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Honda Civic 2019 review: RS hatch

EXPERT RATING
7.1
The Honda Civic Type R is all kinds of awesome, but can the watered-down Civic RS deliver the same kind of motoring magic? We put one to the test to find out.

I like the Honda Civic Type R. It's very good. But it's also very ugly, quite expensive compared to the rest of the Civic range, and my goodness, it's really ugly.

Interestingly, I have driven several current-gen Civics, and while not as ugly, most of them have been blighted by a droning 1.8-litre engine mated to an okay-for-a-CVT transmission. 

I wondered some time ago how much better a Civic would be with a proper transmission and a nice little turbo engine. Honda must have only heard half my wishes, because this Civic RS has a nice little turbo engine (also available in the CR-V and other Civics) as well as some Type R-lite styling magic. But not a better gearbox.

Still, the warm-hatch Civic is a compelling proposition. It's very impressively packaged, with huge interior space and excellent build quality. There's even a good chassis hiding beneath the metal, too. 

So is this RS the just-right Civic? Only one way to find out. 

Honda Civic 2019: RS
Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.1L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$32,290

Is there anything interesting about its design?  6/10

Always tricky, this one. The 10th-generation Civic is not an attractive car. Not to me, anyway. The RS hatch looks slightly better than its lesser brethren, due to its more-aggro body kit and its lashings of gloss-black trim pieces. 

The centred exhaust exits look great, but unfortunately take a hatchet to the boot space.

The RS hatch looks slightly better than its lesser brethren, especially with its centred exhaust tips. The RS hatch looks slightly better than its lesser brethren, especially with its centred exhaust tips.

The cabin is the same as the rest of them; filled with neat touches, excellent ergonomics, and absolutely massive for a car this size. It's a very clever design and not nearly as fussy as the exterior design. I'm still not a fan of the shapes in the dash, but the digital dash is a terrific piece of design.

The 7.0-inch touchscreen is equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 7.0-inch touchscreen is equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

How practical is the space inside?  8/10

This Civic is big and it's clever, with nary a wasted cubic centimetre. You start with a giant centre console bin in the front in which you could hide Julian Assange. He's used to confined spaces that are out of sight, after all.

There is tons of legroom and headroom, with a combination of a deceptively lofty ceiling and low-set seating position ensuring plenty of room for tall folks. 

The huge wheelbase also means rear seat passengers have plenty of legroom, and even with the diving roofline, pretty good headroom.

  • There is tons of legroom and headroom inside the Civic. There is tons of legroom and headroom inside the Civic.
  • Thanks to the huge wheelbase, rear passengers have plenty of legroom. Thanks to the huge wheelbase, rear passengers have plenty of legroom.

Front and rear rows each score a pair of cupholders and bottle holders, bringing both totals to four.

My only complaint is not specific to the Civic, as I have noticed the same problem in the HR-V; the front seats are over-stuffed, and, on long journeys, get uncomfortable.

The Civic hatch's boot starts at an impressive 414 litres, comfortably outgunning the i30, Mazda3 and Corolla. And just about everything else in the class. Sadly, the RS's boot is "only" 330 litres (as a resut of that funky centre exhaust). That renders it merely competitive rather than class-leading.

  • Boot space is rated at 330 litres for the RS model. Boot space is rated at 330 litres for the RS model.
  • Because of the exhaust system, the RS has 84 litres less cargo storage than the models below it. Because of the exhaust system, the RS has 84 litres less cargo storage than the models below it.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?  7/10

The Civic RS's ambitious name comes with an ambitious price tag, with prices starting at $32,290. Similarly warm competition starts at a significantly lower price point; the i30 N Line and Ford Focus ST-Line, for instance, are cheaper by thousands. Having said that, the RS is quite well-equipped for the cash.

A run through the spec sheet tells me the RS has a set of 17-inch alloys, a ten-speaker stereo, perfectly good fake-leather seats, auto LED headlights and DRLs, dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, an electric driver's seat, auto headlights and wipers and a space-saver spare.

The Civic RS scores 17-inch alloy wheels. The Civic RS scores 17-inch alloy wheels.

