– Unique styling
– Cabin space and features
– Ride and handling
– A bit on the pricey side
– Average highway acceleration
– Some hard cabin plastics
Honda’s latest Civic has been generally well-received, even while it is priced higher than other popular compact sedans. Word on the street is that the Civic was the only compact sedan to show sales growth here in the current faltering economy, even while everyone else is struggling, including the cheap-and-cheerful Koreans. However, Honda felt they should take away more sales from their lower-priced rivals by introducing a cheaper model. That’d be the new-for-2017 1.6-litre model.
The Honda Civic is 105mm longer, 44mm wider and 19mm lower than before, giving the impression that it’s a much larger car. While the new form takes on a liftback profile, it is actually still a sedan. The oddly-shaped front and rear ends are the most controversial design elements, garnering love-hate comments from the public, but at least they’re original. The 1.6-litre retains the chrome trim and grille of the 2.0-litre, so it doesn’t look basic. Some of the standard features include LED running lights and LED taillights and power side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals and a chrome grille. The LX additionally gets halogen foglights and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, the Civic LX gets black plastics and beige cloth upholstery (with a random carbon-fibre patterned stripe on the front seats), again just like the 2.0-litre version. They both get soft-touch surfaces on the dash and front-door panels, although the rear cabin doesn’t get the same courtesy, with hard-plastic upper door sills and rear door inserts. All armrests are padded, but barely. Overall, the build quality is fine, but the door panels feel a bit hollow.
There are some interesting storage ideas, such as a second shelf that hides your USB ports and phone charger underneath the centre-console smartphone shelf; but then there are odd ones, such as the gaping hole in front of the central multi-piece sliding armrest that does double-duty as a deep cubby or as cup-holders, but not both at once, as you have to fully remove the cup-holders to use it as a storage space.
At least the boot is big, although it does have a small opening so don’t expect to stuff large items there. Cabin space is great, with legroom and headroom almost at midsize levels in the rear. The front seats are decently bolstered, while the rear is a typical 60:40-split bench, with all the obligatory door pockets, cup-holders and seat-back pouches.
There’s a good amount of fancy tech in the top versions of the new Civic, but it’s been cut back in the 1.6-litre LX obviously. However, it’s not a huge loss, as the 2.0-litre’s sizeable dash touchscreen and full-LCD gauge cluster have been replaced with analogue gauges and and a smaller stereo screen surrounded by physical buttons. The simpler radio is actually easier to use than in the 2.0-litre, with a proper volume knob and station buttons instead of a distracting touchscreen. And it still comes with Bluetooth and USB support. Even the a/c finally gets proper physical knobs instead of having to hunt through menus for the fan-speed setting.
The LX gets a single-zone auto a/c with rear vents, smart key with starter button, cruise control, electronic parking brake, auto headlights and rear parking sensors. Safety features include 2 airbags, ESP, ABS with EBD, hill-start assist, tyre-pressure monitor and emergency-stop signal.
Powering the base Civic is the new SOHC i-VTEC engine producing 123 hp at 6500 rpm and 151 Nm of torque at 4300 rpm. The engine is mated to a new CVT automatic which has a taller final gear ratio for fuel-efficient low-rpm cruising, helping us in getting a fuel consumption figure of 7.5 litres/100 km. For comparison, we got 9 litres/100 km with the 2.0-litre model.
It managed a 0-100 kph time of 11.5 seconds during our January test, but surprisingly, it doesn’t feel overly slow in common road situations. There’s good low-end kick around city streets, while moderate-speed highway overtaking is manageable. Just don’t go hard-charging around a truck on a two-way road with oncoming traffic, because you’ll soon find out it’s not that quick.
The CVT makes the buzzy engine howl on full throttle, but is quick to respond and settles down nicely once cruising at constant speeds. However, the 1.6-litre version does sound like it’s a bit more noisy than the less-stressed 2.0-litre. It’s still silent in city driving and quieter than the Mazda 3 and the Toyota Corolla, but overall quietness on the highway is average for its class. The ride quality is pretty good though, with well-tuned independent suspension on all four corners, unlike cheaper rivals from Toyota and Hyundai.
The base Civic also gets the trademark short-ratio steering so you have to turn the wheel less lock-to-lock, with nicely-weighted electric assist and mild-to-moderate feedback. And the brake pedal is well-weighted as well, easy to modulate, with average stopping power.
The ‘go’ pedal offers instant throttle response, and the handling is very good, with well-controlled body motions and moderate body roll at the limit, where it understeers cleanly. It’s easy to explore the outer reaches of its capabilities while still being fairly fun to drive. Grip is respectable from the 215/55 tyres on 16-inch wheels, so it’s just as fun to drive around corners as the expensive Civic RS model.
As a base model, the Civic LX delivers much more than what the specs sheet promises, with a refined driving experience and hitting the ball a class above its rivals. The problem is it’s not priced a whole lot lower than the 2.0-litre model. The price of a laptop separates the two, so we’d say to simply go for the 2.0-litre model. Otherwise, as a casual daily driver, there actually isn’t a huge difference in city-cruising performance, with the 1.6-litre offering better fuel economy as well.
Current Model Introduced in:
Test Acceleration 0-100 kph:
Observed Test Fuel Economy: