HONDA CIVIC VTI-S
More expensive than the Holden but Honda has a special deal available that includes extended five-year/140,000km warranty, five years’ roadside assistance and $500 worth of accessories. Equipment levels are modest, though. There are no auto wipers or headlights but you do get front and rear parking sensors, push-button start/keyless entry and an adjustable speed limit alarm. Servicing is due every 10,000km or 12 months and costs $1235 for the first four services.
The heavily sculpted flanks and edgy styling are polarising but the cabin feels modern and luxurious for this segment, with high-tech instrument readouts and quality materials. It’s big for a small car as well, with ample leg and headroom in the rear and a cavernous 512-litre boot that gives good access to the rear seat for longer items.
The VTi-S makes do with a breathless four-cylinder that has to work hard to provide any meaningful acceleration. Power output is comparable to the Holden at 104kW but torque is well down at 174Nm to the Astra’s 240Nm. Peak torque and power both kick in high in the rev range and the continuously variable transmission makes a bit of noise while trying to wring the most out of the engine. There’s no stop-start for saving fuel in traffic and official consumption is 6.4 litres per 100km.
The Civic sedan hasn’t been crash tested in Europe or Australia, although the 2012 hatchback scored five stars. Disappointingly, automatic emergency braking is only available on the more expensive models, along with other driver assist technology. There is a lane watching device for the passenger side only. Six airbags and reversing camera are standard.
The Civic is a comfortable highway cruiser, with the refinement and comfort of a larger car. Around town it soaks up bumps and potholes with little fuss. Drive it more enthusiastically and it responds to the challenge. It’s no sports car but it’s predictable and composed. The engine-transmission combination lets the side down a little though.
Holden has revived the Astra nameplate. It meets an old sparring partner in the form of the Honda Civic. Richard Blackburn adjudicates.