- Smooth ride, little noise
- 45-mpg Hybrid model
- Standard equipment impressive
- Superb safety ratings, features
- Not the most rear-seat room
- Two-level dash an acquired taste
- Hybrid rough at low speeds
- Brakes can feel mushy
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.
2015 Honda Civic
The 2015 Honda Civic is handsome, if conservative, and recent upgrades gave it a bit more panache inside and out.
The 2015 Honda Civic looks like a Honda, first and foremost; its styling is evolutionary, but modern. In that respect it's conservative, though it still has more lively lines than some of its compact competitors--the Toyota Corolla and Chevy Cruze in particular spring to mind. The look is slightly chiseled, with more sculpted flanks and an upward-raked character line. But the roofline, stance, and footprint all make the car instantly recognizable as a Civic, now with a touch of the latest Accord added.
The latest iteration has a black honeycomb-mesh grille above an "open-mouth" lower bumper. Integrated fog lamps in higher trim levels add flair, along with clear-lens cornering lamps; in the rear, a redesigned back end with a chrome bar connecting the taillights gives the car a slightly wider look, though we're not big fans of the wide chrome stripe. It's not particularly daring or edgy, but it stacks up well against competitors well both in style and in actual functionality.
Inside, Honda upped its game significantly for the 2013 model year after its all-new 2012 model was savaged for grim, drab trim, cheap materials, lack of refinement, and a lack of overall finish detailing. The resulting redesign, now in its third year, compensated by boosting the level of sophistication in the materials and sound suppression--if not necessarily in the looks department. The seat fabrics were updated as well, and while their faux-stitching looks good from a distance, the first impression doesn't necessarily last.
The upper tier of the Civic's characteristic two-level dashboard is now covered with a soft-touch padded surface extending into the upper door trims. Buyers new to Civics may find the oddly contoured and asymmetrical instrument panel odd or startling. Its gauge colors and graphics are common to other Honda small cars, and lend a splash of brightness against the darker trim materials.
If you opt for the sportier Civic Si hot-rod models, with their bigger engines and more performance-oriented suspensions, you get racier new wheels, a blacked-out grille, a prominent rear spoiler, and chrome exhaust tips. Inside, the sport seats are the most notable and welcome change, along with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and darker trim materials.
The 45-mpg Civic Hybrid takes the opposite tack, appearing little different from the more prosaic Civic Sedan models unless you know specifically what to look for: different wheels, a slightly different and more aerodynamic front fascia, a small trunk-lid spoiler lip added on, and different light units with LED running lights.
2015 Honda Civic
The 2015 Honda Civic has comfort and refinement as well as adequate handling, but the Civic Si hot-rod version underwhelms.
The 2015 Honda Civic is no longer one of the best-handling compact sedans, as it was for many years before the turn of the century. But it remains one of the most enjoyable, now ranking high on refinement and suspension quality.
Among the many upgrades made in 2013 were a number of suspension changes that went a long way toward adding some perkiness back into what had become a very staid sedan indeed. The springs are firmer, there's less body roll, and the steering is quicker--if still a little too light for us, and perhaps almost too quick in some circumstances.
Handling in corners feels more solid and reliable, while at the same time, the experience of traveling inside the car is more pleasant and quieter. Those are two characteristics that sometimes don't go hand-in-hand, so Honda did its homework in updating the Civic. The brakes, upgraded a couple of years ago, are also confident, though the pedal can feel mushy at times.
The various models of the Civic--from the standard gasoline version to the sportier Si, the highly efficient Civic Hybrid, even the Natural Gas version--each have slightly different characters on the road. The standard 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine will mostly be paired with a new and surprisingly efficient continuously variable transmission (CVT). A five-speed manual gearbox is still available on entry-level cars for those few buyers who really want it, but the CVT is not only more refined, it delivers better gas mileage: 33 mpg combined (or 35 mpg in the Civic HF high-efficiency version) against 31 mpg for the manual.
Honda's new CVT delivers a natural, even feel to the acceleration, and while it's not all that torquey at lower speeds, the engine doesn't soar to its highest range and stay there howling--as in earlier CVTs from other makers. The Civic HF is largely the same, but with higher gearing, low-rolling-resistance tires, and a few other tweaks to deliver slightly higher gas mileage--and we found that it did, at the cost of a bit of performance. The "Econ" button fitted across the range does the same, albeit in a more distinct fashion that quickly turns frustrating in even medium traffic as the downgraded performance makes itself felt.
