• At 430 litres, it’s got the smallest boot capacity in its...
    At 430 litres, it’s got the smallest boot capacity in its segment.
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Rating 8 8

2019 Honda Civic review, road test

3rd Jun 2019 7:00 am

The Civic returns to India after seven years, in its 10th-gen avatar, and now gets a diesel engine.

  • Make : Honda
  • Model : Civic
We Like
Sporty image
Ride and handling balance
We Don't Like
Unexciting engines
Pricey higher variants

Memories may be short-lived, but not if the car in question was one that left behind an indelible impression. That’s why owners of the first Honda Civic haven’t quite forgotten what a revolutionary executive sedan it was in its time. The eighth-generation Civic was also the bestselling car in its class and it’s not for nothing that it won the 2007 Autocar Car of the Year award. In fact, after the executive sedan was discontinued in 2012, many owners have patiently hung on to their cars, waiting for a replacement. It was a rather long wait of seven years before Honda brought the Civic back, skipping an entire generation in the process.

But the Civic is finally here and this 10th-generation model comes with a mid-life facelift; so it’s as fresh and up-to-date as it gets. There’s also a diesel engine option for the first time, but has that come too late in a market that is rapidly moving away from diesel?

Digital cluster looks properly modern and is easy on the eyes.
 
Late or not, the Civic, even after a seven-year hiatus, doesn’t seem to have lost its fans. In the first month after its launch, an incredible 2,291 Civics were sold – that is 1,706 units more than the entire executive segment put together! The following month, sales dropped to 369 units, quite clearly indicating that a lot of the pent-up demand of seven years was mopped up in one shot. But even with this drop, the Civic is emerging to be the top dog in the segment.

The question is, is it really that good? Does it have the same ingenuity and appeal of the original that made it so special? Or is it simply riding on its legacy? We put both, petrol and diesel variants of the new Civic through the grind to see if it can recreate the magic of its predecessor.

The previous Civic stood out for its revolutionary styling and the current model is pretty radical too with its Audi A7-ish fastback-like design. It’s just that the tail doesn’t open like a hatchback’s but is a conventional boot that can hold a modest 430 litres of luggage.

That said, the new Civic’s design isn’t as groundbreaking as the original one’s whose cab-forward design blended all the three ‘boxes’ (the bonnet, passenger compartment and boot) into one seamless shape.

Its hunkered-down proportions and fastback-like design make it appear fast even when parked.

The new hood is distinctly longer and points to a car that has grown substantially. It is a good 111mm longer than before and 49mm wider too. It sits on an identical 2,700mm wheelbase but the overall height is a good 17mm lower. The low-slung roof, which sweeps into the tail, the wide track and 17-inch alloy wheels (biggest in class) that nicely fill the large wheel arches give the Civic an aggressively sporty stance, which is a huge part of its appeal. And it’s not just the hunkered-down proportions but also the design details that make the Civic a stunning car to look at.

Up front, the Honda grille, with its signature chunky chrome strip, is flanked by sharply cut full-LED (on the top-spec) headlights that look techy, and the way the bonnet bulges upwards on the sides is a show of the car’s sporty intent.

All LED lighting (head/fog/DRL) lend a very premium look.

The air intake below the bumper flares out at the edges to house the fog lamps and a chrome surround, which accentuates the width of the car. From the side, the muscular front wheel arches, the subtle character lines on the doors and the rising beltline that sharply dips after the rear door into the rear lights are interesting elements that stand out in the Civic’s coupé-like silhouette.

The C-shaped tail-lights, with the top edges extending into the boot lid, is another stand-out feature the Civic abounds with. In fact, it’s hard to find a boring bit in the new Civic. Even the alloy wheel design is classy.

Under the skin, the Civic gets a MacPherson strut suspension up front, but the first Civic’s torsion bar setup at the rear has been replaced by a sophisticated multi-link setup. Honda was acutely aware of the serious ground clearance issues the first Civic faced, so they raised the ride height by over 20mm to ensure that speed breakers don’t foul with the car’s underbody.

