Drive to Five Review: 2019 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring Sedan

Odometer (Civic):  4,000

The other day, I was enjoying a rare, quiet, movie night at home and ended up picking the 2006 flick “Employee of the Month,” starring Dane Cook.  One of my favorite lines in that movie refers to a Honda Civic.  A 1981 Civic, to be exact.  After a golf ball attack ensues, the proud owner of a rickety old Civic proclaims, “This is an ’81 Honda – how dare you?!”

That car (and clip) make me think of this brilliant magazine ad from back in the day.

Certainly there are many of us who can relate to the protective attitude about our vehicles.  My younger brother drove a hand-me-down 1984 Civic 1500 “S” hatchback in high school – a hand-me-down from my great-grandmother.  This was what our family’s driveway looked like 20 years ago.  Two Legends, a Prelude, and a Civic.  Those were the days!

The Civic has been around as Honda’s compact vehicle offering since 1972 and it has been in its current (10th!) generation since the 2016 model year.  My current 2013 Acura ILX rides on Civic underpinnings and so I can already attest that the level of reliability is all it’s cracked up to be.  Where the Civic differs greatly from its Acura sibling is in sheer volume of sales:  In August 2019, here were some select stats:

  • Civic:  34,808 units
  • Accord:  30,558 units
  • ILX:  1,439 units
  • RLX:  38 units
  • NSX:  25 units

The only vehicle that sold more than the Civic was the CR-V at 44,000 units.  Honda has a home run on its hands, and I set out over the past several days to find out why.

My test-car was powered by turbocharged 4-cylinder engine coupled with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).  The Touring trim level brings nice amenities including leather interior, 10-speaker audio system, and a host of tech like cameras and navigation.  It also has nice looking 18″ alloy wheels, LED headlights & taillights, and a rear decklid spoiler to set things off cosmetically.  Total MSRP including destination and handling runs $28,220.

I had the chance over the past 7 days to put about 500 miles on the car in a combination of city and highway driving environments, and took the chance to assemble some ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ along the way.  To keep things simple, I’ll just dish out the review in that format.

Likes, in random order:

  • Tech – The window sticker on this car reads like Acronym City.  Check some of these out, and study them for the quiz later:
    • ACC – Adaptive Cruise Control
    • CMBS – Collision Mitigation Braking System
    • LDW – Lane Departure Warning
    • LKAS – Lane Keeping Assist System
    • RDM – Road Departure Mitigation
    • FCW – Forward Collision Warning
    • EBD – Electronic Brake Distribution
    • VSA – Vehicle Stability Assist
      • Basically, this Civic almost drives itself.  Do you like all that “helpful” tech, or are you against it?  I’ll let you decide for yourself.
  • Audio – SXM, bluetooth compatibility.  I was driving along and heard an amazing song I liked on the radio.  When the song concluded, I pulled into a church parking lot, paired my iPhone, found the song on YouTube, and blasted it again.  That kind of tech compatibility is awesome!
  • Camera (right side + rear).  Did you know that this car activates a passenger sideview mirror-mounted camera every time you turn on the right turn signal?  It’s pretty sweet.  The back-up cam also has nice resolution.
  • Looks – LED front end – to me, the car “looks” high end from many angles.  The whole front end is graced with LED lighting treatment.  I like the black grille, and the wheels seem borrowed from the sporty “Si” trim model and have a nice look to them.
  • Value / Packaging – I remember being excited about some of the aforementioned features when I first tested the 2014 Acura RLX (a $60k car).  Here we are a few years later talking about how they are available on a < $30k compact.  It’s pretty sweet.
  • Interior Ergonomics – The more I got acquainted with the Civic, the more I liked how things are placed inside the cabin.  I was pleased that there is a compartment for a cell phone below the instrument panel.  And the center armrest opens up to a HUGE storage bin with removable cup holders.
  • Highway Driving Dynamics – The Civic is super smooth at anything above 55 or so.  It would make a great long-hauler.  Perhaps why my friend James took it to LA and back when he tested it a few weeks ago.
  • Anonymity – Sometimes you just want to blend in, and this car does a good job of that – especially in the color that I tested.  I’m also going to put this attribute on the ‘Dislikes’ section.

