Honda took a sales hit in early 2012 after the 2011 Thailand and Japanese natural disasters. The Japanese car giant hopes to gain lost ground with new models like the ninth generation Honda Civic five-door hatch that landed on our shores in June.
The Civic four-door sedan comes from Thailand but the five-door hatch VTi-L tested here originates from the Swindon factory in the UK. Direct rivals include the Mazda3, Holden Cruze and Toyota Corolla all driving through a front-wheel four-cylinder.
The base model VTi-S hatch starts from $22,650 (manual) and $24,950 (auto) and jumps up by $5000 to $29,990 for the top spec VTi-L, which is only available in the five speed auto with paddle shifters.
Explore the 2012 Honda Civic range
The VTi-L gets a reversing camera, six CD player, seven-speaker stereo, subwoofer, 12V auxiliary sockets, Bluetooth and MP3 connectivity, dual air-conditioning, rain sensors, fuel consumption and temperature displays, steering wheel controls and heated front seats.
Both variants are powered by a 1.8 litre four cylinder engine with 104kW of power and 174Nm of torque. The official combined fuel consumption for the auto is 6.5L/100km with 155g/km CO2 emissions. The Civic has an eco button for fuel saving that is suitable for start stop traffic. But you’ll want to turn the eco option off on open roads to get the car going.
The exterior has a flat nose and a small grille with large slanting headlights. The shark fin antennae, hidden rear door handles and 17 inch alloy wheels (the base model gets 16 inch) give the hatch a sporty look. Honda designed the interior in a “cockpit style” with bucket seats that hug the driver and front passenger.
The large speedometers add a racing feel. It also comes with a leather tilt and reach adjustable steering wheel that is a bit stiff. The leather seats in the VTi-L are attractive, while the base model only receives cheap looking fabric upholstery. Although there are five seats, the design is concentrated on the driver and front passenger’s comfort.
The legroom in the backseats is tight, especially for 170cm plus passengers. The boot has a capacity of 390 litres and can be increased to 1120 litres with the rear seats down.
The VTi-L receives a five-star ANCAP safety rating. Safety features include front, side and curtain airbags, vehicle stability assist, electronic brake force distribution, hill start assist, daytime running lights and front and rear fog lamps.
We tested the Civic in its perfect environment – down narrow city streets, around sharp urban corners and through cramped cement parking spaces. And it did the job -- and then some.
The five speed auto is easy to drive, requiring little effort from the driver (which may be boring for enthusiastic drivers). However, if you’re regularly commuting in heavy city traffic, you’ll appreciate the seamless gear changes. You can also push the eco button to help reduce your fuel consumption or turn it off for a sportier drive.
The front vision is excellent largely due to the thin side pillars that don’t obstruct visibility. However rear vision is lacking, as the rear window is small and the back pillars are broad - the reversing camera assists with this issue.