The 7.0-inch touchscreen - finished in a lovely matte satin - runs a very ordinary software package that is immediately redeemed by the presence of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also has DAB, which is a nice touch.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?  7/10

The 1.5-litre four-cylinder has had a dainty low-pressure turbo strapped on to produce 127kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm at 1700rpm. They're not big numbers, but are 23kW and 46Nm up on the 1.8-litre engine. And 101kW and 180Nm down on the mad Type R.

The four-cylinder engine makes 127kW/220Nm. The four-cylinder engine makes 127kW/220Nm.

With direct injection, it's also an efficient unit - Honda engines have always been thus - and its fuel use is no doubt helped along by the dreaded CVT.

In the RS, you do get paddle-shiftters for that sporty feeling, and like every other Civic, it's front-wheel drive only.

How much fuel does it consume?  8/10

One of the advantages of this smaller-capacity engine is a combined fuel economy figure that betters the less-powerful 1.8-litre unit. The RS figure is 6.1L/100km versus the 1.8's 6.4L/100km. I'll go out on a limb and say it's because you don't have to work the turbo engine as hard.

My stint with the Honda was on a mix of highway and suburban driving, with a displayed figure of 7.9L/100km, which is pretty good, really, and mirrors my experience with the 1.5-litre turbo in the VTi-LX.

One little bonus is that the RS runs on standard (and so cheaper) unleaded.

What's it like to drive?  7/10

The RS tag is more than a bit cheeky, because it suggests it's a bit hardcore. Obviously it isn't. And it gets cheekier; while the ever-expanding warm hatch brigade each feature chassis changes (with the more-expensive Megane GT-Line even adding four-wheel steer into the mix), Honda hasn't bothered.

And that isn't a bad thing. The Civic's dynamics are really only let down by the 1.8-and-CVT package, and underneath all that is a well-sorted ride and handling package. Sadly, you only get glimpses of that brilliance, because you're still dealing with the CVT.

The RS's turbo engine goes a long way to sorting out the Civic. It's a very good engine, with a wide torque band that means you don't have to sink the throttle to the floor every time you want to do anything.

The RS tag suggests this Civic is a bit hardcore. The RS tag suggests this Civic is a bit hardcore.

You still have to plan ahead to get the jump on the transmission, but the RS also has paddle-shifters so you can take control. These shifters turn the CVT into a stepped gearbox, meaning if you want to go, you get your own downshift rather than relying on the rubber band to tighten. Every little bit helps.

As a daily driver, it's super-relaxed, happily loping around on its torque, and with a CVT that at least avoids the flaring that makes me swear at Toyotas and Subarus. Some surfaces do disturb the Civic's usually glassy ride, and some tyre noise invades the cabin, but it's not consistent.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?  7/10

The Civic RS comes with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and a reversing camera. And that's it. You can option the advanced safety package known as Honda Sense, which includes niceties such as AEB or lane keep assist.

The RS does retain Honda's wacky LaneWatch. Hit the left indicator and the screen bursts into life with a view down the left-hand side of the car courtesy of a camera slung under the left wing mirror. It's kinda kooky and it can be annoying at night. You can disable it or tap the button on the end of the indicator stalk to cancel it.

The Civic hatch scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2017.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?  7/10

Hondas ship with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is rapidly becoming the norm for non-premium manufacturers, years after Hyundai and Kia started the trend. 

The "Tailored Servicing" program caps nine of the first 10 services at $281, with just one service jumping to $310. That sounds pretty good, except you have to visit your dealer every twelve months or 10,000kms. That latter figure is a bit silly when most brands are 12 months/15,000kms, or better.

Pricing Guides

$36,690
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$22,390
Highest Price
$50,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
+LUXE LIMITED EDITION 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $27,120 2019 Honda Civic 2019 +LUXE LIMITED EDITION Pricing and Specs
RS 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $31,990 2019 Honda Civic 2019 RS Pricing and Specs
RS 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $31,990 2019 Honda Civic 2019 RS Pricing and Specs
RS 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $32,290 2019 Honda Civic 2019 RS Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.1
Price and features7
Design6
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Driving7
Safety7
Ownership7

The RS is just like the rest of the Civic range, only with fewer standard safety features and a smaller boot. So it's a little bit of a headscratcher. Setting that aside, it's everything else good that is the Civic; roomy, quiet and comfortable. ”

Is the RS really a warm hatch or just a stickers and skirts job? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.