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The modern day automobile — above a certain retail price — is seen as an accessory, an extension to your personality and a reflection of your dirhamcount. But the working class, those who rely on commuting, benefit less from that ethos, and are often left with bland and unattractive propositions. But Honda seems to have planned a renaissance of sorts, bringing a new range of exciting vehicles to the general public, a range that includes the current Accord, and now, the all- new 2016 Honda Civic. Today, we share our driving and riding impressions of our recent play date — the midrange Civic EXI.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
Over the past 40- odd years, the Civic has received numerous accolades and has found a home in as many garages as you can count. But in a segment where fuel economy and resale value have been priorities, the Civic was not particularly an aesthetic queen, although it arguably holds its own in its own circles.
The new 10th generation Honda Civic, however, is a whole new ball game. It is a global product produced in Alliston, Ontario, Canada, unlike the generations before where the GCC and Stateside models were very different. The sketch labs at Honda have been able to design and build something out of the future — something that is speedy and desirable. This new Civic is such a departure from the current — a compact sedan marginally larger than its predecessor with a fastback design characterised by the sloping roofline, somewhere between a sedan and a hatchback. The Germans like to give this a fancier moniker: the 4- door coupe.
The advantages of this fastback design are obvious — improved aerodynamics and added headroom in the rear cabin and cargo space. The new vehicle has dimensions tending toward the Accord, with a footprint that spreads 4,650mm in length and1,799mminwidth. It even stands taller at 1,416mm. Now, normally, high boot lids mean poor rear visibility, but that’s not the case here. Visibility is great thanks to the slimmer, nonobtrusive A and B pillars. The rear lamps have this claw or ‘ C’ profile that wraps itself around the top edges of the rump and is quite unlike anything in its class.
The sculpted surfaces and creases on the hood take away some of the meat from the old full- bodied design. The broad chrome grille tuned for the American- audience extends over the headlamps that resemble those on the new Kia Optima — only here, it’s executed better. The top- dog RS model gets NSXinspired LED headlamps, but on this EXI model you would have to make do with HIDS. The low nose and three large split air intakes add plenty of aggression. Overall, the frontal design is so large and of large prominence, that you could mistake it for being the Accord. Where pleasing visuals are concerned, the new Civic is up there with the ranks of the Mazda 3 and possibly the Chrysler 200. You can drive around in this Honda feeling quite special, even in the EXI trim.
As for the interiors, the essence of the past Civic indelibly remains, albeit with modern aesthetics. Evidently, ergonomics was the main focus when this new cabin was designed and the inclusion of soft touch plastics equalling the Volkswagen Golf make it a pleasant riding space.
The seats are lower by 20mm, which is near Audi TT territory, giving the Civic a sporty low- slung driving position that theoretically improves the centre of gravity. Unfortunately, even though they look good, the seating experience leaves much to Average touch screen response; low seat bottoms all around
be desired as the posture is foiled by the protruding lumbar support and scruffy fabric upholstery.
The chunky 3- spoke steering wheel adds some sporting value and it comes with a variety of multi- function buttons that serve volume, radio, etc, but the sharp edged feel of the buttons could have been softer in our opinion. The gauges are all digital now, centred around the tachometer that encircles a digital speedo flanked by a temperature and fuel gauge. It’s a neat adaptation of the original meters we have seen in the S2000 sports car. Ignition is via a red start/ stop button, but if your car gets too hot or cold you can choose to start up the engine and get the A/ C running using the remote enginestarter, whichisstandardthroughout the range.
The multimedia interface has been borrowed straight of the Honda Pilot we tested a few months ago. It’s a 7” screen on the EXI and RS, instead of the smartphone sized 5” one on the LXI model. With no hard buttons or knobs, not even one for the volume or tuner, you may have quite the task at hand for adjusting the aforementioned. Use the volume scroll on the steering wheel, instead.
Rear seat accommodations are slightly more liberal than its predecessor. The flat floor is gone due to the slight hump required to accommodate the exhaust pipe in the centre, but it is a slim hump. Good news for passengers though — thanks to the increased length there is improved legroom and headroom. But to achieve the latter they’ve made the rear seat bottom sink in — not ideal for taller folk. Another thing to keep in mind is to mind your head as you enter the rear cabin — the door cut out isn’t as accommodating as you’d think!