Raised ride height makes it less susceptible to belly scrapes.

The new model is based on a new global platform, which has a high degree of torsional stiffness and uses high-tensile steel to keep weight down. In fact, weighing 1,300kg (for the petrol variant), the Civic is only 60kg heavier than the first Civic and that’s quite commendable when you factor in a stronger body structure, all the safety features, and the long equipment list – all of which are a must in cars of today.

The low stance of the Civic is apparent when you get in and out of it; this could be an issue for some elderly people. However, once you drop down into the driver’s seat, you’ll find yourself instantly connected to the car. The driver-focused environment immediately strikes you with the way everything around you falls to hand. All the controls, like the steering wheel, the pedals and the gear lever, are ideally placed and the seat, with its side bolsters that hold you snugly and the wide base, is extremely comfortable for long drives. This is a cockpit that wraps itself around the driver, making them feel like they’re always in charge.

Interiors are well put together but quality isn’t in the league of European rivals.

The instrument cluster is divided into three parts, with a large digital speedo and a semi-circular tachometer above it taking centre stage. On either side are the fuel and temperature gauges with bar-graph graphics that are easy to read. 

While Honda has taken the ergonomics of the Civic’s cabin a couple of notches higher, the dashboard design doesn’t break the mould as the first Civic did. The multi-layered dashboard looks interesting but it’s quite a straightforward design that prioritises practicality.

Bolstered seats holds you snugly; the wide seat base is comfy for long drives.

There’s loads of storage space in the Civic, with generous door pockets, a large glovebox and a multitude of cubby holes. There’s some space in front of the gear lever that’s useful if you want to keep your phone and other knick-knacks, but the USB port behind it isn’t easy to access. The electronic parking brake does away with the need for a handbrake lever, which, in turn, frees up enough space for a massive bin between the front seats.

Rear seat comfort is good, but headroom for taller passengers is tight.

The Civic’s cabin quality isn’t quite in the same league as its main rival, the Skoda Octavia, but it is well put together and is a huge improvement from what we’ve seen from Honda before. The dashboard top has soft-touch plastics that feel quite rich, but lower down, you will find more hard-wearing materials, which slightly takes away from the premium feel. The switchgear has a wonderfully tactile feel but some of the buttons, like those for the air con controls, are a touch too small. The infotainment screen, though not placed close to eye level, is easy to read, thanks to its sharp and crisp graphics.

Absence of a handbrake lever liberates ample storage space.

Executive sedans are largely chauffeur driven, even if they are something as sporty as this Civic, and hence back-seat comfort is very important. The Civic scores fairly well in this regard, offering a surprisingly generous amount of legroom that’s comparable to its rivals. Where it loses out is in headroom, which could be an issue for tall passengers, and the small rear windows only compound the feeling of being somewhat hemmed in. A bigger issue for those travelling with three passengers at the back is that the Civic’s floor is no longer flat and the central hump in the new cabin, designed to enhance torsional rigidity, won’t be popular with the middle passenger.

Position of the USB and power sockets is a bit difficult to access.

 

The Civic comes with a 1.8-litre petrol engine mated to a CVT, while the 1.6 diesel comes only with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Both engines have modest power outputs and, sadly, neither live up to the Civic’s sporty image.

The 1.8 i-VTEC motor is essentially the same naturally aspirated petrol motor that powered the first Civic, but it has been upgraded to meet the latest emission standards and in the process produces more power as well but not enough by today’s class standards. Maximum output is a modest 141hp, which is one of the lowest amongst its rivals (1hp more than the Corolla Altis) and not surprisingly, the Civic is outgunned off the traffic lights. A 0-100kph time of 11.48sec is a whole second slower than the Elantra (who would have thought that?) and more than three sec behind the Octavia. The saving grace is that it manages to beat its erstwhile rival, the Toyota Corolla, which is nearly a second adrift. The petrol Civic’s performance figures are far from thrilling and will certainly disappoint enthusiasts but some consolation can be found in the rev-happy nature of this i-VTEC motor, which is silky smooth and happy to spin with full gusto to its 6,400rpm rev limit.

