Car reviews - Honda - Civic - VTi-LX
Outward visibility, quality of fit and finish, smooth driveline, fluid ride and handling characteristics, sorted ergonomics, logical tech and safety kit, useful cargo area.
Room for improvement
Some tyre noise, tyre-repair kit only, price hike over outgoing range, single variant only, no sunroof, bending lights or auto tailgate, turning circle.
Eleventh generation Civic ups the quality quotient – and price tag – of Honda’s stalwart small car
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14 Dec 2021
By MATT BROGAN
HONDA has released its all-new Civic model in Australia as a single-body style, solitary derivative proposition that is not only more refined and athletic than the equivalent outgoing model – but also considerably more expensive.
Honda says the move is about offering Australian buyers a more upmarket Civic that will compete with European rivals and that the Japanese brand no longer wishes to be measured by the number of vehicles it sells in our market. Well, considering how poorly the last generation Civic sold compared with its rivals, that’s probably a good thing…
But, in its attempt to bring more “joy” to its die-hard private customers, Honda has effectively priced many Civic buyers out of the market. The new Civic VTi-LX five-door hatch now starts from $47,200 drive-away, which is $7600 more than the previous Civic RS.
The single-spec Civic comes to market at a time that Honda Australia is “repositioning” its business to focus on private and premium small car buyers as part of a broader decision that will see the brand sell just 20,000 vehicles annually moving forward – or around 10,000 units less than the number of sales the Toyota Corolla range usually garners in the space of a year.
The eleventh-generation Civic is powered by an updated version of the 1.5-litre VTEC TURBO four-cylinder petrol engine. The 1.8-litre naturally aspirated four-pot has been discontinued.
The output figures of the VTEC TURBO engine are rated at 131kW (+4kW) and 240Nm (+20Nm), the figure rising to 134kW on 95 RON premium unleaded fuel. The front wheels are driven via an automatic continuously variable transmission, which Honda says has “redeveloped and improved” for 2022.
The brand claims the Civic VTi-LX will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds and the model’s average fuel economy figure is listed at 6.3 litres per 100km (ADR Combined).
The MY22 Civic range will be further bolstered when the e:HEV (petrol-electric) hybrid and sporty Type R arrive in the latter half of next year.
The new Civic places an emphasis on innovation, design leadership and outstanding driving dynamics, Honda says. Its clean modern design is paired with a high-tech, human-centred interior equipped with the latest Honda Sensing active and passive safety systems.
The Japanese-built model rides on 18-inch alloy wheels and Honda supplies a tyre-repair kit in lieu of a spare wheel. As a result, the Civic’s claimed luggage capacity has grown by 45 litres, with an under-floor tray taking the place of the space saver spare wheel.
The Civic also features a larger cabin than before with “ample head, leg, shoulder, and hip room for all passengers”, Honda says, which is a considerable feat, given the coupe-like styling of the sleek five-door model.
If you take the price politics out of the equation – if that’s at all possible – then the new-gen Civic is easy to love. After walking around the car, opening and closing its doors and tailgate, and then settling yourself behind the newcomer‘s ‘wheel, it’s immediately evident that Honda has returned to its quality roots – the fit and finish of the VTi-LX grade is superb.
The Civic’s cossetting seats and exacting ergonomics are beyond reproach and the views over the bonnet and out of the side windows are as good – or better – than Honda claims.
Honda says it has focused on outward visibility as part of a push to create a “panoramic exterior view” for all occupants. To that end, the A-pillars have been moved backward, the bonnet lowered and the dashboard flattened to improve the forward view, while the door-mounted wing mirrors serve to improve sightlines between the front pillar and the mirror.
It’s also reassuring that, despite the abundance of technology the Honda offers, one doesn’t require an IT degree to feel fully in step with the convenience and safety equipment available (you can read more about the equipment offered in the new Civic via the links below).
Simply put, the user-friendliness of the Civic’s infotainment-, vehicle management- and driver-assistance systems are wonderfully intuitive; they’re palpably easy to use on the go.
The sleeker profile does a great job of disguising the new Civic’s larger dimensions. The model is 12mm wider in its rear track (now 1565mm), 10mm narrower in its front track (1537mm) and has a 35mm longer wheelbase than the outgoing model (2735mm).
It’s also 45mm longer overall (4560mm) and 3mm wider (1802mm), but 6mm shorter (1415mm) and 23kg heavier (1369kg) when compared with the tenth-gen VTi-LX hatch.
Though you wouldn’t recognise those gains from behind the ‘wheel… The refined ride, fluid steering and athletic handling of the new-gen Civic do well to disguise its additional bulk.
Even when traversing challenging roads, you’re unlikely to feel jounces through the body –the Civic’s strut front and multi-link rear suspension soaks up surface imperfections with wilful acuity. The ride might border on firm, but it’s never uncomfortable, and the resulting trade-off in handling is one we’d happily accept. The Civic’s chassis is composed, agile, and wonderfully accurate – all traits that bode extremely well for the upcoming Type R.
The electrically assisted steering is nicely weighted and firms up incrementally when the Sport drive mode is selected. The smaller-diameter steering wheel adds to the natural feedback offered to the driver and the Civic telegraphs its inherent balance and poise to the fingertips with text-book accuracy. It’s a pity the turning circle is quite large (11.6 metres).
The newcomer’s braking feel and pedal responses are equal parts keen and controlled. The pedal stroke is sublime and the performance of the all-disc braking system (282mm front and 260mm rear) is surprisingly powerful despite how dinky the rotors appear to be.
However, and despite Honda’s effort to quell wheel-drumming by fitting a resonance strip inside the alloy rims, the 40-series Goodyear tyres generate appreciable road rumble over coarse-chip surfaces. It’s a small downside to what is otherwise an exceptionally quiet ride: the Civic presents next-to-no harsh mechanical or aerodynamic transfer to its cabin.
The 1.5-litre turbo-petrol motor flatters the Civic by offering an admirable blend of urgency and economy. The marriage with a refreshed continuously variable transmission is a happy one – the unit reacts eagerly to throttle inputs without being thrashy or highly-strung.
The CVT is sharper again in Sport mode or when spurred by the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, but, in most scenarios, is perfectly adequate when left to its own devices.
In mixed conditions, including an extended country drive, the Civic VTi-LX achieved an average fuel consumption figure of 7.1L/100km – or 0.8L/100km more than the ADR Combined cycle claim.
While the new Civic does everything with the kind of confidence and resolve we expect from Honda, we’re just not sure small-car buyers will be willing to part with $47,200 drive-away to get behind its steering wheel.
With the Audi A1 S line ($47,200), BMW 118i M Sport ($47,450) and Mercedes-Benz A180 ($48,720) priced so tantalisingly close, the Civic VTi-LX is something of a hard sell. While we think it’s an absolutely gem of a car, we know most Aussie buyers would prefer a premium German badge when faced with the very real decision to part with their hard-earned coin.
A good thing Honda Australia isn’t worried about its sales targets then, eh?
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