Back after a long wait of six years, does the Honda Civic offer the right blend of practicality and performance to be your everyday executive sedan?
Back in 2006 when the Civic was first launched, it became the defacto choice for the enthusiast. Not only because it looked sporty, but also because of its befitting engine, comfortable seating and an accommodating boot. Not to mention, the Honda badge too. However, things went downhill towards the end of 2013 as diesel-powered cars gained popularity. The Civic, however, is now back, six years and two generations later. And more importantly, it’s now armed with a diesel engine as well. Can it still balance performance and sensibility like before? And more importantly, can it match your expectations?
- If you need your car to be a showstopper, then look no further. The Honda Civic looks absolutely stunning from all angles. My pick, however, is the rear three quarters which highlights the angular taillamps and the fastback roofline.
- Even if you look at it from the front, the sleek LED headlamps, the bold chrome grille and the low nose of the sedan make it look just the right amount of aggressive and sporty.
- From the side as well, the Civic turns heads with a coupe-like back and large wheel arches filled up nicely with gorgeous 17-inch alloy wheels. Also, despite the 170mm ground clearance when unladen, the Civic is the lowest in its segment, which gives it a low-slung stance.
- There isn't a single design element that we don't like. However, the styling might seem a little overwhelming to those looking for a more elegant and timeless design like the Skoda Octavia.
- Before we step inside, we have to talk about how you get there. The Civic gets almost sports car-like low seating which lets you sink into the cabin and stretch your legs out. Along with powered driver seat and fully adjustable steering, getting into a comfortable driving position is a breeze.
- The cabin is dominated by black with rich-looking materials all around. Like the exteriors, the interiors also feature a lot of sharp design elements like the centre AC vents and the layout of the instrument cluster.
- The 7-inch digital instrument cluster is the same unit we have seen on the CR-V and gets a nice and large tachometer for a sporty feel. The information displayed in the middle can be chosen from a variety of options like navigation, calls, fuel efficiency, media or other settings. The steering too feels well contoured to hold and gets a leather wrap. What we don't like here are the steering-mounted buttons which feel a bit tacky.
- A key advantage you have in the CIvic’s cabin is practicality. The centre console gets two platforms to keep your phone or wallet. Moreover, it even gets slots for holding your USB cables which helps them stay neatly put. The centre storage is also deep and gets foldable cup holders for better space management.
- If we had one complaint, it was with the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment unit. The colours and animations feel laggy and while the features function well, it doesn’t feel premium. An interesting feature here is the Lane Watch which sends a camera feed from the left ORVM to the infotainment system for a quick glance at the traffic behind.
- One thing we would like to highlight is the ambient lighting on offer. It's nothing more than a tiny blue light on the roof panel at the front and is purely, purely there to add an item to the spec sheet. Frankly, till someone from Honda pointed it out, we thought it was an oversight on the website.
- While the cabin of the Civic isn't as futuristic as the one on the eighth-gen, it’s still very well put together and built to last. Some plastics, like the ones on the centre console are hard and feel out of place, but the overall experience is premium.
Rear Seat Experience
- If you have seen our review of the Civic, you would know that the rear seats are low, and might be wondering how much of a bother it is. Let me tell you, it is quite a bit. If you are of larger than average build, it will require some effort to get in, and more so when you want to get out. This is not just because the seats are low, but also because of the huge gap between where you sit and where the doors open. It will be even harder for the elderly.
- But, once you are in, the seats are rather comfortable. The seat base is long and offers good under-thigh support and the back angle is well relaxed as well. You get ample knee room and surprisingly, ample headroom as well. What might feel lacking to some is space to tuck your feet under the front seats.
- If we were to nitpick, then the size of the windows could have been larger for an airier feel, there should have been a USB charger for the rear passengers and the armrest could have been more supportive.
- In terms of features, the Civic comes close to doing justice to its price. The infotainment system supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. You also get dual-zone climate control, sunroof, push-button starter, rear AC vents and armrest and auto day/night IRVM. Also, the petrol variants get the remote starter option, by which you can remotely start the car and the climate control to cool the cabin too.
- But, we do feel that the co-passenger seat should have also had powered adjust. Also, the overall quality of equipment isn't something you’d expect from a car of this price. For example, the sound system on offer feels very average and the touchscreen experience isn't that great either.
- The Civic gets a 430-litre boot which is ample for you weekend luggage. But because there is a full-size alloy under there, it isn't very deep and won't let you get creative with the space.
Engine And Performance
- The Honda Civic comes with two engine options. The petrol unit is a 1.8-litre motor from the eighth-gen CIvic, with a few modifications for improved emissions. It is available only with a CVT transmission.
- The diesel engine, introduced for the first time in the Civic is a 1.6-litre unit and is only available with a 6-speed manual transmission. This is the same engine we sampled in the Honda CR-V last year.
