THE REVITALISED 2016 HONDA CIVIC WINDS THE CLOCK BACK; THIS CAR RESTORES 'CHARACTER' AND 'QUALITY' TO THE CIVIC BADGE, AND EVEN, DARE WE SAY IT, 'DESIRABILITY'.
Until the last two generations, Honda’s Civic was appealing, dynamic, and just a little better than its opposition. Then things went haywire, it was post-GFC cost-cutting that did it, and Honda dropped the ball.
Let's face it, the last two Civics - noisy, dull and uninspiring - haven't been anything to write home to Mum about.
But now the Honda Civic is back. In this one we're testing, the high-spec VTi-LX, you'll find luxury and safety in abundance. It's no sports sedan, but you will also find a sense of dynamism and balance that breathes some soul back into the Civic badge.
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $33,590 (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
Of the five models that make up the 2016 Honda Civic sedan range, the VTi-LX is the flagship. It comes tricked out with a full suite of high-end features like dual-zone climate control, leather trim, powered driver’s seat and keyless start (among others).
It is also the sole model in the range to feature Honda Sensing, Honda’s advanced safety suite that includes autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control with a low speed traffic-following function.
An impressive list of safety credentials, but while the revitalised Civic is the best it's been in over a decade, is Honda’s rush to bring advanced safety to the mass market a good thing? In theory, yes, but in practice some of the Honda Sensing features left us a little unconvinced.
- Standard Equipment: Leather seat trim, heated front seats, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition, auto lights and wipers, power-folding mirrors, rear privacy glass, steering wheel paddle shifters LED head and fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, electric sunroof
- Infotainment: 7.0 inch touchscreen infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB/HDMI input, eight-speakers, DAB digital radio, 10-speakers incl subwoofer
- Cargo Volume: 519 litres with 60:40 split fold rear seats
As "one with the lot", the new Civic VTi-LX sedan comes with just about everything you could hope for in a small car.
Seats trimmed in leather, heated up front, and powered for the driver - dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, steering wheel paddles for the CVT automatic, rear privacy glass and a powered sunroof.
The entire Civic range also boasts the latest version of Honda’s touchscreen infotainment; it’s now less laggy than before and can do a lot more (like offering customisable widgets, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity).
The VTi-LX also picks up satellite navigation as standard (the only Civic model to do so) and a 10-speaker audio system including subwoofer.
There’s also more space inside the Civic than in most other small cars. It feels particularly generous up front, but be prepared, the seating position is low and sporty which, as other cars get ever more lofty, can take some getting used to.
The rear seat is almost limo-like. You want legroom? You got it, heaps of it, and despite the sweeping roofline there’s still enough headroom in the back for all but the very tall. There’s no face-level ventilation in the rear though.
The quality step-up over the previous Civic is immediately noticeable; the plastics used throughout the cabin are much nicer than before, and the horizontally layered dash design gives things an upscale ambience.
In the cabin there’s plenty of storage, with space beneath the centre stack, a deep bin ahead of the gear shifter, a huge centre console area that hides a pair of cup holders, and generous door pockets front and rear.
Similarly, the 519 litre boot is massive for the small car class, and the folding rear seats feature release levers inside the boot for ease of access. That said, the loading lip is a little high and the bootlid itself is quite short, restricting access slightly.
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: Variable ratio electric power steering, turning circle: 10.7m
- Towing Capacity: 800kg braked, 500kg unbraked
As the range-topper of the Civic line-up (at least until the fire-breathing Civic Type R arrives next year), the VTi-LX is powered by Honda’s 1.5 litre turbocharged Earth Dreams four-cylinder engine - the stronger of the two available Civic engines.
With 127kW of power and 220Nm of torque, the small turbo goes toe-to-toe with similar small cars in its class, without going so far as to be considered sporty in the warm hatch sense.
Nonetheless, the little engine is a willing worker in the Civic. It's paired with a constantly variable transmission (CVT automatic) for super-smooth acceleration, and feels right at home in bustling city traffic.
Ride comfort is on the money too, with a comfy suspension tune that strikes a ‘just right’ balance between tidy handling and bump-absorption.
While "brisk-enough" rather than "urgent" on road, and with the fundamentals in place to feel something of a driver's car, the VTi-LX adds a bunch of safety technology to assist the experience at the wheel.
Labelled as Honda Sensing, the Civic VTi-LX comes bundled with collision brake warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and low-speed follow.
We're not so convinced however that the latter two on that list - the adaptive cruise control and 'low-speed follow' - are calibrated correctly. (Adaptive cruise control is designed to maintain a safe distance from a slower vehicle in front with the cruise control set, while low speed follow aims to do a similar thing, but at lower traffic speeds.)
The systems aren’t new, plenty of other manufacturers include something similar, although the technology is usually reserved for premium models.
In the Civic VTi-LX, however, both systems are jerky in their operation. Instead of gently feathering the throttle in heavy traffic, 'low speed follow' will punch the accelerator then the brake in quick succession, as it attempts to hold a steady gap.
Likewise, adaptive cruise control - rather than coasting down to a lower speed when approaching a slower vehicle - will wait until the car is close, then jab the brakes to maintain a safe distance.
Both systems lack the operational finesse that you might find in a more premium vehicle, and while we don’t expect the much-cheaper Civic to have the sophistication of cars costing up to twice as much, the technology needs a rejig here.
ANCAP Rating: The new Civic has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety Features: All models in the new Civic range come 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.
As the range-topper the VTi-LX also includes front and rear parking sensors, and lane watch camera, plus 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.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: Honda Tailored Service capped price program sees each 10,000km service interval priced at $281 (except 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
The Mazda3 SP25 Astina throws in plenty of safety and luxury items, and feels great on the road. Same goes for the Ford Focus Titanium sedan, there’s a lot of technology as standard, including self-parking, and a capable turbocharged engine.
If aftermarket care is of greater concern, the longer warranty of both the Hyundai Elantra and Kia Cerato (five years and seven years respectively) will put your mind at ease. Although neither is quite as comprehensively equipped as the Civic, both are slightly cheaper at the top-end.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The new Civic is a quantum leap from the model it replaces, and shows a real return to form. The attention to detail and quality interior will have a familiar and welcome feel to anyone who may have owned an older Honda.
It’s also a big small car now, so its functionality as a family car is greatly boosted as a result - just check out that huge boot and sprawling rear legroom for proof.
But, while Honda has done so much right with the Civic overall, the extra safety kit isn’t as convincing on the road as it is in a brochure. While we don’t doubt the credentials of the technology, we worry that it may not get used thanks to its intrusive operation.
That said, you'll enjoy this Honda. In fact, while it doesn't come as standard with Honda Sensing, the cheaper, but very well equipped Civic RS might be a better option.
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