Honda Australia Managing Director Satoshi Matsuzawa has binned marketing-jingo ‘consumer surveys’. Instead he takes the direct approach and personally calls a couple of Aussie Honda buyers every working day.
Talking to those owners, Matsuzawa-San says Honda Civic owners summarize their cars under three key points: ‘Style’, ‘Fun To Drive’ and ‘Reliability’.
After a day behind the wheel of the all-new ninth generation Honda Civic, Car Showroom can confirm the new lineup definitely meets points one and two and - given the Japanese giant’s formidable engineering track record - challenging Honda on point three would be like challenging Roger Federer to three sets of tennis and giving the Swiss superstar a one-love start.
Honda Civic Overview
The Honda Civic Hybrid is distinguished by its aero front end with blue highlights and runs 15-inch aero wheels and drum rear brakes (to reduce weight). Civic VTi-L runs 16-inch alloy wheels while Civic Sport gets 17-inch alloys, front fog lights and leather seats.
The full range is:
Civic VTi-L 1.8-litre petrol (5-speed manual) $20,990
Civic VTi-L 1.8-litre petrol (5-speed automatic) $23,990
Civic Sport 2.0-litre (5-speed automatic) $27,990
Civic Hybrid 1.5-litre hybrid (CVT automatic) $35,990
Honda Civic Engine
Honda Civic VTi-L retains its 1.8-litre, four-cylinder powerplant with 104kW at 6500rpm and peak torque of 174Nm at 4300rpm. Civic Sport gets the 2.0-litre engine with 114kW at 6500rpm and 190Nm at 4300rpm.
Combined cycle fuel consumption for Honda Civic VTi-L is as low as 6.8l/100kms (manual) while the Sport is rated at 7.5l/100kms.
Honda Civic hybrid gains a 1.5-litre petrol engine and enjoys a more powerful electric motor and a switch to lithium ion for the battery. Combined power is 82kW at 5500rpm and peak torque is 172Nm from 1000-3500rpm, while fuel consumption has dropped to 4.4l/100kms.
Honda Civic The Interior
The immediate impression when climbing inside the all-new Honda Civic is its spaciousness and a light, airy feeling. Honda has improved its two-tier instrument panel and a nice feature is the new five-inch IMED screen with a customizable background ‘wallpaper’ photo image (the test cars had a pic of the all-new Civic but you might like to include a pic of your family).
As usual, the main instruments change colour to ‘coach’ you in fuel-efficient driving (a green colour means you’re doing well). Also typically Honda is the sporty driving feel thanks to the nice-size steering wheel adjustable for rake and reach.
Audio is a CD/MP3/WMA system with six speakers in the hybrid model and four in the others. There’s USB and iPod compatibility, speed-sensitive volume compensation and remote steering wheel controls.
Rear seat accommodation is amongst the best in this league and the boot is deep, nicely shaped and provides 440-litres capacity in VTi-L and Sport models or 351-litres in the Hybrid which needs to store its lithium ion battery.
Honda Civic Exterior & Styling
Masayuki Sano, Product Leader for the all-new ninth generation Honda Civic visited Australia for the national media preview. He summarized the design objectives as ‘Clean & Energetic’ and ‘Distinctive Package’.
With the same footprint as the previous Honda Civic (4540mm overall length, 2670mm wheelbase), the all-new ninth generation model - while at first glance slightly evolutionary in looks - is actually a much more complex and contemporary design. For the record, VTi-L and Sport models stand 1435mm in height while the more aerodynamic Hybrid model is slightly lower at 1430mm.
Honda says the new Civic is a ‘monoform’ design with clean, flowing lines. We like the strong character lines formed in the front fenders and rear doors/fenders. The angled windscreen and large glasshouse accentuate the modern appearance.
At the rear, modern tail-lights have an aerodynamic shape which adds to a stylish look.
Underneath, are substantial aerodynamic aids – a front spoiler with ‘strakes’ to direct airflow around the wheels, front bumper guides for cooling air and a flat underbody with aero panels under the engine and fuel tank.
Honda Civic On The Road
For the all-new Honda Civic national media preview, we drove from Honda’s HQ at Tullamarine, in Melbourne’s north-east, down the Mornington Peninsula and back traversing a range of conditions. Cleverly, Honda had us jumping from one Civic model to another…but, to get our minds in-gear, we started with a drive of the now superseded eighth generation Civic.
