Buying Used: 2016-2021 Honda Civic

Leave it to a lawnmower maker to engineer the archetypal small car that works.

By Mark Toljagic Wheels.ca

Jul 19, 2023 6 min. read

Article was updated 2 months ago

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Honda’s Civic has enticed buyers with its smooth drivetrains, excellent driveability and impeccable assembly for 50 years now. When the first Civic sedan arrived on our shores in 1980, Car and Driver magazine declared it a mini-Mercedes. Subsequent generations of the Civic earned more raves as it grew larger, quicker and more refined.

That’s until the ninth-gen model appeared in 2012. It was widely panned by the press due to obvious penny-pinching, with cheap plastic trim and carpet akin to a dish scouring pad. For the first time the Civic failed to earn a recommendation from Consumer Reports. Unaccustomed to criticism, Honda scrambled to fix the deficiencies.

The all-new Civic for 2016 aimed higher, seemingly to compensate for the missteps made with the previous car. It looked bigger than the 3-centimetre-longer wheelbase and 5 cm in added width would suggest; it was virtually the size of an old Accord. The lower roofline accentuated the Civic’s swoopy lines – in both sedan and coupe form – taking on a hatchback profile that in fact finishes with a stubby trunk lid at the rear.

The Civic used higher-grade steel than in the past, making the unit body 31 kg lighter, while new sealing techniques resulted in a 58 percent reduction in cabin air leaks. It earned a five-star crash rating from NHTSA, the U.S. transportation safety agency. The suspension was redesigned with revamped MacPherson struts up front and a new multi-link rear setup mounted to a rigid subframe at the back. The floor, engine and suspension were all set lower, reducing the centre of gravity for better handling.

Open a door and a big space welcomes you inside, especially in the rear quarters, which gained 5 cm of legroom. Up front, the previous Civic’s bi-level instrument panel was replaced by a three-pod layout with an enormous tachometer displayed prominently. A tall centre console separates the driver and front passenger; while somewhat obtrusive, it provides lots of clever storage space.

If the big tach suggests the Civic is geared for drivers, there’s evidence to support it. The variable-ratio electric steering, larger diameter anti-roll bars and the brake-based understeer-mitigation program deliver a more athletic ride. And a quieter one, too, thanks to an acoustic windshield and triple-sealed doors. On the downside, the 7-inch touchscreen found in most models can frustrate with its confusing menus, too-small buttons and slow response.

2017 Honda Civic Coupe

Base models made do with a direct-injection 2.0-L four cylinder engine, good for 158 horsepower, replacing the old 143-hp 1.8-L four. The optional powerplant is a turbocharged, direct-injected 1.5-L four that produces 174 horses. Either engine imbues the Civic with verve, but only the normally aspirated 2.0 worked with the six-speed manual transmission initially. Honda’s CVT automatic keeps the turbo on the boil, making for a caffeinated drive. Regardless of the drivetrain, drivers can look forward to attaining up to 50 mpg (5.7 L/100 km) on the highway with a light foot.

For 2017, the six-speed manual transmission was available in 1.5-L turbo Civic coupes and sedans, and it also marked the arrival of the five-door hatchback, which only came equipped with the turbo engine tuned for 180 horses – six more than in other turbo Civics.

There were also two new performance variants: the popular Si, and the off-the-hook Type R rated at a tire-scorching 306 hp. The Si is powered by a 205-hp version of the 1.5-L turbo four that sends its power through the six-speed manual gearbox along with 192 pound-feet of torque. The Si also featured a stiffer suspension, adaptive dampers and retuned steering.

2017 Honda Civic Type R

For 2019, all Civics earned some styling tweaks and new standard features, including driver-assistance tech and an actual volume knob and hard buttons added to the touchscreen to alleviate user frustration. While both the sedan and coupe got the new Sport trim, only the hatchback version gained extra horsepower in its 1.5-L turbo. The hatchback got more styling tweaks for 2020, while the two-door coupe bowed out in 2021, the last model year of the 10th-gen Civic.


If a sporty, good-looking car with a willing engine and all the technology you can fit into it for an accessible price isn’t a formula for automotive success, we’d be hard-pressed to think what is. Canadians obviously agreed, making the Civic the nation’s bestselling car for 24 consecutive years (the reign ended in 2021).

“Growing up I’ve had Honda motorcycles; this was my first Honda auto, but I knew what to expect,” wrote the owner of 2018 base model online. “The Civic has taken generational leaps. Steering is tight and responsive and the handling is great. The car reminds me of my Mercedes C250 coupe – as sporty a design as the M-B, but gobs more reliable.”

Over its 50-year history in North America, the Civic has forged a reputation for dependability, although the early years were marred by premature rust that took the Japanese company some time to address. Unfortunately, the 10th-gen Civics did exhibit some problematic issues at least at the outset.

According to George Iny of the Automobile Protection Association (APA.ca), owners have reported troublesome air conditioners generally through to the 2018 model year. The condenser can fail, or the compressor in some instances. Iny reports that Honda extended the warranty to cover this issue, and replacement parts may be improved.

While the 1.5-L turbo engine is both powerful and frugal, it’s been the subject of some complaints regarding mediocre heater output in very cold weather, as well as oil dilution. Honda launched a recall campaign involving Civics and CR-V utes with the engine to upload new software for the engine and transmission control units, and in some cases, a replacement air-conditioning control unit.

There have also been some complaints about turbo wastegate failures in the same engines; the replacement costs over $3,500. By comparison, the normally aspirated 2.0-L engine has generated fewer complaints and the APA actually recommends it over the 1.5T.

Honda’s continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is an in-house effort that performs well and has proven to be reliable, though 2016-2017 automatic models may exhibit growling after a cold start that likely indicates a defective valve body. Iny notes that dealers can reprogram the unit at no charge, and replace it if necessary under an internal policy.

Owners of 2016-2018 Civics have commonly complained about malfunctioning infotainment units and displays that are slow to respond or black out momentarily. Bluetooth and phone connectivity can be spotty; dealers have updates that may resolve the issues. In 2016-2017 models, check the trunk floor for moisture as there are some reports of water infiltration.

A top-ranked “economy” car that hits far above its weight class, the 2016 to 2021 Civic checks all the boxes: Lively engines that sip fuel, excellent driving dynamics, and a spacious and comfortable cabin. Deficits include a buggy infotainment system and a few reliability issues that have largely been addressed with software updates.

Being a Canadian favourite, used examples sell fast and for plenty of money. In this case, the outlay is worth the sacrifice.

2016-2021 Honda Civic 

BODY STYLE: Five-passenger compact sedan, coupe, hatchback

DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive; six-speed manual transmission, continuously variable transmission (CVT)

ENGINE: 2.0-L four cylinder (158 hp, 138 lb-ft), 1.5-L turbo four cylinder (174 hp, 162 lb-ft or 180 hp, 162 lb-ft or 205 hp, 192 lb-ft )

FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) 8.5/6.0/7.2 L/100 km city/highway/combined

CARGO VOLUME: 428 litres (14.8 cu ft)

TOW RATING: 500 kg (1100 lbs.)

PRICE: $19,500 (2016); $29,000 (2021)


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