by Brad Leach - 30/10/12
Honda’s all-new Civic sedan had to be good – and it is. The stylish good looks attract attention and of course the ninth-generation model builds on the popularity of previous Civics.
After losing some ground last year when vehicle supply was disrupted after its manufacturing plant in Thailand was virtually wiped out by devastating floods, Honda Australia has smartly priced the all-new Civic range very sharply – starting at $20,990.
Car Showroom tested the all-new Honda Civic sedan in ‘Sport’ model. Priced at $27,990, the athletic member of the Honda Civic family is good value too – especially as it comes with major extras like a 2.0-litre engine, interior leather and sportier suspension calibration.
We’re very keen on the Civic’s all-new looks – very stylish – and naturally, as it wears a Honda badge, the Civic again showcases the Japanese giant’s high-standard build quality and driving dynamics which will be appreciated by enthusiasts.
Where the all-new Civic really gains some ground against major rivals is inside – nice looks and surprising space for people and luggage.
Entry-grade Honda Civic VTi-L employs Honda’s 103kW/174Nm 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine, but the Sport model we tested ups the ante with a 2.0-litre powerplant good for 114kW at 6500rpm and peak torque of 190Nm at 4300rpm.
Perhaps surprisingly, both engines are single overhead camshaft designs (many rivals are double overhead designs). Not surprisingly, as it’s a Honda, the 2.0-litre loves to rev and does its best work north of 4000rpm – accompanied by a nicely sporty exhaust note.
The Honda Civic Sport sedan is sold exclusively with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel consumption is rated at 7.5l/100kms (combined cycle).
Climbing behind the wheel, supportive sports seats and the leather trim immediately identify this Honda Civic as the ‘Sport’ model. Combined with rake/reach adjustment for the handily sized and modern-looking three-spoke steering wheel, you’re quickly at home in a driver-friendly environment and with surprising space between yourself and the front-seat passenger.
Again Honda Civic features the two-tier dashboard design now familiar in current Honda vehicles. The upper level contains a digital speedometer and the multi-function display while secondary information, like the rev-counter, audio and climate controls occupy the lower tier.
Speaking of the multi-function display – a five-inch screen Honda calls ‘IMED’ – a nice feature is customizable background wallpaper which allows you to include your own desired image (perhaps your family, pet or favourite holiday snap).
Audio is a four-speaker CD system with the usual compatibility features. And we must say we liked the modern look and high quality materials used on the dashboard and indeed throughout the Honda Civic’s interior.
Rear seat accommodation is amongst the best in this segment for legroom although tall folk might find headroom a tad squeezy.
Open the boot and the Honda Civic Sport surprises with a massive 440-litres of capacity – that’s almost one-third more than the outgoing model and good news for our golf clubs (aided by the 60/40 split-fold rear seat).
Honda calls it ‘monoform’ design – precise, flowing lines which are both simple and complex. How so? Well the overall look of the new Civic appears relatively straight-forward at first, but closer inspection shows a sophisticated mix of raked windscreen, bold character lines at the waist, curved wheel-arch flares and large door-mounted exterior mirrors.
It’s all very modern and the Honda Civic’s on-road presence is certainly more stylish than some older rivals.
We particularly like the athletic front-end of the Sport model with a large under-bumper air-intake offset by a relatively narrow upper grille and the now familiar large, clear-glass headlights which wrap onto the front fenders.
At the rear, all-new Honda Civic scores a completely new look highlighted by the ‘aero’ tail-lights which are becoming common in contemporary designs.
There’s a long list of specification differences between the three Honda Civic sedan models (Sport as tested), VTi-L and Hybrid. Tellingly it’s the Sport which, apart from the obvious extra punch of Honda’s 2.0-litre engine, also gets firmer suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels with Michelin rubber. That’s a formula driving enthusiasts will warm to.
In an ideal world, we’d go for the Honda Civic Sport with a manual transmission, but of course that’s not where the market is. Nevertheless, our test car with the standard five-speed auto was a slick operator over our mountain roads test loop.
Honda being Honda, suspension calibration (MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear) was just how performance drivers would like it (firmish in the European way), chassis balance was good, grip levels were high and feedback from the electric power was nice.
Around town too, the Honda Civic Sport was refined and pleasant. Good visibility and a compact 10.8-metre turning circle made for easy parking.
Honda’s 2.0-litre is a single overhead camshaft design which isn’t the freshest configuration in the engine world and the Sport model’s 7.5l/100kms fuel consumption isn’t the most frugal. Compounding that is a five-speed automatic transmission in a segment where six-speeders are common.
Honda knew the all-new Civic had to be a winner and chose the pricing route to create attention. There’s no doubt the $20,990 sticker for the entry-level VTi-L Civic is smart and there’s lots of value in the Sport model as tested at $27,990.
Like the Hondas of old, the all-new Civic oozes style and quality despite some details which are a nod to keeping the price down. But clearly, the Sport model’s extras (2.0-litre engine, firmer suspension and leather interior) ramp-up its appeal.
Yes, despite the not-so-cutting-edge single overhead camshaft engine and five-speed auto, the Honda Civic Sport delivers Honda’s hallmark sporty driving dynamics. But we reckon family buyers will be just as impressed by the roomy interior and large boot…practicality counts for much in this league.
Mazda3 is the sales king in this league and Honda Civic’s Sport model goes head-to-head with Mazda3 SP20 sedan (both priced at $27,990). Powerplants are virtually identical too – 114kW/188Nm for Honda’s 2.0-litre versus 113kW/194Nm for Mazda’s identical capacity. Mazda feels punchier to drive and has a six-speed auto, but we reckon the Honda looks a bit more sophisticated.
Car Showroom’s favourite in this class remains Ford’s German-origin Focus. The Ford Focus Sport sedan has a premium price at $30,190, but delivers 125kW/202Nm from its 2.0-litre and drives through a sequential six-speeder.
You should also consider Subaru’s 2.0 Impreza sedan ($29,490 for the ‘L’ auto or $31,490 for the ‘S’ which is six-speed manual only). A plus is the Impreza’s interior space but a minus is the 110kW/196Nm 2.0-litre driving through a CVT auto.
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