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2016 Honda Civic road test

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(Read caption) A visitor looks at a Honda Civic on display at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in Beijing (April 26, 2016).

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The Honda Civic is one of the best-selling, most widely recognized car lines in the world. You might say it’s a wee bit important for Honda to get it right when it goes in for a revamp.

For 2016 the Civic is new. Is it once again the standard of the compact-car world?

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With a clean-sheet design, the new Civic fixes a lot of what had gone wrong with Honda's bread-and-butter car in recent years. The last new Civic had cheapened interiors and dull designs, not to mention dull driving dynamics.

That changes, now. The Civic’s back to form with a beautiful, edgy fastback shape that effectively hides its size by widening and lowering its proportions. We could do without the formal and thick band of chrome in the front, but the flared wheels, fast roofline, and wedge tail all just work to give it some excitement.

What Honda calls the sedan is the most attractive model. There's a thicker-looking 2-door Coupe and a bulkier 5-door Hatchback, if you need less or more utility.

Inside the cabin’s a bit more tame and well organized, with a broadly horizontal look and a single screen replacing the dual-screen design of the last Civic. Most versions have analog gauges, but more expensive Civics get a digital display.

The Civic splits its identities when it comes to performance. Base models have a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 158 horsepower under the hood. Those seeking more can step up for the turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder with 174 horsepower. Both powertrains send power to the front wheels through a CVT, though a manual is available with the base inline-4.

Fuel economy rings in as high as 31 miles per gallon city and 42 miles per gallon highway according to the EPA ratings.

The Civic’s big performance appeal is in ride and handling on top versions. Base cars are much more ordinary, but cars like this Civic Touring have a more complex dual-pinion electric steering setup and hydraulic mounts for the suspension. With them, the Civic is a magnitude more mature than the last version.

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Given the choice of power, we'd take the turbo every time. It gets better fuel economy than the base engine, and it’s far more exciting to drive. The turbo-4 sounds Honda-sweet at full blast, almost as good as Honda's VTEC glory days. The CVT kills some of that joy, but a manual is coming to turbo cars, soon.

The Civic’s big cabin has 6-footer room in the back, and lots of clever storage solutions. It’s as grown-up, and grown-out as a Volkswagen Jetta or Chrysler 200 thanks to nearly 3 inches of added length and 2 inches added width.

The front seats have a very low seating position, but they’re height-adjustable; the dash is low, giving good outward vision to the front. In back, the Civic outperforms almost all the cars it names as rivals, and some others, too. There's more than enough leg and headroom for adults.

The IIHS named the Civic a Top Safety Pick+, and thanks to its advanced safety tech, it earned a superior score in crash avoidance and mitigation. Every Civic gets the prerequisite airbags and stability control, with hill-start assist. Active safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings, and forward-collision warnings with automatic braking are all available.

Starting from just under $20,000 the Honda Civic comes standard with Bluetooth, power features, automatic climate control, LED taillights and daytime running lights, keyless entry, and a four-speaker, 160-watt sound system with a 5.0-inch LCD color display. Options include dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, heated front seats, leather upholstery, and LED headlights.

What’s the bottom line with the 2016 Honda Civic? It’s dropped almost all the economy-car pretenses, and in top Touring trim it could easily wear an Acura label.

This article first appeared at The Car Connection.