By BILL SCHAFFER

West Lake Village, Calif. — By numbers alone, the Honda Civic is amazing and one of the most important cars every built. More than 10 million Honda Civics have been sold in the United States since the small hatchback first appeared in 1973, and globally that number is more than 35 million. That makes it one of the best selling cars – ever.

Generally Honda introduces an all-new Civic every three to five years, and the 2016 model that is headed for dealerships now is the 10th generation.

Honda has always been a technological and mechanical leader, but I’ve never thought of them as a design leader. However, since I first saw the 2016 Civic on the evening of September 29, I have to rethink that…. This is one of the best looking new Honda sedans ever. It’s not that there was anything unattractive about previous models; they just didn’t make me stop and say "wow". This one does.

The new Civic is 2.9-inches longer and 1.9-inches wider on a 1.2-inch longer wheelbase. Ultimately the changed packaging creates more people space in the cabin and a big-car cargo space - 15.1 cubic feet. With 97.8 cubic feet of interior space, Honda makes claim to the largest interior in its class. As nice as the extra space is it’s the design that really makes the new Civic. The photos of the Civic look good, but the best view is at the dealership or if you find one in a parking lot.

The 2016 Honda Civic is what is called a "clean sheet" car. That means it’s fresh from the ground up with an all-new chassis, body, engines – the works. Honda designer, engineers and planners wanted to do a Civic that would, as they say be an "epic Civic." And I think they have succeeded.

Up front the low Civic hood line flows between two bulging fenders meeting the Honda family grill with its wide bright metallic looking accent bar which centers the Honda logo. Available hi-power LED headlights peek through slits on the outside of a chrome accented wing-like grille. Sculpted side panels create a forward sloping wedge look topped by the sweeping four-door coupe-like roof line. The distinctive rear-end treatment includes large C-Shaped "pipe light" LED taillights, a slim trunk lid spoiler and faux extractor vents on the rear lower corners.

The new Civic styling salutes previous generations of sporty Civic models while mapping a new heading for future models. The sedan is just the start, a new coupe, five-door hatchback, Si variants and a Type-R are all right around the corner.

The Civic includes innovative two technologies that push it to the forefront of the compact segment. The first is the availability of Honda Sensing™ safety and driver-assistive technologies on all trim levels.

Honda Sensing includes a Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist and Road Departure Mitigation; it is standard on the Touring model and only a $1,000 option on the others.

Even bigger news is the introduction of Honda’s first turbocharged engine. Numerically it doesn’t seem like a big deal – a 174-hp 1.5 liter DOHC direct injection four-cylinder with only 16 horsepower more than the base engine. However, when you figure it produces 116 horsepower per liter that’s a pretty big deal. Even more impressive is the difference in performance, it is noticeably more responsive and quicker than the base engine, and it doesn’t know the meaning of turbo lag. Buff magazine testing has a 0 to 60 mph time of 6.8 seconds.

The turbo engine is only available with the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). I think it would be fun to try the turbo with a manual or regular automatic. The CVT is OK, but it doesn’t offer the driver as much control as a geared transmission. The turbo and CVT combine for an EPA fuel economy rating of 31 mpg city, 42 mpg highway and 35 mpg combined.

The base engine is a 158-hp 2.0-liter i-VTEC four cylinder with a standard six-speed manual transmission on the LX trim and an optional CVT. It provides an average level of performance with EPA fuel economy numbers of 31/41/35 mpg.

The dash and driver control area are well organized with a new digital control unit centered in the instrument panel and a large analog style tachometer with a digital speedometer in the top center of the tach.

Messages display in the lower section of the tachometer face and along the bottom are odometer, clock and outside temperature. Pods on either side have an analog temperature and fuel gauges.

The seven-inch infotainment screen is mounted at the top of the center stack just below two large air vents. The climate controls are just below the screen, with indicators displayed on the screen. While I like the ease of use of the screen and its functions, I would rather see a knob for the volume and tuning instead of the digital touch controls. I find them awkward to use especially when the car is motion. Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto are integrated into the new unit to provide seamless integration with smartphones.

The infotainment screen is also where the rear backup camera displays a crisp clear picture of what’s behind the Civic, when it’s shifted into reverse. Also when the driver turns the right turn signal on a camera mounted in the passenger side mirror displays an image of the area in the passenger’ side blind spot. The image can also be activated anytime by pushing a button on the end of the turn signal stock.

The interior is filled with soft-touch surfaces and bright brushed metallic trims which add to the upscale persona. The seats, fabric or leather on upper level models, are comfortable and supportive. A multi-function center console is designed especially for digital equipment, with well-placed surfaces to charge and hold phones and other digital devices. I was pleased to see the addition of an electronic parking brake.

The equipment level of the 2016 Civic is remarkable, especially for a non-luxury compact. Available features include items like remote engine start, electronic parking brake, walk away door locking, heated front seat backs, heated rear seat cushions and rain-sensing wipers.

The 2016 Honda Civic is available in five trim levels: LX, EX, EX-T, EX-L and Touring. Pricing starts at $19,475, including the destination charge, for the LX sedan with six-speed manual transmission, the CVT is $800 more. The top of the line Touring Sedan with the turbocharged engine and CVT is $27,335 and that includes every feature available.

Honda designers and engineers have outdone themselves on this new Civic. It adds a whole new dimension in styling, technology and sophistication. I think the Civic has leaped forward to easily become best sedan offered in the compact class sedan.

S2812 © Copyright 2015 by Auto Digest