By Tony Verdon • 14/08/2016
Honda Civic RS Pictures / Ted Baghurst
THE NEW HONDA CIVIC IS LIGHT YEARS FROM THE FIRST
Approach the new 10th-generation Honda Civic and one thing strikes you immediately — how much the Civic has grown since its introduction more than four decades ago.
The comparison is even starker when you come across the iconic first-generation Civic hatchback, which looks tiny by comparison. It is 1094mm shorter than the new model, and looks basic and boxy beside the stylish, sleek fastback Civic of today.
The first model was introduced in New Zealand in hatchback form in 1972, and, in its day, helped revolutionise the country’s motor industry.
It helped pioneer the virtual Japanese takeover of our motor marketplace, with its better equipment level and rock-solid reliability compared with what else was available new at the time.
Sure, the original Civic cost only a few thousand dollars compared with our test car, a rallye red Civic RS Turbo model retailing for $39,900 plus on-road costs. Not only do you now get a much bigger vehicle, you also get a safety, performance and technological package that would have been unimaginable back then.
It may not turn heads like some new models, but the new Civic range looks impressive on the road. It is sleek and stylish.
The RS model sits on 17-inch alloy wheels, which, along with the rear spoiler, shark-fin aerial and black grille, help set it apart from lesser models in the range.
The steering is responsive, with more feel for the driver than many of its Japanese competitors. The handling is forgiving, as a few laps around Hampton Downs race track illustrated. This included several slalom runs, during which the car could be kept tight and close to the cones even when driving fast.
On the road, the RS handles tight corners efficiently without coming close to creating any dramatics, and is surprisingly assured for a model of its class.
The Civic has a new independent suspension system and a stiffer chassis which contribute to pleasurable driving.
Although Honda says the cabin in the new Civics has been given additional sound insulation, on this model there was some road noise evident.
But the RS is fitted with good quality leather seats, which in the front give good lateral support in tight cornering. They also proved exceptionally comfortable on two longer highway journeys.
The interior is spacious, with an electronic brake helping to ensure front-seat passengers have plenty of room to spread out, and a large, deep, centre console separating the two seats.
A padded centre armrest pulls forward, and the centre console includes several very deep cup holders that would accommodate the largest coffee cups. Remove them and there is plenty of room for an iPad or mobile phone.
Everything is readily accessible to the driver, with a bright red stop/start button at the right of the steering wheel flashing when you enter the car.
The dashboard is a vast improvement on the previous Civic models. It is modern, roomy and includes a digital speedo that sits immediately in front of the driver, surrounded by a large electronic tachometer.
When you start the car, the dashboard offers a digital light show as it boots up, and there is a fuel gauge on the right of the speedo and an engine temperature indicator on the left, both clear and simple to read.
The RS model has heated leather front seats, a LaneWatch blindspot camera on the end of the left-hand rear vision mirror, a three-angled reversing camera, automatic headlights and wipers, a sunroof and a 10-speaker 452-watt audio system.
There is a 7-inch full-colour touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard that hosts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and radio. As touchscreens go, the Civic’s is relatively intuitive and easy to use.
It takes a while to get used to the sound volume control, which is on the right-hand side of the touchscreen.
Inside the Civic there is an overall feeling of luxury and space, with good quality plastics and leather, including a leather gear shift, and soft plastic cover across the top of the dashboard.
Driver visibility is excellent and the bonnet styling ensures the driver can easily judge the car’s front corners. The new models also provide greater knee-room for the driver than their predecessors.
Rear-vision mirrors are large, and as a result there is a partial blindspot when turning right.
Left turns are aided by the same rear-vision camera mounted on the left-wing mirror as in the Honda HRV SUVs.
There is more foot room for back-seat passengers, with the front-seat rails being 27mm wider than in the previous Civic.
They also have a wider and deeper boot — 517 litres of storage space in the RS.
A large collection of cartons slid easily into the carpeted boot and the load was carried securely, hidden from public view by the boot cover.
The RS is powered by a new Honda 1.5-litre double overhead cam VTEC turbo engine.
It produces 127kW and peak torque of 220 Nm between 1700rpm and 5500rpm. It is paired with a new CVT gearbox that Honda says optimises power delivery across the engine’s full operating range.
Although not exactly racy, the new engine delivers respectable performance, smoothly.
The RS has paddle shifters fitted to the steering wheel but the car delivered good performance without resorting to them.
Honda says the engine provides the performance of a mid-size car with the fuel efficiency of a light car and during one of our test runs we managed an exceptional 6.3 litres/100km on a suburban street and motorway journey with the car in economy echo-mode.
The RS model is fitted with excellent LED fog lights, put to good use during the test, and LED headlights with auto levelling. The spread of light is so effective during night driving that there is hardly any need for full-beam mode.
The new Civics are important models for Honda worldwide, not only in this marketplace.
The Civic is a mainstay of the brand and its success is vital for the company.
They present formidable new competition for the like of the Mazda 3 and the Toyota Corolla, in one of the most hotly contested segments of the new car market.
Though the four-model Civic range is restricted at the moment to sedan mode, a hatchback version of the new model will be introduced next year.
|Pros:||Luxury feel, plenty of room, well equipped.|
|Cons:||A blind spot.|