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2019 Honda Civic Petrol CVT First Drive Review

Introduction

Why I would buy it?

Striking exterior design, long equipment list, ride quality 

Why I would avoid it?

Low seating makes it difficult to get in and out of, interior fit and finish not the best in class

The eighth generation Honda Civic, which was launched in 2006, revolutionized the D-segment. Surrounded by dull and demure rivals, the Civic came as a breath of fresh air, as it looked sporty on the outside, brilliant on the inside and it also came with a powerful petrol engine. Honda got the pricing spot-on too, as it undercut its main rival, the Toyota Corolla by a fair margin. But with depleting sales and customers preferring SUVs over the D-segment cars, Honda decided to pull the plug on the Civic brand in 2013. 

Six years later, after skipping the ninth generation car, the Honda Civic is about to make a comeback with its tenth iteration. With the ever diminishing D-segment, the reentry of the Civic nameplate in the Indian market is hard to understand. But as they say, never say never and the new Civic might just be the product that revives this almost-deceased segment. 

Things do seem promising as soon as you lay your eyes on the tenth generation Civic. It looks the best in profile, where the coupe-like swooping roofline, stubby boot, short overhangs and the tastefully designed 17-inch alloys make the car look sporty even when standing still. Upfront, the well-detailed LED headlamps with the daytime running strip outlining the lower portion look striking. The signature Honda grille is more protruding than in some of their other cars which adds to its dynamic appearance. At the rear the new Honda Civic looks distinctive thanks to the stubby boot section, heavily raked rear windscreen and the boomerang-shaped tail lamps. Overall the new Civic not only looks distinctive but also is well balanced and is a design that will look contemporary with years to come.

Based on Honda’s new global platform which also underpins the tenth generation Accord, the new Civic is not only 22kg lighter than the previous gen car but thanks to use of high strength steel it also boasts of 25% more rigid body. 

How is it on the inside?

The new Civic isn’t as dramatic on the inside as it is on the outside. Still it looks modern thanks to the flurry of asymmetric cues. It is a well thought-out cabin too with most controls falling to hand easily. With Honda cabins being top-notch as far as ergonomics are concerned, we were surprised by the placement of USB, HDMI and 12V charging ports, that are hidden behind the centre console and are extremely difficult to locate. Overall plastic quality is quite good and stuff like the soft touch dash-top and door pads (not as good as the Octavia’s) feels premium. But lower down, the hard plastics around the gear lever isn’t great and fit and finish is a notch or two down on the standards set by some of its competitors.

The seven-inch infotainment system on paper at least can hardly be faulted. You get two USB sockets, one HDMI jack, Bluetooth, reverse camera with zoom function, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a sweet sounding eight-speaker audio system. The system also houses aircon controls, which actually you don’t end up using as you also get conventional physical controls that are easier to use. What we weren’t too impressed with was the display quality that isn’t a match for the Hyundai Elantra’s or Skoda Octavia’s units and the even its operation has a bit of lag.

The digital instrument cluster though is one of the highlights of the Civic’s cabin. The sporty fonts and the colours are easy to read and with the help of the steering mounted buttons you can see and control music, Bluetooth telephony, phonebook and trip computer. 

Getting in and out of the new Civic isn’t an easy affair as the seats are placed low to the ground and you have to squat quite a bit to get in. Once inside, the driver seat is a comfortable place to be in and thanks to the electric adjust its easy to find the ideal driving position. Lateral support too is good and except for lack of adequate shoulder support there isn’t much to complain. The front passenger though won’t be as happy, as under thigh support is in short supply and you don’t get seat height adjust to eradicate that. Visibility out of the driver seat is good and except for the heavily raked rear windscreen, it is easy to judge the car’s extremities even in heavy traffic. 

The rear seat is surprisingly comfortable. There’s adequate knee-room for rear-seat passengers and the rear bench itself is comfortable, with decent thigh support and a comfortable backrest angle. Although the rising shoulder line impedes visibility, you never feel claustrophobic thanks to the slim front seat and the cabin’s light colours. On the downside, the sloping roofline eats into the rear headroom and anyone above 5 foot 10 inch will find headroom to be a bit too compromised. Also the heavily contoured rear seatback isn’t comfortable for the middle passenger and unless a necessity, the new Civic works best as a four-seater. Like most Honda’s, the Civic’s cabin is very practical with loads of bottle and cup holders present for both front and rear seats. Special mention must also go to the large storage bin under the front armrest that is big enough to swallow large items and it also houses two cup holders. The boot, at 430litres is not particularly big and is just about enough for your family’s weekend luggage.  

