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Honda Civic sedan 2019 review: VTi-S

EXPERT RATING
7
With the recent arrival of the all-new Mazda3 and the ever-evolving Korean offerings - not to mention a resurgent, fun-to-drive Toyota Corolla - has the three-year old Civic still got what it takes?

Honda's current Civic is a perplexing thing, and I'm not just talking about the profusion of styling features. The range spans from the entry-level VTi to the completely bonkers Type R and the two cars could not be more different.

One step up from the bottom of the line-up is the VTi-S, priced at $25,490. Honda and its competitors are selling boatloads of SUVs but the small hatch/sedan market (it seems to be merging) is still punching away.

The Civic has been with us in its current form for a couple of years now, but it was ahead of the pack in some areas when it first landed. With the arrival of the new Mazda3 and ongoing Korean onslaught, it's worth a quick re-visit to see what's happening with the Civic.

Where the Civic wins out in this class is the clever interior, excellent build quality and a long reputation for reliability. (image: Peter Anderson) Where the Civic wins out in this class is the clever interior, excellent build quality and a long reputation for reliability. (image: Peter Anderson)

Honda Civic 2019: VTi-S
Safety rating
Engine Type1.8L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.4L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$24,590

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

The 2019 VTi-S ships with a natty new set of 16-inch alloy wheels, an eight-speaker stereo with DAB, climate control, cruise control, power windows, 7.0-inch touchscreen, reversing camera, cloth trim, leather steering wheel, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, rear privacy glass, 'LaneWatch' and a space-saver spare.

The cabin hasn't had any major changes. (image: Peter Anderson) The cabin hasn't had any major changes. (image: Peter Anderson)

Without wishing to go overboard, the update to the multimedia system is life-changing. Okay, perhaps I went slightly overboard, but putting a physical volume knob along with proper shortcut buttons (even if they are a bit flimsy) is so much nicer than the volume and on/off arrangement of the 2018 model.

The software is still pretty basic but the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto makes that a moot point and I'll always welcome them both.

The 2019 VTi-S ships with a natty new set of 16-inch alloy wheels. (image: Peter Anderson) The 2019 VTi-S ships with a natty new set of 16-inch alloy wheels. (image: Peter Anderson)

Is there anything interesting about its design?   6/10

Yep, the Civic is still not the easiest car in the world to look at when you're front or rear on. The nose is a mess of angles and protuberances and appears to have a catastrophic underbite.

The lights are a weird shape and there's just way too much going on. The new piano black grille isn't helping. The giant carbuncles that are the rear lights still frighten me in traffic, but less so after a few years of bedding in.

The lights are a weird shape and there's just way too much going on. (image: Peter Anderson) The lights are a weird shape and there's just way too much going on. (image: Peter Anderson)

The profile is a welcome relief but look closely at the creases and slashes and you realise there is still a fair bit going on. The new 16-inch alloys are handsome if a little lost in the big wheelarches.

The cabin hasn't had any major changes, the biggest update being a chequered pattern on the seats fabric. Look out.

The Civic's interior is very clever, though. The high console features a double-decker arrangement where all the ugly plugs are hidden underneath the dash and you feed the cables up through a gap. The dash is still a festival of angles but the digital layout is a model of clarity. And boy is it big in there.

The giant carbuncles that are the rear lights still frighten me in traffic, but less so after a few years of bedding in. (image: Peter Anderson) The giant carbuncles that are the rear lights still frighten me in traffic, but less so after a few years of bedding in. (image: Peter Anderson)

How practical is the space inside?   9/10

It's so big inside the Civic, but then again, everything in the segment bar the Mazda3 has a voluminous interior. Still, the way Honda has organised the Civic is pretty much the best.

The boot has a massive 525 litres and you can drop the rear seats for yet more space. Honda doesn't offer a seats down figure as it is no doubt complicated by the narrow aperture.

As you do sit low in the chassis, the roofline doesn't take all your headroom and the legroom available is hugely impressive given the car's footprint. (image: Peter Anderson) As you do sit low in the chassis, the roofline doesn't take all your headroom and the legroom available is hugely impressive given the car's footprint. (image: Peter Anderson)

Front and rear passengers are treated to two cupholders each for a total of four, bottle holders in each door, again for a total four and the central console houses a gigantic space you could stand bottles in as well as your cups.

Space for humans is generous. As you do sit low in the chassis, the roofline doesn't take all your headroom and the legroom available is hugely impressive given the car's footprint.

This is something Honda does well - the Jazz and HR-V are also super-roomy for rear seat passengers. Some larger sedans would beg to have this kind of legroom. It's also one of the few cars in the segment where the rear seat is reasonable for three people. Well, it's not an indecent squeeze, anyway.

