Honda hatches a cunning plan, reports Damien O’carroll.
The Honda Civic has been a mainstay of the Honda vehicle line-up since it launched way back in 1972. The tenth generation Civic launched last year as a sedan, but now Honda has unleashed a five-door hatch version onto the local market, a market that really does prefer small hatches over small sedans. That’s not to say that Honda hasn’t done well with the sedan. In fact it has done better with the sedan than most others manage, with more than 800 sold here since it launched, but the hatch is certainly expected to add to those numbers and eventually sell even more than the sedan. The hatch comes to New Zealand in similar specification to the sedan and launches in SX, SX Sport and RS Sport guises. The SX is powered by the same 104kw/174nm 1.8-litre petrol four-cylinder engine as the sedan, hooked up to the same continuously variable transmission. It comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, halogen projector headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry with push button start, a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with phone projection, lane departure warning and a leather steering wheel with satellite controls. The SX Sport gets the same engine and transmission, but adds a Modulo orange body kit, 17-inch black Modulo alloy wheels, alloy sports pedals and tinted windows. The RS Sport is powered by Honda’s excellent new 127kw/220nm 1.5-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder engine, that is also hooked up to a CVT. The RS Sport also adds 17-inch alloy wheels, uprated suspension, piano black exterior detailing, shadow chrome door handles, LED headlights and front fog lamps, a sunroof, power folding door mirrors, perforated leather heated sports seats, drilled alloy sports pedals, ambient interior lighting, dual zone climate control and a premium audio system. The SX kicks off the pricing at $32,900, while the SX Sport costs $36,500. The RS Sport lands at $40,900. Unsurprisingly, the hatch feels exactly like the sedan on the road, which means a brilliantly resolved ride, responsive and controlled handling and some extremely nicely weighted steering. The high quality, nicely designed and laid out interior of the sedan is also mirrored in the hatch, as are the brilliantly comfortable and supportive front seats. Unfortunately the performance of the continuously variable transmission is also consistent with the sedan, so things tend to get droney and noisy when acceleration is required, particularly when hooked up to the 1.8-litre naturally aspirated engine. The 1.5-litre turbo makes a better fist of the unimpressive transmission and actually makes for a remarkably pleasant and smooth ride around town. Out on the open road, however, the CVT emerges as an obstacle for getting the absolute best out of the crisp, eager engine. Still, while the CVT does put a damper on things, the Civic hatch remains a remarkably attractive and convincing high quality package that should only help increase the considerable success Honda has deservedly had with the sedan.