THE 2016 HONDA CIVIC ARRIVES IN AUSTRALIA AS A CLEAN-SHEET DESIGN, READY TO SURPRISE AND DELIGHT BUYERS WHERE ITS PREDECESSOR MERELY UNDERWHELMED.
The new Civic features a bolder new design, with strongly sculpted styling and a flowing coupe-like roofline, while inside there’s new technology with some surprising standout features across the range.
A larger and more comfortable interior, improved visibility, and a high-spec turbo engine also join the list of ‘new or improved’ features, transforming the Civic from ho-hum to humdinger in the process.
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $22,390 - $33,590 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 104kW/174Nm 1.8 4cyl petrol, 127kW/205Nm 1.5 4cyl turbo petrol | CVT automatic
Fuel Economy, Claimed: 6.4 l/100km (1.8) 6.0 l/100km (1.5 Turbo)
Honda Australia has even been involved in the new Civic’s development from the outset, and Australia is set to become the largest export market for the Civic, sourced from Honda’s new Prachinburi, Thailand factory.
To begin with, the Civic range will arrive as a four-door sedan with two petrol engines and five model grades. A five-door hatch is on the way, but won’t arrive until early 2017, when it does it will offer the same five model structure.
The Civic is now lower, wider, and longer than before, and the change is noticeable both inside and out. The interior has a new high-quality focus and technology has been significantly boosted.
Honda’s own staff admit that the outgoing ninth-generation model simply didn’t deliver what it needed to in the segment (and gave us an old versus new drive to prove it).
The new 2016 Civic is a whole new ballgame and looks set to get buyers interested again.
- VTi: Single-zone climate control, cloth seat trim, cruise control with speed limiter, LCD instrument panel, multi-function trip computer, capacitive-touch steering wheel controls, tilt/reach adjustable steering column, powered adjustable mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED tail lights
- VTi-S: (in addition to VTi) proximity key with push-button start and walk away lock, leather wrapped steering wheel, front fog lights, mirror-mounted LED indicators, 16-inch alloy wheels
- VTi-L: (in addition to VTi-S)Dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, power-folding mirrors, rear privacy glass, steering wheel paddle shifters, Auto up/down power windows on all doors
- RS: (in addition to VTi-L) partial leather seat trim, heated front seats, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, alloy sports pedals, LED head and fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, electric sunroof
- VTi-LX: (in addition to RS) Satellite navigation, auto dimming rear view mirror
- Infotainment: 7.0 inch touchscreen infotainment, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB/HDMI input, eight-speakers, DAB digital radio (VTi-L and above), 10-speakers incl subwoofer (RS and VTI-LX)
- Cargo volume: 519 litres with 60:40 split fold rear seats
Honda is not afraid to democratise technology, meaning that every Civic in the range features a 7.0 inch color touchscreen including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an LCD instrument cluster, electric park brake, and cruise control with speed limiter.
Move up to the VTi-S, and keyless entry and start (with automatic walk-away locking) plus Honda’s clever lane-watch camera join the list.
The VTi-L throws in auto headlights and windscreen wipers, DAB digital radio, rear privacy glass, larger 17-inch alloy wheels, power folding mirrors, auto up and down on all for power windows, and more - and still comes in at less than $30,000 (check out price and features here).
The interior of the new Civic feels like a grand ballroom on wheels. Although still officially a small car, the interior has grown immensely, particularly rear seat space.
Honda boasts that a pair of six-footers can sit behind each other with room to spare, and they aren’t wrong. Boot space gets boosted to 519 litres, making it the largest in its class.
Seat comfort is on the mark, and there’s more adjustability than before. The front seats are mounted low in the chassis and promote a sporty driving posture, however the additional seat tilt adjustment of the powered driver’s seat in the RS and VTi-LX is the comfort winner.
The A-pillars are a point of pride within Honda, now slimmer than before and angled to be less intrusive, the visibility out the front of the car is impressive. In fact even the sweeping C-Pillar isn’t hard to see past, thanks to the small rear quarter windows.
Material quality has been boosted over the previous Civic. There are more soft touch surfaces, better-grained and higher quality plastics and a more accurate fit and finish. Some may lament the passing of Honda’s velour-like trim in VTi and VTi-S though, replaced with a more basic cloth.
Honda’s new Advanced Display Audio interface is featured across the range, with a 7.0-inch touchscreen and a snappy new Android-based operating system that replaces the laggy Windows-based OS used in cars like the Jazz and HR-V.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, and the interface itself can be customised with relocatable touch-buttons, user-selectable widgets, and an Android-like skin - in case you don’t like the look of the standard interface.
The steering wheel controls now operate more functions than before and feature capacitive-touch surfaces on some controls, to simplify operation and minimise user distraction.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 104kW/174Nm 1.8 litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol (VTi, VTi-S), 127kW/220Nm 1.5 litre turbo four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: CVT automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes
- Steering: dual-pinion variable ratio electric power steering, turning circle: 10.7m
- Towing capacity: 800kg braked, 500kg unbraked
The 1.8 litre engine in the VTi and VTi-S is a carry over from the previous model, producing 104kW at 6500rpm and the same 174Nm of torque at 4300rpm as before.
The previous option of five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission has been ditched, with a new standard CVT automatic taking their place (and in case you were wondering, there's no manual variant available out of the Thai factory).
And even though it’s not a flash new powertrain, the 1.8 litre naturally aspirated engine works just fine, while Honda’s CVT is clever enough to drive smoothly and serenely in most situations, without the usual CVT droning.
Trundling about town suits the Civic best, but even out on the open road the Civic 1.8 provides plenty of confidence - we’d maybe just ask for a little more overtaking punch.
The star of the range though is Honda’s new Earth Dreams 1.5 litre turbocharged four-cylinder - it’s not a high-performance turbo, but instead it provides more useable power and torque, while promising boosted fuel efficiency.
There’s a more useful 127kW of power at 5500rpm, and 220Nm of torque, at the same very high 5500rpm, however the bulk of that torque arrives much, much earlier.
The end result is a Civic that moves along more tidily, feels more agile, and delivers that extra torque surge for overtaking when you need it. Make no mistake though, this isn’t a performance car, just a better all-rounder.
On our introduction drive, there were a few occasions where the turbo CVT seemed to take too long to kickdown. Even on a steady cruise the tacho seemed to bob around a lot as the CVT altered ratios to cope, not that you could hear the difference from inside the cabin.
Just like the 1.8 litre engine, the 1.5 turbo doesn’t offer a manual, but for most buyers we can’t see that being a problem.
There are steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters on turbo cars if you’d like to flick through set gears in the CVT, but they’re more of a novelty and not really suited to enthusiastic drivers.
Wind noise is superbly managed and engine noise was absolutely minimal in both engines - Honda has extensively sealed the body with extra rubber sound-blockers used throughout the car to make the ride as quiet as possible.
There’s a few different tyre selections used across the range, and we found that the level of road noise varied considerably between the available Hankook, Dunlop, and Bridgestone rubber options, so it’s hard to give a definitive assessment of what to expect.
Given a belt over a winding stip of road, the new Civic revealed itself to be quite a confident handler, shrugging off mid-corner bumps and potholes with ease, but still tucking the nose into corners eagerly.
The steering reacts quickly to inputs, with a consistent on-road weighting, but a light and easy to use feel around town. The range also features Straight Driving Assist, a condition-based system which helps maintain a straight course based on driver inputs to help counter the effects of road camber.
ANCAP rating: The new Civic has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety features: All Civic models arrive with six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), stability control and traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, front seatbelt pretensioners, a rear view camera, and tyre pressure monitoring.
The VTi-S and above also come with front and rear parking sensors, and lane watch camera, while the VTi-LX includes Honda Sensing with forward collision brake warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and low-speed follow.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Honda claims to have benchmarked the new Civic against Euro competitors like the Audi A3, but its true competitors are a little more down to earth, including the smart new Hyundai Elantra and the serene Volkswagen Jetta.
The Mazda3 SP25 range lines up well against the turbocharged Civic models with their higher spec and zesty engines, as does the Ford Focus, although its two-model sedan range is quite a bit more limited.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Honda’s goal with the new Civic is to lure younger buyers back into its showrooms, and it hopes that the sporty looking RS in particular will put the brand on the radar of buyers who may not have considered a Honda before.
After our introduction to the new Civic, we’d have to agree. The dowdy cost-cutting predecessor is now nothing but a bad memory, and in its place the new model has the kind of styling, technology and interior quality to go head-to-head with the new breed of high-feature small cars.
While this model alone may not be enough to elicit the kind of fervent brand loyalty Honda enjoyed at its peak in the 1990s, it’s an encouraging step in the right direction and shows that Japanese automakers haven't lost the battle against Korea’s best efforts just yet.