Trying to stay at the head of the compact car segment is like trying to remain a top seed in professional tennis: Fresher and newer rivals are always putting a target on your back. Yet just like Roger Federer or Serena Williams, Honda’s Civic has remained near or at the top of the rankings for years. True, Honda took its eye off the ball a few years ago and let this stalwart slip in terms of cabin quality and features. But the company quickly took care of those weak areas the following year. For 2015, the Honda Civic continues to be one of the top picks in a field packed with talented entries.
Any No. 1 in the world will have a lot of key strengths, and the Civic is no different. Smooth and fuel-efficient performance is near the top of the list. Most Civics come with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that provides solid fuel economy — up to 35 mpg in combined driving if you pick the HF trim level. Alternatively, you can get the Civic Hybrid for even better fuel economy (45 mpg), the Natural Gas model (the only car in its class to run on CNG) or the Civic Si and its 205-horsepower engine for sportier performance.
A comfortable ride, a spacious interior and very good safety scores buff out the Civic’s appeal. Whether you’re commuting to work, running errands or going with a few friends for a night out, the Civic will be an agreeable companion. Honda has also packed the Civic with a solid number of available technology features, including keyless ignition and entry, a 7-inch touchscreen interface with smartphone integration and a blind spot camera display.
Still, there are some very worthy rivals. The 2015 Ford Focus, 2015 Kia Forte and 2015 Mazda 3 are three of our favorites. In comparison with the Civic, the Ford and Mazda stand out for their sporty performance and style, and the Forte for its features and value. Civic Hybrid shoppers will find that the Toyota Prius and Volkswagen Golf or Jetta TDI are strong alternatives, while performance enthusiasts considering the Civic Si should also test-drive the rowdy Ford Focus ST and refined Volkswagen GTI. Overall, though, we’re very impressed with Honda’s player in the competitive compact car game and have given it an Edmunds.com “A” rating and included it as a top recommended car in our 2015 Sedan Buying Guide.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2015 Honda Civic is a compact car offered in coupe and sedan body styles.
The standard Civic coupe and sedan come in LX, midrange EX and top-of-the-line EX-L and EX-L Navi trims. The sedan is also available in SE, fuel-efficient HF, Hybrid and Natural Gas trims. The sporty Civic Si is available in both coupe and sedan body styles.
Entry-level LX models come equipped with 15-inch steel wheels, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a one-piece fold-down rear seatback and cruise control. Electronic features include a 5-inch display screen, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, SMS text messaging functionality and a four-speaker (six for the coupe) sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface and Pandora radio functionality.
The Civic SE sedan adds 15-inch alloy wheels, a right-side blind spot camera, automatic climate control, HondaLink smartphone integration (includes Aha radio and Apple-based Siri Eyes Free voice command functionality) and upgraded audio with six speakers.
The EX adds to or supplants those features with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, rear disc brakes, keyless ignition and entry, a sunroof, an additional 7-inch central touchscreen display, an HDMI interface and a 60/40-split-folding rear seatback. EX coupes get an upgraded seven-speaker sound system.
The EX-L adds 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, leather upholstery and heated front seats. The sedan version of the EX-L also includes an eight-way power driver seat. As you’d expect, the EX-L Navi adds a navigation system as well as HD and satellite radio.
Picking the Civic HF sedan gets you standard features similar to those of the LX sedan plus a few upgrades designed to deliver maximum mpg. These include low-rolling-resistance tires, aerodynamic cast aluminum wheels, wind-cheating underbody panels and a rear spoiler.
The Civic Hybrid sedan is available in four trim levels: base, Leather, Navi and Leather with Navi. The base version’s standard equipment essentially mirrors that of the EX sedan minus the sunroof, rear disc brakes and 16-inch wheels (it has 15s). The Leather version adds most of the EX-L features minus the 17-inch wheels and power driver seat. Both hybrids also come with forward collision warning and lane departure warning systems. Those with Navi add the navigation system (which also includes HD and satellite radio).
The Civic Natural Gas is available in two trim levels: base and Leather with Navi. The standard features on the base trim largely mirror those of the LX but also include a few EX touches such as the right-side blind spot camera and HondaLink with the 7-inch central touchscreen display. The Leather with Navi version adds the navigation system and most of the EX-L features, minus the 17-inch wheels and power driver seat.
Aimed at driving enthusiasts, the Civic Si (available in standard and Navi trims) includes 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, unique front and rear styling tweaks, a rear spoiler, a bigger engine, a limited-slip front differential and a sport-tuned suspension. Interior upgrades include most of the EX’s features along with front sport seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an aluminum shift knob, simulated carbon-fiber accents and red backlit gauges.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2015 Honda Civic is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 143 hp and 129 pound-feet of torque. For the Civic LX sedan, Honda offers either a five-speed manual transmission or an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). For the SE, EX, EX-L and HF sedans, the CVT is standard. For the coupe, manual transmission availability is extended to the EX.