  • The boot has a massive 525 litres. (image: Peter Anderson) The boot has a massive 525 litres. (image: Peter Anderson)
  • Honda doesn't offer a seats down figure as it is no doubt complicated by the narrow aperture. (image: Peter Anderson) Honda doesn't offer a seats down figure as it is no doubt complicated by the narrow aperture. (image: Peter Anderson)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   6/10

Honda's 1.8-litre four-cylinder makes its second and final appearance in the Civic range, replaced by the 1.5-litre turbo in the VTi-L onwards.

Generating a reasonable 104kW and a modest 174Nm, a CVT auto connects the engine to the front wheels.

Honda's 1.8-litre four-cylinder makes its second and final appearance in the Civic range. (image: Peter Anderson) Honda's 1.8-litre four-cylinder makes its second and final appearance in the Civic range. (image: Peter Anderson)

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Honda says the Civic will consume the cheap stuff at a rate of 6.8L/100km, and that's without any help from stop-start or energy recovery.

It's pretty lo-fi at Honda these days. My week with the Civic netted an entirely reasonable (and consistent with past experience) 8.4L/100km, which isn't bad at all.

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

The VTi and VTi-S feature six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and a reversing cameras. The VTi-S also picks up LaneWatch, which is a camera pointing down the left-hand side of the car to show you what or who is in your blind spot. It's activated by the left-hand indicator or via a stalk-mounted button.

There are three top-tether baby seat anchor points and two ISOFIX points.

Frustratingly, you have to move to the VTi-L to get 'Honda Sensing', which includes things like AEB and lane keep assist. The Mazda3 has all the safety gear at this level and the i30 Active has AEB, why not the Civic?

The Civic scored a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2017.

It comes with a space-saver spare. (image: Peter Anderson) It comes with a space-saver spare. (image: Peter Anderson)

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

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

Honda offers a bang-on five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is a fine start, but you don't get roadside assist.

You can plan ahead on services costs on your annual/10,000km visits.

That kilometre figure is a bit cheeky because most of us will do more than that every year. The "tailored" servicing costs range from $284 for all but one of the first 10 services, and even then it only increases to $312.

The Civic was pretty good when it landed in 2016 but remains wilfully weird and lacking in a couple of details. (image: Peter Anderson) The Civic was pretty good when it landed in 2016 but remains wilfully weird and lacking in a couple of details. (image: Peter Anderson)

What's it like to drive?   7/10

The Civic is perplexing. So many things are good, and a few aren't.

The front seats are overstuffed and uncomfortable on longer trips, as they are in the HR-V and as they have been for the life of the Civic.

Also the same since Civic 10's debut is the lacklustre drivetrain. Every time I mention it, the comments are filled with people telling me the performance is perfectly fine from the 1.8.

The front seats are overstuffed and uncomfortable on longer trips. (image: Peter Anderson) The front seats are overstuffed and uncomfortable on longer trips. (image: Peter Anderson)

It might be for some, but isn't for me. While plenty of blame can be laid at the feet of the buzzy 1.8-litre, it's really the CVT that blunts the performance.

The transmission is one of the better ones, but really, a proper six-speed auto would be much better here. Again, plenty of buyers won't care and in somewhat surprising news, that's okay - it's not a reason to avoid the car. You just have to know that the going is slow and noisy.

There is still a bit of tyre rumble from the Civic, too. It's not as bad as the previous car and is not ever-present. But anything other than a smooth surface will treat you to not only tyre rumble but a bit of suspension noise, particularly sharper frequencies like expansion joints.

The good things about the Civic certainly add a great deal of weight to the good side of the ledger. The driving position is good if you don't mind the seat itself and the ride and handling are for the most part excellent. The steering is particularly good, connecting you with the road below without getting too chatty. The ride is only upset by truly terrible surfaces, usually concrete slabs that have slipped.

Verdict

The Civic was pretty good when it landed in 2016 but remains wilfully weird and lacking in a couple of details. The lack of advanced safety at the lower end of the range is also extremely frustrating. Even though the Mazda3 range now starts where the VTi-S is priced, it's loaded with safety gear and handles well into the bargain.

Where the Civic wins out in this class is the clever interior, excellent build quality and a long reputation for reliability. I just wish Honda would fling that deeply ordinary 1.8-litre engine and get a new set of front seats.

Is the Civic on your small hatch list? Can it tempt you away from the similarly-priced - but smaller - HR-V? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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
50 YEARS EDITION 1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO $24,090 2019 Honda Civic 2019 50 YEARS EDITION Pricing and Specs
RS 1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $32,290 2019 Honda Civic 2019 RS Pricing and Specs
Type R 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $50,990 2019 Honda Civic 2019 Type R Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Price and features7
Design6
Practicality9
Engine & trans6
Fuel consumption7
Safety7
Ownership7
Driving7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$24,590

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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