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
For the discerning Civic customer who has always had a craving for power, there’s good news. With the launch of the 10th generation, comes the demise of the 1.8L displacement motor and the introduction of two new engines. The LXI and our EXI test car are powered by the new 2L inline 16- valve DOHC motor with i- VTEC, which, at peak, churns out 156hp at 6,500rpm and 187Nm of torque at 4,200rpm. You should know that that is about a dozen horses more than the last model, matching the Toyota Corolla’s recent upgrade.
The RS is powered by a turbocharged 1.5L DOHC, direct- injected inline- 4 engine with VVTC, putting out 178bhp at 6,000rpmand220nmoftorquebetween 1,700- 5,500rpm. Expect this seeming overachiever to have a lot of zip. Both engines are mated not to a regular slushbox, but a new- generation Continuously Variable Transmission ( CVT), which has a taller final gear ratio for fuel- efficient low- rpm cruising and is geared toward fuel economy, at least in the EXI. Talking about low- rpm… the needle barely nudges the 2,000rpm mark even at 120 km/ h. Press the red starter button, the engine revs and settles quietly into idle — and I must emphasis on quiet, because getting better noise insulation would be bordering on luxury.
We noticed a slight delay in power off the line and on the highways, even kickdowns are relaxed, but once you have the tachometer locked down in the power band, the car responds with enthusiasm and good pulling power. On our test runs, the EXI eclipsed the 100km/ h mark in 9 seconds, and we have been told that the RS model should do it in a spritely sub- 8 seconds. Of course, being a CVT means you have to put up with a slightly annoying engine note all the way through.
Even the ride quality has been improved, thanks to a longer wheelbase and new hydraulic dampers. It’s got that familiar quality Honda ‘ thud’ and feel when you go over tarmac anomalies and it maintains its composure well. We’d expect the RS model to be more willing around corners, but this EXI handles pretty well, especially with the wellweighted steering. However, you should expect screeching tyres and mild understeer during speedy escapades.
Surprisingly, the EXI, with its naturally aspirated engine, is the drinker of the two, but still a frugal vehicle, consuming only 5.32L/ 100km, while the RS is even more economical, achieving a highway figure of 5L/ 100km. The Civic does justice to your dirhams in terms of economy and it will take a while before you empty that near- 50L tank.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
Keeping with the new and improved theme, Honda has introduced some firstin- segment and some existing features to make the car more likeable. There is Apple Play and Android Auto that lets you sync your phone. Unfortunately, we don’t get the wireless charging pad that the US model does. The 4- unit speaker system is standard across the range and is limited in its spectrum of sound, but does its job. You obviously have USB connectivity — which, unfortunately, is tucked away under a tray — and Bluetooth wireless streaming. Just remember, you can only sync your phone while stationary and not on the go.
Last week wasn’t particularly cool, but even with our test car parked under the sun, the A/ C blew in cool air within a matter of seconds. System calibration could have been improved a bit — although the screen said 220C, it felt muchhigher — but thankfully, there is no dearth of cooling.
With the Civic, Honda ticks the right boxes in terms of safety, and then some. The base LXI has ABS with EBD, Vehicle Stability Assist to improve manoeuvrability, Hill Start to overcome large mall ramps, two airbags ( up to six on higher models), and a tyre monitoring system as standard. In addition, upgrading to the EXI gives you a brake override system that may save you from a frontal collision, ISOFIX child seat mounts and Honda Lanewatch system, which uses a camera located below the passenger side rearview mirror to display an expanded view of the passenger side road. You also have a multi- angle rearview camera with trajectory as standard.
As for practicality, all grades include 60: 40 fold down rear seats and a voluminous trunk like a mid- size sedan so you can shop all day without worry.
At the end of the day, “A Honda is a Honda is a Honda…” It’s still that reliable and fuel efficient commuter that managed to shake off old skin for a new sporty fastback guise. Front seat comfort and touch screen sensitivity isn’t the best, and you and will have to put up with the engine drone, but for most part it’s delightful to buy, own and sell.