Toyota Corolla ZR sedan 2017 review
Despite its longevity Corolla has never been more popular topping the annual passenger vehicle sales chart for each of the past four years.
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A few months ago I reminded you all that the Honda Civic has reached its 10th generation, the company choosing to lead the charge with the swoopy new sedan. It's a fine car, built on Honda's brand new global platform, a bag of bits that will be underneath lots of Honda buyers boots for years to come.
After a brief pause - and in the quiet before Honda's new CR-V breaks cover - the Japanese company has presented us with the hatchback version of the old-stager. Like the sedan, it's pretty much new from the ground up and has a set of very silly tail-lights. Don't let that second thing put you off, though. The sedan was good - but is the hatch better?
|Honda Civic 2017: VTi|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Age has weirded the Civic. When you're up at this number of iterations, it's starts to feel a bit Doctor Who - what are you going to get with each regeneration?
The new Civic hatch is as polarising as the sedan, possible more so. The wacky tail-lights it shares with the four-door (and, weirdly, the Toyota C-HR - obviously that's not deliberate) are there in all their glory, seemingly glued on as an afterthought and ready for an expensive whack from a texting SUV driver.
They're striking, but to my eyes, not very attractive, a cartoonish blow-out from the previous generation's already awkward lights.
The front end is little better, with a sort of Instagram trout-lip pout, lines going everywhere and some weird detailing. Again, striking and individual - it stands out from the pack. I may not like it, but that's a good thing - a great automotive sin, especially when you're trying to break out, is to be anonymous.
The profile, again like the sedan's, is its best angle and it looks great from there. Except on the VTi, which has steel wheels and unconvincing hubcaps.
Inside is very neat indeed, and beautifully built. It's an interesting design, maximising space and the surprise packet at this price has to be the digital dashboard, harking back to the days of the funky Prelude dash (though without the two-thirds width Starship Enterprise design). The display is excellent and, oddly, jars with the dodgy presentation of the media software because it is so well-executed.
The cloth trim seems nicer than the 'premium' trim in the VTi-S, which feels like wetsuit material. It's a little less abrasive-feeling in the VTi but covers the same overstuffed front seats. The plastics seem hardy, there is a good mix of materials and it feels pretty nice to be in, with tons of light and space. The fact there is lots of light helps lift what is a very dark grey-coloured cabin.
Ah-ha, this is what the Civic is really good at. It's big inside and I'm going to return to that Doctor Who reference again - it seems much bigger inside than it looks on the outside. Not that it's all that small either, proudly consuming 4.5m of kerb space and is almost 1.8m wide. The long 2700mm wheelbase is the key here, though.
There is room aplenty in all directions for front seat passengers. You sit low in the cabin, which also helps, and you've got a voluminous central console to keep you company, with two huge cupholders and a sliding cloth-covered cover.
Rear seat passengers also have heaps of space, two cupholders and the doors, as with the fronts, will hold a small bottle, taking the total to four. Honda cheekily says the Civic has "eight beverage holders" but that's evenly split between bottles and cups.
Boot space is a rather impressive 414 litres, 105 short of the identically-priced sedan and bigger than any obvious rival. You can expand by dropping the 60/40 split fold seats.
The Civic range consists of five spec levels, stretching from $22,390 for the VTi I drove, all the way to $33,590 for the VTi-LX. The VTi and VTi-S are both powered by Honda's naturally-aspirated 1.8-litre four and both have the same CVT auto. Between them is a $2100 price gap.
The VTi kicks off with a generous eight-speaker stereo and 7.0-inch touchscreen, 16-inch steel wheels, single-zone climate control, reversing camera, remote central locking, cruise control, cloth trim, rear wiper and a space-saver spare.
The stereo is run by Honda's own media system but, thankfully, ships with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The media system looks and feels very old indeed but works perfectly well, with reasonable response from the big touchscreen and some thought put into the targets.
