Exactly one year ago this month, Honda pulled the wraps off the all-new, 10th generation Civic (codename FC) and promptly sent Civic loyalists and aspiring owners into an unprecedented fit of jubilance. The Civic was showered in praises for two key things – the groundbreaking new look and a turbocharged engine.
Superficially, nothing else matters if a carmaker gets these two things right. In Malaysia, the case rings even truer, especially when you hear stories of people trading in their ninth-gen Accord for the C-segment Civic. That wasn’t made up. We were recently flown to the Land Below the Wind (that’s East Malaysia for you Peninsular folks) to properly put the Civic through its paces, and suffice to say that there’s much, much more to the Civic than all its charming trivialities. But first, let’s talk about features.
|Name||Honda Civic 1.8S||Honda Civic 1.5TC||Honda Civic 1.5TC-Premium|
|Engine||1,799cc; inline-4, SOHC||1,498cc; inline-4, DOHC, turbocharged with VVT|
|Transmission||G-Design Shift CVT Automatic|
|Max Power||139 hp @ 6,500 rpm||171 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Max Torque||174 Nm @ 4,300 rpm||220 Nm @ 1,700 – 5,500 rpm|
|0 – 100km/h||10.4 seconds||8.2 seconds|
The new Civic blows the competition out of the water here. It is packed with toys like remote engine start that also gets the air conditioning running. There’s no need to be worried about someone stealing or driving your car off because the Civic will remain locked and immobile until you step inside and press on the ignition switch. The only other car I can think of that does the same is the BMW G12 7-Series. Elsewhere, Honda is offering six airbags across the range, electric parking brake, Hill Start Assist and multi-angle rear view camera.
According to Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd (HMSB), over 3,600 units of the Civic have been sold since its launch in June, and more than 70 percent of buyers chose the turbocharged variants. These are positively encouraging numbers for a segment that’s dwindling in popularity, driven largely by well-priced D-Segment sedans and SUVs in the same price bracket. If anything, the country’s B-Segment offering is more to be blamed, but we’ll save that story for another day.
To give credit where it’s due, Honda did a terrific job with the design overhaul of the Civic. Assistant Large Project Designer Hiroshi Ito-san, whose career in Honda spans an incredible 40 years, has played a role in every single iteration of the Civic. While there’s still a hint of the ninth-gen Civic from the rear (more specifically the outline of the tail lamps), everything about this Civic is new, both inside and out.
There are three variants of the Civic to choose from, and our pick of the lot would be the range topping 1.5TC Premium – in White Orchid Pearl, too. It is the only trim that gives you that mesmerising full LED headlamps; opt for the cheaper turbo variant and you’d have to settle for halogen projectors.
However, all three come with LED daytime running lights, LED fog lamps, LED-combination tail lamps and rear fog lamps as standard. The turbocharged pair sit on 17-inch hoops shod with 215/50 profile Continental MC5 rubbers while the 1.8-litre variant (pictured below) makes do with 16-inch wheels.
All variants don’t come with the full Modulo bodykit, but this can be specified during your purchase. Whether or not you like the bare-bodied looks of the fastback-styled sedan, we think the Modulo kit completes the whole package a little better.
It’s worth noting that the Civic is larger in every way when compared to the preceding model. Length and wheelbase have grown considerably at 95mm and 30mm respectively, whereas shoulder and headroom are increased thanks to the wider body (44mm wider) and lower ride height (19mm closer to the ground). The bigger footprint allows Honda to create a roomier cabin that could easily accommodate three averaged-sized Malaysian adults in the rear bench, but it is not achieved without compromise.
Before that, we’d like to bring your attention to the main highlight of the cabin – the dashboard. Gone is the two-tier instrument cluster of the past two generations. It is now consolidated into a singular binnacle positioned behind the steering rack and boy is it gorgeous. The colours are vivid and crisp enough to be discernibly visible in the harshest of sunlight. Almost all driving information can be obtained from the digital display, operated by the integrated switches to the left of the steering wheel.
Speaking of the steering wheel, it’s wrapped in high quality leather and provides a great level of grip. Even the paddle shifters are rubberised, unlike its rivals’ full plastic offerings. The only downside here is that the buttons feel and look a tad cheap. If the 7-inch touchscreen display in the centre dash looks familiar, that’s because it’s the same one found in the Honda HR-V. It’s not the best in the industry (that title still belongs to Mazda), but the user interface is more straightforward and easier to use than Ford’s SYNC2 system or Toyota’s proprietary DVD AVN head unit.
