After spending a week driving the 2019 Honda Civic Touring edition, one can’t help ask whether curbside appeal is sufficient to make a car a great purchase or not. Yes, it has lots of safety features, but there are also a lot of missing elements, odd interface choices, a baffling entertainment system and a surprising lack of modern amenities.
But first, let’s start on the outside, because the 2019 Civic body design is beautiful. This is one nice looking sedan that looks good even parked adjacent to the latest Audi, Tesla or Mercedes:
There’s a nice sporty feel to the front in particular with the hood narrowing above the recessed headlights. This particular model also featured a 174hp 1.5 liter direct injection turbocharged 4-cylinder engine featuring paddle shifters and a continuously variable transmission. It was not a hybrid, however, making this the first non-hybrid I’ve ever driving with a CVT. It’s a fun drive, peppy and ready to leap onto the highway or pass that slow truck up in the mountains. It also gets quite acceptable mileage in ECO mode, averaging 33.7mpg on a few hundred miles of varied driving.
The car was also equipped with what the manufacturer calls Honda Sensing, which means it had adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, forward-collision warning, front automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist. What’s missing from the 2019 Honda Civic, quite to my surprise, were any sort of parking proximity sensors, a blind spot detection system or rear cross-traffic alerts.
Instead of the blind spot detection, Honda’s awkwardly grafted a camera onto the right side mirror:
Other than sticking out weirdly and being asymmetric (there isn’t one on the left side mirror) it does serve a purpose: Flip on the right turn indicator and suddenly the entertainment system becomes a side-view videocamera:
This definitely takes some getting used to, though it’s pretty handy. Not so useful at night, however, and when it was raining one evening, the screen was a dark blur and offered no useful information (it’s also darn hard to differentiate someone in the immediately adjacent lane and the one further away). I’d rather just have a blindside warning beep or sensor of some sort, personally, though your preference might be for this sort of video information.
Speaking of the entertainment and navigational system, the entire system was clumsy and hard to use. Not only that, but I never did get my iPhone 11 Pro to work with the CarPlay system that Honda insists is in the vehicle. Instead, whether I was hooked up via Bluetooth or USB cable, I saw a lot of this error:
Yes, the cable was working, the phone was charging, and I confirmed it worked with CarPlay in other vehicles. Just not the Honda. Super frustrating, and the whole thing felt like it was a bit jury-rigged anyway. I wasn’t until a week after I started driving the vehicle that I discovered a secret second storage area with power plugs behind and below the main dash area. It’s only accessible from the passenger leg area, so instead Honda has a small USB extension cable that offers a plug at the main level. Better to show you:
The top cable was all I saw for many days of driving, so I dutifully plugged my phone cable into the USB plug. The lower portion shows what was secretly going on below, however: a 1.5 Amp USB plug and a 12V “cigarette lighter” plug too. From a design perspective? Yikes. Why not just have the two plugs 4″ higher so they are directly accessible from the main console and driver area?
To give some perspective, here’s the full cockpit design and layout:
Look closely at the area behind the shifter: You can see the USB extension cable, but you can’t see any clue that there’s a lower shelf with the two power plugs, can you?
That nitpicky problem aside, the cockpit has a nice, intuitive layout and I was able to figure out how things worked even while on the move. Of particular note are the clean side gauges in the main information area behind the steering wheel. Also check out those cool racing pedals on the floor. Nice!
But look at the music area. See how there’s only one knob? That was super weird too: You can use the knob to dial the volume up or down and push it to turn the music on/off, but tuning channels required tapping on the screen, which felt very counter-intuitive. Instead, I kept touching the environmental control dials immediately below to change the channel. Without success, needless to say! Is this just something you’d get used to if it were your car? Yes it is. But do you want to rewire your brain to match your car’s weird design and user interface?
Stepping outside of the car, the seat design is nice and entirely functional:
Close the door and step back and again you can see the terrific lines of the Civic:
It’s such a nice looking vehicle that it’s quite frustrating to find so many hiccups and mistakes in design. You can see another one in the back seat legroom photo too: the back seats have seat warmers, but no USB plugs for devices, no 12V accessory plugs for a charger, nothing. Do Honda designers not have children?
They definitely have luggage, at least, because the trunk is quite spacious:
You can also fold down the back seats in a 60/40 configuration to gain additional space and the ability to carry longer or more awkwardly sized items too. The overall experience of spending a week with the 2019 Honda Civic Touring Edition was that it’s a car from a company that’s not keeping up with the times. The driving experience was great. The curbside appeal is undeniable. But once you start to actually try to plug in your device, drive around the neighborhood, have your kids in the back seat, then you realize how other manufacturers have come up with all sorts of innovations to make the experience easy, but Honda hasn’t made it there yet. Perhaps the 2020 Civic…
VEHICLE SPECS: 2019 Honda Civic 1.5T 4D Touring, with 1.5L turbo CVT engine. Stock, without any optional packages or upgrades. Base MSRP: $27,300. AS DRIVEN: $28,220.00.
Disclosure: Honda Motor Company loaned me the 2019 Civic for a week in return for this writeup and review. Thanks, Honda!