The Honda Civic is all set to make a comeback to the Indian market. In its 10th generation now, the new Civic is larger and sportier than its eighth-gen predecessor that adorned our roads. Although this charismatic sedan might still have a fan-following in our country, Honda’s bold step in a segment that’s been shadowed by the popularity of SUVs may raise more than a few eyebrows. With the new Civic, Honda claims to have completed the sedan offering by plugging the gap between the City and the Accord.
But the real question is, can Honda attract some of the lost charm this segment has witnessed over the years? Before we answer that, let’s take a closer look at the new Civic.
Building on the popularity of its futuristic design, Honda has undoubtedly kept the momentum rolling in the latest model too. You can still witness the inherently low-slung profile. One that’s complemented by a brutally swooping roofline, an even edgier body-line with minimal overhangs, and a wide stance. Unmistakably sporty, you’d agree.
Its front-end is characterised by a wedge-inspired nose with Honda’s signature chrome slat that’s flanked by a pair of sharply-etched headlamps. And if you thought the rear was any less dramatic, thank the creases at the C-pillar which meet the boomerang-shaped tail lamps that lend it a sporty stance. One that will stand out from today’s SUV crowd.
When it comes to the dashboard, despite the Honda design flair being obvious, the multi-layer layout is surely pleasing to the eye. The same goes for the soft touch-points on the dash and door pads. This, combined with the brushed silver trim and large infotainment screen, unmistakeably point to a premium feel. When seated, the superior visibility through the large glass area gives you that extra confidence. That said, it is only while backing up that you really depend on the rear view camera since the rear windscreen is angled sharply.
Furthermore, we were impressed by the sound quality from the infotainment system. But at the same time, we expected a bit more in terms of frame rates, graphics and screen resolution. What’s nice is that the air-con controls can also be controlled from the touch screen. And just like the CR-V, the screen also shows you a live camera feed of the left-hand side when the left indicator is actuated.
Interestingly, the gear lever is placed higher which offers optimum ergonomics, and in the process, highlights the two-storeyed cubby space. While we appreciate the extra space, plugging into the available connectivity ports can get tricky at times. Honda has also thrown in an extra cup/bottle holder, and some much needed concealed storage for your valuables under the driver’s armrest.
As for the front seats, they’re well cushioned with appropriate contours and enough lateral support to hold you in place. Additionally, there’s adequate headroom, legroom and shoulder room too. Nevertheless, we felt that the front seats could have offered more shoulder support along with adjustable passenger seats (like the electric driver’s seat) to regulate the thigh support.
At the rear, the comfy bench offers adequate legroom with a nice backrest angle. That said, space is optimum for two passengers and so is the headroom. Accommodating a third passenger will push the others to the corners where the sloping roofline will constantly brush their heads. When it comes to the 430-litre boot, the enclosure is devoid of obstructions. Besides that, there’s more than enough space for two large suitcases and a few soft bags.
Under the hood of the 2019 Honda Civic will be two engine options. A 1.8-litre four-cylinder i-VTEC petrol motor that makes 141bhp/174Nm using a CVT gearbox, and a 120bhp/300Nm diesel 1.6-litre four-cylinder i-DTEC engine with a six-speed manual gearbox. Honda expects the petrol to return 16.5kmpl, and the diesel an astounding 26.8kmpl! We ultimately found out why the diesel may give you such figure, but we’ll get to that later.
Considering the sporty lineage of the Civic, we shall begin with the petrol CVT. Just like with all Honda petrol motors, this one is just as smooth and refined. It gets off the line with more than enough grunt which makes for a truly swift commute within city limits. We have to admit that the engine’s refinement coupled with the superb cabin insulation makes for a peaceful drive every time. However, being a Civic means it has to live up to sporty expectations, right? So, we floored the throttle.
And what happened next was far from entertaining. While the CVT gearbox displayed its prominent rubber-band effect, the revs took too long to build up. Which also means that one needs to plan an overtake much in advance. The truth is, there’s just not enough grunt from this motor to get your pulse racing, even in S mode. To make matters worse, the engine whines at the upper rev-limit which eventually persuades you to go easy on the throttle. But offering some respite are the paddle shifts which at least give you quicker access to the required rev band.
Over to the diesel, then. I mean, how sporty can this get, right? We were so wrong! With 300Nm shunted to the wheels at just 2000rpm, I think you feel me already. The little void that the petrol CVT left us in, was decidedly filled by the diesel version. There’s a strong tug when you get on the move, which is then followed by a fairly linear power delivery. You will notice the surge from 1500rpm onwards which lasts all the way to the rather-high 4800rpm redline.
Mash the throttle and you also witness the refinement of this diesel engine. None of the traditional diesel traits (in terms of NVH) are sucked into the cabin. In fact, noise insulation is brilliantly sealed off from the cabin. Also, favouring the engine characteristics is the slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission with closely-stacked gates. We also enjoyed the short gear lever which uses bare-minimum throws to actuate the shift. So much so, that we were caught shifting gears just for the joy of it!
There is one concern though. This gearbox is extremely tall-geared. So, in city traffic, you will constantly have to shift gears to be on the move. But on the flipside, this diesel can hover about 120kmph at 2000rpm in sixth gear! Which is the true factor behind the tall fuel efficiency claim of 26.8kmpl. Even when it comes to the handling characteristics, the diesel pips ahead of the petrol. Clearly, the 50 extra kilos not only come handy in making it more planted than its petrol sibling, but also makes the steering better-weighted.
This does not mean the handling on the petrol version is inadequate in any manner. The diesel just shines on this count. On the whole, the new Civic’s road manners is kept tight by the great chassis balance which uses a superior suspension and damper setup. The light and quick steering offers an accurate response, which is further aided by very few turns from lock-to-lock. This translates into less arm work while driving. All these qualities, coupled with very little roll gives one that added assurance to hold your line while attacking corners.
Besides that, the Civic’s ride quality remains plush over most broken surfaces at all speeds without being harsh even at the damping limit. There’s adequate ground clearance too (considering the earlier model’s low clearance). We noticed that it remains reasonably flat over most undulations that we encountered on the freshly-paved tarmac roads to Nandi Hills in Bangalore. There’s hardly any suspension noise too. The only downside, was some tyre noise at higher speeds. But isn’t that something you can avoid by turning-up the volume to your favourite soundtrack?
Let’s be critical first. The Civic is a low car which requires some bending for ingress/egress. Also, rear windscreen visibility isn’t the best, and so is the rear seating for three. The biggest concern would be of the overall performance of the petrol CVT.
But that aside, there’s a lot to like about the new Civic. The cabin is comfy and silent, it is feature-loaded, the engines are refined, and it is dynamically sorted. Given this concoction has all the right ingredients, it makes for not just a proficient city commuter, but an accomplished mile-muncher too. Quite the all-rounder.
So, does the new Honda Civic have what it takes to awaken this segment? Before our ‘adrenaline-pumped’ excitement jumps the gun, we admit that the sealing factor would be the price. Especially considering Honda’s City retails all over the expected price point. Come 7 March, we will have an answer.
Pictures By Kapil Angane