civic - honda civic hatch 09 - Honda Civic: planted and impressive

What is it?

The Honda Civic needs no introduction.

It’s been around for as long as I’ve been driving and that’s a bloody long time.

There’s a hatch and sedan and a choice of turbo or no turbo petrol engines, but somewhere along the line they stopped making a hybrid.

And of course there’s the fire-breathing Civic Type-R hatch with its huge rear wing, an award winner that’s right up there in terms of bang for your buck.

This time however we elected to drive the top of the line, turbocharged VTi-LX hatch with all the trimmings.

It may not get a G-Force indicator or fancy lap timer (does anyone really use these things), but it’s the only grade that comes with built-in satellite navigation — and you’ll get more use out of that!

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What’s it cost?

Prices start at $22,390 for the 1.8 VTi, $27,790 for the first of the turbocharged models, the 1.5 VTi-L, or $33,590 for our range topping VTi-LX (Type R in case you’re wondering is $51,990).

VTi-LX is trimmed with leather trim and has dual zone temperature controled air conditioning, auto lights, wipers and rear view mirror, adaptive cruise control, heated front seats with power adjustment for the driver, auto up for all windows, reverse camera with bird’s-eye view, front and rear parking sensors, 17 inch alloy wheels, not to mention the car will automatically lock itself once the driver has walked more than 2.5 metres away with the key.

A 7.0-inch touchscreen fronts an infotainment system that offers digital radio, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as a wi-fi hotspot through your mobile phone.

This model also gets a 542-watt premium audio system with 12 speakers, including two satellite speakers, centre speaker and sub-woofer.

In terms of safety, there’s six airbags and Honda’s SENSING system that uses both millimeter wave radar and a monocular camera to sense and respond to detected hazards.

The system includes Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low Speed Follow (LSF), Lane Keeping Assist (LKAS) and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM).

The Blind spot warning system, called LaneWatch, works a little differently to most and is engaged when you select the left turn indicator, projecting an image of that side of the car onto the screen.

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What’s it go like?

The top of the line hatch is powered by a 1.5-litre four cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 127kW of power at 5500 revs and 220Nm of torque from 1700 right through to 5500 revs.

Honda has always been known for its high reving engines and the broad spread of torque is remarkable to say the least, with maximum power and torque arriving at exactly the same mark.

With maximum torque available virtually across the entire rev range It means the car will have plenty of get up and go in just about any situation.

The 1.5-ltre engine takes standard unleaded petrol and is paired with a CVT style, continuously variable automatic transmission with power to the front wheels.

Paddle shifters are also provided and, in manual mode, the CVT offers seven steps or simulated gears.

There’s also Sport mode.

With plenty of torque on tap however the thing does just fine left to its own devices in Drive (D).

Sport amps things up a bit, with more revs and sharper throttle response, but unfortunately manual mode brings out the worst in the CVT — the feel and sound are a real turn off.

When we drove the sporty RS model with the same engine and transmission combo 18 months ago it exhbited some rather annoying turbo lag.

Not so this time around, or at least it wasn’t as evident.

Civic is large for a hatch with a wide footprint that gives the car a reassuring “planted” feel on the road.

Agile Handling Assist, a form of torque vectoring, helps translate the feel into safe, secure handling, selectively using the brakes to improve initial turn-in and overall cornering ability.

By applying the brakes to the inside wheels it helps the car to turn and reduces any tendency towards understeer, that moment when you’re going too fast and the car wants to plough straight ahead rather than complete the turn.

The brakes by the way are excellent.

For the most part the Civic is quiet inside, making for easy conversation front to back, with increasing tyre noise on coarse bitumen road surfaces.

But it sits fairly low with deep seats that make getting in and out difficult at times, especially when parked on a steep driveway.

Out in the backlots, it deals confidently with unexpected dips and bends, with plenty of grip from the Yokohama tyres, even when pushing hard through corners — though the suspension setup is just a little floaty and bouncey to really get serious.

Steering is a little dead just off centre, but that’s a good thing because it doesn’t send you shooting off the road at the slightest provocation.

The large shallow boot hides a space saver spare and features a weird privacy screen that is deployed right to left.

In case you’re wondering, the hatch is 28kg heavier than the sedan but the boot in the sedan is 20 per cent larger, with 519 litres of capacity (the rear seats in the sedan flip forward).

Fuel consumption is a claimed 6.1L/100km for this model and it takes standard unleaded. We were getting 7.0L after more than 500km.

By the way the USB ports are hidden behind the centre console in the front and difficult to access once you’re on the road.

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What we like?

  • Impressive
  • Striking looks
  • Bigger than rivals
  • Spacious and comfortable
  • Well equipped
  • Has a secure planted feel
  • Low fuel consumption

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What we don’t like?

  • No rear air vents
  • Low ride height could be an issue for older drivers
  • Difficult to get in and out of, with deep seats and low roof line
  • USB ports difficult to access behind centre console
  • Lane keep assist annoying
  • No speed camera wanings
  • Short service intervals

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The bottom line?

The styling is polarising. You either love it or hate it. The car itself feels more impressive with each drive and we like the fact you can chose between the hatch or sedan for the same price. Be sure to check on the cost of service however because the interval is only 10,000km.

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CHECKOUT: Honda’s hybrid hero hits the road

CHECKOUT: We test drive Honda’s incredible Civic Type R

 

Honda Civic VTi-LX hatch, priced from $33,590
  • 7.5/10
    Looks - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Performance - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Safety - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Thirst - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Comfort - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Tech - 8/10
  • 8/10
    Value - 8/10
7.8/10

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.