A couple of weeks ago, journalists and photographers crowded in the cavernous halls of the Messe Frankfurt to get a better view of bewitching vehicles like the new Ferrari, Lamborghini Huracan, yet another Porsche Carrera, and the new Bentley Bentyaga SUV. With almost a million people attending, the annual Frankfurt Motor Show is easily the biggest in the industry.
So it took chutzpah for the newly revamped 2016 Honda Civic to rob Frankfurt’s thunder in New York, where it got up close and personal with a good sized crowd of auto media. When a car has sold 40 million units around the globe, an all-new redesign will steal the headlines! In Canada alone, the Civic has been the top selling passenger car for the past 17 years. Even thieves love the fearless compact, as it makes the list of top ten most stolen cars year after year.
What does it take to be the best-selling passenger car in Canada (and many other locales) for almost two decades? I decided I couldn’t wait for the dishy new model, and jumped into a 2015 Civic Si. That’s the sinewy athlete of the Civic family, with a hefty shot of power and performance. In Taffeta White, with contrasting dark 18-inch wheels, and fierce front fascia balanced by a playful rear spoiler, Honda’s favourite son looked smokin’ hot.
Inside, the natty red and black cloth seat easily accommodated my butt, and as I put my hands on the thick steering wheel, it was like sliding into Mission Control. Everything was digital, barely a knob or button to be seen. But not to fear, the large seven-inch touchscreen made it easy to manipulate the infotainment system, and soon we were properly plugged in.
Honda is renowned for their slick shifter and light clutch, and we easily breezed onto the highway. With the last vestiges of hot summer sun beating down on me, I felt like the Beach Boys singing about their “Little Honda” – first gear, it’s alright (faster, faster) second gear, I lean right. Okay, so they were extolling the virtues of a motorcycle. Had they been in a Civic Si, they no doubt would have been equally inspired!
Now that summer was on the run, serious roadwork made its inglorious return to my neighbourhood, complete with stinky asphalt, sudden stops and starts, and unwanted detours down side streets with “traffic calming,” aka speed bumps. These are anything but “calming.” In fact, the annoying road bulges may slow down traffic, but are killer on the suspension, brakes, tires and driver’s frame of mind. Luckily, the game Civic swam over the hillocks with elan, as did my sunny disposition.
And here I have to give a shout-out to Honda’s simply brilliant Lane Watch. As soon as you activate the right turn signal, the large touchscreen displays absolutely everything that’s on the right hand side of the car. Driving around the Toronto downtown core, with bicyclists popping up out of nowhere, this feature is worth its weight in Bianchis.
I spent the better part of the week dashing to client and social appointments, in and out of the city, starting new projects and trying to capture the last precious moments of summer. After a hectic week of too many early mornings and late nights, I decided to treat myself to a day on the beach. Not just any beach, but my own private secluded getaway, where my only companions are dusky double-crested cormorants, twittering red-winged blackbirds, and buoyant mallard duck families.
Setting out in the early morning, I packed sunscreen and a snack, and slid into the Civic. We glided ably onto the highway, thanks to the 205 horsepower i-VETC engine. I watched a small gauge showing me how far I ventured into Honda’s famed i-VETC system, with a heart-popping alert as I approached the red line. We handily floated in and around the slowpokes, opening up the throttle while shifting. The Civic seemed to grip the road as firmly as I did the gearshift, and welcomed the narrow side roads off the highway. Every move sent a blissful rush, and the Civic embraced every corner that led us further from civilization, ingratiating itself under my hand.
And as I lay back on the beach, sipping my lemonade and watching the lazy waves, I realized that, relaxed as I was, I was really looking forward to driving home.
That’s what a Civic Si can do to you.