Review: 2016 Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo, so much more than just a pretty face


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.2016 Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo Review - AutoBuzz.my

QUICK FACTS

NameHonda Civic 1.8SHonda Civic 1.5TCHonda Civic 1.5TC-Premium
SegmentC-Segment Sedan
Engine1,799cc; inline-4, SOHC1,498cc; inline-4, DOHC, turbocharged with VVT
TransmissionG-Design Shift CVT Automatic
Max Power139 hp @ 6,500 rpm171 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Max Torque174 Nm @ 4,300 rpm220 Nm @ 1,700 – 5,500 rpm
0 – 100km/h10.4 seconds8.2 seconds
PriceRM113,800RM127,800 RM135,800

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.

EXTERIOR

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.2016 Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo Review - AutoBuzz.my

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.

INTERIOR

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.2016 Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo Review - AutoBuzz.my

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.2016 Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo Review - AutoBuzz.my

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.

PERFORMANCE

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.2016 Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo Review - AutoBuzz.my

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.

THE DRIVE

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.2016 Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo Review - AutoBuzz.my

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. 2016 Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo Review - AutoBuzz.my

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?2016 Honda Civic 1.5L Turbo Review - AutoBuzz.my

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.

COMPARISONS

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.

2016 Ford Focus Facelift Drive to Penang - AutoBuzz.my
The Ford Focus Sport+ is a lot of fun to drive, and ranks in the top three of the AutoBuzz.my C-Segment selection

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 PremiumFord Focus 1.5L Sport+ EcoBoostToyota Corolla Altis 2.0VMazda3 2.0L Skyactiv-G High Spec
ENGINE
Typeinline-4, turbo, DOHC with VVTinline-4, turbo, DOHCinline-4, DOHCinline-4, DOHC
Displacementcc1,498cc1,498cc1,987cc1,998cc
Max Powerhp/rpm171/5,500180/6,000145/6,200162/6,000
Max TorqueNm/rpm220/1,700240/1,600187/3,600210/4,000
STEERING
TypeElectric Power SteeringElectric Power SteeringElectric Power SteeringElectric Power Steering
DRIVETRAIN
TransmissionCVT6-speed autoCVT6-speed auto
SUSPENSION
FrontMacPherson StrutMacPherson StrutMacPherson StrutMacPherson Strut
RearMulti-link typeMulti-link typeTorsion BeamMulti-link type
BRAKES
FrontVentilated DiscVentilated DiscVentilated DiscVentilated Disc
RearSolid DiscSolid DiscSolid DiscSolid Disc
TYRE & WHEELS
Tyre215/50/R17215/50/R17215/45/R17215/45R18
Wheels17-inch alloy17-inch alloy17-inch alloy18-inch alloy
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
Overall Lengthmm4,644mm4,358mm4,620mm4,580mm
Overall Widthmm1,799mm1,823mm1,775mm1,795mm
Overall Heightmm1,416mm1,484mm1,480mm1,450mm
Wheelbasemm2,700mm2,648mm2,700mm2,700mm
Max Kerb Weightkg1,316kgN/A1,300kg1,292kg
Luggage Capacity (VDA)Litres519 litres316 litres470 litres408 litres
FUEL
Tank CapacityLitres47 litres55 litres55 litres51 litres
Consumptionlitres per 100km5.8 litres5.9 litres6.9 litres6.5 litres
PERFORMANCE
Max Speedkm/hN/A224 km/h180 km/hN/A
0 to 100 km/hsec8.2 seconds8.6 seconds10.0 secondsN/A
PriceRMRM135,800RM139,888RM138,900RM124,354.40

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. 


IMAGE GALLERY


Matthew H. Tong

Matthew H. Tong

A straightforward, fun-loving guy who appreciates the superficiality of a car’s appeal, but his admiration for anything on four wheels gives him no reason to neglect the makings of a car. He still believes that fun comes with three pedals and a stick.

  • Zoila

    I’m pretty sure that you can’t fold the backseat flat.

  • kala

    The rear portion of the civic 1.5 T is rather ugly for my second looks .

    meaning this CIVIC wants to look sporty but it is not sporty. for 171 hp.

    VOLVO S60 T6 2.0 release out a massive 302 hp.

    wondering why only young people goes for civic and more established people goes for continental cars , maybe affordability category.

    ah ha!!

    super rich in the world is only 2% whereby average people is 60%.
    This 60% will goes for civic not because they like it because of their wallets that justify the sales volume.

    popular =NO

    affordability = yes

    • trav da man

      The only thing I agreed with you is the new Civic’s rear.

      The thing is both the Civic and S60 are targeted at different segments. The Civic is a mainstream family sedan, while the S60 is targeted at the premium segment.

      Also, look at the powertrain offerings. We all know the new Civic can be had with either a 1.8 NA or the 1.5-litre turbo. Overseas, some gets the 1.0-litre turbo.

      The S60 has a wide variety of engines, ranging from diesels and petrol. The T6 offered here is among the most powerful in Volvo’s lineup. It uses Volvo’s latest Drive-E powertrain which is complicated and expensive.

      A fairer comparo with the Civic is the S60 T4, which makes around 180hp.

      Lastly, not necessary you need to be rich to own a S60, nor if it’s because of affordability reasons.

      Sometimes for those who can afford a S60 might go for a Civic due to many reasons. It can be either aftermarket service, residual value, or even they don’t need as much power as a S60 T6 can output. Also for those can afford a Civic but not the S60, perhaps they can opt for a used S60.

  • Albert Kotze

    Most of the cars that are compared to the Civic will not attract my attention at all, simply because I pay careful attention to the annual JD Power Dependability Study which is conducted in the USA. There is one German brand among the top 10 in the 2016 study which clearly demonstrates where prospective buyers should not place their focus. Honda and Acura have consistently been among the top 10 and hence one can do much worse than buy a Honda.

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