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
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.
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.
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.
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.