2016 All New 10th Gen Honda Civic Review

On the verge of arriving Malaysian shores, Bobby Ang travelled to Thailand to drive the all-new, much hyped, 10th Generation Honda Civic to see if anything’s going to kick in.

There’s no denying the enthusiasm that surrounds the all new 2016 Honda Civic is one that even the Acura NSX finds it overwhelming. First it came news that Honda, the purveyor of fine naturally aspirated engines – is going turbocharging with this one. And then out came the leaks – of what is arguably one of the most striking and original designs coming off a bread and butter, carpet and metal segment. 

Two variants will find its way into Malaysian showrooms, the 1.8 litre NA, and a 1.5 litre turbo. And it’s not hard to decipher which is which. Honda did a great job at differentiating both, and both appeals in a way that I think Honda can consider positioning them likewise BMW’s strategy of a ‘Sports Line’ and an Urban Line’ of sorts. 

The 1.8 houses projector headlamps up front with a chrome grille, and the 1.5 Turbo has a gloss black grille housing full LED headlights, adding a demeanour of sporting intentions

POWERTRAINS

The 1.8 litre engine makes 141ps at 6,500rpm and 174Nm at 4,200rpm. The 1.5 litre turbo produces 173ps at 5,500rpm and 220Nm from 1,700rpm to 5,500rpm, matching up to outputs from a 2.4 litre engine. Both engines are mated to a CVT transmission with torque converter that has virtual ratios. And I’d like to assure you now that Honda did a great job at reducing the rubbery feel inherent in CVT transmissions. Both powertrains deliver very linear and smooth acceleration, and of course the 1.5 turbo delivers more punch on the get go and the broad torque curve allows more effortless overtaking, acceleration, and curvy uphill roads, where deceleration and acceleration comes into mix often. I’m sure all of you must be awaiting for reports of explosive response coming from this new forced induction mill, but that’s not how Honda want things to be.  

The 1.5 turbo was tuned to not only perform like a 2.4 litre engine, but behave like one as well. While there’s definitely some street cred to gain were if it deliver packs of punch on the get-go, the intention here isn’t really to win pole position towards the next traffic light – piling up consumption and emission while putting the various drivetrains up for stress tests. 

Honda wanted the 1.5 litre to produce more power in daily driving without the penalties of adding up petrol station visits, hence my advice you shall heed, to go linear with the throttle, and you’ll be aptly rewarded.

The biggest complain with the 9th Gen Honda Civic, is the soft suspension, the inert steering, and the overall introvert demeanour of the car’s much hidden charm that takes quite an effort to discover. While Honda quickly rolled out a much improved facelift following unfavourable reviews flowing in from all over the world, there’s only so much cream you can pour into your hotel buffet line coffee.  And my oh my have they improve this new Civic when it comes to handling, and I’m delighted to declare – comfort as well. 

First of all, both cars ride beautifully, be it the 16”s from the 1.8 litre or the 17”s fitted to the 1.5 turbo, they have a pliancy that absorbs and reacts to numerous road conditions. Very low wind noise also helps in improving overall NVH, and it’s straight up Volkswagen levels of cabin insulation. Rear passengers will hear and feel slightly more of the environment than front passengers, but that’s nitpicking in a class where there are plenty competition out there that pays little attention to overall NVH, much less a few that excels in it. 

On top of what’s a much quieter cabin, the new Civic has a sweet, nicely weighted power steering that is not only comfortable to hold, it steers really well too. Those who were used to the way Japanese cars having overtly light steering wheels will take some getting used to, but the staunch EuroDM supporters will really appreciate the way the new Civic feels behind the wheel. It’s a very fast rack too, with only 1.25 turns lock to lock (self estimation), it adds up to the impression that the front end of the car tracks steering movements very well, infusing much enthusiasm into point-and-go winding road drives. 

One thing that surprises everybody, is the tail that’s rather ‘happy’ in being thrown into a corner – the Civic was tuned to sort-of ‘rotates’ around the driver. It steps out to help point the front in – something no one expected, but one that shows that little bit of fun Honda engineers want you to have on the get go.

