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Civic becomes avant-garde again.
Not many nameplates
in the automotive industry have the luck to celebrate the 10th
generation. Following Toyota Crown and Corolla, Honda Civic is the
third to reach the milestone. For most of the last 43 years, Civic was
reckoned as a forward-thinking and sporty-driving small car, a sharp
to arch-rival Corolla. In recent years, however, it became more
conservative. The 9th generation Civic received only 3 stars in
AutoZine rating, blame to its modest engines, numb steering and
unremarkable styling. Favouring comfort more than driving pleasure, it
was no longer the Civic we used to know.
Thanks to pendulum effect, the 10th generation Civic becomes
avant-garde again. Look at these pictures! Its styling is a lot sharper
and sportier! The angular design at nose and tail is so aggressive!
Moreover, its body shape is finally right. One thing we didn’t like the
last 2 generations was their wedge front, which gave a perception of
minivan rather than Lamborghini. The new car gets not only a proper
front but also pronounced flanks like classic sports cars, which makes
it unusual among small family cars. Furthermore, its fastback shape
looks a lot sleeker than the old car. Our only worry is whether the
aggressive nose and tail withstand the test of time. For sure it won’t
last as long as a Volkswagen Golf, but then the Civic’s lifecycle is
relatively short at 4.5 to 5 years.
fact that it becomes more American-size than ever is not coincident,
because its development is actually led by Honda America.
The new Civic also looks considerably larger than the old car, more
like halfway between the old car and an Acura TSX. It is. Because it is
now sitting on a platform that will be shared with the next generation
is able to stretch its length by 125 mm, width by 43 mm and wheelbase
by 30 mm. The latter is now a class-leading 2700 mm. Admittedly, the
sense of size is also exaggerated by its lower roof line, which drops
by 20 mm. According to Honda, the extra dimensions created 91 liters
of extra space in the cabin and 76 liters of luggage space. Rear
passengers are benefited with 50 mm more legroom, and don’t forget the
old car was already quite generous in this respect! The fact that it
more American-size than ever is not coincident, because its development
is actually led by Honda America.
Inside, apart from more space, two things mark a big difference from
the old car. The first is a more expansive forward visibility, thanks
to a 40 mm lower windscreen cowl (base of windscreen) and thinner
A-pillars, a result of abandoning the monospace design. The driver now
sits 25 mm lower in the cabin yet can have a clearer view of the road
ahead. Another is the dashboard design, which finally abandons the
ergonomically unfriendly 2-tier structure that drew a lot of criticisms
in the past 10 years. However, its ergonomics is still not perfect,
because you have to use the 7-inch touchscreen to do simple things such
as adjusting audio volume, which isn’t as easy to do as a rotary knob
when the car is moving. On cheaper trims the Civic does offer such
knobs, but then its screen is only 5-inch. As for build quality and
materials, the new car gets a predictable upgrade, but the center
console and transmission tunnel still look cheap. The angular and busy
interior design does not help perception of quality, too.
dashboard design finally abandons the ergonomically unfriendly 2-tier
structure that drew a lot of criticisms in the past 10 years.
Like the rest of the industry, the new Civic employs higher percentage
of high-strength steel (up from 55 to 59 percent) and
ultra-high-strength steel (up from merely 1 to 14 percent). This lifted
its torsional rigidity by 23 percent yet lightening the monocoque body
by 31 kg. The whole car is lighter by about the same amount. Thanks to
more sophsticated crumple zone structure, the car can have a shorter
front overhang to provide better impact absorption. This means most of
its added length can be spent to the tail to increase luggage space.
The aerodynamics is also improved. Total drag (CdA) is reduced by 15
percent, thanks in part to full underbody covers.
Suspensions remain to be struts at the front and multi-link at the
rear, but they are heavily redesigned. The rear suspensions are now
mounted on a very rigid sub-frame. Hydraulic bushings are adopted to
improved ride comfort. Enhanced sealings and flush-mounted windscreen
reduce cabin noise.
Under the bonnet, the base engine becomes a larger, 2.0-liter DOHC
i-VTEC with 158 horsepower, 15 hp stronger than the old car’s 1.8 SOHC.
It is a willing motor, providing old-school fun especially when it is
mated with 6-speed manual. The latter’s gearchange might not be as
slick and short as the best Honda manual boxes, but it is far more
engaging than the alternative CVT. 0-60 mph can be accomplished in a
brisk 8.0 seconds, which is very good for an affordable small family
car. Civic drivers can be proud again.
of its traditional lightness and agility have returned...