The whole Civic family scores highly in terms of EPA fuel economy estimates. With the CVT, the Civic LX, EX and EX-L will achieve an EPA-estimated 33 mpg combined (30 city/39 highway). With the manual, fuel economy drops a bit, to 31 mpg combined (28/36). The Civic HF rates 35 mpg combined (31 city/41 highway).
During Edmunds’ track testing, a Civic EX-L coupe with the CVT ran from zero to 60 mph in 9.0 seconds, and an EX sedan with the CVT did it in 9.1 seconds — that’s about half a second slower than average for this class.
The Civic Hybrid gets a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack, a combination that’s good for 110 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque. A CVT is standard. EPA estimates stand at 45 mpg combined (44 city/47 highway). In prior Edmunds testing of the hybrid, we recorded a 0-60 time of 10.1 seconds — on par with most economy hybrids.
The Civic Natural Gas features a natural-gas-powered version of the Civic’s 1.8-liter engine. It produces only 110 hp and 106 lb-ft of torque, however. A five-speed automatic is standard. EPA-estimated fuel economy is the gasoline equivalent of 31 mpg combined (27 city/38 highway).
The Civic Si sports a 2.4-liter four with 205 hp and 174 lb-ft. A six-speed manual is the sole transmission offered. Fuel economy estimates for the Si stand at 25 mpg combined (22 city/31 highway). At the test track, a Civic Si coupe sprinted to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, about average for a sport compact in its price range.
The 2015 Honda Civic comes standard with stability control, antilock brakes (four-wheel discs with the EX and Si), front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a rearview camera. EX and EX-L versions also include a right-side blind spot camera (LaneWatch). The HondaLink system also includes emergency crash notification.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Civic EX-L coupe came to a stop from 60 mph in 115 feet and an EX sedan took 118 feet, both notably better than average for this class. An Si coupe performed the same test in just 112 feet, about average for a sport compact on summer tires.
In government crash tests, the Civic sedan received a top five-star rating overall, with four stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side crash safety. The coupe received four stars overall, with four stars for frontal and five stars for side crash categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Civic sedan and coupe its highest possible rating of “Good” in its small-overlap frontal offset, moderate-overlap frontal offset, side impact and roof strength tests. The Civic’s seat/head restraint design was also rated “Good” for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the 2015 Honda Civic has a driver-oriented two-tier dash display, which includes a 5-inch monitor on the top tier that displays information for audio, hands-free phone use and various vehicle systems. Materials quality is solid, and there’s plenty of storage space available for your personal items.
Most of the cabin’s controls are well placed, but the audio controls for all but the LX and those equipped with navigation are rather annoying to use. Simply setting a radio station requires you to jockey back and forth between searching and setting. The lack of a tuning knob doesn’t help matters here, nor does a rather awkward touch-slide bar for volume. The more intuitive steering-wheel-mounted audio controls help alleviate this gripe.
On the upper trims, the Civic boasts smartphone amenities via the HondaLink system (as of this writing, it’s for Apple smartphones only), which operates through the 7-inch touchscreen to provide voice control (Siri Eyes Free) plus a variety of search, audio, navigation and social media functions. Overall, we find the system’s menu design a little cumbersome, but responses are quick and we appreciate the touchscreen’s swipe-and-pinch functionality.
In the Honda Civic sedan, legroom and headroom for front passengers is competitive, while the rear-seat accommodations are excellent for this class. The rear bench is mounted high enough to provide proper thigh support for adults, and it boasts significantly more real-world legroom than key rivals like the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus. The Civic coupe’s rear seat, however, has noticeably less available legroom and headroom. Rival two-doors like the Elantra coupe or Scion tC are more accommodating in back.
The Civic offers 11.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity in the coupe and 12.5 cubic feet in the sedan, which is less capacity than in the Cruze and Focus sedans. The hybrid models sacrifice some trunk space to the battery pack, leaving 10.7 cubic feet.
The Honda Civic has long been one of the better-driving cars in its class, and this tradition continues with precise, well-weighted steering and composed handling. The Civic also offers one of the most comfortable and composed rides in the class as well as low levels of noise at freeway speeds.
Power from the gasoline-fueled 1.8-liter engine is a little underwhelming, but its high fuel efficiency and typically refined character nevertheless make it a winner. Performance of the CVT is commendable, as it swiftly “downshifts” when you need quick acceleration, unlike some other CVTs that seem to produce more noise than action. Overall, we think that just about all Civic buyers will be happy with the CVT’s operation. You can expect slower acceleration from the Civic Hybrid, though obviously, efficiency is the overriding priority.
The Civic Si, as expected, is certainly the most fun to drive. Refined suspension tuning, quick steering, snappy acceleration and one of the slickest, easiest-to-drive manual transmissions around give the Si a sharp and playful attitude around town or on curving roads.