Paddleshifters offer a bit of that manual connect in the petrol-auto.

In fact, to get the most of out of this engine, you have the rev the guts out of it because the mid-range is pretty flat and lifeless and it only wakes up past 4,500rpm. It’s at times like these you wish you had a manual gearbox, but it won’t be an option even in the future.

That’s not to say the CVT is bad. In fact, this is possibly the best CVT we have driven and the seven ‘steps’ programmed into the transmission work quite well, giving you a bit of a manual transmission feel via the paddles.

Where the CVT really scores is in city traffic. It’s responsive and reacts quickly even to the smallest of throttle inputs. The linear power delivery, which only a CVT can deliver, makes the Civic an exceptionally smooth car in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

No rear armrest audio controls like the ones in the older-gen Civic.

Our expectations with the diesel were even lower, considering its pretty modest output. Power and torque figures of 120hp and 300Nm is a bit of a mismatch in a car that looks fast even when it’s parked. The reality is that like the petrol Civic, the diesel variant too lags behind its main rivals in the litmus 0-100kph test with a time of 11.15sec, making it slower than both the Octavia and the Elantra; the gap, however, is not as wide as with the petrol equivalents.

 At low speeds, and in the urban crawl, you won’t miss the lack of power because the 1.6 diesel engine, just like the 1.5 diesels in the Amaze and City, on which it’s based, is very responsive from low speeds. It’s when you go faster that you feel the lack of mid-range punch and the need to constantly shift down to extract the maximum out of the engine. It helps that this motor revs to 4,900rpm, which is impressive for a diesel and, to some extent, helps compensate for the relaxed power delivery. The Civic diesel comes with unduly tall gearing and that blunts its performance considerably. The 6-speed manual gearbox, with its short-throw gear lever, is fun to operate but the clutch is a bit heavy and can be ponderous over long periods in stop-start traffic.

While there are vents, annoyingly there’s no provision to charge your smartphone at the rear.

The 1.6 has been fettled with a lot of sound-deadening material and is pretty refined. You can still hear the diesel clatter but it’s not obtrusive and the engine feels best when you don’t rev it too hard.

To sum up, both engines do the job and are adequate for daily driving, especially for city use, but when it comes to sheer performance it falls short of the enthusiast’s expectations.

Honda’s obsession with keeping the Civic’s centre of gravity as low as possible to optimise its dynamics has paid off handsomely. It’s safe to say that the Civic has the best ride and handling in its class and that makes it a joy to drive. The low stance keeps the car nicely tied down and there’s little body roll when pushing hard through corners. Like the old car, the steering is pretty quick off centre, but it doesn’t weight up in a linear way and feels a touch inconsistent. Also, the turning radius of 5.85m isn’t particularly good, due to the large wheels that limit the steering lock. But show it a twisty road and the Civic will dart from corner to corner with the verve and fluency of a true sports sedan. You’ll rue the fact that there’s not enough power to exploit the potential of the Civic’s stiff and well-balanced chassis.

Rounds off bad roads, filtering most shocks out of the cabin. 

The ride is relatively stiff but not to the point of being harsh and, overall, the suspension is well judged to ensure that it doesn’t stray away from the car’s main focus – which is to be a comfortable executive sedan.

Cabin insulation is particularly good and this is one of the most refined cars you can have at its price point, with only a bit of road noise filtering through.

Tall central hump increases structural rigidity, but is quite intrusive for the middle occupant.

The good news is that the new Civic clears most speed breakers with ease and doesn’t suffer from the poor ground clearance of the earlier model, which made owners wince or change their route every time they saw even a moderately sized speed hump.

