The all-new Honda Civic does not follow in the footsteps of its immediate predecessor, and that’s a good thing.
6 NUMBER OF CIVIC MODELS HE’S DRIVEN
Our senior writer says that the latest Civic has really matured, but feels that it hasn’t lost touch with its boyracer nature.
"THE INTERIOR IS A HUGE IMPROVEMENT OVER THE PREVIOUS MODEL’S."
THERE is no polite way to say this, but the ninth-generation Honda Civic is terrible. Especially when it is compared to the incredible 10th-generation model you see here.
The ninth-gen Civic never felt like it was made to Honda’s typical high standards. In the US, a respected consumer magazine, which always recommended the Civic to buyers, actually removed it from that list.
Here in Singapore, you’d be lucky to spot a ninth-gen Civic. Personally, I’ve only seen one within the last six months.
In contrast, you’re going to see an eighth-gen Civic (FD) every time you go out. It is so good that we compared it to this latest model in our accompanying booklet. And till today, the FD commands a premium over rivals in the second-hand market.
If you’re a Civic fan who’s been waiting for a new and improved model, then your hopes/wishes/ prayers have been answered by Honda. This 10th-generation FC model is thoroughly impressive and very compelling. The Civic’s exterior design is fresh and dynamic. Its face is sleeker and its body is filled with tauter curves. And while those boomerang-shaped tail-lamps might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they do give the car a rather striking rear end.
Adding to the Civic’s road presence are its dimensions, which are 105mm longer, 19mm lower and 44mm wider compared to the previous model.
Even when standing still, it looks ready to tackle any road. Sure to help in this endeavour is the car’s body, 12 percent of which is made from ultra-highstrength steel.
The latest model has a torsional rigidity that’s 25 percent stiffer compared to the previous model, whose ultra-high-strength steel content is only 1 percent.
Honda has also paid careful attention to the interior this time around. The cabin of the latest Civic is more upmarket than expected, with softtouch materials adorning the dashboard, centre console and door panels.
The cockpit is a huge improvement over the previous model’s, which is filled with hard plastics and has a glovebox lid that, when opened, immediately slams down on the unsuspecting knees of the front passenger.
In the replacement model,the front passenger’s kneecaps remain unbruised because the glovebox lid gently glides downwards when opened.
Keen drivers will feel right at home in the new Civic because of the front seats, which have a lower hip point than before.
And with the high centre console and stubby gearshift lever, you’ll feel quite ensconced.
Adding to the sporty feel is the instrument panel, which is now an all-digital affair. Gone is the two-tier panel from the previous model. In its place is a sportier-looking single-tier panel dominated by the tachometer.
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Honda’s infotainment system is pretty intuitive, but not quite perfect. I reckon that the touchscreen could be more responsive and the menu loading times could be snappier.
Also not quite complete is the car’s backseat. Although the Civic’s 2700mm wheelbase is 30mm longer than its predecessor’s and offers more legroom, it no longer has a flat rear floor, making it potentially awkward for middle occupants to park their feet.
However, rear seat passengers will still be more comfortable than before, since they now have a pair of rear air-con vents to provide added respite from our tropical climate.
Now, while the 1.6-litre Civic won’t deliver the scorching performance boyracers crave (they’ll want the turbocharged 1.5-litre Civic for that), this variant is nevertheless vastly improved over its predecessor.
Despite the 1.6-litre motor being carried over unchanged, the engine sounds much quieter and revs more smoothly than before.
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The powerplant is also slightly more efficient, because it’s now hooked up to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) instead of a 5-speed automatic.
The Civic can now cover 14.9km per litre of unleaded, or 0.2km per litre further than before.
More importantly, the new Civic is also quicker from zero to 100km/h, despite being larger and 24kg heavier than before.
The car’s century sprint time of 11.6 seconds is 0.8 of a second faster than the older car, which is surprising since the engine’s 125bhp and 152Nm outputs are unchanged.
What have been improved are the car’s noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels.
The latest Civic is so quiet that at times, I wondered if a start-stop system (which the car doesn’t have) had a start stop system (which the car doesn’t have) had switched off the engine.
Now, I normally wince when I’m told that a car has a CVT. But in the latest Civic, you’d only be nit-picking if you still had a complaint about the gearbox.
The CVT in here is so seamless that were it not for the spec sheet, I might have assumed that the transmission was actually a torque converter automatic.
There’s no whining or droning, and the dreaded “rubber band” effect only appears if you shift into “S” mode.
Wind and road noise levels are also much lower than expected, especially for a car that competes in the bread-and-butter segment.
I expected Honda to deliver a Civic that would please petrolheads, and that’s exactly what the carmaker has done.
The Civic’s ride/handling balance is spot on – pliant enough to deal with undulations, yet firm enough to confidently take on a series of bends.
The car’s turn-in is sweet, while the low seating position and taut body add to the sense of agility.
Whether the corner in question is a gentle winding one or a sharp 90-degree turn, the Civic always displays admirable poise.
Equally well-judged is the Civic’s helm. Although more feedback would be appreciated, the steering’s precision deserves our praise.
Overall, the Civic’s handling is only second to the segment leading Mazda 3. But although the 3 is nimbler and has a more responsive powertrain, it cannot match the Civic’s space and refinement.
The latest Civic looks cool, delivers a sporty drive and offers an upmarket and spacious cabin. It will win back fans who were turned off by its predecessor.
In fact, I have a good feeling that we’re going to be seeing plenty of 10thgeneration Civics on our roads in the years to come.
"THE CIVIC’S RIDE/ HANDLING BALANCE IS SPOT ON – PLIANT ENOUGH TO DEAL WITH UNDULATIONS, YET FIRM ENOUGH TO CONFIDENTLY TACKLE A SERIES OF BENDS."