This is an object lesson to other manufacturers - nobody cares if your base system looks crap if you can plug your phone in. It really is that simple and it's one less thing to worry about for the bean counters. Another thing for them to worry about is the three cent addition of a proper volume dial rather than the touch sensitive strip on the head unit and slow-reacting buttons on the steering wheel.
Irritatingly, only one paint colour is free ('Rally Red', of all things), the rest of the seven hues are a $575 option. By comparison, the Mazda3 only has two optional paint colours and they're $250 cheaper.
Honda's 1.8-litre single-overhead cam engine produces 104kW/174Nm, both in the top third of the rev range. Despite this, it's not peaky and is mostly quite easygoing. It's a very straightforward engine and is shared with the HR-V, as is the CVT.
Step up to the 1.5-litre turbo and you get 25 per cent more power and torque, but the transmission stays the same.
Towing capacity is rated at 800kg braked and 500kg unbraked.
The official combined figure is 6.4L/100km on the combined cycle. We avoided the Eco mode (which from past experience doesn't do much) and got an indicated 8.3L/100km in a mix of suburban and highway running, which isn't bad.
My third experience of the Civic has me scratching my head a bit. It feels basically the same as the sedan, which means safe, secure handling, mostly good ride (it doesn't like high-frequency bumps) and a solid-if-dull engine and transmission package.
The CVT is boring but that's good news - a recent run in the Subaru Impreza has solidified my thinking that the Honda CVT is in every way superior to it and the Corolla's unit, behaving much more like a normal auto. You occasionally question yourself and check the spec sheet. Or you floor it.
The head scratching is that for a car I ordinarily wouldn't like, as a package, it comes together really well.
The new Civic hatch is as polarising as the sedan.
It's quite fun to drive even though the transmission is a disinterested onlooker and it doesn't like high certain surfaces. But it's a relaxed drive, with well-weighted steering and the ability to shut out much of the noise and distraction of urban motoring.
The steering column's lack of reach adjustment is a minor irritation and the polyurethane steering wheel is less than a tactile delight. The lack of power will only bother those who like to dart in and out of fast moving traffic - it's not bad off the line - or who are having buyer's remorse for not spending the extra to get the turbo.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
There are also three top-tether anchorages and two ISOFIX points.
Honda's standard three-year/100,000km warranty applies, but only 'Warranty Plus' buyers get roadside assist.
Service pricing is published on the Honda website and you'll need to visit the dealer every 10,000km/12 months. Up until 100,000km the vast majority of services are $284, with the 80,000km service jumping to $312. Bank on about $450 per year if you run the standard 15,000km.
These prices are exclusive of certain items such as brake fluid, spark plugs and various filters. Again all prices are available on the website and they're reasonable.
The Civic's biggest problem is its well-established competition. Hyundai's new i30 will no doubt run rampant, Mazda's 3 seems impossible to slow down and Toyota's Corolla still sells like crazy. Oh, and Honda's own HR-V is not that much more expensive, but absurdly roomy for its size and reliably sells around a thousand units every month. Don't get me started on the general threat of other mini-SUVs.
The Civic is a fine car and even at the bottom of the range, has a solid spec, good if unspectacular ride and handling and individual looks. It stacks up well against most of the competition and has one of the best interiors in the class. Like the sedan, it just needs a bit more of its old mojo, and if I'm being completely honest, I'd scratch around to get the VTi-S for a few extra toys and features.
|RS||1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$22,990 – 29,888||2017 HONDA CIVIC 2017 RS Pricing and Specs|
|Type R||2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$37,980 – 49,990||2017 HONDA CIVIC 2017 Type R Pricing and Specs|
|VTi||1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$17,800 – 21,480||2017 HONDA CIVIC 2017 VTi Pricing and Specs|
|VTi-L||1.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO||$20,990 – 28,888||2017 HONDA CIVIC 2017 VTi-L Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||6|