Honda Civic Expert Review

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Introduction

When Honda let the Civic loose in India back in 2006, it created quite a flutter. Those who were used to their Citys found a natural upgrade, and to those who didn’t want the practical but bland Corolla, the Civic seemed tempting. It had a design that seduced, an interior that wouldn’t look out of place even today, and a motor that promised to excite.

Fast forward 13 years and the Civic’s recipe seems similar, just updated to be in sync with the times. Let’s dive deep and figure out if the new generation manages to wow.

Pros
  • Build quality. A likeable blend of ‘built-to-last’ and luxury makes the Civic feel premium.
  • Ride and handling package. Tuned beautifully for India, the Civic laughs at potholes and broken roads while making you grin on the twisties.
  • Safety. Four disc brakes, six airbags, and tech like vehicle stability management.
  • Stunning design. Makes an impression equivalent to more expensive luxury cars.
Cons
  • Petrol engine doesn’t get a manual, whereas the commuter diesel doesn’t get an automatic. Limits appeal for enthusiasts and urban commuters.
  • Low seating position. Makes getting in and out tiresome for elderly or those with joint aches.
  • Missing equipment. Front parking sensors, rear charging socket, electric adjust for co-driver’s seat are some of the bits that should’ve been bundled in.

Stand Out Features

  • 7-inch full LCD instrument cluster. A host of information right in your peripheral vision.

    7-inch full LCD instrument cluster. A host of information right in your peripheral vision.

  • Remote Engine starter (petrol only). Start up the car before you get in and get the AC running too.

    Remote Engine starter (petrol only). Start up the car before you get in and get the AC running too.

  • LaneWatch: a camera mounted on the left ORVM relays a video feed to the central touchscreen. Useful for parking, changing lanes and driving in heavy traffic.

    LaneWatch: a camera mounted on the left ORVM relays a video feed to the central touchscreen. Useful for parking, changing lanes and driving in heavy traffic.

CarDekho Verdict

Honda’s Civic has been priced from Rs 17.7 lakh to Rs 22.3 lakh as expected, and let’s be honest, it isn’t exactly the most practical car on the block. The low seating position is sure to get disapproval from the older folk, the CVT won’t cut it with the enthusiast and the space on offer won’t tempt the back-seat owner either. Also, one might argue that it needed a few more features such as memory seats, electric adjust for the co-driver, and front parking sensors to win favours with the buyers. 

But here’s the deal. None of that really matters when you look at it, and spend time with it. It’s got the design to wow, and the interior feels like it will outlast your grandkids. There’s a diesel engine now if you want to munch miles, and the smooth petrol remains likeable as ever.

"What Honda has carried over from the older Civic then, is its uncanny ability to tug at your heart strings. It’s among the few cars out there that makes you want it. And you can’t put that on a brochure! "

Exterior

If the Civic could talk, we’re sure the first words it’d say would be ‘Look at me!’ It looks properly swanky, and a direct descendant of the posh Honda Accord. Familiar Honda elements including the large grille dunked in chrome, honeycomb detailing in the vents and crisp character lines find their way onto this sedan too.

Actually, hang on. Should we be calling it a sedan? Because when you view it from the side, it looks more like a notchback with a raised rump than a conventional three-box sedan. And much like the old car, the Civic has a low-slung design, giving it a sporty ready-to-go stance. Full-LED headlamps and that awesome-looking set of 17-inch machine-finished alloy wheels add to its wow-factor.

Honda’s Civic isn’t the tallest when you compare it to its peers. However, it is the widest, and by a fair margin at that. The XL-sized triangular taillamps that flow onto the bootlid look super cool at night as the portion of the tail lamp on the boot lights up as well.

On the whole, the Civic’s design continues to be a strong point much like the older generation. While the design is noticeably busier, we feel will look appealing for years to come.

Interior

Deja vu. The feeling that the CIvic is driver focussed hits you once you get inside the cabin. The seating position is familiarly low and the dashboard wraps itself around you. It’s that familiar spaceship-esque feeling with the cool-blue and red lighting in the instrument cluster and a central console that’s tilted  ever-so-slightly towards the driver. But we do miss the drama of the old Civic’s split dashboard that housed a digital speedometer in the upper half.

Right, basics. With the Civic you get tilt and telescopic adjust for the steering wheel, and the seat can be adjusted 8 ways to help you get into a nice driving position. If you aren’t used to a low-seating car, you will need a few drives in the Civic before you’re entirely comfortable with the dimensions.

Also, the front seats feel narrow. Broader occupants will feel a lack of support for their shoulders. The flat seat base robs you of valuable underthigh support, forcing you to sit in a ‘knees up’ position. This isn’t much of a bother for the driver as the seat height can be adjusted to mitigate this issue. But the co-driver will most definitely feel the pinch, especially over a long journey. The option, is to push the seat all the way back, and stretch out.