Unexpectedly, the premium engine is “Earth Dream” 1.5 i-VTEC
direct-injection turbo. Honda’s first small turbo engine produces a
respectable 174 horsepower and 162 lbft of torque from 1800 to 5500
rpm. It gives the Civic a stronger mid-range punch for overtaking and a
more relaxed manner at urban speed. However, it displays a hint more
turbo lag at low revs than the best European small turbo motors, say,
Ford 1.5 Ecoboost or Volkswagen 1.4 TSI. Moreover, the compulsory CVT
it employs tends to drone the engine unpleasantly under hard
acceleration, which amplifies the turbocharged engine’s coarse exhaust
note. Furthermore, the CVT lacks manual override thus you can’t dictate
On the road, the new Civic demonstrates improved refinement and comfort
through its effective sound insulation, solid chassis and compliant
ride. Meanwhile, some of its traditional lightness and agility have
returned. It has body roll well checked. The nose turns in quickly, and
understeer is well suppressed. The new variable-ratio electrical power
steering reacts much faster than the old one, with lock-to-lock reduced
from 3.1 to merely 2.2 turns. That said, despite of its dual-pinion
design, the steering still lacks true communication. On the straight
ahead position it is virtually muted, not giving the driver any sense
of engagement. This prevents it from threatening Mazda 3 or Ford Focus
for handling. However, its stronger sense of space, comfort and
refinement could give it an advantage in the eyes of most family car
buyers. More important, this 10th generation does not alienate the fans
of Civic anymore. It returns to the right track finally.
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Civic Coupe is affordable, practical and accommodative, if not very
interesting to drive.
affordable coupe is a dying breed. USA is the only place buying such
cars in large quantity, yet that market is also shrinking quickly.
Detroit manufacturers have abandoned it altogether – do you remember
just a decade or two ago they were still producing Ford Escort ZX2,
Dodge Neon R/T Coupe, Saturn SC, Ion Quad Coupe and Chevy Cobalt Coupe?
Now their smart money turns to build small SUV crossovers. Ditto Ford
Europe (which killed Puma), Opel
(Astra Coupe), Renault (Megane Coupe), Mini (Mini Coupe), Hyundai
(Tiburon and Elantra Coupe) and Toyota (Levin, Celica and the latest
casualty, Scion tC). Today, only 2 cars survive in the segment, i.e.
Kia Forte Koup and
Honda Civic Coupe. I am quite surprised that Honda is still investing
into a new generation Civic coupe despite of the dim prospect.
The new 2-door Civic does not deviate from the established formula. It
is affordable, practical and accommodative (for a coupe). Although it
shares exactly the same front end with the Civic sedan, its sloping
fastback looks more handsome. While the last generation looked like a
pig, it looks far more athletic, being sleeker, lower and wider. Sharp
crease lines and angular lights demonstrate an aggressive character not
found in any previous Civics.
Meanwhile, the interior is surprisingly light and airy, unlike many
modern coupes, thanks to relatively large windows. The swoopy fastback
does not rob a lot of headroom, leaving enough space for sub-6-footers.
Rear legroom is also aplenty, thanks to the fact that it keeps the
2700 mm wheelbase. Up front, the driver enjoys a supportive front seat.
The dashboard design and sense of quality is disappointing, as in the
Civic 4-door. However, there are plenty of kits and safety features.
the last generation looked like a pig, it looks far more athletic...
Predictably, the coupe employs the same powertrains as the sedan, i.e.
158 hp 2.0 i-VTEC mated with 6-speed manual or 175 hp 1.5 i-VTEC Turbo
paired with CVT. Although the latter’s thicker torque hence stronger
performance and flexibility is appreciated, the rubber-band effect of
CVT robs it of ultimate driving pleasure. This means, enthusiastic
drivers should stick with the cheaper powertrain, which revs higher,
responds quicker to throttle and sings with a satisfying mechanical
noise, just as a good fast Civic should. Its manual gearbox comes with
a light clutch, slick and crisped gearshift, a sharp contrast to the
uninspiring CVT. The base Civic coupe needs almost 8 seconds to sprint
from 0-60 mph, not exactly a hot coupe, but then it is not supposed to
be an Si or Type R. As a more personal-oriented alternative to Civic
sedan, its mechanical package is well judged.
Apart from performance, the ride and handling is also similar to the
Civic 4-door, which is not a shame considering how much the latest
generation has improved upon the last one. First of all, its chassis is
a lot stiffer, and insulation is much enhanced. Some models even get
hydraulic bushings at rear suspensions. The result is a very refined
ride, like Volkswagen Golf. The suspension setup is said to be stiffer
than the sedan, but the difference is not obvious. This means it is
still slightly biased towards the comfort side. Nevertheless, the
handling is by no means poor. The 2.2-turn steering is quick enough to
inspire excitement, although its average feedback isn’t. The body
control, roadholding and braking are up to the task, if not as good as
a European hot hatch. At the limit, the Civic coupe understeers, just
like its sedan sibling. Mind you, keen drivers should be better served
by a proper hot hatch or the forthcoming Type R coupe. However, if you
want the coupe look without sacrificing the comfort, convenience and
value for money of the Civic sedan, this one is perfect for you.
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to the roots, the Civic Hatchback is a sizeable improvement.
