Brian Bas­sett thinks the new Civic can make Honda driv­ers feel years younger.

BRIAN BAS­SETT feels the years drop away in the edgy new Civic

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

HONDA are known for their finely-crafted cars and SUVs to which ad­jec­tives like durable, re­li­able and prac­ti­cal are of­ten ap­plied.

Th­ese are the very qual­i­ties that ap­peal to older car own­ers and world­wide Honda driv­ers are usu­ally ma­ture.

Such is Honda’s pop­u­lar­ity in gated com­mu­ni­ties in the How­ick area, for ex­am­ple, that Honda Fury in the city pro­vides a free ser­vice, which col­lects and de­liv­ers Hon­das re­quir­ing ser­vic­ing. Honda’s rep­u­ta­tion as a car for older driv­ers is a mixed bless­ing.

On the one hand Honda cars have a sta­ble mar­ket and much re­peat busi­ness.

On the other hand the brand, with the ex­cep­tion of the Civic Type R, does not re­ally ap­peal to younger buy­ers.

It must cer­tainly have posed a co­nun­drum for the newly ap­pointed pres­i­dent of Honda SA, Toshi­aki Kon­aka, and he has ev­ery rea­son to be grate­ful for the new Civic, a car seem­ingly de­signed to lower the av­er­age Honda own­er­ship age.

We re­cently drove the new Honda Civic 1.5T Sport CVT cour­tesy of Des-Marie Vic­tor, new car sales man­ager at Honda Fury in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, for which we thank her.

Styling

The new 10th gen­er­a­tion Honda Civic comes to South Africa fresh from win­ning the North Amer­i­can Car of the Year ti­tle.

It has a sleek, fast­back de­sign and a steeply-raked front win­dow.

The Honda de­sign­ers have also ditched the some­what frumpy front quar­ter win­dows on the pre­vi­ous model, en­hanc­ing the sporty ap­pear­ance of the car.

The front fen­der fea­ture bulges over the wheel arches and the body is sculpted.

The dis­tinc­tive head­lamps, the C-shaped tail­lights and ta­per­ing win­dows, make this a highly styled au­to­mo­bile.

It ap­pears that af­ter some years of sleepy aes­thet­ics, Honda de­sign­ers are now wide awake and have pro­duced a car that makes a dis­tinc­tive and pow­er­ful state­ment.

The car has also grown larger and projects an im­pos­ing pres­ence un­der­lined by its mod­ern, 17-inch al­loys.

In­te­rior

The in­te­rior is a big im­prove­ment over the pre­vi­ous model.

It is both more mod­ern and more in­ti­mate. The fin­ishes are in rich, soft-touch plas­tics, with all seats cov­ered in a high qual­ity leather. The driver’s seat is fully ad­justable.

Un­for­tu­nately the some­what low front pas­sen­ger’s seat has no height ad­just­ment, al­though both front seats are heated.

The in­te­rior it­self has grown sub­stan­tially and is now al­most as large as that of the Ac­cord.

The leather-trimmed, multi-func­tion steer­ing wheel is pleas­ing to han­dle and has a tilt-and-tele­scopic ad­just­ment.

The steer­ing is also the op­er­at­ing base for the au­dio sys­tem, Blue­tooth and speed con­trol func­tions and, if you have a smart phone with GPS func­tion, it is pos­si­ble to pair the phone to the cen­trally-placed sev­eninch touch screen, which be­comes a built in GPS sys­tem.

There are also the usual plugs and USB port for your elec­tronic toys. The dash­board, when switched on, be­haves like a com­puter game and the brightly lighted, colour­ful in­stru­ment panel fea­tures a dig­i­tal speedome­ter within an ana­logue rev counter. The tall, two-tier cen­tre con­sole cos­sets front pas­sen­gers and con­tains au­dio and air-con­di­tion­ing con­trols.

The car seats five adults com­fort­ably and has fam­ily ac­com­mo­da­tion for both short and long jour­neys.

The boot is gen­er­ous with 430 litres of lug­gage space on of­fer and this al­most dou­bles if the rear seats are folded down. Rear seat re­lease levers are mounted in the boot and are sim­ple to op­er­ate.

Safety and se­cu­rity

The new Civic is packed with safety fea­tures be­sides the usual ABS with EBD, six front side and cur­tain airbags, child seat an­chors and seat­belts for all.

I found the Hill Start As­sist most use­ful. There are also park­ing sen­sors and a rear view cam­era. Ve­hi­cle Sta­bil­ity As­sist, Lane De­par­ture and For­ward Col­li­sion Warn­ing, as well as an elec­tric park­ing brake. The car has the usual cen­tral lock­ing and alarm sys­tem.

For those who en­joy toys, the car can be started from the out­side by de­press­ing a but­ton on the elec­tronic key and, while you are say­ing your goodbyes, the air-con­di­tion­ing sys­tem will ei­ther cool or warm the car to a tem­per­a­ture of your choice.

Per­for­mance and han­dling

The Civic we drove comes with a 1,5-litre, tur­bocharged, four-cylin­der, VTEC en­gine, that pow­ers the two top mod­els.

Feisty out­puts of 127 kW/220 Nm are good for a claimed 0-100 km sprint in 8,2 sec­onds mak­ing it com­pet­i­tive with turbo-charged ri­vals like the Opel As­tra, Ford Fo­cus and VW Jetta.

Fuel con­sump­tion also ap­pears to have im­proved with a claimed 5,9 litres per 100 km for the 1,5T en­gines. The old 1,8 litre en­gine used in the two en­try-level mod­els puts out 104 kW/174 Nm and it is claimed de­liv­ers 6,2 litres per 100 km.

The Civic is an en­thu­si­as­tic per­former and an easy cruiser.

The ride qual­ity is ex­cel­lent and roads are re­duced to an aca­demic quan­tity, as the car glides over pot­holes and ruts.

Ac­cel­er­a­tion is im­me­di­ate and whether in town or the open road you feel that you have the power re­quired to move out of dan­ger.

On D Roads the Civic is sta­ble at speed and I felt I could trust the ve­hi­cle, which moves through cor­ners ef­fi­ciently, backed by its vari­able-ra­tio elec­tric power steer­ing , which is well weighted.

In town park­ing is easy and the rear cam­era is a great help, while the ve­hi­cle’s abil­ity to ma­noeu­vre in traf­fic made me feel safe, even in the late af­ter­noon rush hour, punc­tu­ated by traf­fic light tramps and sun­glass sell­ers.

Costs and the com­pe­ti­tion

The Civic, de­spite hav­ing the largest cabin in its class has a high price tag.

The en­try 1.8 Com­fort CVT costs R330 000 and the range-top­ping 1.5T Ex­ec­u­tive CVT R460 000.

The 1.5T Sport CVT we drove costs R430 000 and comes with a five-year/200 000 km war­ranty and a five-year/90 000 km ser­vice plan.

Also look at VW Jetta/Pas­sat, Subaru Legacy, Lexus CT, as well as the Opel As­tra 1.6T and the Ford Fo­cus 1.5T.

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

Af­ter some years of sleepy aes­thet­ics, Honda de­sign­ers are now wide awake and have pro­duced a Civic that makes a dis­tinc­tive and pow­er­ful state­ment. It drives very well too.

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