- Smooth ride, little noise
- 45-mpg Hybrid model
- Standard equipment impressive
- Not the most rear-seat room
- Two-level dash an acquired taste
- Hybrid rough at low speeds
The 2015 Honda Civic is refined, comfortable, and offers top-notch safety ratings and features.
The 2015 Honda Civic sedan and coupe are some of the best-known compact cars sold in the U.S. From the time the first Civic went on sale more than 40 years ago, the car has reflected its era--and the latest iteration of the Civic received several updates over the last two years to keep it in tune with the market. While the base car is now in its fourth year, what you see on showroom floors is actually only in its third year, after quick and fairly radical updating of the cheap, grim, feature-poor 2012 redesign.
For 2013, styling was freshened, the interior was made much nicer, additional noise insulation and features were introduced, and the suspension was retuned for comfort. And the Civic has bounced back smartly--although buyers never seemed as put off by the 2012 model as professional reviewers. For 2015, the Civic carries on almost entirely unchanged after updates to the top-trim infotainment system last year.
Outside, the Civic still reads as a Honda, but it's now got a number of design touches from the larger and quite handsome current Accord model. Up ront, the Civic now mimics the Accord’s face, from the black honeycomb mesh grille to the new "open-mouth" lower bumper. Integrated fog lamps on high-line models, and new clear-lens cornering lamps--plus a chrome finishing bar in back and a rear bumper design that again mimics the Accord--dress up the interior of what remains a four-door sedan with heavily raked front and rear glass.
inside, the funky two-level instrument panel remains, but most of the finishes and surfaces were upgraded--adding the now-requisite soft-touch vinyl to places where hands and elbows make frequent contact. The front seats are comfortable, though rear-seat passengers may find both head and shoulder room on the tight side.
That increased refinement carries over to the driving and riding experience too, with a more pleasant cabin experience from a host of under-the-skin changes: more high-strength steel, stiffer side pillars, and thicker glass for both the windshield and the front side windows. Soundproofing was added to the doors, floor, dash, and rear tray--and it worked. At idle, you may have to check the tachometer to see if the engine is actually running. Once underway, road noise is significantly muted and there's even a subtle effect from the soft-touch dash materials that seems to make the cabin quieter.
As of last year, Honda retired its aging five-speed automatic transmission, replacing it with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for better fuel economy. It's paired with an updated version of the 140-horsepower four-cylinder engine, with a five-speed manual gearbox offered only on certain trim levels. The fuel economy increase is real: the basic Civic with CVT is now rated at 33 mpg combined--or 35 mpg if you specify the Civic HF, which uses some aero enhancements, different gearing, and low-rolling-resistance tires to wring every last mile out of each gallon. That's before you get to the Civic Hybrid model, one of the priciest of all Civics, but with its mild-hybrid system delivering striking 45-mpg combined rating that's not far off from what we achieved in real-world testing.
Then there's a Civic Si hot-rod model, with a 201-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that comes exclusively with a six-speed manual gearbox. For all Civics, we found the steering to be a letdown, too light and--rare for a small car--just too quick. The suspension upgrades gave it a firm and settled ride quality, though, and the brakes work well despite an occasionally spongy pedal feel.
Safety is one of the biggest selling points for the Civic, and the 2015 model has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). That means it got the top rating of "Good" not only for the longstanding tests, but also the new small-overlap barrier test that has tripped up quite a number of new vehicles lately. A rearview camera is standard, and so are both lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning systems.
All Civics come standard with the usual power windows, locks, and mirrors, but they also have Bluetooth pairing on every model for hands-free calling connectivity and audio streaming. There's also text-message reading and Pandora internet radio integration. While Honda has upgraded its navigation system and added a subscription-free FM real-time traffic data service, we're still not big fans of Honda's system--it's far less intuitive and pleasant to use than the very good base 160-watt audio system.