That ‘memory-freshener’ with the old model reinforced not only the slick, new styling of the new model, but also much improvement has been made to the driving dynamics.
Call us ‘Rev-Heads’ if you like, but after a day in Honda Civic VTi-L, Sport and Hybrid, it was the Sport model which most captured our attention. For starters the leather seats and upgraded trim make you feel better when you climb inside, and you do notice the extra 10kW/16Nm from the 2.0-litre engine, but moreover the 215.45R17 Michelin tyres on the larger 17-inch alloy wheels delivered driving dynamics just a tad more engaging for enthusiast drivers.
And while output of the new hybrid drivetrain has barely changed from the previous model (two less kW and two more Nm), refinement has taken a clear step forwards. We drove the Honda Civic hybrid in the first stage which was mostly city/suburban and that served to remind us how sensible the combination of hybrid drivetrain and Civic sedan dimensions is for most small car buyers. A wrong turn down a tight waterfront street in posh Brighton was quickly corrected thanks to Honda Civic’s tiny 10.84-metre turning circle.
All versions of the Honda Civic impressed with competent calibrations for the MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear suspension. While the extra rubber of the sport version no doubt ratcheted things up a notch or two, all models had nice turn-in and balance and good feedback from the steering wheel (Honda says rigid mounting for the steering gearbox, longer stroke struts and extra volume for the suspension bushes are all part of the story here).
A quick run down the Arthurs’ Seat hillclimb in the VTi-L was great fun but had us wishing for just a bit more sportiness from the five-speed auto which while calibrated to hold gears nicely in corners still kicked-down too fast when accelerating away.
Honda Civic Challenges
Given Honda’s decades-long, race-bred engineering credentials and the importance of the all-new Civic in its global plans, we’re surprised the transmission choice is limited to two five-speeders for the petrol-fuelled models. Honda fits a six-speed manual to its CR-Z sports car and both the Aussie-built Holden Cruze and German-origin Ford Focus offer six-speed automatics.
Honda Civic Verdict
Honda is back. After being ravaged perhaps more than any other vehicle manufacturer by the Asian natural disasters (Japan earthquake/tsunami and Thailand floods) which cut-off supply, the Japanese giant has a fire in its belly like never before and needs great products to recapture the hearts and minds of new car buyers.
By any measure, the all-new ninth generation Honda Civic is one of the great cars on the Honda launch-pad this year (to be followed by the British-built Civic sedan in July and then the all-new CRV medium SUV).
For us the Honda Civic scores large for style (exterior and interior), its spacious interior makes some rivals look like mini-cars and the three-engine strategy (including a fuel-sipping hybrid) shows the diversification which has long been a Honda trait.
And lopping the best part of $2,000 from the starting price illustrates the steely determination of Honda Australia for the ninth-generation Civic to conquest small car sales from its rivals.
Honda Civic The Competition
Car Showrooms’ favourite small car is Ford’s German-origin Focus. German engineering and driving dynamics don’t come cheap however and the entry-level Ford Focus ‘Ambiente’ sedan is stickered a grand north of the Honda Civic VTi-L at $21,990. Ford Focus employs both 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre powerplants, driving through five-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions.
Australia’s best-selling small car is the Mazda3. Out-gunned by Honda Civic Sport’s 114kW/190m 2.0-litre, Mazda3 is powered by a 108kW/182Nm 2.0-litre engine driving through a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed auto. Starting price is a slick $20,330 (‘Neo’ Sedan).
Toyota Corolla is ranked number two on the sales charts and starts at $20,990 for the ‘Ascent’ sedan. Corolla drives its 100kW/175Nm 1.8-litre via six-speed manual or four-speed auto transmissions.
Holden’s locally-built Cruze is a hot-seller (number three) and the entry-level 1.8-litre CD sedan is stickered at $21,490. Holden’s naturally-aspirated 1.8-litre engine is good for 104kW/176Nm and drives through five-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions. Further upscale is the Holden Cruze CD model (starting price for the sedan $22,490) which runs a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine harnessing 103kW/200Nm.