The hot-rod Civic Si models get a more powerful 201-hp 2.4-liter four, offered only with a six-speed manual gearbox, along with lower gearing for better acceleration. Compared to the boy-racer image of earlier Si generations, though, it's a disappointment. It doesn't rev as high (only to a 7000-rpm redline now), and it just feels slightly neutered--as if Honda had decided that the volume compact market was important enough that losing some of its most faithful Si loyalists might be an acceptable price to pay. The current Civic Si is noisier than the regular model, it has to be driven hard to extract its performance, and it's just not as crisp as Civic Si models of yore.
Finally, the Civic Hybrid was the first from Honda with a lithium-ion battery pack, back in 2012. It impinges much less on trunk space, and delivers remarkable gas mileage--45 mpg combined--despite being only a "mild hybrid" without the ability to move the car away from a stop on electric power alone. A thin 15-kilowatt (22-hp) electric motor sits between the small 1.5-liter engine and the CVT, supplementing the engine output with extra torque and restarting the engine after it's switched off as the car comes to a stop. Because the engine has to restart to move away from a stop, though, the Civic Hybrid isn't as smooth as the full-hybrid Toyota Prius.
Still, the Civic Hybrid actually gets better gas-mileage ratings than the now-defunct smaller Insight hybrid, and it remains the efficiency champ not only in the lineup but among compact sedans. Its mild-hybrid system is being discontinued, however, and it remains unclear whether the Civic Hybrid will be outfitted with the replacement system that's now offered only in Japan.
2015 Honda Civic
Comfort & Quality
The 2015 Honda Civic interior has comfortable seats for four and high-quality materials, and its ride is comfortable.
The 2015 Honda Civic continues to benefit from a number of significant quality upgrades made for the 2013 model year, after an all-new 2012 Civic was widely panned for its grim, drab materials and lack of refinement against competitors. The 2015 Civic is a much more pleasant and refined place to spend time, and shoppers will notice its overall cabin ambiance and convenience features even before they sample its comfort on the road.
The Civic Sedan offers adequate room for four people, and its seats are among the best in the class now--though like many compacts, the lower cushions may feel short and flat for taller or beefier occupants. The steep rake of the windshield gives the dash the appearance of protruding deeply into the cabin, with a dashboard surface that looks endless, but that's more a personal preference as a functional drawback. Access and egress to and from the rear seat is good, but the seat lacks headroom--it actually feels tighter than the taller but much shorter Fit subcompact hatchback.
Honda stuck with its dual-level contoured dashboard design, which is a love-it-or-hate-it kind feature. Drivers see the tachometer through the steering wheel, but the speedometer and most other operating information is higher up and further away toward the base of the windshield. It's unusual, though the company argues it makes sense functionally and requires the driver's eyes to refocus less, improving safety. Meanwhile, directional buttons on the steering wheel let the driver navigate through various display menus without removing hands from the wheel.
We recommend skipping the optional navigation system unless you really need one, though. The base audio setup has good sound quality, large buttons, and intuitive controls. We'd have liked to see those controls elevated above the CD slot, though: How many Civic drivers actually still play CDs?
The current Civic offers substantial trunk space, and the lithium-ion battery pack used in the Civic Hybrid doesn't significantly impinge on it. It takes only 6 or 8 inches from the depth, a vast improvement on older hybrids with nickel-metal-hydride batteries. The Hybrid model does lose the folding seatback, though. If you order the limited-availability Civic Natural Gas, you lose two-thirds or more of your trunk to the natural-gas tank, leaving just enough space for a few upright grocery bags.
The 2015 Civic has one of the more refined, quiet rides in its class. Honda added beefier side pillars, thicker glass in the windshield and side windows, and more high-strength steel--both for safety and to suppress cabin noise. Then it layered on soundproofing in the dash, rear tray, doors, and floorboards. The soft-touch interior surfaces absorb noise as well, and when the engine is idling, it's barely audible and you may have to check the tachometer to see if it's still turning.
The one jarring note is that the soft armrest material on the front doors is replaced by hard plastic on the rear-door interiors--a strange omission given that the rear compartment gets a center armrest and even rear heating/air-conditioning vents, which many competitors don't.
2015 Honda Civic
The 2015 Honda Civic is among the safest cars in its class, with a standard backup camera plus the clever optional blind-spot camera in the right door mirror.
