HONDA CIVIC

NEW CIVIC CHAPTER NO FEEL-GOOD HIT

MIKE DUFF

WE’VE been waiting a long time for a classleading 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 COTY 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 standardfit 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 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.

SPECS

BODY Type 4-door sedan, 5 seats Boot capacity 519 litres Weight 1261 – 1331kg DRIVETRAIN Layout front-engine (east-west), FWD Engines 1799cc 4cyl (104kW/174Nm); 1498cc 4cyl turbo (127kW/220Nm) Transmission CVT automatic CHASSIS Tyres 215/55R16 – 215/50R17 ADR81 fuel consumption 6.0 – 6.3L/100km CO2 emissions 140 – 148g/km Collision mitigation Crash rating Not tested Prices $22,390 – $33,590

NEW DONKS DREAM BIG

The Civic’s turbo engine is the first ‘Earth Dreams’ unit to make it to Australia, the new powerplant family that’s set to be rolled out across pretty much the entire global line-up over the next few years in everything from 660cc Japanese market Kei-cars to a forthcoming 3.5-litre V6. The 1.5 gets direct injection and sufficiently variable timing that it can run Atkinson cycle when required, to boost economy. Let’s hope the manual turbo recently confirmed for the US makes it to Oz, too.

“GOOD FUNDAMENTALS, BUT FEELS A BIT UNDER-DONE”

ALEX INWOOD

“THE CVT-ONLY POLICY IS A DISGRACE”

NATHAN PONCHARD