Honda pulled a neat trick in giving the illusion of a larger cabin. It is already spacious to begin with, but the two front seats are designed to get narrower towards shoulder-level. Besides the odd look, this isn’t much of a design flaw, though anyone with broad shoulders would appreciate a little more shoulder support. That’s compromise number one.
The second compromise is seating position. Getting comfortable in the low-slung car (regardless of front or back seats) took me some time because my knees just weren’t perpendicular to my posterior. While shoulder room and headroom fared better, the two excuses I could think of for the awkward seating position are the sloping roof and lower ride height.
Those niggles aside, the cabin really is a cut above the rest. Quality materials are used throughout, save for the less common areas. The soft-touch Audi-style dashboard is pleasing to both the sight and touch, and this is accentuated by the cleverer execution of ergonomics. Like a Volvo, the centre tunnel ‘floats’ to make way for additional stowage. This is also where the USB and HDMI ports reside, with plenty of room for multiple mobile devices and wires to be kept from view. The armrest is also very clever; it is perfectly positioned no matter how high up you seat, slides fore and aft, and is big enough to store snacks for three grown adults. There’s also a handy cubby for the occasional coffee to go.
Prior to this, the eight and ninth-gen Civics were powered by two engines – a 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre i-VTEC motors, both four-cylinder naturally aspirated lumps. This time, there’s also two engine choices, but the larger SOHC engine is now replaced by a smaller 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine. Thanks to turbocharging, the engine outputs 171 hp at 5,500 rpm and 220 Nm of torque from 1,700 to 5,500 rpm. It’s more fuel efficient, lighter and helps give the Civic a zippier edge around the bends. Comparatively, the older and heavier 2.0-litre engine produces 153 hp and 190 Nm of torque.
The 1.8-litre option is essentially a carryover unit, making 139 hp at 6,500 rpm and 174 Nm of torque at 4,300 rpm. Both engines are now paired to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) for optimal balance between power and efficiency, retiring the five-speed auto of old. The CVT is developed and manufactured in-house, but Honda points out that the CVT in the 1.5L turbo is slightly bigger in size which helps cope with the extra grunt. Drive is sent to the front wheels only.
One thing that stood out almost immediately from the get go is refinement. Wind and road noises are barely audible at legal cruising speeds, and this has lots to do with the Civic’s sleek exterior styling and comfort-oriented tyres. I vividly remember the ghastly road noise – some call it tyre roar, same thing – while driving the Civic FD (and the pre-facelift FB) some years back, though it’s clearly evident today that the Civic FC is more generously fitted with sound deadening materials.
When you’re up to speed, the steering wheel becomes weightier, numbing sudden inputs usually experienced during lengthy periods of driving. This makes the car less susceptible to twitching, thus easier and less tiring to drive on the freeways as opposed to a Mazda3. Road holding and high speed stability are also noticeably improved over the previous model, which I think is the outcome of the increased track width.
During the development stage, the Civic’s ride and handling were benchmarked against some of the more established German brands, particularly the Audi A3. The front-wheel drive A3 rides on a modular platform that is shared with dynamic pedigrees such as the Volkswagen Golf, Audi TT and Seat Leon Cupra. Honda engineers however, are exceptionally proud that the Civic FC exceeds those benchmarking parameters.
An elaborate drive through the hilly roads of Kundasang and Menggatal allowed for substantive corroboration of those claims. A combination of front and rear anti-roll bars (these surprisingly come as standard) help manage lateral movement, expunging body roll normally associated with cars in this class. Suspension setup is the same as the Civic FB – MacPherson struts for the front and a multi-link type for the rear. Steering feedback leans towards ambiguity but not completely nonexistent, because you can still communicate with each of the four corners of the car. Again, this is an atypical but welcoming trait for a C-Segment car, bettered only by the Ford Focus in our books.
But what the Civic does better than the Focus is the way it treads the fine line between comfort and dynamics. Driving on rural Sabahan roads is like going for a permanent drive through the potholed roads of Port Klang. The Civic’s suspension effortlessly soaks up road imperfections and does so almost as well as the Honda Accord. Imagine combining the dynamic prowess of a Mazda3 with the comfort levels of a Toyota Camry. That’s the sort of finesse that’s really hard to come by, giving the Civic a newfound edge over most of its rivals.
The turbocharged engine is mighty quick, and on paper it trails marginally behind the Ford Focus’ (also a 1.5-litre turbo) 178 hp and 240 Nm engine output. Tasks like getting up to speed and overtaking are simply a walk in the park. Like any CVTs, there is that characteristic delay when you floor the throttle from standstill, but once it gets going it’ll only take you 8.2 seconds to realise that you’ve already hit the 100km/h mark. However, the dreaded CVT drone becomes clearly audible at full whack, something the guys at Toyota are able to suppress more effectively in the Toyota Altis.
