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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.

VER­DICT

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.

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