At the rear, the issue with the low slung seating position is amplified because the door doesn’t open too wide. To get in, you end up putting a fair bit of pressure on your knee. And getting out too requires a bit of effort. Those considering the Civic for the elderly members in their family, please note.

The rear seat of the Honda isn’t generous in terms of space. It’s just about enough for a six-footer like me to sit behind my own driving position. Also, the width on the exterior hasn’t translated into room for three at the rear. While it is possible, it gets a bit cozy. With the central tunnel and the raised middle portion of the rear bench in play, the middle occupant isn’t particularly comfortable either. Do note that the middle occupant doesn’t get a headrest either, fixed or adjustable. Also, if you’re taller than 6 you’ll feel a bit too close to the roof. With the window line rising linearly, it’s natural to feel slightly claustrophobic here.

But the Civic wins back some brownie points in terms of practicality. There are ample cubby holes in the front half of the cabin, and it gets some versatile storage around the front armrest as well that bumps up the utility quotient. At the rear, you get door bins and a pair of cupholders in the central armrest. At 430 litres boot space is enough, but far lower than other options in the segment. We wish Honda offered the 60:40 split for the rear seats to improve practicality.

The Civic is impressive on other fronts, like quality. Where most of the old car’s cabin was hard plastic, the new Civic is a welcome surprise. The dashboard is bathed in soft-touch material that feel pleasant to touch. Plush leather upholstery, with leather inserts on the doorpad round off the experience nicely. We like that the materials used feel like the durable kind, and not fragile like we’ve seen on a few Euro cars.

Performance

If you pick the Honda Civic you get to choose between two drivetrain options - a 1.8-litre petrol paired with a CVT, or a 1.6-litre diesel paired with a 6-speed manual gearbox. It is surprising that the fun petrol isn’t offered with a manual, and the commute-friendly diesel isn’t offered with an automatic!

Honda Civic Diesel

First, let’s tackle the diesel since it’s new to the Civic. This engine is familiar, we’ve seen it in the CR-V. But it gets a manual gearbox instead of the slick 9-speed automatic. What instantly comes to the fore is the noise and vibration insulation. When switched on, the 1.6-litre motor does make quite a racket if you’re standing outside the car. Get in, and you’d wonder where all of that noise went. Yes, you do hear a small thrum (that gets louder as you push it) and a negligible amount of vibration on the pedals. But, not much else.

It’s easy to get going, thanks to the typically Honda light clutch. We don’t see this being a bother in bumper to bumper traffic. Inside the confines of the city, you’ll be able to drive with ease as there’s enough responsiveness from low revs. You’ll be in second or third gear for the most time, which offers brisk acceleration - especially past 1800rpm. When the turbo is spooling, the throttle response feels immediate too, letting you tackle city duties with ease.

Honda engineers have given it tall ratios to boost fuel efficiency.  So, when you’re at 80kmph in sixth gear, you can’t simply step on the accelerator to overtake. You have to downshift to fifth to make progress. If you wish to cruise comfortably at 100-120kmph, this motor is more than happy to do that all day long.

All said and done, the diesel engine does make up for a lot of it by offering stellar mileage. ARAI-certified efficiency stands at a mind-boggling 26.82kmpl. In out test, the Civic diesel managed an impressive 16.81kmpl in the city and 20.07kmpl on the highway.

Honda Civic Petrol

Honda’s legendary R18 motor remains as refined and silent as ever. Yes, this is a slightly tweaked version of the same engine that we were served over a decade ago. That said, in no part does it feel outdated. With 141PS and 174Nm on tap, there’s more than enough grunt to get you through your daily grind, and weekend roadtrips.

Honda has tuned the CVT aptly for everyday commutes. Driving with a light foot is quite relaxing, especially considering the pin-drop silence from the motor. The gearbox doesn’t feel confused at part-throttle either. While it is responsive, much like every other CVT, it doesn’t like being hurried. Even in Sports mode, where the gearbox holds on to higher revs for longer, it doesn’t feel particularly fun. Yes, you can take control over the ‘gears’ using the paddle shifters, but that doesn’t feel engaging either.

Those wanting the Civic for the office commute wouldn’t have a complaint with this. However, the enthusiast will sulk for sure. A manual transmission with this free-revving petrol motor would’ve been a lot of fun, we’re sure.

Honda Civic Diesel Petrol
0-100kmph 10.96s 11.65s
Quarter Mile 17.60s @ 128.24kmph 18.37s @ 128.86kmph
20-80kmph - 6.99s
30-80kmph, 3rd 9.91s -
40-100kmph, 4th 15.59s -
100-0 kmph 41.32m 38.67m
80-0 kmph 26.41m 25.47m
City Efficiency 16.81kmpl 10.21kmpl
Highway Efficiency 20.07kmpl 15.92kmpl

Safety

Honda is offering a total of six airbags as standard. There’s ABS with EBD as well as other tech such as vehicle stability management (ESC), and hill start assist. It also features something Honda calls ‘Agile Handling Assist’ that helps steer the car without a fuss at higher speeds in corners.

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