LOS ANGELES, California — “Honda did not have to build this car,” I murmur to myself from behind the wheel of this red, manual transmission-equipped 2017 Honda Civic Coupe as I enter a bend that crooks sharply downhill and execute a perfect 4-3-2 downshift to match the sudden change in elevation. Approach quickly. Tap the brakes. Rrrhum. A little blip of the throttle — easily accomplished, even in Sperrys — and there’s not even a hint of pushback from the suspension. Gears change with buttery smoothness; engaging the clutch pedal requires a small push, not a long sigh. Steering is weighty but low-effort. The curve in the road is imperfectly round, but I’m already searching for the apex in the corner to come.
No, there’s a 6-speed manual transmission in the Civic Coupe because Honda cares about loyalists who still love the thrill of driving. In an automotive epoch that is quickly becoming dominated by conversations that take the driver out of the equation, the Japanese automaker reaffirmed its commitment to enthusiasts with this AUTOMOBILE All-Star-worthy tenth-generation Civic.
When you wring out the 1.5-liter turbo-four to redline, the sound doesn’t inspire shouts of “VTEC JUST KICKED IN, YO!” but it satisfies in its own right. With 174 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque on tap, this turbo engine is quick without feeling too powerful, whispering instead of not bragging about its substantial dynamic endowment.
Even after a week of driving the Civic Coupe through Southern California traffic, I never tired of rowing through the gears and found surprising goodness in the powertrain. The manual-equipped Civic feels sportier at low speeds and somewhat dulled on the freeway compared to the CVT-equipped version. If you have to downshift to pass, there’s plenty of power at the ready, but you hardly need to — just dip into the accelerator to reboot the turbo and off you go.
You probably wouldn’t be surprised that of the three Civic body styles, the Coupe provides the least rear legroom. If it were up to us, we’d spec two more doors in either sedan or hatchback form, as the coupe’s front doors are enormous and difficult to open in tight parking situations. As on most Hondas of late, our wish-list items are a better stereo, an infotainment system that’s quicker to react, and grippier stock tires.
Unlike the last couple two generations of the Civic, this one is going to be remembered as a great one. It offers an experience that exceeds expectations of its class — soft-touch plastics, an attractive and intuitively designed dashboard, long-haul seats, the most up-to-date telematics, massive storage compartments, and more. You might not easily locate a Civic Coupe EX-T with a stick on a dealer’s lot, but unless you’re going to step up to the Si or Type C, it’s well worth the effort to seek one out.
2017 Honda Civic Coupe EX-T Specifications
|ENGINE||1.5 turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/174 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 167 lb-ft @ 1,800-5,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||30/41 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||182.3 x 70.8 x 55.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.2 sec|
|TOP SPEED||126 mph|