Honda adds fifth el­e­ment to RS turbo

South Canterbury Herald - - MOTORING -

Hatch com­pletes Kiwi Civic range. We test the new RS Sport model. By

In these days of genre-bend­ing de­sign, the lines be­tween tra­di­tion body shapes like sedan and hatch­back can be­come quite blurred.

So what does a car­maker do when it’s cre­ated a sedan (an es­sen­tial con­fig­u­ra­tion for the big-vol­ume Amer­i­can and Asian mar­kets, by the way) with a fast­back pro­file that could eas­ily wear a fifth door with very lit­tle mod­i­fi­ca­tion? If it’s Honda, it goes ahead and makes a dif­fer­ent hatch­back model any­way.

So in some re­spects the just­launched Civic hatch is a bit of a head-scratcher, es­pe­cially as it has 100 litres less bootspace than the four-door (414 litres ver­sus 517). Why buy the five-door when there’s al­ready a sleeker-look­ing, more cargo-ca­pa­cious sedan in the show­room?

Two an­swers re­ally. The first is that de­spite the short­fall in ‘‘boot’’ ca­pac­ity, you still have the vastly su­pe­rior over­all load­space of a hatch to draw upon when needed. The fifth door of­fers a large aper­ture and with the 60/40 split rear seats stowed there’s up to 1280 litres cargo-space in the Civic hatch. You can still load long items through into the rear of the sedan, but in terms of over­all prac­ti­cal­ity it doesn’t com­pare.

That’s the ra­tio­nal an­swer. marginal vol­ume po­ten­tial in New Zealand. But it’d also be the mak­ing of this model from an en­thu­si­ast point of view. Re­mem­ber that bit about the hatch want­ing to be the sporty model?

The hatch might be 129mm shorter than the sedan, but it rides on the same long wheel­base and re­mains a gen­uinely fam­ily sized ma­chine.

The cabin serves up im­pres­sive qual­ity and dis­tinc­tive de­sign, in­clud­ing heavy reliance on dig­i­tal dis­plays. But be­tween the vir­tual speedome­ter and cen­tre-con­sole touch screen, there seems to be an in­sis­tence that be­ing hi-tech means things have to be com­pli­cated.

It’s all here, in­clud­ing Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto, but the menus on the touch-screen are pretty murky and sim­ple things like tun­ing the ra­dio might re­quire a con­tem­pla­tive mo­ment un­til you’re re­ally fa­mil­iar with the lay­out.

The RS hatch comes with safety equip­ment like Straight Driv­ing As­sist and the clever LaneWatch sys­tem, which shows a cam­era-view of the left-hand side of the car when you in­di­cate that way.

But there’s no equiv­a­lent in the five-door range to the flag­ship NT sedan, which means you can’t have a hatch with adap­tive cruise, lane-keep as­sist, col­li­sion warn­ing/mit­i­ga­tion brak­ing and lane-de­par­ture warn­ing.

New hatch is shorter and taller than sedan. Same black ‘‘mask’’ on RS model, but more com­pre­hen­sive body kit.

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