The 2015 Honda Civic outranks most, if not all, compact sedans in its occupant protection and safety ratings. Not only does it get stellar marks on crash tests, but its feature set is a step beyond its segment as well.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) deems the Civic a Top Safety Pick, making it one of relatively few compact cars to earn that rating. Since it lacks automatic braking with its forward-collision warning system, it doesn't qualify as a Top Safety Pick+.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Civic Sedan five stars for overall safety, its highest rating, though the Civic Coupe gets only four stars overall. Both models, however, get five stars for side crash and four stars for frontal crash and rollover safety.
Notably, on the 2015 Civic a rear-view camera is standard, not optional--and so are forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning systems. Those sophisticated systems are usually absent from affordable compact models, or offered only on higher trim levels as extra-cost options. As with every other car, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, front and front-seat side airbags and side-curtain bags are standard on the 2015 Civic.
2015 Honda Civic
The 2015 Honda Civic offers a full suite of standard features, including a wide set of infotainment options, though others are catching up fast.
The 2015 Honda Civic benefits significantly from upgrades made to its 2013 and 2014 predecessors; it's otherwise a carryover model, with no additional features for the new model year. All Civic models come with standard cruise control and a rear-view camera system, as well as the expected power windows, mirrors, and door locks, Bluetooth pairing, and Pandora internet radio connectivity.
Moreover, at a base price around $18,500, the base Civic LX trim level isn't the cheapest compact sedan on the market--but its value equation seems to make sense, and the options are carefully priced to appeal without breaking the bank. Even the base 160-Watt sound system is impressive, with clean, bright audio across the aural range. We found the USB port wouldn't charge devices the car didn't recognize--an annoying drawback for passengers who just need to recharge their phones--but the iPod integration is easy to use and fairly intuitive.
Next up the line is the Civic EX, which adds automatic climate control, a six-speaker audio system, and a few other features--along with a navigation option. While the navigation system has been upgraded to add a free (FM-based) real-time traffic data service and more points of interest, we'd suggest sticking with the standard audio setup unless you absolutely need built-in navigation--because Honda's navigation and audio interfaces have let us down during several different drives.
Above the Civic EX, the EX-L model gets leather upholstery, plus heated mirrors and front seats. Top of the line is the most luxurious version of the Civic Hybrid, which edges toward $30,000. (There's also the limited-availability Civic Natural Gas, which is higher, but it's only sold in certain states.) Considering the fuel savings from the 45-mpg Civic Hybrid, there are scenarios under which owners save money enough money on running costs to offset the higher price if they put a lot of miles on the car.
2015 Honda Civic
The 2015 Honda Civic not only has a 45-mpg Hybrid model, even the base versions get some of the highest MPG ratings in their class.
While the Hybrid model is the mileage champ of the 2015 Honda Civic lineup, at 45 mpg combined, all versions get better mileage than their predecessors. And over nearly 400 miles of driving--albeit mostly in 'Eco' mode--we beat that number slightly, meaning the Civic Hybrid really does deliver.
Even if you opt for the base gasoline engine with a continuously variable transmission, though, the 2015 Civic gives you a rating of 33 mpg--or 35 mpg in the Civic HF high-efficiency model.
Specifically, the Civic Hybrid is rated at 45 mpg combined (44 mpg city, 47 mpg highway), with the standard Civic at 33 mpg combined (either 29 mpg city, 38 mpg highway or 30 mpg city, 39 mpg highway, depending on model). Then the Civic HF comes in at 35 mpg combined (31 mpg city, 41 mpg highway). Ditch the CVT for a five-speed manual gearbox and your ratings fall to 31 mpg combined (28 mpg city, 36 mpg highway), underscoring just how efficient Honda's new CVT really is.
If you're more of a hot rodder and opt for the Civic Si model with its larger 2.4-liter engine and lower gear ratios--it's offered only with a six-speed manual gearbox--your ratings fall to 25 mpg combined (22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway). We're betting, though, that most Civic Si drivers aren't really focusing on fuel economy.
Finally, the limited-availability Civic Natural Gas gets the equivalent of 31 mpg combined--but its drawback, in addition to sacrificing most of its trunk space, is a range rated at just 192 miles. That compares to the Civic Hybrid, which at 45 mpg has a rated range of a whopping 594 miles--three times as high.