the top of the range.

The Civic LX costs about $20,000 and comes with active safety tech, power features, automatic climate control, a 5.0-inch screen, and 16-inch wheels with hubcaps. This year’s new Civic Sport trim features 18-inch wheels and upgraded infotainment, but no power or suspension changes. It’s sporty in looks only.

Our money is on the Civic EX and EX-T, which add a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, alloy wheels, a power moonroof, and a split-folding rear seat. The EX-T mostly mirrors the EX but adds heated seats and the turbocharged engine. At around $24,500, it represents tremendous value for the money.

Range-topping Civic Tourings throw in leather seats with power adjustment, navigation, and premium audio for a not unreasonable $28,000 or so.

The infotainment system fitted to most Civics has a crisp, clear screen, but can be cumbersome to use. The available navigation system works well enough, however. But with Apple and Android compatibility, we imagine most users will simply plug in their phones.

Fuel Economy
Look up frugal in the dictionary and you’ll find the 2019 Honda Civic.
The 2019 Honda Civic has a lengthy fuel economy story to tell, so we’ll jump right to the last chapter: there’s not a thirsty one in the bunch.

We derive our 7 out of 10 score here based on what Honda says is the most popular configuration, which is a turbocharged sedan with the CVT. 

That version is rated at 32 mpg city, 42 highway, 36 combined. Hatchback and coupe body styles are a little less slippery and lower those figures to 31/40/34 mpg and 31/40/35 mpg, respectively.

The turbocharged Civic’s standard manual transmission dents fuel economy only slightly—just 1 mpg combined.

Base Civics with the non-turbo 2.0-liter inline-4 are rated at 31/40/34 mpg with the CVT.

The Civic Si doesn’t impart a big fuel economy hit for its extra power: it’s rated at 28/38/32 mpg regardless of body style. With 305 hp underhood, the Civic Type R is guzzler of the pack at 22/28/25 mpg that, if we’re honest, isn’t bad for its performance.

The figures above are for the 2018 Civic and we’ll update this space when 2019 numbers are released. Given the lack of powertrain changes for 2019, we don’t expect many changes.

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