THOUGH YOU MAY BE LURED BY THE 2016 HONDA CIVIC'S EVOCATIVE RS BADGE, BE ADVISED, THIS IS NO PERFORMANCE HERO.
In fact, the Civic RS is really just a regular Civic sedan in activewear: same mechanical package dressed up with sporty styling.
But is that a problem? Well, not really. Honda enthusiasts may want more, but for most buyers the RS is a perfectly respectable compromise.
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $ 31,790 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 127kW/220Nm 1.5 4cyl turbo petrol | CVT automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.0 l/100km | Tested: 7.9 l/100km
With five variants, the 2016 Honda Civic sedan range offers something for everyone… almost.
Hatch buyers have to wait until early 2017, and, if you’re after a manual there simply isn’t one: a CVT automatic is the sole transmission choice.
In the case of the Civic RS, Honda has equipped it with its slightly more powerful 1.5 litre turbo four-cylinder engine (also found in the Civic VTi-L and VTi-LX)..
However, despite the RS badging, the Civic RS isn’t about performance. The 1.5 litre turbo is zesty enough, but the rear spoiler and blacked out grille are there to inject some personality into what is an already very good small car.
- Standard equipment: Leather seat trim, heated front seats, powered driver’s seat, proximity key with push-button start and walk away lock, dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, power-folding mirrors, rear privacy glass, steering wheel paddle shifters, alloy sports pedals, LED head and fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, electric sunroof
- Infotainment: 7.0 inch touchscreen infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB/HDMI input, DAB digital radio, 10-speakers incl subwoofer
- Cargo volume: 519 litres expandable via 60:40 split fold rear seat
Though it may be categorised as a small car for sales reporting purposes, the new Civic has grown to the point where it rivals the first generation Accord Euro medium sedan for exterior size.
It has that same car soundly beaten for space on the inside too. The interior is really roomy, offering lots of legroom for front and rear passengers, and, even with the the sweeping roofline, most back-seat passengers won’t have any problems with headroom.
From the driver’s seat the driving position feels low and sporty, very low actually, which can take a while to adjust to, but certainly isn’t uncomfortable in any way.
Solid ergonomic-focussed design means that everything falls to easy reach, there’s a stack of buttons on the steering wheel (meaning reduced need to loosen your grip), and the instrument cluster screen is capable of displaying just about any info you wish to call up.
The RS also comes very highly specified with just about everything you could want: dual-zone climate control, rear privacy glass, LED headlights, a powered sunroof, leather trim, heated front seats and electric driver’s seat adjustment.
The entire Civic range features a 7.0-inch touchscreen, but - oddly - the RS misses out on satellite navigation (you need to step up to the top-spec VTi-LX for that) although it counters by providing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring instead.
Anyone familiar with the previous generation Civic will recognise the massive leap in design and materials quality of this new model, helping restore Honda’s 1980s and 90s ‘high-quality’ reputation; something which has taken a beating more recently.
As with the rest of the car, boot space is impressively vast, with a segment-best 519 litres of capacity. Around the cabin deep front and rear door pockets, upper and lower centre stack shelving, and a semi-covered centre console with configurable cup holders mean no carry-on item goes unstowed.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 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 2016 Civic range comes with two engines, depending on the model chosen. In the case of the Civic RS, you’ll find the more powerful 1.5 litre turbocharged four-cylinder.
Output is rated at 127kW of power at 5500rpm with 220Nm of torque, also at 5500rpm (though the bulk of that torque comes on stream much, much earlier).
The engine itself isn’t a performance engine, not even close. It’s tuned towards efficiency first and foremost, but also lifts driveability compared to the flat-feeling 1.8 litre non-turbo engine of the base model Civic.
And, despite the sporty RS badges, there’s no difference in engine or suspension tune (compared to other 1.5 litre turbo-equipped variants), and not even the option of a manual transmission.
The standard CVT automatic works quite nicely for city commutes, giving the Civic a silky smooth on-road feel.
Lift the pace a little though and the transmission exhibits the kind of ‘stretchy’ feel - where throttle inputs are poorly matched by transmission reactions - that has earned CVT autos their unenthused reception from some buyers.
The flaring of the engine revs can become tedious when driven enthusiastically, or even when pushing in traffic.
You can select sport mode, although it really seems to lift revs and not do much else, or there’s a manual mode, which mimics the steps of a regular transmission and does actually work pretty well.
The upside of the Civic RS is an urban street-friendly suspension tune. Rather than tuned for performance, it is nicely compliant and free of stiffness or harsh juddering on poor surfaces.
Roll over catseyes, surface irregularities, potholes and corrugations all you like and the Civic will do all it can to blot them out, keeping the cabin smooth and quietle.
Conversely, if the road becomes twisty, the RS's handling is stable and secure - nothing to get hearts racing, but the right balance of grip and predictability.
The steering probably won’t excite either. But, handily, Honda includes something called Straight Driving assist, which helps dial out the ‘pulling’ effect road camber can have. You may not feel the system at work (can’t say I did) but that’s exactly how the technology should work - unobtrusively.
Honda also deserves a big pat on the back for getting the refinement levels so high. The engine is smooth and quiet, wind noise is barely there, and tyre noise only ever makes itself known on the worst coarse-surfaced bitumen.
ANCAP rating: The Civic sedan has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: The entire Civic range comes 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 RS also adds front and rear parking sensors, and lane watch camera, which activates with the left indicator to display a video feed of the near-side blind spot.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km, whichever occurs first.
Servicing: Honda Tailored Service capped price program sees each 10,000km service interval priced at $281 (expect 80,000km at $310) however the program sets separate pricing for items like spark plugs, fuel filter, air cleaner, brake fluid, and more, Check with your Honda dealer for full details as pricing may vary depending on vehicle operating conditions.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Because it’s better than just basic transport, the Civic RS draws comparisons with better specified versions of small sedans, like the recently updated Mazda3 SP25 range, or the Ford Focus.
There are also parallels between the strongly European Volkswagen Jetta and related Skoda Octavia, and although it hasn’t arrived yet, the Hyundai Elantra SR is sure to provide an interesting comparison.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The new Civic range is an emphatic return to the kind of interior feel and finish, as well as overall refinement, that Honda was synonymous with two decades ago. Small sedan buyers cannot help but be impressed by the new Civic.
Its unfortunate that the RS doesn’t deliver the kind of enthusiastic edge that its name implies. But, if you can look past that, the smartly styled and well-trimmed RS delivers high levels of equipment and the generous dimensions of a larger car.
Though it may not be thrilling, the Civic RS presents as a highly competent contender alongside its small sedan rivals. It pitches with a near-premium feel into the small car segment, but, in reality, feels a size larger.
That alone ought to get Civic back into the hearts and minds of discerning buyers.
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