 

As far as equipment goes the Honda Civic in the top ZX comes loaded with features. You get premium features like electronic parking brake with auto hold, sunroof, auto dimming rear view mirror, electric driver seat adjust, dual zone climate control, keyless go amongst others. Honda hasn’t skimped on safety equipment and you get stuff like six airbags, ESP, ABS, ISOFIX child seat anchor points as standard. Like in the recently launched CRV, you also get Lane-Watch function that activates the left mirror mounted camera to let you know if there are any cars in your blind spot when you are changing lanes or turning at junctions. This feature is activated when you switch the left indicator on. 

How does it drive?

The new Honda Civic is powered by a pair of petrol and diesel motors. In this review we will talk about the petrol motor that comes mated to a CVT automatic transmission. 

The 1.8-litre petrol engine is the same as the one found on the eighth generation Civic albeit with some improvements and more power. As soon as you start the motor it settles down to a near silent idle. In peak hour stop-go traffic, we found the transmission well suited to the characteristics of the engine with notably less of the disconnected effect usually associated with CVTs. Whether ambling in town or cruising at 80kph, the transmission keeps engine speeds within the 1200-2500rpm bracket for best efficiency. Part throttle responses are good too with a linear build of power from the 142bhp petrol motor. As a result, overtaking slower traffic isn’t much of an effort. If there’s a negative, it’s at full throttle, where revs are held at 5500-6000rpm (for max power) and make the engine sound loud and strained, but that is expected of a CVT transmission. This also means quick overtake at highway speeds have to be planned and even the sport mode on the transmission doesn’t help much. You also get steering mounted paddle shifters with which you can select ratios manually. This mode is useful when you are driving enthusiastically or while going downhill for more engine braking.  Although the CVT transmission is good for commuting, we wish Honda offered a manual transmission as it would have changed the driving experience dramatically.

The ride quality of the Civic is one of its biggest strengths. At town speeds, the Civic simply excels thanks to its absorbent low speed ride, delivered despite the low profile 17-inch tyres. Well-judged spring rates helps this sedan feel supple yet well controlled. Even over rutted surfaces, the suspension has a surprisingly good level of crash-free bump absorption, as you don’t feel most imperfections. Yes, there is some firmness at low speeds but it never gets to the point of feeling uncomfortable. Even at higher speeds the Civic shows good composure and this makes it a soothing highway companion. The car also does an excellent job of cutting wind noise, but at higher speeds quite a bit of tyre noise seeps through in the cabin. For India, Honda have also increased the ground clearance by 20mm upfront and 15mm at the rear. As a result unlike the old car, the new Civic goes over largest of speed breakers with ease.

Where the old car used to feel sloppy and nervous at high speeds, the new Civic feels rock solid and straight-line stability is exceptional. The Civic changes direction eagerly and is quite engaging to drive. Although the variable ratio steering lacks feedback, it is fast, smooth, accurate and weighs up naturally. Considering its agile nature, we wish the new Civic had a more powerful motor and a manual transmission to exploit its full potential. 

Should I buy one?

Let’s get one thing straight, the new Honda Civic isn’t a revolutionary product that the eighth generation car was. It is more conventional and has its set of strengths and weaknesses. The new Civic’s core strength include striking exterior design, feature loaded cabin, plush ride quality, easy to drive nature and great sound insulation. Things like a more powerful petrol engine, a superior interior fit and finish, easier ingress and egress surely would have made the car even more alluring. So is the Civic good enough to revive the D-sedan segment? We are not quite sure. Yes it is a good all-round car, but it needs a lot more than just that to sell in a segment where SUVs are ruling the roost.

Where does it fit in?

We expect Honda to price the car around the Rs 17-20 lakh bracket. It goes up against the Skoda Octavia, Toyota Corola and the Hyundai Elantra. It also has to contend with SUVs like the Hyundai Creta, Tata Harrier and the Jeep Compass.

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Honda Civic Price in Popular Cities

CityOn-Road Prices
Bangalore₹ 22.31 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 21.62 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 21.45 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 19.94 Lakhs onwards
Mumbai₹ 21.09 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 20.78 Lakhs onwards
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