New Honda Civic chapter no feel-good hit.
WE’VE been waiting a long time for a class-leading Honda Civic, and it looks like we’re going to have to wait for a while longer. Much is right about the tenth-generation version, yet Car of the Year revealed it to be one of those cars that somehow adds up to slightly less than the sum of its parts.
There are plenty of positives. The new Civic is a bigger car than its lacklustre predecessor, having had a sizeable 104mm increase in overall length, with a much more intelligently designed cabin to turn it from one of the most cramped cars in the segment to one of the most spacious. Exterior design does seem to have got stuck somewhere in the middle of the Pacific – there’s no doubting the fastback styling has been designed for American tastes – but it has created an impressively practical sedan, with 519 litres of load space.
Yet while the cabin doesn’t want for space, it does lack any special vibe. The presentation is inconsistent, with mismatching fonts and even brightness levels on the different displays, and nobody had a good word to say about the infuriating touch-not-very-sensitive volume controls for the audio system. Hagon summed it up best: “It feels like it was designed by a committee of people who didn’t like spending time with each other.”
Honda has always adopted a brush and handle approach to product development, normally launching new cars with old engines. That’s only half true here. Yes, the old 104kW 1.8-litre atmo four soldiers on in cheaper versions, but there’s also a new 127kW turbocharged 1.5-litre in the more senior RS, Honda’s first turbocharged petrol engine in Australia. It’s definitely the technical highlight: powerful, responsive and almost lag-free, it makes the 1.8 feel both anaemic and old-fashioned.
Unfortunately both drive through a standard-fit CVT which set the atmo engine droning as it struggled to provide respectable motivation on the gradients of the durability circuit. The turbo’s fatter torque curve makes it better suited to the tranny’s sliding ratios, but it still gets loud when worked hard. We know there wouldn’t be many potential buyers for a manual, but it would be nice to be offered the choice.
The chassis coped well with pretty much everything You Yangs could throw at it, yet delivered a driving experience almost completely lacking in excitement. The Civic is refined and rides nicely, the springs and dampers coping well even when asked to digest the notorious ‘chatter bumps’ at speed. But the steering weighting is too light and delivers only mumbled communication, and the front end surrenders early under bigger loadings. More than one judge commented that the Honda Civic RS is probably the least worthy wearer of the performance shorthand badge ever.
The 10th-gen Civic is a huge improvement over its dreary predecessor and certainly isn’t short of rational appeal. The $24,490 VTi-S looks like conspicuously good value considering its increase in size, although we reckon the turbo Civic (from $28K) is good enough to warrant the additional spend. But buyers, we suspect, will struggle as we did to forge an emotional connection.
Type: 4-door sedan, 5 seats
Boot capacity: 519 litres
Weight: 1261 – 1331kg
Layout: front-engine (east-west), FWD
Engines: 1799cc 4cyl (104kW/174Nm); 1498cc 4cyl turbo (127kW/220Nm)
Transmission: CVT automatic
Tyres: 215/55R16 – 215/50R17
ADR81 fuel consumption: 6.0 – 6.3L/100km
CO2 emissions: 140 – 148g/km
Collision mitigation: No
Crash rating: Not tested
Prices: $22,390 – $33,590