SUBARU IMPREZA 2.0i
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.