Honda Civic Sedan road test and review
COUNTDOWN is on to the arrival of Honda's all-new tenth generation Civic, and it can't come too soon.
The current Civic has taken a hammering in the sales charts up against quality, value-packed opposition in the small car class, but Honda has fronted up, admitted it has stood still in recent years, and is confident it has the new Civic right. And that means appealing to a younger buyer demographic.
Since the Civic's 1973 Australian arrival we've bought 327,000 of them, while the world has got through 23 million, making it the fifth biggest nameplate in history. It is, without doubt, a badge that inspires loyalty.
The Civic sedan hits your Honda showroom next month, the hatch version follows in early 2017, but the hot and eagerly awaited Civic Type R won't land until late next year.
Insisting Honda has its mojo back, Honda Australia said it had strong involvement in the new Civic to ensure it was right for our market. Imperatives were bold styling, advanced technology, fun to drive and good value.
Has it worked? Yes and no. There's been a mighty leap in terms of cabin inclusions (not least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) and modernisation over the previous Civic, while the driving dynamics make it a smoother and more rewarding thing to drive. Cabin noise is down too.
It lacks the feeling of fun a more youthful market strives for however, and the body design is tryng almost too hard to be cool. Flavour of the month (and decade it seems) small SUVs, many costing not much over $20k like the Civic, are now the default go-to.
There are five models at launch using a 1.8-litre petrol for the base VTi and VTi-S, and new 1.5-litre turbo petrol for the VTi-L, sporty-styled RS and fruit-filled VTi-LX. All use a CVT auto and prices starting at $22,390 up to a chunky $33,590.
There's a quality feel inside thoughout the range, with soft-touch plastics where it counts and well-bolstered quite slimline seats. An angled central touchscreen and digital dash are simple, modern, user-friendly delights, and steering wheel controls include a lovely touch-sensitive volume swipe pad.
Design of the fabric seats front and rear are pleasingly modern, but you need to spend over $30k on the RS and VTi-LX grades to get the power leather heated seats.
On the road
We had a brief drive of the outgoing Civic before hopping in the new cars, and the leap is marked. Quieter inside and more refined than before, the new Civic remains a very easy and comfy thing to pilot - lazily good even - but throw it into some corners and it shows impressive poise and balance with sharp steering.
Both engines work well with the car and cruise along with a well-engineered air, but unsurprisingly the more rapid progress of the turbo engine is the pick. It feels quite quick when pushed, but the CVT auto still labours and fusses to keep up having us wish a conventional auto was offered, while a manual - sadly not offered at all - would bring more personality.
Look to the Civic's core market and it's spot on though. Effortlessly easy to drive and impressively bump absorbing, it simply feels a very well screwed together and honest offering.
What do you get?
Five models make up the Civic range, with goodies extending the higher you climb. All Civics have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, seven-inch LCD screen, reversing camera, LCD instrument cluster, cruise control and LED running lights. The VTi-S brings 16-inch alloys, parking sensors, smart keyless entry, LaneWatch blind spot monitoring and leather steering wheel.
Move up and you get the more powerful and economical 1.5-litre turbo with paddle shift gear changers. The VTi-L model gives 17-inch alloys, auto lights and wipers, dual zone climate control and digital radio. Next rung is the RS which adds LED lights, sportier 17-inch alloys, piano black grille, spoiler, electric sunroof, better audio and power heated leather seats.
Top dog is the VTi-LX adding sat nav and the full Honda Sensing safety suite with warnings and then interaction to prevent you hitting the car in front or straying from your lane, while city traffic dwellers will appreciate the excellent adaptive cruise control with Low-Speed Follow which offers near autonomous low speed driving. Sadly, these safety systems aren't even cost options on lesser Civic grades.
Looking at rival small sedans, recently refreshed Korean competition with decent kit include the Hyundai Elantra ($21,490) and Kia Cerato (facelifted car imminent but currently $19,990), while class leaders remain the Mazda3 ($20,490) and Toyota Corolla ($20,740).
Other tempters include the VW Jetta ($22,990), Subaru Impreza ($21,400) and Ford Focus ($24,390).
Larger than before the new Civic has an excellent airy spaciousness inside, while skinny A-pillars (by modern standards) offer good visibility. For a small car rear seating is roomy - knee space up a healthy 55mm over old - with two adults sitting in comfort and three at a push.
Boot space is increased 20% to 519-litres, which is a decent amount more than Honda's own Accord from the class size above, while it trumps the HR-V small SUV for cargo volume, if not ease of loading. Fuel economy is decent on paper, and our test of both engine variants returned 7.4-litres/100km the 1.8-litre and 7.2-litres/100km the 1.5-litre.
Funky factor Style is subjective, but the new Civic isn't exactly a pretty car. Striking, yes, and the flowing aerodynamic curves look good in places but the design isn't terribly cohesive.
A fastback-style rear and sharp front lights look good; the grille looks best in the RS's black, but the wheels look a tad aftermarket in design and don't fit the accentuated wheel arches too well.
You spend your life inside the car though, and the dashboard is a winner. The digital instrumentation and seven-inch HD screen are bang up to date, user-friendly and stylish.
The new Civic is a much improved, better equipped and dynamically superior offering than the lazy and uninspiring outgoing model. Its appeal to loyal Civic followers is obvious and they won't be disappointed, but attracting new and younger buyers will be a tough challenge in this competitive marketplace.
Renowned Honda engineering excellence is reassuringly in evidence here and the specification is good.
Honda wants the Civic back on Australian shopping lists, and it now, once again, has justifiable reason to expect that.
What matter most
What we liked: Comfortable and quiet drive, simple, comfortable and unfussy cabin, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, strong sense of engineering build quality, decent overall leap over outgoing Civic.
What we'd like to see: Automatic emergency braking as standard across the range or at least a cost option, manual option for the entry level at least, or a non-CVT auto; sportier chassis tune and performance to merit the badge on the RS model; a more cohesive and attractive exterior design to lure younger buyers.
Warranty and servicing: 3 year/100,000km. Service intervals are every 10,000km or 12 months.
Model: Honda Civic VTi, VTi-S, VTi-L, RS and VTi-LX.
Details: Four-door front-wheel drive small sedan.
Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol generating 104kW @ 6500rpm and 174Nm @4300rpm (VTi and VTi-S); 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol with 127kW @ 5500rpm and 220Nm @ 1700rpm (VTi-L, RS and VTi-LX).
Transmission: CVT automatic (paddle shifters on 1.5-litre turbo models).
Consumption: 6.4-litres/100km (1.8-litre engine); 6.0-litres/100km (1.5-litre turbo engine).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $22,390 (VTi); $24,490 (VTi-S); $27,790 (VTi-L); $31,790 (RS); $33.590 (VTi-LX).
Driving experience 14/20
Features and equipment 16/20
Functionality and comfort 17/20
Value for money 14/20
Style and design 13/20