The fuel tank capacity of the new Civic is down by three litres, compared to the eighth-generation model, but the claimed fuel economy figure of the petrol-auto has gone up by 2.6kpl to 16.5kpl, which means the effective range has increased. In our cycle, however, it returned 7.8kpl in the city, and 11.8kpl on the highway.

A full-sized spare wrapped around a fifth alloy is neatly stowed beneath the boot floor.

The 1.6-litre diesel-manual did a more respectable job in the city with a figure of 13kpl. With tall 4th, 5th and 6th gears, the Civic diesel feels very relaxed while cruising on open roads, and it returned 18.68kpl in our tests.

This 7.0-inch touchscreen has smartphone connectivity like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Touch sensitivity is good, and the interface is relatively easy to operate. Its display is quite clear even under bright sunlight and what’s nice is that the reversing camera display has multiple-views, thus making it easier to park this car. What’s not nice however, are the small physical shortcut buttons on the sides, which feel cheap to use.

Honda has equipped the Civic rather well with most of the features you expect in a car from this segment. So, you get four airbags, hill-start assist, ABS with EBD, ESP, reverse camera and parking sensors, all from the base variant. What the base V CVT variant also gets are LED tail-lamps, DRLs, 16-inch diamond-cut alloys, electric mirrors, keyless entry, paddleshifters and rear air-con vents. 

Nifty turn-by-turn navigation prompts on the digital cluster.

As you go higher up the range to the VX variant (the base spec for the diesel and mid-spec for petrol), the features list include an eight-way powered driver’s seat, touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, auto-dimming mirrors, ambient lighting and leather upholstery. It is only the top ZX variants that get full-LED auto headlamps,17-inch alloys, sunroof, rain-sensing wipers and curtain airbags. The Civic also gets some segment-first kit like a lane-watch camera, remote engine starter (petrol only) and automatic door locking when the driver walks away with the key.

Using the left indicator turns on outside mirror-mounted camera, which eliminates blind spots.

 

Honda has pushed the envelope once again with the new Civic, by giving it a futuristic design that marks it out from the rest of the pack. The fastback styling looks genuinely unique, while the wide, squat stance makes it look sporty and less of an executive sedan. The good thing is that the svelte looks and low-slung design hasn’t come at the cost of practicality, and the Civic is, in fact, a fine example of Honda’s packaging at its best, with every millimetre in the car accounted for. The Japanese carmaker has eked out space from every nook and cranny to offer a remarkably spacious cabin that abounds with cubby holes and storage areas. Cabin quality is also a big step up from past Civics, even though Honda still has some catching up to do with the European brands.

The best part is that Honda has retained the car’s core value of putting the driver in charge. From the perfect driving position to the brilliant ride and handling, the Civic is a class apart and it’s a car you’ll want to drive more than sit at the back in.

What’s a shame is that Honda hasn’t backed the Civic’s sporting pretensions with strong engines. The petrol and the diesel engines do the job but in a rather uninvolving, aloof way. They lack the punch and performance and are the weak link in what is otherwise an expensive but extremely desirable package.

