The Civic has grown up in all sorts of ways with its 2016 reinvention, but it's also grown out of its old duds. By some measures, it's no longer a compact car, but a mid-sizer along with the likes of the VW Jetta, Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200—though it's also still a close rival for cars like the Ford Focus and Mazda 3.
Though it's grown by 2.9 inches in overall length, and 1.9 inches in width, the new Civic actually weighs less than the outgoing model, thanks to the use of lots of high-strength steel. It checks in at between 2,800 and almost 3,000 pounds depending on the model.
By the numbers, the Civic is 182.3 inches long; 70.8 inches wide; and 55.7 inches tall, about 0.8 inches lower than the previous version. The proportions have changed within that bigger envelope—hood and cowl height have dropped 1.6 inches, front overhang is down 1.2 inches, the trunk is 3 inches longer, and trunk space is up to 15.1 cubic feet from 12.3.
All told, the Civic wraps up 112.9 cubic feet of space in its body, significantly more than the Mazda 3, which offers about 108 cubic feet of interior volume. The Honda's within a few cubes of the Chrysler 200, which measures in at 117.4 cubic feet of passenger and trunk space.
Had it with the spec-sheet numbers? Here's how it translates into real-world room better than any Civic before it. The slimmer, tailored front bucket seats sit much lower than before—this Civic might be the first car in its class where I've had to raise the power seat higher, not lower, for the best driving position. (The driver seat adjusts for height and tilt even in base models.) The dash structure is less pronounced than before, and the tilt/telescoping steering has a longer stroke, so finding an ideal driving position is easy for a wide range of body types, though the prominent headrests might push too far forward for some. There's excellent leg room and a comfortable incline to the footboard—and I had at least a couple of inches of head room left in a car not equipped with the sunroof.
In the back seat, the Civic outperforms almost all the cars it names as rivals, and some others, too. There's enough head room and leg room for 6-footers to sit behind 6-footers, with an inch of knee room to spare. The seatbacks recline at a natural angle—but on the base LX they don't fold forward or open into the trunk.
Thoughtful touches abound in the Civic's cabin, but nothing's quite as clever as the configurable center console. Taking a cue from full-size trucks, the Civic's bin goes all "Transformers" as it toggles from padded armrest, to deep iPad bin, to dual-cupholder tote, to key tray. There's also storage for smartphones ahead of the shift lever and a glove box big enough for a lunch cooler bag. The molded-in door pockets are square and can hold small Fiji bottles.
As for the elusive "quality" observations, we think the Civic has never done a better job of feeling like a more expensive car. However, there are some small interface issues we think could improve over the years. Honda devotes two big knobs to climate-control temperature; we'd swap them out for volume and fan speed. The steering-wheel controls look like the softly matted ones in an Accord, but they're clear plastic on top of cheaper switches; the volume slider accepts swipes and clicks but feels thrifty. The passenger seat can't tilt its bottom cushion at all, and the reach to the Civic's tilt/telescope lever is too long—just like the tongue of plastic that sticks out of the gauges to reset the tripometer.
Those aside, Honda's pretty much mastered the concept of keeping cost-cutting out of plain view, a lesson it learned the hard way with the 2012 Civic. This car's flaws are limited to an unlined trunk lid and exposed hinges, places you want money to come out of if it needs to come out.