- Great interior space
- Good value
- Stellar fuel economy
- Wide range of available bodies, engines
- More grown-up now
- Base infotainment isn’t great
- Poorly performing headlights
- Hatch is a little too over the top
- Competitors are catching up
The 2020 Honda Civic sets the pace among affordable compact cars.
You’d be forgiven for not recognizing the 2020 Honda Civic.
While the name “Civic” may return images of economy-sized penalty boxes, today’s Civic has more in common with the Accord than it does with yesteryear’s sin bins.
The 2020 Civic’s a budget car hiding in plain sight, dressed up as a mid-sizer in some cases.
Our TCC rating of 6.5 is based on the sedan and reflects the Civic’s good standing on our feature and style scale. The related Honda Insight does better—it’s equipped with better headlights and a subtler style, and gets better fuel economy—and we highly suggest that mid- or top-level Civic shoppers look at the Insight too. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Like last year, the Civic is available in LX, Sport, EX, and Touring trim levels spread among sedan, coupe, and hatchback body styles. (The hatchback offers a Sport Touring trim that’s a mashup of the two.) The Civic Si is available as a coupe or sedan, the Civic Type R is hatchback only.
The sedan is more popular with buyers and we recommend it for commuter detail. Compared to the coupe and hatchback, the sedan is more reserved in its style and more comfortable in the rear. The interiors of all three are upscale and high-quality, more than its $20,680 entry price would indicate.
A base 2.0-liter inline-4 is standard in the sedan and coupe and makes 158 horsepower. It can team to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) or 6-speed manual in some cases. A 1.5-liter turbo-4 that makes 174 hp normally is a spend-up option, and it's more efficient according to the EPA’s calculators. We recommend it. The Civic Si draws power from the same engine with the turbos screwed in tighter, it makes more than 200 hp. The wild Type R makes more than 300 hp, and it’s a serious track performer—it was our colleagues at Motor Authority’s Best Car To Buy 2018.
All Civics get automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control to complement very good crash-test scores. Poorly rated headlights let the side down, although the Insight’s a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS—and one of the most affordable ones available.
Every Civic nails the basics—Bluetooth connectivity, power features, and active safety equipment—but the Civic EX is a good value at $24,630 as a sedan, $24,430 as a coupe, or $25,080 as a hatchback, and includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a higher-speed USB port, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch wheels, and a passenger-side camera system that displays the passenger-side blind spot on the infotainment screen.
The EPA says most Civics will manage 30 mpg combined or better, according to their tests.
2020 Honda Civic
The Civic lineup is broad and deep, with plenty of options, although some are more grown-up than others.
Over time, the Civic has evolved from a hatchback to a sedan to a coupe. For 2020, it’s all three.
This year, our rating applies to the sedan, which we think will be the most popular among buyers. The coupe is sleeker and the hatchback is more practical, but also busier. Our rating of 7 reflects the sedan’s handsome exterior and good interior. If the Civic looks a little racy for your tastes, we’d suggest walking across the lot to see the Insight—a related hybrid sedan that takes the Civic’s looks uptown even more.
The sedan’s shape channels the Accord, other fastback sedans, and even some luxury sedans, with a sleek roofline. The sedan and hatchback are closely related in profile—the sedan dips right at the tail to offer a small trunk, and the hatch just keeps going.
The coupe’s long lines belie the Civic’s small dimensions—it looks great in Sport trim with 18-inch wheels and black accents.
We like the hatchback’s practicality, but it’s a little too busy for our tests—especially in Sport trim. The hatchback’s busy styling is a nod to the rest of the world’s tastes, it’s more popular abroad than it is in the U.S. For younger buyers, that may not matter, but daily commuters could tire of its over-the-top looks. The Civic Type R? That’s just a hatch turned up to 11.
Inside, the Civic is comparatively sedate with many interior storage bins, cubbies, and cupholders. The low and wide dash isn’t as boring as it has been in the past—it’s visually separated with horizontal bands of glossy black plastic or brushed trim, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen on most versions breaks up the space. Base versions get a 5.0-inch display that doesn’t quite do the same trick, however.