Thus in terms of handling, the new Civic is very mature, rides out road impurities, steers confidently, and cruises comfortably.

THE INTERIOR

Perhaps taking a page out of Mazda’s book, Honda greatly improved the material as well as the fit and finish of the new Civic’s interior. High quality soft touch materials are placed all over the cabin, gone are the clunky, multi-panel cheap hard plastic dashboard of the 9th gen, and in comes this nicely sorted, ergonomically sound cockpit. And this has got to be one of the most spacious cabins in the segment, I’m 5 foot 11 and I find nothing much gets in the way throughout the cabin, aside from the overall low seating position that may affect ingress and egress for the old.

TOYS & FEATURES

There’s plenty of progress here, first off, both variants come with remote start, within 40 metres of range, you can press and hold the Remote Engine Start button and get your air conditioning running before you step into the car. A very handy feature, but only if you quit the habit of switching off your air conditioning – just leave it alone because if you switch off your air conditioning before you stepped off your car, Remote Engine Start won’t activate the air conditioning for you – liberal perhaps. 

Next up, there are HDMI and USB ports as well as Apple CarPlay integration (Android integration will be released via an update), and I have to tell you, this is one of the best systems there is. It works without Bluetooth pairing, just plug your iPhone cable into any USB ports, telephone, phone book and media integration happens instantly. Very well done Honda. 

Driver gets 8 way powered seats in the 1.5 turbo and 4 way in the 1.8. The latter doesn’t get the beautiful touch screen interface, but you do get physical air conditioning buttons. The analog speedo of the 1.8 with monochromatic digital information display doesn’t loose out to the 1.5’s full digital display as well in terms of presentation – of course if Honda were to release any updates that allows dynamic changes (such as that of Audi’s) then perhaps the 1.5’s digital LCD display can be put to better use. Nevertheless, it’s pretty impressive with its layout and presentation as well as response.

Expected from any new car, an electronic parking brake is present in both variants, while the Turbo gets paddle shifters. Not losing out too much were if you’re driving the 1.8, because the CVT is rather intelligent, while we’re going downhill, the application of brakes immediately triggers the transmission to go down one or two gears before you even hesitate, but of course it would’ve been better if both comes with it. 

Eye catchy cliche nomenclatures aside, I’m glad Honda place in a few features into both Civics that complements daily driving experience, actual things that we need. Say for example if we’re stuck in a traffic jam, upon applying the brakes and coming to a full stop, there’s no need to continue applying pressure on the brake pedal or engaging ‘Neutral’, you can just lift off any pedals and wait, and when it’s time to go, just prod the throttle and you’re off. 

Secondly, remember how we always remind our family members to lock the car when we stepped out? There’s no need to hassle now as when the car senses the key is out of the car (with the driver), it automatically locks. As you walk back and it senses you, it unlocks. Genius! 

VERDICT

Overall, the new Civic is very polished. Spacious and a very well appointed cabin, handsome exterior, quiet, toys aplenty, very good handling dynamics and comfort, and adequately specced. As for prices, I’m expecting something around RM11x,xxx to RM13x,xxx, so there’s little surprises there. It’s not as fast or as insanely well specced as the Focus, nor does it comes with outright single dimensional handling prowess of the Mazda 3, but the Civic does everything well, every, single, damn, thing there is to judge a car upon.

And come on, how many years have Honda fans yearn for an official badge that spells “VTEC TURBO”? Even if ‘kicking in’ is now a thing of the past, one where linearity makes the call now. 

The best way to feel the extra grunt from the turbo, is to drive normally on roads, and then behave like how you would in day to day driving conditions - to overtake a slow vehicle, to go uphill without flooring your throttle, to speed up while merging higher speed lanes - given such executions, the 1.5 turbo is flawless. But when you floor the throttle when the lights turn green, you won’t expect the Civic to lurch out and Type-R its way to the next apex. No, it’s not designed that way.