The current FC-generation Honda Civic is an incredibly popular car, taking the nation by storm with its sporty and aggressive looks. But when it comes to driving, it really isn’t all that. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not a bad experience by a long shot, but when compared to its more recent peers, its dynamic capabilities do tend to fall a little short.
It seems as though Honda has completely flipped the script, then, for the 11th-generation (FE) all-new Honda Civic that’s right about to make its official launch here in Malaysia. Because in terms of looks, Honda has significantly toned-down the “boyracer” outfit on the Civic for a way more matured suit.
And on the driving experience, well, the all-new Honda Civic might have just set the new benchmark for the C-segment sedans, based on our short experience flinging it around the Sepang South Circuit yesterday.
Honda Malaysia offered us a three-way head-to-head comparison between the all-new Civic, the current FC-generation Civic, and the Toyota Corolla Altis. But even though we jumped into the brand-new Civic right away, the differences were immediately tangible.
Setting off from the pits for the first time, and the powertrain immediately feels a lot more eager. While the 9hp and 20 Nm increase from its 1.5-litre VTEC turbocharged engine doesn’t seem much on paper, it’s the way the revised CVT gearbox works in symphony with the engine that brings out the true magic.
Yes, it is – perhaps unfortunately – still a CVT gearbox here. While we would have preferred a conventional automatic (or a manual; a man can dream), Honda has made significant changes to the Civic’s CVT gearbox that it almost behaves like a modern automatic gearbox at full pelt, with near-instant simulated gear “shifts” even if you left it to its own devices, in the Normal driving mode no less.
Put it into Sports, and you get an immediate jump in throttle and gearbox response that’s noticeable even from a standing start. With the gearshift pedals behind the steering wheel, you might even sometimes forget that it’s a CVT-equipped sedan.
However, it’s when you approach the first corner that you truly appreciate what Honda has done to the all-new Civic. At turn in, the properly-weighted steering provides you with confidence to attack the corners, and the sharp and agile front end turns in with little to no hesitation, probably helped by its factory-fitted Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres and 18-inch wheels.
And once you reach the apex, the all-new Honda Civic’s impressive body control means it’s able to maintain its tight lines with minimal body roll. Even high-speed direction changes through the esses at turn 12 and 13 were handled with poise and a sense of fluidity; the chassis obediently tracks your steering inputs without protest.
This was a characteristic that we spoke highly about on the Toyota Corolla previously, but on back-to-back outings round the Sepang South Circuit, it felt almost as if the Corolla was somewhat “lost” on track, not communicating the same amount of confidence that we received from the Civic.
Once the car gracefully settles into a straight line, it’s time to brake hard, turn in, and power off again through the back straight. The sense of control that it provides makes the experience almost addictive, making the four laps we had around the half circuit fly by in a flash.
Granted, a C-segment family sedan’s main use case won’t be on the track; there’s still comfort, space, visibility, and even tech to consider when you’re putting down money for one of these. For those aspects, we’ll still have to evaluate it on the open roads – but on a first impression, the all-new Honda Civic has left us grinning from ear to ear.