Dislikes, in random order:

  • City Driving Dynamics – As much as I tried to make the most of the Continuously Variable Transmission, I just couldn’t love it.  One morning on my commute to work I was so discouraged to get blasted off the line by an aggressive-driving old Altima.  I didn’t stand a chance.  I like my torque delivered more rapidly when hitting the accelerator.
  • MPG – I admit to being heavier on the throttle than most people would be, but I still only got about 29 mpg which is quite a bit lower than the 33 mpg combined on the EPA rating.
  • Tech Nitpicks – I didn’t like the clicky sound the steering wheel volume audio button made, or where it was located.  I also think there should be a “manual” button or knob somewhere on the dash to advance the track / radio station.  It would mean being able to keep eyes on the road a little better.  Finally, when the right-side cam is activated via turn signal, you can’t do anything with the audio system unless you hit the Home or Audio button to go back to that screen.
  • Anonymity – This is on the bad list, just like it’s on the good list.  Since I was driving a Civic, I started noticing Civics, and, they’re everywhere.  I guess that goes back to the fact that Honda is selling over 30,000 of them every single month.  I like to stand out a little more.

Main takeaways:

For a comfortable, tech-packed compact commuter, it’s tough to do much better.  The Civic is economical without being completely uninspiring.  It looks good both coming and going, the connectivity is modern, and the chassis is nimble and precise.

As an enthusiast, I need a little more engagement from the powertrain – quicker off-the-line swiftness and more tangible connection with how the engine is revving and when.  Perhaps there’s a way to configure an Si model (manual, please) in a way that blends everything I like about the latest Civic into one package.  I’d say go ILX for about the same price, but the ILX doesn’t have a stick anymore.

For now, I am happy to recommend this car to anyone who wants a compact car with exceptional bang for the buck and effortless reliability.  A little anonymity on the streets isn’t always a bad thing either.  The sheriff will never even see you coming.

Video:

13 Responses to “Drive to Five Review: 2019 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring Sedan”

  1. Is that a first generation Legend I see in front of the white civic hatchback?

    • It is! That is a Bermuda Gold 1988 Legend L Sedan 5-speed that I got from my uncle for free and did some restoration work on. Hard to believe it needed so much work back then at only 10 years old.

  2. I enjoyed the review of the Civic. Agreed about the right turn camera – I had a loaner HR-V a few months ago while my Accord was having some work done, and I got accustomed to the camera very quickly, to the point that I was missing it when I went back to my old car. And speaking of my old car, one of the things I like about my coupe is how infrequently you see them (especially in V6 form). And while the Civic is a great car, there certainly are a lot of them on the road.

    Great point about the phone icon – it’s like Honda’s design language for the icon involved a Motorola cell phone from 1999…

  3. Good review Tyson – it sounds likes a great little car. I’m note sure about all the tech though, too many bells and whistles and far too many buttons for me – I prefer simple.

  4. Nice car, and great job on the review! I agree with you about CVTs. Yuck. Otherwise, this Civic is a darn good Honda and a tremendous value!

    • I think that captures it in a nutshell! I’d be interested in reviewing a Civic with a different powertrain because it seems like that’s all that’s keeping it from being a slam dunk. Hope your week is going well Brad!

  5. wonderful review – and the Civic sure is a gorgeous car.
    and a top thing for me is anonymity – but I can see how it is a pro and con for you –
    I also love the wheels and the design of the back fender – like smooth thighs and hips – very nice design

    and I must tell you that next year I will be getting a new car and was on the fence between Toyota or Honda (Acura) and after your posts – well I am leaning towards Honda Acura after your posts – and I guess time will tell – it is a long way off –

    • That’s great, let me know if I can help provide any feedback as your purchase decision gets closer. I hope you’re having a great week! Thanks as always for reading.

      • my pleasure and it could even be 2021 – because my current ride is doing well and I don’t mind high mile cars – ((love my seafoam – ha)

  6. It’s amazing how high end the new Civic is. As someone who had a “fully-loaded” EX trim 2001 Civic growing up, I like how the Civic has evolved from a cheap sub-compact into a loaded tech monster. I also like how Honda Sensing is standard, even on the base trim. This car offers a tremendous value.

    I test drove a new Civic last year at the autoshow and was amazed at how smooth and comfortable it was. I definitely wouldn’t be able to do a CVT, so if I was in the market, I’d probably would purchase an Si or the hatchback Sport Touring which offers three pedals and a turbo.

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