IN A MARKET WHERE $19,990 DRIVEAWAY SPECIALS CAN TOP SMALL CAR SALES, HONDA HAS SHIED AWAY FROM BARGAIN BASEMENT PRICING FOR ITS 2016 CIVIC VTi.
Instead of simply being cheap, the Honda Civic goes for a ‘good value’ position. At $23,390 before on-road costs, it offers plenty of features to offset that price including automatic transmission and reversing camera.
The Civic VTi gets by with a carry-over engine from the last generation car, but is larger and fresher inside and feels quite a bit apart from the previous model.
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $22,390 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 104kW/174Nm 1.8-litre 4cyl petrol | CVT automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.4 l/100km | Tested: 8.2 l/100km
In previous reviews of the 2016 Honda Civic, TMR has been charmed by Honda’s return to form. This car, innovative and with a premium feel, harkens to the Japanese brand's glory days.
But the Civic VTi tested here differs significantly from the 1.5 litre turbocharged Civic RS. The naturally aspirated 1.8 litre engine under the VTi's bonnet - which comes from the previous model with only minor modifications - is not as engaging and lacks the turbo 'zing' of the 1.5 litre.
As a result power and torque are down and fuel consumption is higher, but packaging remains the same, as does handling, not to mention a strong level of equipment.
So, does the new entry-level Civic deliver the same quality feel and on-road manners? And how does it stack up in the cut-throat and often bargain-priced bear-pit of Australia’s small car market?
- Standard Equipment: 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
- Infotainment: 7.0 inch touchscreen infotainment, AM/FM radio, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB/HDMI input, eight-speakers
- Cargo Volume: 519 litres with 60:40 split fold rear seats
Being that the VTi is the entry model to the Civic range, it lacks some of the glamour features of more expensive models (as you would expect).
Ahead of the driver there’s a urethane steering wheel, the seats are covered in cloth but the door trims are pure plastic top-to-bottom, and you still need to insert a key into the ignition. But, really, that’s the worst of it.
Even as a base model, the Civic VTI includes single-zone climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring, a TFT instrument cluster, capacitive-touch steering wheel controls, and a reversing camera. Not a bad list there.
And that’s to say nothing of the fact that interior quality is exactly as you’ll find in the more expensive versions, with a design, fit, finish, and quality that’s truly impressive.
It’s also spectacularly roomy for a small car; there’s plenty of legroom front and rear, and enough width to accommodate three across the rear bench without sparking a tussle for shoulder space.
The seating position is set lower than most other cars, and, with crossover SUVs now filtering into the small car segment, the Civic might feel a little too low and racey for some. Particularly anyone graduating from a more upright trade-in.
The low-set seating and long doors (and windows) certainly add to the airy feel inside, and Honda has made good use of the cabin space. There is a hideaway pocket for mobile devices under the centre stack, with pass-throughs for the cables required to run CarPlay and Android Auto.
The centre console is long and opens up to take all manner of carry-on items. Each door has a door pocket with bottle storage and the boot can handle a whopping 519 litres of luggage.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 104kW/174Nm 1.8 litre naturally aspirated 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, 10.7m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 800kg braked, 500kg unbraked
Motivation for the Civic VTi (and mid-grade VTi-S) - that carryover 1.8 litre - is not a strong point.
Unlike the headline-act 1.5 litre turbo engine in higher-grade Civics, the base engine does without turbocharging, and produces a relatively modest 104kW at 6500rpm and 174Nm at 4300rpm.
Honda has however replaced the former model's five-speed automatic with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). This change is ostensibly to boost fuel efficiency, but the CVT also happens to make the low-output engine feel more alert to driver demands.
Overall, the package works harmoniously but it goes without saying the the turbo engine provides more urge off the line and for overtaking.
That noted, the 1.8 litre motor doesn’t feel burdened or sluggish when zipping about town, especially with only one or two people on board.
Ride quality is spot-on for urban work, able to iron out surface imperfections, keeping occupants settled and comfortable.
Steering effort is minimal too, however there’s enough balance in the ride and handling to make the Civic feel reasonably connected, and not lacking in driver involvement.
But, make no mistake, this Civic has been designed as sensible transit for the masses. It’s quiet, capable and an enjoyable drive - an ideal carriage for ducking down to the shops, dropping the kids to school or the urban cummute.
Overall, road, engine and wind noice are low, even at freeway speeds (although coarser surfaces can expose some tyre noise). There's still a bit of trademark CVT drone if you step on the throttle, but the transmission is responsive and manages to keep the right ratio underfoot.
It's no 'sports sedan', but settled when driving and brisk enough when overtaking or joining fast moving traffic.
ANCAP Rating: The Civic sedan has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: Standard safety features include dual front airbags, front seat side airbags, and curtain airbags, 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.
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 $284 (expect 80,000km at $312) 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
Mazda has refreshed the Mazda3 range, and included standard autonomous braking across the range as well as a more lively 2.0 litre engine and optional six-speed auto in the entry level Neo.
The Toyota Corolla sedan holds a size advantage compared to its hatch equivalent, with plenty of interior space, but can't escape that 'fleet-car' feeling. The Hyundai Elantra, on the other hand, provides a look and feel both inside and out that pushes it into a more premium league, without straying too far on price.
Volkswagen does its very best with the Jetta to match the Civic’s value proposition, though you do have to pay more for an automatic. The engine is strong, the handling is engaging, and the Jetta's cabin is pretty classy.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With generous interior accommodation and high quality materials and surfaces most places you look, the Civic VTi makes sense for young families.
It is certainly better-than-basic value buying as a second car, and is large enough for family carriage duties.
Impressive interior technologies - that haven't been stripped out for the sake of cost-cutting - also make the Civic a solid choice as a family car, or one for empty nesters, with plenty of comfort and features.
Although the drivetrain isn’t as impressive on a technical level as the turbocharged engines available higher up in the Civic range, and the price isn’t as low as the cut-throat deals available on some other small cars, the Civic VTi nevertheless appears a decent value proposition.
The quality and solidity of its build drives that feeling home, but the reassuring in-cabin technology and better than average driving feel (while not scintillating), make the Civic VTi a safe and solid purchase.
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