The legendary Honda Civic is still a strong contender in its class, says Y’s motoring expert Alvin Thomas.
Being a motoring journalist isn’t a stress-free task. Most of my conversations with people involve me giving them valuable car advice (or so I suppose), offering technical know-how and car buying tips to those in need; it’s a tough job but someone has to do it.
While, a certain technical know-how is required in this job, the part where I recommend cars to buyers is actually one of the easier tasks.
Want a fast SUV? Get a Range Rover Sport SVR. Want a good supermini? Get a Kia Rio. Want a hot hatchback? Go buy a Volkswagen Golf GTi. The list goes on, and I have a set answer for almost every category.
But one that has always haunted me is the compact sedan segment: there are numerous contenders, and each of the cars in this list is better in its own game than its corresponding competitors. It’s really hard to choose a winner, really!
That is, until now.
Yes, folks. I think I may have found the new leader of the compact sedan segment: the Honda Civic.
You see, off late, Honda had been struggling to keep its identity intact. For a few years (early 90s) they were out pumping out brilliant sports cars in the form of Acura NSXs and Honda S2000s, but then completely (and by completely, I mean wholly) shifted their focus onto mass-market cars such as the Honda Accord, CR-V and the Civic.
To compensate for their shift, their family sedans were spurred on by its sports car looks and boyish charms.
Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the 2006 Honda Civic.
Sadly, however, Honda fanboys will vouch that the ’06 Civic was the last of the truly-innovative Honda cars to have hit the market in recent years.
But, it seems that the Japanese brand has finally decided to turn the tables around – and that thankfully, they’re doing it with the all-new Civic.
The design of the new Civic definitely did it for me: with its large chrome hammerhead grille, beautifully sculpted long, sharp headlights and an angular bumper, with two large intakes; the Civic definitely possesses a sporty appeal to it.
The sedan also rides considerably lower, so it looks more poised and composed than most rivals in this segment. In fact, the new Civic has gained almost 80mm in extra length, and is also about 40mm wider and lower.
Meanwhile, the side profile of the car is coupe-ish; meaning, the C-pillar swoops down into the tail lamps. While this liftback-style rear is the case with many cars of today (eg: the Audi A7, Nissan Maxima, etc.), the Civic manages to pull the look out without much gaudiness.
The rear of the Civic, however, is where the opinions split halves. The tail lamps are quite large and are shaped like individual claws, and there are two non-functional vents in the posterior. In the blue that my car was finished in, it looked acceptable; but not so much in lighter tones. Funnily, Honda has also gone on to hide the tail pipe underneath the rear bumper.
Mind you, minus the rear, the Civic is quite a looker.
The interior of the Civic is definitely a class apart from its rivals. Getting into a Civic – even in 2017 – reminded me of the good old days when Civics were known for their almost spaceship-like instrument cluster and dashboard.
While it’s less cluttered than before, the boffins still cram in abundant technology for the driver and passenger to meddle with. It all starts with the instrument cluster, which breathes to life in an animated format when the car is switched on.
The whole cluster is digital, and parts of it can be configured to your taste. But, accessing it means going through the 18cm-wide Android-powered capacitive touchscreen display. It’s extremely functional, as you can control almost everything –from the air-conditioning settings to the audio or even browsing the web – by using it. But it’s not the slickest of head units I have used in recent times.
There are cruise and audio control buttons on the steering, too; and thankfully, they’re all physical. But, the thumb-operated volume-control button is tacky.
Meanwhile, as has always been the case with Honda, there’s plenty of space inside – even to store your bottles and other goods. There’s also some nifty design ideas such as a double-decker centre-console storage so you can hide your goods from the eyes of your passengers.
Head and leg room is in plentiful in the front, but passengers taller than six feet will struggle with head room in the back. The seats in my test car were covered in soft-touch fabric material, and were splendid.
Sadly, however, there are plenty of hard plastic surfaces in the dashboard and the door panels (as is the case with most cars in this segment).
My model came packing a 2.0-litre in-line four cylinder i-VTEC engine, which is good enough to pump out 158hp and 187Nms of torque.
The engine is furthermore mated to Honda’s new continuously variable transmission (CVT), sending power to the front wheels.
Acceleration from the engine is spritely, even when the car is crammed with passengers. Upon flooring the throttle, I was able to hit the 100kph mark from naught in about 9.5 seconds. Oh, and before I forget, upon doing so, you are also treated to the typical Honda roar.
But, as is the case with all CVT transmissions, there’s a fair bit of drone and characteristic “rubber-band” effect upon smashing the pedal to the metal.
The ride in the Civic is sublime, as the suspension soaks up all the bumps and undulations on the road with much efficacy. The handling is also impressive, with very little in the line of understeer; there’s an agreeable balance between fun and comfort. Body roll is kept to a minimum, too.
Of course, understeer does kick when you break past the limits of the grip of the 215/55 front tyres that are wrapped around the 41cms alloys.
The steering ratios are quicker than what you would find in its other Asian competitors, and is also well-weighted. But, as with most steering setups of today, it does lack feedback.
The brakes are strong and have linear stopping power, and the throttle response is quick. But, in ‘Eco’ mode, it does take a few moments for the car to kick down to its respective ratio.
On a positive note, I could clock a fuel consumption ratio of 9.8 litres/100 km, in the duration of my test drive.
In all, the all-new Civic may seem far from being the perfect sedan. But, its character helps to make this a well-rounded contender in its segment. And funnily enough, that is also what makes it the best compact sedan you can currently throw your money on.