HONDA CIVIC VTI-S
Small-car staple models play leap-frog in styling and tech terms. Richard Blackburn is the judge
A $400 advantage over the Mazda but doesn’t get integrated satnav or the Maxx’s driver assistance systems. It will mirror your smartphone menu on the centre screen. Other comforts include digital radio, front and rear parking sensors, push-button start and reversing camera. Servicing is $1193 over three years, with intervals at 10,000km. Warranty is average at three years/100,000km.
Modern looking instrument panel and touchscreen integrated into the dash make the Mazda look dated and underdone. The displays are clear and precise and the digital speedo is handy. At night, the Honda lights up like a space ship. The cabin is more spacious, with better legroom, more rear shoulder-room, bigger boot and ample storage space. Add quality materials and classy finishes.
The 1.8-litre four-cylinder is adequate rather than inspiring. It’s slightly thirstier than the Mazda, using a claimed 6.4L/100km compared to the Mazda’s 5.7L despite being down on power (104kW to 114kW) and torque (174Nm to 200Nm). Put that down to the Mazda killing the engine at the lights; the Honda doesn’t. The continuously variable transmission makes the most of the modest power, though, keeping the engine in its sweet spot — if a tad noisily.
Apart from the reversing camera, six airbags and the “LaneWatch” blind spot camera (which monitors only the passenger side of the car), it’s light-on for driver assistance gadgets. It has seat belt reminders for all five seats. Hasn’t been crash-tested yet but the previous model scored five stars.
Comfortable and competent on the road. The steering is a highlight; it feels sharp, well-weighted and accurate. The car also soaks up road imperfections better than most small cars, although it can feel a little floaty over bigger bumps. It lacks Mazda’s sporty feel but corners with confidence and is above average for the class.