Winner: 2016 Honda Civic Touring

In contrast to the Elantra, which played it safe with careful, refined styling – the new Civic is a no-holds-barred, edgy redesign with dramatically sharpened sheet metal.

Having fielded its fair share of criticism for previously uninspired design, the tenth-generation Civic has been re-made from tip to tail. It’s a polarizing look that will probably lose some fans, but will please those who embrace a fresh, modern design.

The bold new face boasts available LED headlights, and the tidy rear also receives LED lighting. It is 75 mm longer, 126 mm wider, yet 31 kg lighter than the model it replaces.

If the exterior is striking in its departure, the cabin is a quantum leap forward. Gone is the two-tier instrument display – replaced with a full digital speedometer, and the overall design is a step up in refinement. There’s more soft-touch material in the cabin and the 7.0-inch infotainment centre also offers both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.

Base models receive a power upgrade too, via a new 2.0L four-cylinder replacing the outgoing 1.8. Producing 158 hp and 138 lb-ft of torque, it’s mated to either a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission.

However, upper trim levels such as our Touring receive an all-new twin-scroll turbo-four producing 174 hp and 162 lb-ft. Unfortunately, this engine choice comes only with the CVT.

Torque is available from 1,700 rpm, and needless to say, the power difference between it and the Elantra is immediately apparent. There’s no getting away from the CVT’s inherent moaning, but it’s relatively quiet for its ilk. And under normal operation it keeps the engine operating at peak efficiency, delivering 7.6 L/100 km city and 5.5 L highway.

During a romp at’s top-secret proving grounds, the Civic’s revised suspension showed itself in its composure over the tight and twisty route. The new platform is 25 percent stiffer, resulting in less roll and quicker recovery than the Elantra over the same course. Knock the shifter into “Sport” and the CVT groans in protest, but the quicker throttle response is far more satisfying during “energetic” driving. The steering is less numb than the Elantra’s, and the wheel itself is satisfyingly meaty.

The Civic’s connectivity interface is still annoyingly convoluted, with buttons and myriad screens instead of simple knobs. But as far as tech goes, the Civic is the hands-down winner over the Elantra.

In addition to the brilliant side-mirror camera, which displays cyclists and obstacles in the right-side blind spot, there’s a host of features once seen only in the premium sedan segments. There’s automatic braking, LED headlights, forward collision alert and adaptive cruise control. Those can be had on the Elantra too, but only by moving up to the $28,799 Ultimate model.

As daily drivers, they’re comparable. Less soft and more engaging than the Elantra, the Civic is the choice for drivers looking for sporty engagement.

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Pricing: 2016 Honda Civic Touring
Base Price: $26,990
Options: None
A/C Tax: $100
Destination: $1,595
Price as Tested: $28685

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