The Advertiser - Motoring - - COVER STORY -

best in the small-car class. The dig­i­tal wide-screen in­stru­ment dis­play, modern seat fab­rics, up­scale cabin ma­te­ri­als, elec­tric park brake, and auto-up front win­dows in­stantly give the Civic a pre­mium ap­peal.

Honda is well known for mak­ing the most of avail­able space and the Civic hatch ex­cels, with the big­gest boot and roomi­est front and back seats. The cen­tre con­sole is big enough to swal­low a hand­bag and more.

The Civic has the best seat­ing po­si­tion of the three and feels “just right” as you slip be­hind the wheel. The cen­tral PRICE $25,190 drive-away WAR­RANTY 3 years/un­lim­ited km CAPPED SER­VIC­ING $1298 over 3 years SER­VICE IN­TER­VAL 12 months/12,500km SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags EN­GINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 115kW/196Nm TRANS­MIS­SION CVT (7 pre­sets); AWD THIRST 6.6L/100km DI­MEN­SIONS 4460mm (L), 1775mm (W), 1480mm (H), 2670mm (WB) WEIGHT 1399kg SPARE Space-saver sen­si­tive, so Honda dis­abled it on the hatch. Please, Honda, re­in­state it as a menu op­tion.

All three cars tested have two Isofix child seat an­chor points in the out­board po­si­tions of the rear row. The Civic has only two top tether points and the Subaru and Hyundai have three, en­abling a non-Isofix child seat to be mounted in the mid­dle po­si­tion.

On the road, the CVT works in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to the Subaru (mostly smooth but can have a de­layed re­sponse in tight up­hill turns) though it lacks pad­dle-shifters to se­lect a ra­tio.

On our test loop the Civic hatch was im­pres­sively sure­footed. Honda en­gi­neers have clearly im­proved on where the Civic sedan left off.

The hatch is com­posed over bumps and is best of the trio han­dling cor­ners.

The com­pro­mise for hav­ing su­pe­rior grip? Noisier tyres on cer­tain road sur­faces.


From the driver’s seat, the hype around the new i30 is not im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent. The eight-inch tablet-style touch­screen (largest of the trio) looks up­mar­ket but the rest of the cabin is dom­i­nated by dark grey, hard plas­tics, from the dash to the doors.

From the in­side, it looks like a cheap car that has been spruced up, though it gets most of the ba­sics right and adds some fruit for good mea­sure.

Ap­ple Car Play and An­droid Auto are stan­dard. Solely among this trio, the i30 has built-in nav­i­ga­tion (with free map up­grades for 10 years).

It’s also alone in hav­ing auto head­lights, il­lu­mi­nated van­ity mir­rors, rear sen­sors and a full­size al­loy spare.

But some de­tails have been over­looked. The map pock­ets are mesh (no se­cu­rity for stash­ing valu­ables) and the driver’s win­dow is not auto-up. There is only one USB port and two 12V sock­ets and a 3.5mm au­dio in­put. It also lacks the Subaru’s push-but­ton start.

The i30 has a lever hand­brake ver­sus the elec­tric park brake of its peers.

The rear cam­era has guid­ing lines that turn with the steer­ing (nei­ther the sharpest or worst image we’ve seen). This was the clos­est con­test in some years; each of these cars is wor­thy of con­sid­er­a­tion.

The Subaru and Honda have badge ap­peal, an up-mar­ket look and re­sale value on their side. But the sweet spot in the new Im­preza line-up is the next model up, which comes loaded with ad­vanced safety fea­tures.

The Civic feels the most se­cure in cor­ners, has the roomi­est cabin and cargo hold, and a stun­ning hi-tech in­stru­ment dis­play. Its en­gine and CVT de­tract from the daily driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

The new i30 may look and feel like a $20,000 car with added ex­tras. But for the same $25,000 or so as the oth­ers tested here, it has more stan­dard equip­ment, zip­pier en­gine, smoother trans­mis­sion and the clear ad­van­tage of a five-year war­ranty and cheaper run­ning costs.

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