WOW. Just wow. Honda has zapped out of the blocks with a new Civic sedan that is so different to the last couple of Civic generations that it goes very close to taking the car maker to the edge of edginess.
One body style - a sexy four-door fastback - two four-cylinder engines (a naturally-aspirated 1.8 litre and turbocharged 1.5) and five model variants. Being greedy, we went straight to the top with a VTi-LX powered by the new 1.5 litre, turbo engine running a six-speed automatic gearbox.
Priced from $33,590 (plus on-road costs), the VTi-LX adds a lot of standard kit that will win favour in the buyer group –like the sunroof, leather upholstery, reversing camera and warning beepers front and rear, high-output audio, satellite navigation (the regular kind, too, not the type that mirrors the driver's smartphone apps) and adaptive cruise control with collision mitigation.
And the new 1.5-litre engine? It delivers an impressive 127 kilowatts of power and 220 Newton metres of torque (both at 5500rpm), 23 kilowatts and 46 Newton metres more than the naturally-aspirated 1.8 litre engine in the lower-spec cars.
It's an impressive engine that is just as happy delivering on demand in every traffic light grand prix as it is rolling easily through the countryside, the turbocharger putting some pep in its step whenever necessity (or the desire for a bit of fun) demands it.
Honda’s latest Civic has gained great looks to go with its revised mechanical package.
The official average fuel consumption figure is 6.0 litres/100km and reality comes close, our test car running a commendable 7.1 litres/100km over a mix of highway, country and suburban roads.
The new engine is matched to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) which also has six pre-set shift points. For extra fun, the company has added Formula One-style paddle shifters on the steering column.
Other nice touches? The electrically-assisted power steering feels good, light in the city and suburbs but with good feel when performance needs (and speeds) pick up. It's a good match for the new fully-independent suspension design (no more torsion beam rear end for Civic) which gives the stiffer chassis a nice European feel, mixing ride comfort with chassis responsive and positive handling. It might be longer, wider and a bit heavier than the car it replaces but it corners like a much smaller car and feels composed with it.
The interior is a world away from that of the outgoing Civic with its tall centre console creating a ‘twin cockpit' effect up front and the single-tier instrument panel composed of a big, single instrument pod for tachometer, digital speedometer, fuel readout and information screen plus small gauges either side for engine temperature and fuel gauge.
This time around Civic gets a switch-controlled electric parking brake to free-up interior space, and both front windows have an ‘auto-up' function.
The big audio head unit, which doubles as the sat-nav screen and reversing camera display, is also the command centre for many of the secondary functions and should that get busy (it doesn't) there are steering wheel-mounted buttons to cover many of the functions plus cruise control.
A really neat touch – and this is something more cars should have – is a blindspot camera built into the left-side exterior mirror to show what is immediately behind the car whenever the left indicator is used, the images appearing on the central screen.
In practical terms, Honda has engineered-in some serious rear space, too, with good rear legroom that even the taller adult Aussie male couldn't complain about, a massive 520-litre boot and a folding rear seat back to totally maximise cargo capacity.
The warranty, you ask? Three years or 100,000 kilometres and fixed price servicing up to 100,000 kilometres. The costs for that? Try $281 for each service except the 80,000-kilometre one which is a little higher at $310.
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