2012 HONDA CIVIC HATCH REVIEW
What’s hot: Surprising roominess, flexible interior, very well-featured.
What’s not: No cruise for VTi-S; no under-seat foot room for rear passengers.
X Factor: Honda’s fit, finish and build quality impresses; plus a great chassis.
Vehicle style: Five-door hatch
VTi-S - $22,650 (six-speed manual) plus on-roads (add $2300 for auto)
VTi-L - $29,990 (automatic only) plus on-roads.
Engine: 1.8 litre four-cylinder SOHC iVTEC
Power: 104kW @ 6500rpm | Torque: 174Nm @ 4300rpm
Fuel economy: (claimed combined) 6.1 l/100km (manual), 6.5 l/100km (automatic).
Fuel economy (on test): 6.2 l/100km (manual), 7.2 l/100km (automatic)
Honda Australia has done it tough for a couple of years. Slumping sales here were made worse by supply shortages following the Japanese tsunami and Thai floods.
But things are now looking up and the company is on track to achieve 2012 sales of 40,000 units this year.
The Civic hatch however comes out fighting with sexy European styling, a 5-Star ANCAP safety rating, impressive fuel efficiency and great interior flexibility.
Quality: The Civic Hatch (and sedan) is beautifully put-together; the trim, fit and finish is a class above – even in the lower-specced VTi-S.
There are too many elements to the styling of the dash for my liking, but the quality of materials and the tactile feel to the dash and trims, controls and switchgear is difficult to fault.
Even the entry-level VTi-S has a generous amount of soft plastic trim.
Comfort: While the new Civic’s roofline is lower, the seats have also been dropped, so head clearance front and rear is still fine.
But underseat foot room for rear passengers is very limited (if you’ve got clod-hoppers, like me, you’ll be wondering what to do with them).
From the driver’s viewpoint, the layout is very much cockpit-like with excellent ergonomics, a height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel and well-shaped and bolstered seats on both models.
Equipment: The VTi-S comes with 16-inch alloy wheels (with temporary spare), heated body-coloured door mirrors with LED turn indicators, halogen headlights with beam-height adjustment and auto-off function, LED tail-lights and daytime running lights, right-rear foglight, rear wiper and spoiler, and automatic climate control with rear ventilation ducts.
Also standard-fit for the cloth-trimmed VTi-S is hill-start assist, security-alarm and engine immobiliser, remote keyless entry, two 12-volt accessory power outlets, AM/FM/CD audio with USB connectivity, iPod integration, aux-in jack, speed-sensitive volume control, steering-wheel-mounted audio and i-MID controls, central locking, day/night rear-vision mirror, an intelligent multi-information display, and 60:40 split-fold rear seats (and more).
Opt for the top spec VTi-L and the list becomes even more impressive. It adds rain-sensing automatic front wipers, dusk-sensing automatic on/off halogen headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control with an adjustable speed limiter, leather interior with two-stage heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio, i-MID, Bluetooth and cruise-control buttons, a front-passenger seat-back pocket and a reversing camera.
Other VTi-L additions include 17-inch alloy wheels (with a temporary spare), a premium seven-speaker audio system, rear-seat centre armrest with two cup-holders, front-door blue ambient lighting, a 12-volt luggage-area accessory power outlet and foglights.
Storage: The Hatch offers 390litres with rear seats occupied and 1120litres with the clever Jazz-like ‘magic seats’ folded flat.
In the cabin there is a good-sized glove box and an equally generous centre-console bin located under the centre armrest, as well as ample cupholders and pockets.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Civic hatch is a fun-to-drive little car. The six-speed manual transmission in the VTi-S is excellent. The gear-stick falls perfectly to hand and the changes are nice and slick – with not a hint of notchiness.
Like all small Hondas, you have to keep the revs up to maintain momentum on hills and during overtaking. With power and torque of 104kW and 174Nm, it’s adequately powered but certainly at its best at higher revs.
The VTi-L automatic, with ‘drive’ or ‘sport’ modes, comes with steering-wheel-mounted paddles and they add to the driving fun.
The car’s electric power steering is excellently weighted and turn-in is precise and predictable with minimal body roll (even in tight, fast cornering).
Compared with the split rear-window treatment on the now-defunct Type R hatch, the new Civic hatch’s rear visibility is a vast improvement, although still with the split-glass effect.
There is still, however, something of a blind spot at each of the two C pillars.
Refinement: As small hatches go, the new Honda Hatch is among the best in terms of its refinement. NVH levels are impressively low and even with the revs beyond 4000rpm engine noise intrusion is quite acceptable.
Overall, the new Civic hatch is a more refined car than its sedan sibling. Road noise, even on course bitumen surfaces, is less intrusive.
Suspension: While there was no suspension tuning in Australia, Honda says its new baby has had more European chassis testing than any other car it has ever built. And it shows.
The chassis is refined but sporty, and certainly not harsh. There is a new MacPherson-strut set-up at the front with a torsion-beam rear. One of the secrets behind the surprisingly good ride (for a small hatch) is fluid-filled compliance bushes for the rear suspension.
Braking: There are ventilated discs at the front and solids on the rear. Braking feel and performance is very good.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: ABS brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, six airbags (front, side and full-length side curtain), seatbelt reminders at all points, three child-safety seat anchorages, a super-strong body structure, vehicle-stability assist, Honda’s G-Con technology, a tyre-deflation warning system and a reversing camera for the VTi-L.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km with six years rust-perforation warranty.
Service costs: Servicing costs may vary; consult your local Honda dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
VW Golf Comfortline 118TSI ($29,490, add $2500 for DSG auto) - The Golf 118 TSI is a very engaging car with a surprisingly potent 1.4 litre 118kW and 240Nm jewel under the bonnet.
It is also exceptionally well put-together, but with DSG is more expensive than the VTi-L and servicing can be very costly. (see Golf reviews)
Toyota Corolla Ascent and Levin ZR ($20,990 and $28,450, add $2000 for auto) - Don’t underestimate the redoubtable, reliable Corolla twins.
The 1.8 litre 100kW and 175Nm engine is shaded in this company but the Corolla is as good as bullet-proof. (see Corolla reviews)
Mazda3 Neo and Maxx Sport ($20,330 and $24,490 respectively, add $2000 for auto): The hottest seller in the sector, the 108kW and 182Nm Mazda3 is an appealing buy with personality and driving verve. (see Mazda3 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
After a tough slog, Honda Australia is fighting back. Among its armoury is sharper pricing across its vehicle range and, importantly, an improved new Civic in that key small car segment.
And, yes, the new five-door hatch is certainly improved. It is also more than $7000 cheaper than the old Civic Si. It has more appeal than the sedan and is more refined on-road.
It also boasts a fuel-consumption improvement of 10 percent.
But while zesty enough at wheel, and with quite dynamic handling, we think the single-cam engine is now outdated and bettered by the key competitors in the sector.
That noted, the new five-door Civic Hatch in both VTi-S and VTi-L configuration is a classy affair that upholds Honda’s reputation for sublime build quality, fit and finish.
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- Civic Hatch VTi-S - Manual - $22,650 ($24,990 drive-away)
- Civic Hatch VTi-S - Automatic - $24,950 ($27,290 drive-away)
- CIvic Hatch VTi-L - Automatic - $29,990 (check with dealer for drive-away price)