2020 Honda Civic
From workaday to wild, the 2020 Civic has nearly every base covered for performance.
Assigning a single digit to the Civic’s performance potential is tougher than assigning a single digit to tacos—all of them.
There are three available engines, with five power outputs spread among them, mated to automatic or manual transmissions. Short of a pickup truck, few cars offer the same variety in available performance or efficiency than the Civic.
Our rating of 6 applies to the Civic that most shoppers will see on dealer lots. If rated separately the Si and Type R would earn another point above that, but the bread-and-butter powertrains are plenty satisfying on their own.
This year, the Civic stands pat with a choice among inline-4s. The base engine in most LX, Sport, and EX Civics is a 158-hp 2.0-liter inline-4 that’s most often paired to a CVT. A 6-speed manual is available on LX and Sport trims and it’s very easy to drive, but not particularly racy here. The base engine is perfectly fine for commuting and best paired to a CVT that keeps its efficiency in close to 30 mpg combined, according to the EPA.
The step-up engine in sedans, coupes, and standard on all hatchbacks, is a 1.5-liter turbo-4 that makes 174 hp (or 180 hp in some trims). The turbo-4 isn’t only more powerful, it’s also more efficient on the highway. Some trims offer a 6-speed manual paired to the turbo-4, and it can help tame some of the lag in the driveline when drivers mash on the throttle. The CVT is again the most efficient pick, but can also exacerbate some of that lag. Try before you buy.
All Civics are gifted with especially taut handling and clean steering that make the small car a joy to drive around town and around twisty roads. Turbo-4 versions get fluid-filled rear bushings that sharpen handling further.
We like the standard 16- or 17-inch wheels found on most models that are comfortable and quiet. The 18-inchers on Sport and Touring models look better in the Civic’s small wheel arches, but can transmit more road imperfections and noise into the cabin than most drivers may be willing to tolerate.
Civic Si and Type R
The performance cousins to the Civic are available again for 2020 and can transform the base car into an impressive performer.
The Civic Si is available in coupe or sedan body styles, and is powered by a 205-hp 1.5-liter turbo-4. It’s paired exclusively with a 6-speed manual that wrings out the most from the busy engine. The Si spins up to 60 mph in less than seven seconds and features two-mode adaptive dampers that toggle between Normal and Sport settings for a firmer feel. Summer tires are optional from the factory, and a good idea for warm-weather buyers—the little Civic Si has a big grip on twisty roads.
The Civic Type R is the performance king again this year, but Honda hasn’t yet detailed that version. We expect the same performance as years prior: more than 300 hp from a 2.0-liter turbo-4, 6-speed manual transmission, silly fast. Stay tuned.
2020 Honda Civic
Comfort & Quality
Cheap interiors and cramped space are part of the Civic’s past, not its present.
The Civic’s compact footprint belies its spacious cabin. The sedan is the most suitable for hauling more than two adults, the hatchback is the most versatile, and the coupe is the sleekest.
Starting from an average score, the Civic earns a 6 on our comfort scale thanks to its good leg room in the back seat of sedans, which we think will be more popular among buyers.
Up front, the driver and front-seat passenger have a better view than a rooftop patio. The dash is low and the seats are comfortable, shod in durable cloth in LX, Sport, and EX trims. Leather-clad, power-adjustable seats are available on EX-L and Touring trims—Si and Type R get their own grippy fabrics.
Rear-seat riders in the sedan get uncommonly good leg room, more than 37 inches, with comfortable and supportive rear outboard seats that will fit actual adults. We wouldn’t advise sticking three broad-shouldered adults in back for long, but it works in a pinch. (The hatchback and coupe both have 36 inches of leg room in the rear.)
The sedan boasts about 15 cubic feet of cargo room in the trunk, which is average among mid-size sedans—and good for the Civic’s compact footprint. (The coupe gets only 12 cubic feet, and the hatchback is king with 25.7 cubic feet with the second row in place, 46.2 with the second row tumbled forward.)
