2012 Honda Civic Hatch VTi-S Review

Overall Rating

  • Interior

  • On The Road

  • Ancap

  • Value For Money

  • See Full Specs

What’s Hot

Sharp handling, slick gearshift, beautiful build quality.

What’s Not

No cruise control, no Bluetooth, rear seat lacks comfort.

X Factor

Low on spec, high on quality; this Euro-built Hatch is one finely-engineered vehicle.

  • Country of Origin
    UNITED KINGDOM
  • Price
    $19,250 (plus on-road costs)
  • Engine
    4 Cylinders
  • Output
    104 kW / 174 Nm
  • Transmission
    Manual
  • ANCAP Rating
    5
  • Airbags
  • L/100 km
    6.1
  • C02
    146 g/km
  • Luggage Capacity
    N/A
  • Towing (braked)
    1400 kg
  • Towing (unbraked)
    500 kg
Tony O'Kane | Aug 21, 2012 | 11 Comments

2012 HONDA CIVIC REVIEW

Vehicle Style: Small hatchback
Price: $22,650 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.1 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 7.1 l/100km

The previous-generation Civic Si hatchback was a good car, but its ridiculously high $29,990 price tag ensured that relatively few were ever sold.

Thankfully, Honda Australia has rectified the situation by pitching the entry-level VTi-S version of the new Civic Hatch at a far more realistic $22,650 (plus on-roads).

After a week at the helm of Honda’s new hatchback, we came away impressed by the car’s dynamic abilities and impressive build quality.

However, in keeping the price of entry low, Honda has kept some modern amenities off the VTi-S’ spec sheet, spoiling what is otherwise a very appealing vehicle.

INTERIOR

Quality: There are lots of hard plastic surfaces in the VTi-S’ overwhelmingly grey interior, and those of you who equate soft-touch surfacing with high quality will be disappointed.

However, while they might be unyielding, they’re also solid, finely-textured and visually appealing. (Think of it as being more “Tupperware” than “takeaway container”.)

The Civic’s switchgear also feels robust, and the build quality of the UK-assembled Civic hatch (the Civic sedan is built in Thailand) is extremely hard to fault. Even over some very rough roads, we heard not a single squeak from the cabin trim.

The doors also close with an impressively solid ‘thunk’. This is definitely a better-engineered vehicle than your typical Japanese or Korean hatchback.

Comfort: The front seats are spacious and comfortable, with cushions that are firm enough for long trips yet compliant enough to easily accommodate larger bods.

Controls fall easily to hand and the steering wheel adjusts for both rake and reach. Honda’s signature two-tiered instrument panel places the digital speedometer right in the driver’s line of sight, making it easier to keep an eye on your speed.

The back seats have enough room for two adults or three young kids. But foot-room is limited and the seat squab is flat and lacking in under-thigh support. Rear headroom is acceptable, but certainly not class-leading.

Equipment: The story isn’t quite so positive here.

Basic equipment includes power-windows, 16-inch alloys, remote central locking, a single-CD stereo, USB audio input, 3.5mm auxilliary input, iPod integration and a trip computer - but cruise control and Bluetooth telephony is missing.

Curiously, the VTi-S DOES have dual-zone climate control and heated wing mirrors, but we’d gladly give up both for the convenience of cruise control and Bluetooth.

Storage: In terms of load carrying, the Civic Hatch outperforms virtually every other small hatchback on the market.

Seats up, there’s 400 litres of space in the boot. Fold the 60/40 split rear seatbacks down, and you have a flat load area measuring 1130 litres.

Thanks to its Jazz-like “magic seats”, the Civic Hatch also has a neat party trick. The rear seat squab hinges up to create a tall, unobstructed space where outsize items like flatscreen televisions, bikes, tall pot plants and large dogs can fit.

It’s a feature we wish every car had.