PRICE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Price Range Ex-showroom - Delhi Rs 17.72-21.02 lakh Rs 20.52-22.32 lakh
Warranty 3 years or unlimited km 3 years or unlimited km
ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Fuel Type / Propulsion Petrol Diesel
Engine Installation Front, transverse Front, transverse
Type 4-cyl, naturally aspirated 4-cyl, turbocharged
Cubic Capacity (cc) 1799cc 1597cc
Bore/Stroke (mm) 81/87.3mm 76/88mm
Compression Ratio 10.6:1 16:1
Valve Train 4 valves per cyl, SOHC 4 valves per cyl, DOHC
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 141hp at 6500rpm 120hp at 4000rpm
Max Torque (Nm @ rpm) 174Nm at 4300rpm 300Nm at 2000rpm
Power to Weight Ratio (hp/tonne) 108hp per tonne 89hp per tonne
Torque to Weight Ratio (Nm/tonne) 134Nm per tonne 222Nm per tonne
Specific Output (hp/litre) 78hp per litre 75hp per litre
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Drive Layout Front-wheel drive Front-wheel drive
Gearbox Type CVT Manual
No of Gears 6
1st Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 3.643/9.11
2nd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.885/17.61
3rd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.179/28.16
4th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.870/38.16
5th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.706/47.02
6th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.593/55.98
Final Drive Ratio 4.992:1 3.571:1
BRAKING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
80 - 0 kph (mts, sec) 23.01m, 2.43s 23.01m, 2.43s
EFFICIENCY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
City (kpl) 7.8kpl 13kpl
Highway (kpl) 11.8kpl 18.68kpl
Tank size (lts) 47 litres 47 litres
ACCELERATION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
0 - 10 kph (sec) 0.83s 0.56s
0 - 20 kph (sec) 1.64s 1.13s
0 - 30 kph (sec) 2.69s 1.67s
0 - 40 kph (sec) 3.70s 2.44s
0 - 50 kph (sec) 4.76s 3.54s
0 - 60 kph (sec) 5.80s 4.69s
0 - 70 kph (sec) 6.96s 5.94s
0 - 80 kph (sec) 8.30s 7.61s
0 - 90 kph (sec) 9.81s 9.25s
0 - 100 kph (sec) 11.48s 11.15s
0 - 110 kph (sec) 13.43s 13.38s
0 - 120 kph (sec) 15.68s 15.98s
0 - 130 kph (sec) 18.29s 19.16s
0 - 140 kph (sec) 21.46s 22.49s
1/4 mile (sec) 18.61s 17.97s
20-80kph (in third gear) (sec) 6.68s 13.91s
40-100kph (in fourth gear) (sec) 9.04s 15.51s
MAX SPEED IN GEAR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
1st (kph @rpm) 43kph 4700rpm
2nd (kph @rpm) 86kph 4900rpm
3rd (kph @rpm) 137kph 4800rpmm
4th (kph @rpm) 180kph 4700rpm
5th (kph @rpm) 190kph 4000rpm
6th (kph @rpm) 196kph 3500rpm
NOISE LEVEL Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Idle (dB) 40.5dB 47.6dB
Idle with AC blower at half (dB) 49.0dB 51.5dB
Full Revs, AC off (dB) 71dB 79.8dB
50 kph in 4th gear AC off (dB) 67.5dB 64.2dB
80 kph in top gear AC off (dB) 70.0dB 67.5dB
BODY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Construction Four-door sedan, monocoque Four-door sedan, monocoque
Weight (kg) 1300kg 1353kg
Front Tyre 215/50 R17 215/50 R17
Rear Tyre 215/50 R17 215/50 R17
Spare Tyre 215/50 R17 215/50 R17
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Independent, MacPherson strut, coil springs Independent, MacPherson strut, coil springs
Rear Independent, Multi-link, coil springs Independent, Multi-link, coil springs
STEERING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Type Rack and pinion Rack and pinion
Type of power assist Electric Electric
Turning Circle Diameter (mts) 11.7m 11.7m
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Disc Disc
Rear Disc Disc
Dimensions Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Length 4656mm 4656mm
Width (mm) 1799mm 1799mm
Height 1433mm 1433mm
Wheel base 2700mm 2700mm
Front Track (mm) 1543mm 1543mm
Rear Track (mm) 1557mm 1557mm
Rear Interior Width (mm) 1390mm 1390mm
Ground Clearance (mm) 121mm 119mm
Boot Capacity (Lts) 430 litres 430 litres
INTERIOR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Seat upholstery Leather Leather
Rear AC vents Available Available
Android Auto Available Available
Apple Car Play Available Available
Sunroof Available Available
EXTERIOR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Daytime running lamps Available Available
Headlamp type LED LED
Rain sensing wipers Available Available
Parking camera Available Available
SAFETY FEATURES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Airbags 6 6
ESP Available Available
Hill start assist Available Available
2019 Honda Civic review, road test
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