Franschhoek - Honda's flagship Civic sedan has arrived in South Africa.
Some might see it as just another sedan, albeit overflowing with options, but Honda sees its tenth-generation Civic as the vehicle that put the Japanese automaker on the map. And why wouldn’t the firm hold its flagship in high esteem - the Civic has, after all, found 23-million owners globally.
The Civic was first introduced in 1973, though it would only arrive locally in 1982. Honda SA claims 178 278 Civics have been sold in SA to date.
The new 2016 model has a lot to live up to. Ensuring build groundwork of its predecessors, the Civic sports a completely new design, new engine and enhanced technology.
New 1.5 petrol, no diesel
Sadly, Honda will not be adding a diesel engine to its new Civic line-up, but has instead added a second petrol unit - the new 1.5-litre turbo - to bolster the exiting 1.8-litre engine. Honda is developing a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, though the unit is not scheduled for SA.
What about the hatchback? Well, prototypes of the Civic hatch are undergoing testing. There is no confirmed date as to when the hatchback will reach SA, so for now the Civic will only be available in sedan guise. Until the 1.8-litre arrives later in 2016, the 1.5 turbo will be the only engine choice (available for Executive and Sport derivatives). Curiously, no manual option is available either.
Bold, new design
Just like in 2006 when Honda launched the Civic with that futuristic look, the 2016/2017 Civic’s design is a big leap over the ninth generation. Throughout the vehicle, no panel has been left untouched as Honda attempts to reinvent its flagship to make it appear as impressive and individualistic as possible. Though not everyone will agree on the design, the car is a striking proposition in its segment.
A big, bold, black grille stretches between the sharp-looking headlights and ‘falls’ down to the front splitter. The front fog lights are also engulfed in this black matter.
READ: Honda's next-gen flagship arrives - Here's how much the new Civic costs
The Civic’s rear might be the second biggest talking point after the price, but Honda was daring enough to bestow upon the car a very dramatic rear. The lights give the impression of folding around the edges and on the Sport model, the rear wing adds a bit of menace to the design. There might not be a real reason for having that wing other than for show, but it definitely does look sporty.
The Civic rides on 17” wheels and both derivatives come with their own set of alloy rims. The car's silhouette resembles that of a hatchback with its sloping roofline.
Solid on the inside
Honda has always had a reputation for building solid, durable cars and the interiors of these two driven derivatives are testament to that. The leather steering wheel features satellite controls and a nifty feature that allows you to waft your thumb over the volume adjuster. It remains to be seen whether this feature will still be working after dirt and grime builds up in the grooves.
A digital analogue cluster stares at the driver from behind the steering wheel, but readout digits, apart from the speed, could be larger.
A 7” touchscreen sits on top of the centre console, with temperature dials and knobs below it. The gear lever is covered in leather and the surrounding materials feel solid to the touch. Leather was used throughout the cabin - doorsills, dashboard, seats - and even rear passengers are treated to the same level of quality.
Speaking of rear passengers, Honda designed the new Civic’s front seats in such a way that passengers in the back still have enough leg- and knee room. Despite the boot being a whopping 430 litres, a full-size spare wheel is fully stowed away.
Honda says that its new Civic boasts the best-in-class interior volume and noise reduction.
Tech and features
Audio functions like Bluetooth, AUX and USB ports are standard, though the Executive version gains satnav.
The key can be used to start the car whilst outside and the aircon can be activated to cool the interior during a hot summer’s day. The Executive variant features dual-zone climate control.
Both models feature Honda’s vehicle stability assist (VSA), but that now works in conjunction with agile handling assist (AHA). AHA kicks in if the car senses too much body roll and will correct the handling before the VSA stabilises the car.
The Executive features Honda Sensing tech - a raft of safety features that controls and regulates occupant safety on the open road.
Driving the new Civic
Concerning the driving traits of both models, there is nothing to choose between them. Both cars feature the same McPherson struts up front and multi-link suspension at the rear, with power sent to the front wheels through the same, somewhat temperamental, seven-speed CVT gearbox.
The 1.5-litre engine kicks out a respectable 127kW/220Nm, but feels adequate rather than punchy.
However, the driving characteristics of the new Civic are by far one of its best attributes. Ditches, bumps, uneven surfaces and 'it-crept-up-on-me' potholes are easily dispatched. The car feels as if it’s gliding along the road and drives with a surety that any owner can appreciate.
Steering is a touch too light and unfortunately does not stiffen as you pick up speed though considering its target market (read: someone that does not exceed 120km/h) this might be an issue for some. Activating the transmission's sport function holds gears for a longer period but does not alter or adapt the vehicle's driving traits any meaningfull way.
The Civic is more of a cruiser - a family car capable of transporting its occupants in great comfort. If it's a relaxed albeit composed vehicle you're looking for, the Civic makes a great choice.
Honda says the 1.5-litre turbo will return 5.9 litres/100km and should, theoretically, have a fuel range of 797km on its 47 litre fuel tank.
One car, two segments
The Honda Civic has a bit of a tough task ahead of it. Since the Accord has been discontinued in SA earlier in 2016, the Civic has to fill the void left by its bigger, more premium sibling. The new Civic has to compete in the D-segment against the likes of Mercedes-Benz’s CLA (priced from R449 900 for the base model) and Audi’s A3 sedan (from R403 500, base model). In addition, it must battle its traditional peers - the Toyota Corolla, Kia Cerato, Ford Focus, etc. - in the C-segment.
But a lower and wider profile, a weight reduction of 22kg and an all-round solid package could just help it to be the ideal middle ground between these two highly contested segments.
Perhaps Honda knows something we don’t…
The Civic Sport retails for R430 000 and the Executive for R460 000 (CO2 tax and VAT inclusive), with service intervals every 10 000km.
All models are sold with a five-year or 90 000km service plan, five-year or 200 000km warranty, and three-year roadside assistance.