ON THE ROAD

Driveability: The Civic Hatch’s single-cam 1.8 litre petrol inline four produces 104kW and 174Nm, which are reasonably healthy numbers for an engine of its size.

However, peak power is only available at 6500rpm and peak torque at 4300rpm. That means keeping the engine spinning hard becomes a necessity if you want to get anywhere quickly.

Hauling more than one passenger also blunts performance; you will notice it working harder on hills even with a small load on board.

With just 1268kg to move it’s not unbearably slow, but overtaking takes some planning and it’s important to manage your momentum when going up hills.

Keep the engine on the boil however, and the Civic is zippy-enough in most day-to-day driving situations.

And you’ll enjoy it: the six-speed manual transmission is a delight to use thanks to its clearly defined gate and silky-smooth throw, and the engine’s appetite for revs makes it quite fun to drive.

Refinement: The engine note isn’t particularly harsh or loud, but the need to work the engine hard means some may tire of the Civic’s buzzy exhaust noise.

At cruise however, the Civic Hatch is as quiet as a church. Tyre noise is muted, and the car’s slippery exterior greatly reduces wind rustle.

Suspension: The suspension layout isn’t terribly sophisticated, but the Civic’s MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension is nicely tuned.

There’s a slight firmness to the initial bump-response, but very lumpy pavement is ironed out easily and the little Civic proved itself to be quite capable around a twisting mountain road.

Steering is quick, accurate and light. The small-diameter urethane steering wheel also fits neatly in the driver’s palms, although the lack of a leather cover is a shame.

Unfortunately the electric power assistance is, like so many other systems, devoid of feedback.

Braking: Braking performance is good. The Civic’s brake pedal is responsive with very little dead travel, and stopping force from the front ventilated discs and solid rear discs is plentiful.

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: Five stars

Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability control and traction control are standard equipment on the Civic VTi-S. Occupants are protected by three-point seatbelts on each seat, plus front, front side and curtain airbags.

WARRANTY AND SERVICING

Warranty: Three years/100,000km with six years rust-perforation warranty.

Service costs: Servicing costs can vary; consult your local Honda dealer before purchase.

HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY

Hyundai i30 Active petrol ($20,990) - In terms of value, the new i30 is hard to beat. Not only is it two grand less than the Honda, but it’s packed with features that are unavailable on the base model Civic Hatch.

Standard equipment includes cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio integration, and a 5-inch touchscreen and rear parking sensors.

It’s less impressive than the Civic when out on the road, but in this segment ‘he with the most gadgets’ wins.(see i30 reviews)

Ford Focus Ambiente petrol ($21,990) - The Focus is a brilliantly sharp handler, and even though its 92kW 1.6 litre engine is well down on power compared to the others in this group, it feels plenty zippy.

Like the Honda, cruise control isn’t standard in the Focus Ambiente. Bluetooth is though, and the Ford’s build quality is every bit as good as the Civic Hatch’s. (see Focus reviews)

Mazda3 Neo ($20,330) - The Mazda3 is getting quite long in the tooth now, and it suffers from a dated interior and very cramped rear seat.

It’s a cracking drive though, and its 108kW 2.0 litre engine is a more relaxed performer than the highly-strung Honda’s engine. (see Mazda3 reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

The new Civic is a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. On one hand it’s a delight to drive, but on the other the lack of basic creature-comforts like cruise control is frustrating.

It’s relatively expensive too, but is that balanced by the Civic’s outstanding build quality and the extra utility offered by those rear seats?

The up-spec VTi-L has a more well-rounded spec sheet, but that car is available in automatic guise only and takes the price tag back up to $29,990 (where the previous model sat).

We think Honda needs to rejig the VTi-S spec-sheet to include items that car buyers value highly (like Bluetooth), and ditch things that won’t be missed (like heated wing-mirrors). Until that happens, the Honda Civic Hatch VTi-S is average value, not exceptional.

However, if you place a high value on build quality, versatility and handling, you will find the Civic Hatch is right up your alley.

