VERDICT: The new Honda Civic is better than its predecessor in just about every single way. It drives better, much better in fact, is bigger inside, better equipped, more practical, offers more safety features and looks better, too. Priced to compete with the segment leaders, but with better features, the new Civic might just be the one to beat.
Here in Australia, we’ve purchased, since 1973, an impressive 325,000 Honda Civics. And now, to expunge the memory of the lifeless 9th-generation Civic, is this all-new model that’s been benchmarked against, and I hope you’re sitting down, the likes of the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf.
Some of you reading this might be sniggering. Well, don’t. Because, and this is a spoiler alert, Honda’s engineers have nailed their brief to make this new Civic more premium feeling and dynamic. Yep, this thing is properly fun to drive.
It might have benchmarked its new Civic against Audi and Volkswagen, but Honda is pricing the new Civic to compete head on with the likes of the Mazda3 and Hyundai i30. And, to make it easier for buyers to give the Civic the nod, it’s loading its cars with features other makers either don’t offer or charge more for.
Honda Civic pricing:
- 1.8 VTi (CVT) $22,390 +ORC
- 1.8 VTi-S (CVT) $24,490 +ORC
- 1.5 VTi-L (CVT) $27,790 +ORC
- 1.5 RS (CVT) $31,790 +ORC
- 1.5 VTi-LX (CVT) $33,590 +ORC
According to Honda, “the creation of the 10th-generation Civic represents one of the most comprehensive and ambitious new-model developments ever undertaken by Honda”. But Honda doesn’t just want sales success (it’s hoping to sell 800/month, and there are almost 300 pre-orders), rather it also seeks critical acclaim after the dynamically limp ninth-generation model. And, if our drive at the local launch is anything to go by, it should achieve that.
Honda claims it worked on improving the Civic in key areas, like ride, handling, steering and noise, vibration and harshness performance. This saw the thing’s suspension honed on high-speed autobahns in Germany, while hot weather testing was carried out in Australia which, while it’s not quite as important as, say, Hyundai’s localised suspension tuning program, it’s still important. Indeed, Honda Australia said it has been involved in the development of the Civic since the very start.
The new Honda Civic Sedan is available in Australia in five variants with the sedan being launched here first with the hatchback and Type R to be launched next year. We won’t get the Coupe that’s being offered in the US, and nor will we get the 2.0L engine on offer Stateside.
The new Civic sees an all-new 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine join the line up, producing 127kW and 220Nm of torque. This is mated to a tweaked version of the CVT that serves in the four-cylinder Honda Odyssey. The ninth-generation Civic’s 1.8-litre four-cylinder continues in this 10th-generation model but the five-speed automatic has been dumped in favour of a CVT which has managed to transform the character of the car entirely.
From the front and in profile the new Honda Civic looks every bit the hunkered down dynamic-looking small car Honda hopes it looks, but I’m not so sure about the rear of the thing. That said, design and styling is personal, so I’ll say no more about it… but let us know in the comments section what you think of the thing.
Climb into the supportive seats, turn the key and flatten the throttle and there’s only the briefest hints of turbo lag. Once the Civic hits 1700rpm, the 1.5L turbo engine starts pushing strongly with the gearbox working well with it, proof that a well-built CVT can be every bit as sporty and smooth as a many-speed automatic or dual-clutch transmission.
The wide torque band (220Nm between 1700-5500rpm) means that, once you’re up and running, progress is both swift and reasonably effortless, meaning that it’ll pull well up hill at middling revs, rather than racing straight to its 6000rpm redline. Fuel consumption is 6.6L/100km.
The steering offers a more natural, well-weighted feel to the wheel no matter the speed or the steering angle, with an especially solid feel in the straight ahead. There’s almost no kickback across poorer surfaces yet despite the improvements, there’s still almost no feel through the steering, but, hey, this isn’t a Porsche.
Ride and handling have been improved thanks to the rear suspension now rigidly mounted to the rear sub-frame for better lateral stability. The new Civic also gets expensive but excellent hydraulic compliance bushings which help to filter out unwanted road noise transmission through the body and steering shake (if you re-read the above paragraph you’ll now know why). Thicker anti-roll bars at the front and rear, compared with its predecessor, help to keep body movements in check, while a structure that’s 25% stiffer and packed full of insulation ensure the new Civic offers the ride, handling and interior quietness (due, in part, to near full length sound absorbing underbody covers) of a more expensive car.
The design of the dashboard (the two-tiered instrument panel of the old Civic, thankfully, is no more) and the practicality of the interior alone are a massive step ahead of this car’s predecessor. Where the old Civic’s seats were broad and unsupportive the new one’s are a little more sculpted and supportive, and thanks to both reach and rake adjustability on the steering wheel and the electric adjustment for the driver’s seat on the VTi-LX we drove it’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel with the seating position overall feeling sportier.
The front A-pillars are now thinner from top to bottom and the bonnet is mounted 35mm lower than before, so forward vision is very good. Indeed, vision right around the car is good and on both the VTi-RS and VTi-LX a camera mounted in the passenger-side wing mirror, which when the indicator is activated, projects a high-resolution video of the left side of the car to “aid” monitoring a blind spot. Not bad for a car costing less than $35k.
There’s a large seven-inch touch screen unit sitting in the centre of the dashboard, and this controls communications and infotainment and is compatible with both Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Across the range, the Honda Civic features a digital speedo behind the steering wheel, with the display able to show infotainment and communication menus. And the steering mounted controls, and the cool new capacitive touch pad for the volume control allow you to control the whole system easily and without needing to take your eyes off the road for any great length of time.
Over in the back seats there’s plenty of room for three adults and, in the boot, Honda has managed to liberate more room for a class-leading 517 litres of space for the VTi-L, RS and VTi-LX and 519 litres for the VTi and VTi-S. The boot itself is a good shape with a wide opening, two pull-levers in the boot allow you to drop the back seats for when you’re carrying bigger objects.
ANCAP hasn’t released its rating for the Civic, but with its stronger body and the suite of safety features available, you wouldn’t bet against it scoring a five-star rating. It gets airbags, traction and stability controls, as well as clever front seatbelts with automatic tensioners and load limiters which work in conjunction with the airbags and so will immediately tighten in the event of a collision, but then relax tension slightly to avoid causing injury to the occupant via the seatbelt. The new Civic gets an electric park brake with automatic brake hold function, which is handy in stop-start traffic. All models get a multi-angle reversing camera which offers a wide angle view, a narrower view and also a top-down view, the VTi- S adds front and rear parking sensors to the camera as well as LaneWatch. And, if you opt for the VTi-LX like we tested, then you’ll get the full Honda Sensing suite which includes, collision mitigation braking as well as forward collision warning, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation.
Mazda3 - The Mazda3 is one of the darlings of the small car segment and the one that Honda’s gone after hardest in terms of pricing. The small Mazda is popular, well built and one of the better driver’s oriented cars in this segment. But, it lacks the overall features and refinement of the new Civic.
Subaru Impreza - The often forgotten about Subaru Impreza offers all-wheel drive and a roomy interior, although it lacks the ultimate safety features of the new Civic and isn’t quite as nice to drive.
Volkswagen Golf - Honda says it benchmarked the new Civic against the Golf in terms of ride and handling and interior material quality and without having back-to-backed the two cars it would be hard to see which one is better, but I’d possibly lean towards the Civic. Yes, it really is that good, especially when you start pushing it. It’s also better equipped and its safety features are more advanced.
Hyundai i30 - Many consider the Hyundai i30 to be Korea’s answer to the VW Golf and it is a very good machine, but it’s not as good as the new Civic, although it’s long warranty and solid build quality will no doubt see some buyers rate it over the Civic. In terms of ride, handling, and interior room, the new Civic has the measure of the i30.