The Prodigal Returns: The 2016 Honda Civic EX

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Honda Civic EX
The 2016 Honda Civic EX.
32 years ago, on this very planet, Honda leap-frogged itself and the competition.  The car was the 1984 Civic, and Car and Driver's rave review, written by the not-yet-legendary Jean Lindamood, ended with the phrase "Damn, she's a fine one.  Our orders are in."  That, and a comparison drive of a Civic and then a Corolla, caused me to put my order in as well.

Rear 3/4 view of 1984 Honda Civic Sedan
1984 Honda Civic Sedan.
The '84 Civic was a revelation in terms of space efficiency, visibilty, fuel economy and just plain fun to drive.  It was light, lithe and nimble.  I kept mine for 14 years and 144,000 trouble-free miles before giving it to a friend who desperately needed transportation.

Rear 3/4 view of 2016 Honda Civic EX
2016 Honda Civic EX.
The 2016 Civic looks nothing like its ancestor from the eighties, but it marks just as big a revelation. After years lost in the wilderness, where Honda allowed the Civic to become just another compact transportation device (albeit one with an exceptional and well-deserved reputation for reliability), Honda has found its long-lost mojo and poured it all over the new Civic.

The styling is the first sign that things have changed. It's an attention-getter, front, sides and rear... low, long and muscular-looking.  And then, there's what's inside.

Interior view of 2016 Honda Civic
2016 Honda Civic interior.
As in, a world-class small-car interior.  Exceptional fit and finish, high-quality, durable materials.  And best of all:

Instrument cluster of 2016 Honda Civic
2016 Honda Civic instrument cluster.
The gimmicky, awful split-level dashboard that has marred the interior of Civics since the 2006 model year has been banished.  In its place, an artfully designed instrument cluster that gets everything on one level, and creates a brilliant, open field of vision straight ahead.

In fact, despite sharing none of its dimensions or shapes with the '84, the 2016 Civic has that same feeling of airiness and terrific visibility.  $22,040 buys you the Civic EX, one step up from the base LX which starts at $18,640.  The difference is in the level of standard equipment.  You can compare all the Civic models here.

The beauty of Honda is that a trim level pretty much settles everything.  Options are rare.  So with $835 destination and handling, our Civic EX rings in at $22,875.  158 horsepower that feels like more, EPA estimate 31 city/41 highway and perhaps the most contemporary of compact sedans with a definite sense of Honda having regained its magic.

The $8,200 I paid for my Civic in 1984 translates to about $18,700 in today's money.  It had 76 horsepower, air conditioning and roll-up windows.  The $4,175 extra for the 2016 buys more than double the horsepower and things that Honda---heck, no carmaker---even dreamed about in those days.

In the words of Jean Lindamood (now Jean Jennings), damn, she's a fine one.  If I were in the market, my order would be in---again.