Pricing

  • 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)

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Filed under: Featured, review, Honda, petrol, Civic, honda civic, 2012, Manual, fwd, small, honda civic hatch, civic hatch, family, Advice, special-featured, 4cyl, 5door, 6m, 5seat, available, 20-25k

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  • Tro says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    I have checked out the new civic hatch and I agree with TMR in that the build quality and finish in this UK built car is excellent.

    However $24990 driveaway w/o bluetooth standard which I personally consider is a great safety feature because lets face it we all love to pick up and make urgent calls on the road would be a deal breaker for many buyers.
  • Yetiman says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    I'm waiting for the turbo diesel version. Love the Honda magic seat.
  • Roger says,
    2 years ago
    Should note that the 125kw 2.0L Focus Trend is a Ford advertised $22490 drive away.
  • MEGB says,
    2 years ago
    OH no! My current contract on a Honda Accord 2010 is about to expiry and was waiting for this review, I am so surprise the Civic doesn;t come with bluetooth nor cruise control. Now I rather get the Euro for $29990 on special with all the gadgets included.
  • John says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    We bought the VTi•S. We've taken it on both mountain-pass and freeway drives. It behaves really well through steep curving roads and long passing straights. Fuel economy is great, even though it's minimum is 95unleaded. The heated mirrors are useful to us as we live in a town with frost in the mornings. Cruise control on a 6 speed manual seems unnecessary to me. Very happy.
  • Trevor says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Just took delivery of the VTIS manual. Very well built and quality car. Lacks power but could still be a bit tight yet? Smooth, easy no fuss motoring for value. Cruise control and Bluetooth omission not an issue for us. We liked this over all the other similarly priced hatches because it's a Honda with reliability and good resale and not every Tom , *** and Harry is driving one. Buy one, you won't be diss appointed
  • Chez says,
    2 years ago
    Test drive yesterday civic hatchwith price tag $21450 on the road. it is beautiful and excellent looking car. very big disapointed that (no bluetooth and no Cruise control) this 2 gadgets is a must in every modern to day's car on my opinion.
    • Hajo says,
      2 years ago
      2 likes
      This car is a "No-Brainer". For a Japanese engineered and European build car it looks good, is versatile,solidly built and has goods resale value. Bluetooth should not be a problem as it available as a dealer fitted option and most dealers realise that they won't sell many without Bluetooth fitted. I just bought a 2012 VTi-S automatic demonstrator (less than 1000km) with dealer fitted Bluetooth, extended 5 year 140,000km warranty and metallic paint. At $23200 driveaway it was simply too good to miss.
      Note: purchase at the end of the month and especially end November - end December and again end May - end June when the dealers are getting under pressure to make their half / full yearly sales budgets
      • michelle says,
        2 years ago
        Hi,

        I just bought the vti-s in auto and am concerned that on the highway it feels as if there is not enough power, I am worried that if I went to overtake a truck going up a hill that I would get halfe way and run out of power. Hopefully this is just because I am used to driving an automatic? Was also thinking that if I was in an overtaking situation as described I could use the paddle shift for more power? (I have not worked out how to use these yet). Also does anyone know if I have to take it easy on my Honda to "break it in gently" as it is new?
        • michelle says,
          2 years ago
          1 like
          Sorry - am suffering loss of sleep due to worrying about this car - I am used to driving a manual not an outomatic!
  • Seb says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    Just purchased an auto 2013 vti-s - all 2013 vti-s models come with blue tooth, cruise con, reverse camera, and aero fin/strips on rear quarter panels.

    Blitzed and negotiated hard, and got it for 23000 drive away price for polished grey (gun metal) with accessories (e.g. carpet), which I think is an absolute bargain for what it is.

    The gist of the story is - negotiate hard (esp. near end of month) and do not get a new 2012 vti-s, unless it is significantly cheaper than the above price.
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