It feels like just yesterday when Honda South Africa introduced the Civic for the first time, replacing the well-loved Ballade name. It was 2005. Now in 2012 a brand new version, the 9th generation of the name, has come to Mzansi shores. I drove it down in the George and was suitably impressed with all the improvements. All except the powertrain.
Perhaps we can start with that, seeing as how I’ve opened that can. Although launch engines consist of a 1.6-litre and a 1.8-litre, both naturally aspirated, we only drove the 1.8. Honda has decided not to deviate too much from the previous engine. In fact, one could say they didn’t flinch an inch. Maximum power is an unimpressive 104kW at 6500rpm, which means quite a wringing of the neck just to start up the thing. Peak torque is 174Nm at 4300rpm. For a 1.8 this is good. I say unimpressive only because the “old” car made 103kW. Plus the fact that a growing number of its direct competitors are now using smaller, more powerful, supposedly more efficient, turbo engines.
“Civic customers are mostly interested in the Honda badge, not its performance”
I guess at this point it must be said that the average age of an everyday Civic customer is around 42. Therefore they are probably not looking at something that will tickle the heart as it punches through the gears. It’s also probably why we don’t get a Civic Type R sedan. Incidentally some independent research shows that Civic customers are mostly interested in the Honda badge and the car’s features, not its performance or look. Frankly I quite like the front end with its chrome grille bar, sharp clean eyes, and a honeycomb lower end. The rear lights cluster sadly doesn’t work for me; it reminds me of a cheap aftermarket chop job with those clear horizontal strips. A different look would have changed everything.
Where Honda really excels, even in “everyday” mode, is handling. Drive is through the two 16” x 6.5J front wheels, with McPherson struts and an anti-roll bar at the front, while the rear is double wishbone and anti-roll bar affair as well. There’s more than adequate grip on the 205/55 R 16 tyres. Steering is of course electrically-assisted. While it may not be pinpoint by the standards set by a Type R for instance, any driver who enjoys a long-drawn curve or a pass, will absorb more than just a mug of satisfaction. I certainly did. But because of the low power and torque, one would constantly be changing down on those 5 gears to find some usable revs when going uphill. The claimed average fuel consumption figure of 6.7 litres per 100km from a 50 litre tank is quite attainable in real life. Thank you Honda.
“Some of the greatest pleasures are to be derived from mere touches of the polished gear lever”
Some of the greatest pleasures are to be derived from the Civic are the mere touches of the polished gear lever, while actuating it only heightens the feeling. The rest of the interior is also quite a sweetheart to get on with, including the comfortable leather seats, sporty steering wheel with satellite controls, USB connection, and automatic air conditioning among others. Plenty of storage spaces, as per normal Honda philosophy. Being 4.5 metres long and 1.6m wide means it’s not just cell phones and drinks cans that enjoy interior freedom. Passengers do too.
With safety being at the forefront of every automaker’s concern, Honda can only keep abreast of developments. That means standard items like ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Emergency Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist and all-round airbags. The automatic model even has Hill Assist which prevents the car from rolling backwards while stopped on a steep. Thankfully not all of these were tested at the launch. By the way, Honda expects to sell at least 60% of these cars in automatic, further underlining the type of buyer it attracts. Most are likely to choose the colour white, followed by a shade of grey. If you aren’t interested in those two colours there’s another 6 to tick over.
“Segment is run by the seemingly unstoppable dominant force that is the Toyota Corolla”
The new Honda Civic sedan paves the way for the hatchback which launches here in March. It comes into a segment run by the seemingly unstoppable dominant force that is the Toyota Corolla. Other prominent players include the Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus sedan, while peripheral players like Mazda3 and Volkswagen Jetta are just as good. Although it’s still recovering from the effects of last year’s Japanese tsunami, Honda hopes to ramp up both production and sales this year, thereby regaining much-needed market share locally. The car is at least as good as its predecessor was. Now they just have to market it properly.
Honda Civic sedan Pricing
1.6 Comfort Manual (R209 900)
1.6 Comfort Auto (R221 900)
1.8 Comfort Manual (R229 900)
1.8 Comfort Auto (R241 900)
1.8 Elegance Manual (R259 900)
1.8 Elegance Auto (R271 900)
1.8 Executive Manual (R269 900)
1.8 Executive Auto (R282 900)