In its hey days,
Honda Civic was my favourite Japanese compact family cars. It was
renowned for low-slung sports car styling, revvy engines, good
performance and all-double wishbone suspensions. If not ultimately the
best driver’s car, it was at least a great basis for modifications.
Things started went wrong as the car entered the new millennium. Honda
suddenly felt the need to differentiate the Civic to suit different
markets. As a result, the Japanese and American Civic became more
conservative and comfort-oriented sedans; The European Civic became
luggage-oriented hatchbacks. They parted ways so much that no longer
shared a lot of genes. Yes, the last two generations European Civic
shared few parts with its JDM and US cousins. They switched to a
completely different architecture with the fuel tank located under the
front seats, elevated the hip points together with waist line, the roof
and also the center of gravity. This led to a very unfortunate shape,
The relocation of fuel tank was part of the effort to enable the rear
seat to flip up and store tall luggage. For the same purpose,
independent rear suspensions were dropped in favour of simple torsion
beam. Its interior designers also went too far to create a double-tier
dashboard, which was ergonomically challenging. If not the last, very
fast Type R Turbo saved the game, the outgoing European Civic would
have left us only regrets.
Happily, the days of regret are over. Although globalization suddenly
sounds strange in the rise of Donald Trump, Honda realizes the need for
globalization and reunites the regional Civics again. Now the European
Civic – while still being assembled in UK – is practically the
hatchback conversion of the Civic sedan sold in North America. In fact,
from its looks you can already tell that.
This change also allows the hatchback to be built and sold in North
America, so it is a world car again.
With very edgy front and rear design, the Civic hatchback is not easy
to please eyes. However, like the sedan, its fast-angle back, low and
flowing waist line bring a strong sporty flavour. Vast fake vents at
both ends and centrally-mounted exhaust add further aggression. It
looks so aggressive that I suppose the next Type R needs no more than a
huge rear wing and larger wheels for exterior enhancement. Since it
shares floorpan with the sedan, its wheelbase is a class-leading 2700mm
or nearly 100mm up from the old car! The front and rear overhangs are
obviously longer, too, so the overall length gains 233 mm to 4518 mm.
This is an American-sized hatchback! The car also gets 30mm broader,
but its roof is lowered by nearly 40mm thanks to abandoning the
aforementioned fuel tank and luggage arrangement. In other words, it
becomes conventional again, with the fuel tank located under the rear
seat and seating levels much closer to the floor. Although the cabin
loses luggage space, the boot space is class-leading at 478 liters,
thanks to the long overhang.
Earth Dream engines are matched with good chassis dynamics.
Inside, driver’s headroom is improved as you sit 34mm lower. Rear
headroom is still slightly limited by the sloping fastback though, but
the extended wheelbase offers plenty of legroom. The dashboard and
pretty much all the interior packaging follows the American Civic. This
means a conventional dashboard and instrument layout, improved build
quality but the plastics and switches are not quite as good as the best
European rivals. Outward visibility is good up front but less so at the
back, blame to the fake rear quarter windows (they are too small
Like its American sibling, it employs the new Earth Dream 1.5-liter
direct-injection turbo engine. Although it is dubbed a VTEC, it
VTC cam phasing on both camshafts rather than the traditional
cam-changing VTEC. Power output is a bit higher than the American
version at 182 hp and 177 lbft of torque. When mated with Honda’s
short-throw, slick-shifting 6-speed manual gearbox, it offers
performance: 0-60 mph takes only 7.7 seconds, while the car will flat
out at 137 mph. The motor combines a gusty mid-range with good
refinement. For a mainstream engine, it is quite impressive. Another
engine also comes from the Earth Dream family. It is the new
entry-level 1.0-liter direct-injection 3-cylinder turbo. Equipped with
both VTC and intake VTEC, its specific power is even higher than the
four-pot, with 129 hp and 147 lbft of torque on offer. Apart from the
new Ford 1.0 Ecoboost 140hp, this should be the most powerful 1-liter
engine on the market. Unfortunately, it suffers from more turbo lag
than the 1.5-liter, and it redlines at only 5600 rpm, so you get a
useable power band of less than 3000 rpm.
Compared with the old hatchback, the new one has a much improved
chassis, not least of which is the return of multi-link rear
suspension. In top trim, it is even offered with electronic
adaptive dampers. Meanwhile, the new monocoque chassis is 52 percent
stiffer torsionally than the old one while trimming 16kg of weight. The
center of gravity drops by 10mm. In addition to the wider tracks and
longer wheelbase, handling and ride quality are both improved. It rides
smoothly on normal roads and feels absorbent enough on B-roads. Grip,
balance and body control are
decent. The steering is quick and consistently weighted, if not very
feelsome. As in the case of Civic sedan, the hatchback is not as sharp
or as agile as Mazda 3, Ford Focus, Opel Astra or Seat Leon, nor it is
as quiet as Volkswagen Golf, but its dynamics are above class average,
while ride comfort is one of the best. Such an all-round manner puts
the new Civic hatchback back to the shortlist of small family car