As bright as the sales of the Honda Civic are, you have to think that the lights of those searching for a compact sedan or coupe shine that much brighter when they wash over the Honda. After all, when you are this good for this long, people expect a certain level of quality, style, practicality, and technology. Simply put, it’s tough at the top.
The car you see here, however, gets a bit of an asterisk beside its name. After all, trimming two doors off the Civic moves the goalposts a little ― to an entirely different game in an entirely different sport. It’s one that doesn’t quite have the same level of competition: While I can rattle off the 4-door Civic’s opponents in about five seconds, naming the models this bright green coupe is up against is a different task.
For the time being, you have the Scion tC, but that’s due to be killed off once the Scion brand gets swallowed up by Toyota. There used to be a Hyundai Elantra Coupe, but that’s gone too with this year’s change to a new body style. The Hyundai Veloster? Perhaps, but that one has a hatch, and the Civic Coupe has a trunk. Same goes for the MINI Cooper.
So, the Honda Civic Coupe exists in a class all its own, to a degree. Is the practicality you lose with the absence of two doors going to leave it high and dry? We’ll see.
Do I look scared?
One glance at the Civic Coupe ― especially in the McLaren-esque Energy Green tint seen here ― and you have to credit Honda with having the stones to make it pop like this. Take one look at dealership lots these days, and all you’ll see is greys, whites, and blacks. Even the blues and reds are often so dark it’s almost as if the colour is apologizing for not being a shade of grey. There’s no mistaking this car’s colour, though (you can also have it in bright red or blue), nor Honda’s confidence in the youthfulness of its new 2-door compact for the masses.
Aside from the eye-popping colour, the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe is a looker in general. The lines are pronounced without seeming tacked-on à la Hyundai Tiburon, and the slimmer front fascia found on all Civics is perfect for the coupe’s image.
My favourite view, however, is from the rear ¾ angle. The 2-tone wheels (16” standard or 17” in Touring trim), aggressively sloping roofline, and big taillamp lenses (that are connected via a light bar on the trunk’s leading edge) lend properly European flair to the car as a whole. The Civic sedan looks good from here, as well, but the coupe turns it up a notch.
The biggest adjustment for front-seat dwellers is the lowered seating position, which means that even with such a sloped roofline, you only lose about 30 mm of front headroom. The driver’s seat can be adjusted in height, but the passenger’s seat can’t, which is a bit of a shame. I had no trouble sliding my 6’3” frame in, however.
Of course, the back seat in the new Honda Civic Coupe takes a bigger hit, but that’s to be expected and you should still be able to fit kids back there, no problem. Tall adults should stay away, though.
With a car aimed at younger buyers, it makes sense that all the gadgets that debuted in the sedan have migrated over here. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is offered as standard, along with heated front seats and a multi-angle backup camera. That’s pretty good kit for what is essentially an entry-level compact with a starting price of $19,455. Upgrading to Touring spec adds wireless charging, plus Honda’s LaneWatch system that turns the infotainment screen into a big blind-spot camera.
The one thing I wish is that Honda didn’t rely so much on an all-touch setup. The screen is responsive enough, but the buttons are small and I don’t like having to slide my finger for volume adjustment. Yes, there are controls on the steering wheel, but it’s not like the front passenger can fiddle with them. All Acura models have a volume knob; why can’t the Hondas? The fact that it’s likely a cost-saving measure is of little solace.
A coupe is meant to be driven, so…
Output for the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe is the same as the sedan, meaning you’ve got 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque to work with if you select the naturally aspirated 2.0L engine; 174 and 162, respectively, if you have the 1.5L turbo, like I did. Peak torque with the latter arrives at a lowly 1,700 rpm and stays that way until 5,500 rpm, making for a nice, flat torque curve with little turbo lag. Passing manoeuvres are taken without incident, and while acceleration from standstill would likely be improved with the addition of one crucial piece, it’s pretty darn good.
That one crucial piece? A manual transmission. For 2016, you can only have the slick-shifting 6-speed unit when coupled to the 2.0L engine, meaning you’re stuck with the CVT for the turbo. That’s set to change with the 2017 model, though. At least you get paddle shifters, which are rather good, and Honda has managed to actually make you feel like you’re shifting gears (of course, you’re not).
I found that the more time I spent behind the wheel of the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe, the more enjoyable it became. The spot-on seating position is a Civic staple in my book, and the seats are magnificently comfortable. The steering wheel falls nicely and chunkily into your hands, and all the controls are easy to reach. I just wish I had to reach for the gear lever more, you know?
That said, handling almost makes one forget about the transmission issues. I’ve driven many Civics, and they’ve always managed to impress me with how sharp and pointable they are. This one is no different.
Steering is electronically assisted, but unlike many cars that use this tech, it doesn’t feel as such. Better still, it’s a variable system: heavier at high speeds, lighter for low-speed situations. It makes the Honda Civic Coupe a pleasure to drive not only around town, but also on the open road.
On top of that, the ride hasn’t been compromised in favour of sharper handling. It’s firm, but not brittle, with superb damping that makes you wonder how a compact can ride so well.
Honda does it again
The detractors will detract, but no matter what they say, Honda keeps improving its bread-and-butter compact. The Civic sedan won multiple awards when it was launched, and much of what makes that car so great has filtered up to the coupe. Sales will be more limited, of course, but if you want youthful flair and driving fun to go with your Japanese small car, you must have a look at the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe.
Ed.: Want a second opinion? Read Miranda Lightstone’s first-drive review.