The Civic’s interior materials and quality races past its budget-car roots. Most of the surfaces are high-quality, with low-sheen plastics and soft interior materials—far removed of the stark, boring, and sometimes grainy plastics from the Civic’s not-too-distant past.
2020 Honda Civic
Only the Civic’s headlights keep it from scoring better here.
Three body styles. Five stars. And all of them can stop themselves.
That’s about all there is to know about the Honda Civic but we’re paid by the word, so we’ll add detail.
Federal and independent testers gave the Civic top marks for crashworthiness, including a five-star overall score from the feds. The IIHS gave the Civics—all of the body styles—top “Good” scores on its crash battery, including both driver- and passenger-side small impact crashes. The Civic’s standard automatic emergency braking system was also rated “Superior” at avoiding forward crashes at 12 and 25 mph. The lone demerit is the headlights equipped on all Civics, regardless of trim or body style, which rate “Poor.”
In addition to automatic emergency braking, all Civics get a full suite of active safety features including active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams.
2020 Honda Civic
The Civic is best when it’s cheap, and well-equipped. For 2020, it’s easily both.
The 2020 Honda Civic starts at $20,680, which makes it a strong value for budget shoppers. We appreciate that and the variety that three body styles, four powertrains, and dozens of options along the way provide.
Starting from an average score of 5, the Civic gets points above average for its variety and value. It’s a 7.
The list of possible Civics is long this year. Available as a four-door sedan, five-door hatchback, or two-door coupe, in LX, Sport, EX, or Touring trims (the hatchback offers a Sport Touring trim), or as a hotter Si sedan or coupe or hottest Type R hatchback.
It’s enough to make just about anyone dizzy. Our pick among any body style is the EX trim, the Si is a stellar entry-level performance coupe and the Type R was our colleagues at Motor Authority’s Best Car To Buy 2018.
Broadly speaking the sedan is the most affordable version; opting for a coupe over a similarly priced sedan adds $200 to $300 to LX and Sport trims, EX and Touring coupes cost less than their sedan counterparts; opting for a hatchback, which is only available with a 1.5-liter turbo-4, adds anywhere from $700 to $1,500 to a similarly equipped coupe or sedan, depending on trim level. The Si sedan and coupes are priced identically, $25,930, and opting for summer tires costs $200 more. The Type R costs typically costs thousands more, but Honda hasn’t yet said how much it will cost.
All LX models get a 5.0-inch display for audio, Bluetooth connectivity, at least one USB port, active safety features (that we cover above), cloth upholstery, and 16-inch wheels.
The Civic EX costs $24,630 as a sedan, $24,430 as a coupe, or $25,080 as a hatchback, all including destination charges, and adds a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a higher-speed USB port, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch wheels, and a passenger-side camera system that displays the passenger-side blind spot on the infotainment screen.
The Civic Type R is the most expensive Civic that money can buy, but it’s a performance variant—not really a luxury car. Same goes for the Civic Si, which is equipped like an EX,
The Civic Touring trims cost north of $28,000 and add leather seats, 18-inch wheels, navigation, premium audio, and add heated rear seats. They’re equipped better than the top-trim Accords from just a few years ago, but the Civic’s best look as always been as an inexpensive compact car.
2020 Honda Civic
The 2020 Civic is cheap to buy, and cheap to run.
The 2020 Honda Civic is always in season, there’s not a bad pick in the bunch.
It gets a 6 on our fuel-economy scale weighted toward the most popular version, which is a Civic sedan with 2.0-liter inline-4 and automatic transmission. The EPA rates that model at 30 mpg city, 38 highway, 33 combined.
There are more than a dozen variants with separate ratings, but most don't fall far from that mark. When equipped with a 1.5-liter turbo-4 the Civic reaches about 35 mpg combined in coupe, hatchback, and sedan body styles. Most of those models exceed 40 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA.
Opting for a manual transmission in most body styles doesn’t significantly dent fuel economy, just 1 mpg combined.
The Civic Si, which is available as a sedan or coupe, rates 26/36/30 mpg, according to the EPA. It’s available only with a manual transmission.
The Type R hasn’t yet been rated by the EPA.