- Let's start things off with the petrol. In terms of refinement, this engine scores highly in both quietness and vibrations. Switch the AC compressor off and you will barely even know that the motor’s running.
- When it comes to the power delivery, however, things aren't as friendly. It makes 141PS of power at 6500rpm and 174Nm of torque at 4300rpm, which is ample. But, it comes mated to a CVT transmission which makes the power delivery quite gradual.
- Putting your foot down results in a laidback acceleration time of 11.65 seconds to reach 100kmph from a standstill. That's a whole 3.4 seconds slower than the Skoda Octavia petrol-automatic. Getting a quick move on also isn't the Civic’s forte. With a kick down (20-80kmph) time of 6.99 seconds, you will have to plan your overtakes in advance.
- There is a sports mode as well, which holds on to revs for longer, but it proved to be slower in our acceleration runs. And while you can use the paddle shifters and manually operate the steps, it still doesn't feel engaging.
- But, the Civic proves to be a calm commuter in the city. Get on the gas gently and the petrol-CVT combination is very smooth and efficient as well. In our tests, it returned 10.21kmpl inside the city.
- On the highway as well, the Civic petrol requires effort to maintain higher speeds, but cruises easily at 100-110kmph. At these speeds, it returns 15.92kmpl on the highway.
- If you are looking for a livelier experience, it's the diesel you need to pick. Right from the moment you let the clutch go, the diesel Civic feels more eager to pick up speeds. It manages to get to 100kmph in 10.96 seconds and is also quicker in the quarter-mile sprint than the petrol.
- The diesel motor packs 120PS of power and 300Nm of torque. Most of the torque, however, is concentrated in the middle of the rev band. While this offers fantastic drivability in the city and on the highway, even for overtakes, a gentle tap on the accelerator is enough to get you going.
- It's in bumper to bumper traffic where the power feels a bit lacking. Below 1700rpm, the car struggles to pick up pace, especially in a higher gear. This forces you to work the gearbox more for a quicker pickup, even in traffic.
- When you are in the mood for some fun, the engine can be revved close to 5,000 rpm and is fun to play around with. But, slotting the gear in needs a precise push into the gate.
- Drive calmly and the Civic diesel will return 16.81kmpl in the city and 20.07kmpl on the highway.
Ride and handling
- This is the one area where the Civic makes you fall in love with it. The handling ability of this sedan will make you never miss a sports car in your daily commutes. It remains absolutely flat around corners in ways no sedan in the segment, or even above it does.
- The chassis has been designed keeping in mind the dynamics for cars like the Civic Type R, and that definitely translates into a fun experience. In fact, these kinds of dynamics surely deserve a better set of engines.
- The brilliant feedback and sharp response from the steering let you know exactly where the wheels are pointing. This lets you be in control of the car and when on twisty roads, you can really have a lot of fun.
- But, the best part is, the Civic does not compromise on ride quality to achieve this brilliant handling. The suspension feels very well damped and can take on any undulation you throw at it in the city.
- Speed breakers hardly ever become a bother and even the potholes are felt only slightly inside the cabin. Another thing which keeps the cabin comfortable is how quickly the suspension settles after a bump. The suspension quickly comes to rest after a speed breaker and even after a pothole.
- In the Civic, you get six airbags as standard, ABS with EBD, stability management (ESC), hill start assist and Honda’s Agile Handling Assist which helps steer the car more cleanly at higher speeds in corners. It managed a 5-star rating in the ASEANCAP with two airbags.
There are two ways to look at the Honda Civic. One is from the eyes of an enthusiast as Honda’s sports sedan, and the other is from the eyes for a sensible buyer wanting to buy an all-rounder executive sedan. In both cases, the Civic leaves you wanting for more.
If you are an enthusiast, you will really appreciate the handling-ergonomics package on offer. It is probably the best you can buy under Rs 25 lakh. But the engine-gearbox combinations are far from sporty. The petrol engine revs nicely, but the CVT slows the progress down to an extent where the Civic, even with the brilliant chassis, fails to deliver an exciting experience. The diesel-manual does make things better, but not enough to keep you engaged. So, if you are looking for a sporty sedan and are awestruck by the Civic’s looks, it’s the diesel-manual you should pick.
If you are a sensible buyer, then the Civic has a lot to offer. It gets all the necessary features that you will require for a premium experience. And though the quantity of features is plenty, it’s the quality that lets it down. The touchscreen experience, buttons on the steering wheel and the plastics around the gear shifter do hold the cabin back from delivering a luxurious experience. But if you find the quality acceptable, the excellent ride quality and the comfortable seats surely make the Civic a strong contender as a daily driver. And if you will be spending most of the time in the city, we would recommend the petrol-CVT option for a smooth and laidback drive.