2016 Honda Civic Touring: Hot desert, high speed, long haul

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A long-distance haul into the desert is unlike any other driving experience, and it’s an ideal way to test a new vehicle. Yesterday, I completed a 647-mile, two-day trek from Sacramento, California, to Cedar City, Utah in a 2016 Honda Civic Touring edition.

The trek was to attend the weeklong Tour of Utah bicycle race, which began August 1 and continues through August 7 in Park City.

One year ago, I made the same trip on Interstate 80 with the first-night break on Elko, Nev. This year, I took the Hwy. 50 route since my Utah arrival destination was more southern than in 2015’s voyage. My first night’s stop was in Ely, Nev., a 445-mile effort.

The 2016 Honda Civic is now in its mid-40s, and the new edition has been redesigned inside and outside and available in 10 trims, five each in coupe and sedans models.

2016 Honda Civic: All new, all good

The redesign further moves the Civic away from its once stodgy reputation as a drivable box with four wheels. The 2016 model has a sharp-edged appearance, a sloping roofline and an overall European style that resembles the appearance of appreciably higher-priced vehicles. It’s no longer just a fall-back car for buyers seeking basic transportation at a value price.

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The newly designed 2016 Honda Civic Touring sedan during a desert break driving 445 miles from Sacramento, Calif., to Ely, Nevada. All Images © James Raia/2016.

The EX-T, EX-L and Touring trims (my test vehicle) are powered by a turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder rated at 174 hp. Acceleration in the standard 0-60 mph test in 6.7 seconds, the quickest vehicle in its segment.

In addition to new modern lines, the 2016 Honda Civic is 3 inches longer and 2 inches wider than its predecessor and the wheelbase is also longer. All of which means that while the previous model might have be too small for anyone at least 6-feet tall, that’s no longer the case. The extra interior space is also good for family needs, like large child safety seats.

Further space improvements include a deep storage bin under the console and an expanded overall interior capacity to 15.1 cubic feet from 12.5 cubic feet in the previous model.

Beyond its improved appearance, the 2016 Honda Civic offered a substantially improved driving experience. The CVT power is seamless. The sportier suspension provides keen handling. The new Civic is surprisingly quiet and the overall ride is refreshingly pleasant.

My first-day’s trek advanced from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe along Hwy. 50. The mileage to Ely, Nev., on Interstate 80 is nearly the same distance, and the navigation system preferred the latter option. It took about 20 miles for the navigation system to recalculate to the highway 50 route heading into the foothills.

2016 Honda Civic: Quiet, smooth

Weekend drives to Lake Tahoe invariably means traffic and I crept along for about 15 miles reaching to an elevation of about 7,000 feet and weaving through the rock formations that eventually gave way to scenic views of the Lake Tahoe basin. The city was crowded, too, and it wasn’t until approaching Carson City, Nev., that the appeal of the open road and the desert presented itself.

Much of the Nevada desert is open range. Road signs periodically remind drivers wild horses and cattle are prevalent as is the possibility of low-flying aircraft. The desert speed limit is primarily 75 mph, but during many stretches I averaged 10 mph faster. The 2016 Honda Civic advanced smoothly, with the only exceptions some minor sweeping turn drifting and slight struggling on the steep climbs.

With temperatures in the high 90s, I had the air conditioning the entire 10-hour trip that included three stops. The Civic Hybrid Touring model has EPA mileage estimates of 31 mpg in city driving, 42 mpg in highway driving. I had one day of city driving (maybe 30 miles) prior to leaving Sacramento. There was an hour of stop-and-go driving at altitude approaching Lake Tahoe and then about 350 miles at high speeds deep into Nevada. I left at 10:30 a.m., and arrived at the Jailbreak Motel & Casino in Ely, Nev., at 8:05 p.m. The Civic averaged 37.6 mpg.

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