Vehicle Type: Small hatchback
Engine: 1.8 litre naturally-aspirated petrol inline four
Power/Torque: 104kW/174Nm | Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel economy claimed: 6.1 l/100km
After testing the new Civic hatch in August this year, I was pretty sure it would prove to be one of "the better ones" for the year.
Why? Inside and out it, for individual style and finish, and for the nifty features that improve day-to-day liveability, there is an air of quality about the Civic that is uncommon in a sub-$25k small car. It’s also a pretty decent drive.
• MORE: See Tony's August review of the Civic Hatch.
An opportune time then to revisit the Civic and put it through the wringer. Except this time for a period much longer than the usual seven-day loan. How well - with these new entries to the segment - will it now stack up?
We’ve elected to test the entry point to the Civic hatch range, the manual VTi-S.
Coming in with a retail price of $22,650, the Honda is already off to a bad start.
The newly-arrived Corolla starts at less than $20,000, and i30 and Ford Focus both retail for under $21,000.
So, the Civic is trounced for value-for-money. That can’t be good.
Or can it? Is it worth paying a little extra for something with a more upmarket feel?
The growing legions of Volkswagen Golf buyers would appear to be chanting “yes” - and in the case of the Honda, that’s exactly what we aim to find out over the next three months.
Long-term Review - Part One
Initial impressions are good. After grabbing the keys at Honda HQ, we notice immediately that the Civic’s doors close with a satisfying ‘thunk’, the gear lever slips smoothly and precisely into first and the rev-happy 1.8-litre provides adequate thrust when we hit the motorway for home.
But right then we started to remember the negatives. There’s no cruise control on the entry-level VTi-S, nor is there Bluetooth - both of which are sorely missed for highway driving.
But there is nothing wrong with the way things work. The six-speed manual has a good spread of ratios and the engine is a willing unit; just right for day-to-day driving, but it's no hot-hatch.
Honda's signature two-tiered instrument panel is also clear and highly legible with the digital speedo sitting at the top of the dash, right in the driver's line-of-sight.
The shallowly-raked A-pillars can impede vision around long sweeping corners though, and rear vision is compromised by the tail-light strip that bisects the hatchback glass.
And that was day one - mostly good, but some negatives.
Will our experience of the Civic hatch be sweet or sour? Will three months behind the wheel allow the Honda’s positive attributes to shine through, or will familiarity breed dissatisfaction?
Stay tuned over the next twelve weeks. We’ll find out whether Honda’s high-priced hatch is worth the expense, or if proves its worth as a leader of the pack, or is just another runner.