After getting my thrill fix, I took the backseat on an hour-long journey through a mix of B- and city roads. As stated earlier, finding a comfortable seating position requires a bit of an effort, and most of the time I find myself angling my legs in an odd direction just so my lower back wouldn’t hurt. As a sufferer of herniated disc, this may just be an isolated case, but I much prefer the regular seating height and position of the Altis and Kia Forte/Cerato.
IS THIS CAR FOR YOU?
Admittedly, there’s not a lot of bones to pick with the new Civic. It’s thoughtfully packaged and comes with plenty of features that will impress even the most car/tech savvy of people. For those who seek an upgrade, the Civic FC is definitely worth your consideration. It looks years ahead of the competition and will continue to turn envious heads long until the facelift model arrives. The only problem is, how much better looking can the Civic be?
On the other hand, if you’re looking to buy a C-Segment car on a workable budget, the Kia Cerato 2.0 SX is going at a sizeable discount in preparation for the facelift’s arrival. For the more brand conscious, the Toyota Altis remains a compelling option, as is the Mazda3. Two alternative turbocharged models that are pleasantly comfortable and fun to drive would be the Ford Focus Sport+ and Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI, though they both share two common downsides which are poor after-sales support and residual value.
Stretch the budget a little more and you’ll be entering the facelifted Accord’s territory. If you’re ready to spend some RM20k more for a brand new car with the Honda badge, zero in on the mid-spec 2.0L VTi-L variant.
On paper, the Civic is the most powerful, largest and also the most fuel efficient car when compared against its naturally aspirated rivals, the Toyota Altis and Mazda3. The Civic has a best-in-class boot space of 519 litres, which gives it 50 litres more volume compared to the Civic FB’s 470 litres space. Interior space (especially legroom) is better than the Mazda3, but fares almost identically to the Altis and Focus.
A more left-field choice would be the Ford Focus Sport+. The Focus, Peugeot 408 e-THP and the Golf 1.4 TSI are the only cars in their class to come with automatic parking (high-spec variants only; perpendicular and parallel parking), but whether or not the common driver appreciates such a feature enough to use it on a day-to-day basis remains an unanswered question. The Focus and Mazda3 both have conventional six-speed automatic, and it is by default the more engaging choice for the casual highland drive.
|Honda Civic 1.5TC Premium||Ford Focus 1.5L Sport+ EcoBoost||Toyota Corolla Altis 2.0V||Mazda3 2.0L Skyactiv-G High Spec|
|Type||inline-4, turbo, DOHC with VVT||inline-4, turbo, DOHC||inline-4, DOHC||inline-4, DOHC|
|Type||Electric Power Steering||Electric Power Steering||Electric Power Steering||Electric Power Steering|
|Transmission||CVT||6-speed auto||CVT||6-speed auto|
|Front||MacPherson Strut||MacPherson Strut||MacPherson Strut||MacPherson Strut|
|Rear||Multi-link type||Multi-link type||Torsion Beam||Multi-link type|
|Front||Ventilated Disc||Ventilated Disc||Ventilated Disc||Ventilated Disc|
|Rear||Solid Disc||Solid Disc||Solid Disc||Solid Disc|
|TYRE & WHEELS|
|Wheels||17-inch alloy||17-inch alloy||17-inch alloy||18-inch alloy|
|DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT|
|Max Kerb Weight||kg||1,316kg||N/A||1,300kg||1,292kg|
|Luggage Capacity (VDA)||Litres||519 litres||316 litres||470 litres||408 litres|
|Tank Capacity||Litres||47 litres||55 litres||55 litres||51 litres|
|Consumption||litres per 100km||5.8 litres||5.9 litres||6.9 litres||6.5 litres|
|Max Speed||km/h||N/A||224 km/h||180 km/h||N/A|
|0 to 100 km/h||sec||8.2 seconds||8.6 seconds||10.0 seconds||N/A|
WOULD I BUY IT?
For me, the Civic strums the right chords at the right time, and it’s the main reason why this locally assembled sedan is so well received by the market in a time of economic uncertainty. As the saying goes, if you don’t stop to take a second look at your car after parking it in the porch, you bought the wrong car. This Civic, as ravishing as it looks, oozes a sense of desirability that transcends all levels of superficiality. It’s not just a pretty face. It’s a monumental accomplishment; a distant departure from just one model cycle. Would I buy it? You bet I would. In Orchid White Pearl, no less.
We would like to express our sincerest appreciation and thanks to Honda Malaysia Sdn Bhd for the test drive opportunity.