HONDA’S FRESH, FIVEDOOR FORMULA
HATCHES outsell sedans by a big margin in the small car class. Little wonder then that Honda is happy — it has already defied trend by consistently selling almost 900 Civic month since the launch last year. Now a hatch to play with. Honda Australia head Stephen Collins predicts combined sales of up 1600 a month. The time Civic were that high was a decade ago. Even those numbers won’t challenge for overall class supremacy but Collins doesn’t see the volume as a criteria for success. “We focus on where we sit with private buyers because we don’t do much in the fleet and rental segments,” he says.
“Right now Civic is accounting for about 20 per cent of small sedan sales, just behind Mazda3.
“If the hatch follows that formula, we’ll be rapt.”
The should do well. It ticks convenience boxes with a modern-looking interior and Android/Apple mirroring through the seven-inch touchscreen available on all versions.
Disappointingly, though, driving aids its rivals are reserved for the most expensive variant, VTi-LX at $33,590.
Prices start considerably lower $22,390 VTi entry car. Its continuously variable transmission is matched to a naturally aspirated 1.8-litre engine.
A turbocharged 1.5-litre reserved for the higher grades. The 1.8 will do the job around town but 1.5 is one enthusiasts want.
Collins says company is still considering localised suspension tuning. He cites Holden, Kia and Hyundai as brands that have capitalised on being able to tout “local tuning” but says there would to be obvious advantages.
“If you look at Civic, for instance, the global R& D team has already set hatch up have a sportier ride than the sedan, so we’re catering that,” Collins says, conceding that few countries have road conditions as varied and challenging Australia.
He’s less concerned by the absence of a conventional automatic transmission.
“The CVT is inexpensive fuel efficient … most people don’t notice any difference over an auto,” Collins says, noting there isn’t a conventional auto in the Honda inventory to do job. That means even the bodykitted RS doesn’t get a transmission match its sporty pretensions.
ON THE ROAD
The Civic hatch faces ferocious competition. Think Mazda3, Hyundai i30, Toyota Corolla … you get the picture.
All have unique selling points — Mazda has active driving aids on all versions, the i30 has a five-year warranty and the Corolla is longestselling nameplate in game with reputation for being allbut indestructible.
This tenth generation of the Civic and Honda has thankfully rediscovered the joy
driving after losing its way with previous versions. So a multi-link rear suspension is standard there’s renewed emphasis on driver engagement.
You feel it the second you sit in car, because Honda has made a concerted effort to lower driving position in the Civic for more connected feel. The only issue now is noise.
CVT sounds louder hatch than the sedan and isn’t
sportiest noise ever emitted from a drivetrain.
This in part contradicts the hatch’s overall approach: sedan is the rational buy; hatch emotive one. Honda understands this, which explains sportier steering and suspension tune in the fivedoor, with a focus on cornering over compliance.
The result is more planted car than its stablemate without losing too much composure
pockmarked urban roads … but it never sounds particularly engaging.
There is also the lack of engine braking with a CVT — it just doesn’t contribute to
slowing the car the way an automatic does. Drivers will quickly adapt to noise and reduced retardation. Sporty though RS is, it needs more than a body kit stand out from the other variants with 1.5-litre turbo.
It has boy racer looks but Honda could create genuine warm hatch by upping performance midway between a regular Civic and the
Type R that just set a front-drive Nurburgring record.
Steering feel isn’t best in class but the responds quickly to changes steering angle and is fun flick through a series of bends. Forward vision fantastic there’s not much see out the back window. Thankfully a reversing camera standard across range and all but the VTi pick up parking sensors too.
Cabin build quality and presentation is good without being exceptional: Honda has a long history of being conservative in its interior design VERDICT Honda has hatched a solid, economical challenger to the established small car leaders.
It’s shame company now has to claw back territory it once owned when the Civic was the small car buy if you didn’t want a Corolla.
This model will help its return to that status.