Mazda 3 2018 review
Mazda's mainstay 3 hatch and sedan have just had their annual update and the lower reaches have scored new safety goodies and a few welcome extras.
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Once a varied fleet of economical small cars, the Civic is known by most as a reliable runabout. Then, in the mid ‘00s, the GFC came.
It hit Japanese manufacturers hard. Small hatches and sedans weren’t as profitable as they once were, aspirational sporty variants (VTi-R, anyone?) were dropped, once-household names took a back seat, and from the ashes has risen an endless stream of SUVs.
For this reason, small cars are expected to deliver more than ever before, and today’s top-spec Civic VTi-LX sedan is perhaps the ultimate reflection of that. It's massive compared to its ancestors, has a focus on luxury over sportiness, and could even serve as a replacement for the large sedan long-distance tourers of old.
Stick with me as I explain.
|Honda Civic 2018: VTi-LX|
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Okay, so you’re looking at a sedan, so there’s a good likelihood you’re looking for a value offering. Because, if you were following the current impulse buying trends you'd be researching an SUV and, if you really cared about practicality, you'd be after a wagon.
Well, there’s no Civic wagon, but our VTi-LX sedan here is the top-spec car. Coming in at a before-on-road cost of $33,590 it competes with other small sedan flagships, the Mazda 3 SP25 Astina ($33,490), Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo ($31,290), Subaru Impreza 2.0i-S ($33,250) and the new Kia Cerato Sport+ ($28,290).
Accounting for most value factors, the VTi-LX stands up reasonably well. Featured is a full array of LED lighting (DRL, headlights and foglights), sunroof, dimming rear mirror (nice addition), leather appointed interior trim with heated seats and six-way power adjustable driver’s seat, 452-watt audio system with DAB+ and, built-in sat nav.
There’s also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available through the 7.0-inch touchscreen, and unlike competitors, the odd addition of an HDMI port (you can hook everything from laptops to gaming consoles up to the main screen).
The native user experience on the touchscreen is far from best in the segment, however. It’s clunky and slow, and I had trouble finding some of the features. The implementation of Apple CarPlay was even kind of dodgy at times, with it crashing out occasionally.
I’ve never had trouble with competitor systems in Hyundai and Kia products and, while you’ll do without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in the Mazda3, it’s still a much slicker system than the one in the VTi-LX.
One major value factor to consider is the ‘HondaSensing’ safety suite which makes the VTi-LX the only Civic to include all the key active safety items. This is a major value consideration, so keep an eye out for more details in the Safety section of this review.
From the VTi-L up you also get the convenience of push-button start and keyless entry.
Sitting just below our VTi-LX is the RS spec level which I recently tested in hatch form. In sedan guise the RS costs $1800 less and is almost identically equipped apart from the safety suite which is worth every penny. Unless the relatively understated look of the LX is a deal breaker, my advice is to spend the extra cash.
The look of the 10th-generation Civic is best described as polarising. There's a slew of hard angular edges pointing in all directions, which makes an overall design theme hard to pinpoint. The elegant curvature of the Mazda3, or the more conservative lines of the Hyundai Elantra and Subaru Impreza perhaps appeal to a wider audience.
As I mentioned earlier, the almost-as-well-equipped RS spec comes with some touches that could make all the difference here. The blacked-out bars across the RS’s front, side and rear compliment those angles a lot better, and the rear looks far more resolved with a spoiler (what are those rear light clusters pointing to?).
In comparison, the LX looks incredibly plain and, aside from those LED lights, it is honestly difficult to tell it apart from the VTi-L or even the base-model VTi. While subtlety might appeal to some, it’s an odd card to play for a flagship variant given the overall design of the Civic screams ‘look at me’.
The ‘Modern Steel’ grey colour of our test car rammed the plain-Jane look home. If it were my choice I’d go for the ‘Brilliant Sporty Blue’ as it suits the car’s angular aesthetic a little better. The only free colour is ‘Rally Red’.
The 17-inch alloys were also a topic of controversy in the office. Over my drive week I came to appreciate the milled-alloy with gloss-black highlight designs. Matt Campbell disagrees. I will concede they look smaller than 17-inches, likely due to the black highlights.
Inside is a better story. The angular design trend continues, but it’s all very ergonomic. None of the materials appear cheap or nasty, and there are more than a few soft finishes in the right places. It doesn’t have the symmetry of the Elantra’s interior, but I became very used to how comfortable it was.
Of particular note is the chunky, leather-bound steering wheel, and I have to give props to the low, sporty seating position.
Housed in the dash is a digital display which well laid-out, presents all the important information to the driver well, has a high frame-rate and seemed to never be subject to glare. It’s no premium bells & whistles experience like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit but is a nice addition nonetheless.
Does the Civic sedan look a little… big to you? That’s because it is. It’s massive inside. But somehow, it shares a wheelbase with the hatch.
It’s kind of magic, but that’s one of Honda’s fortes. Big practical interiors with some hidden surprises.
What surprised me the most though, is the ridiculous rear legroom. I had leagues of space behind my own driving position. How can this be if it has the same wheelbase as the hatch?
Well, some investigation revealed that despite its near-identical looks, the sedan's cabin is physically different from the hatch, and an additional 34 millimetres of legroom is granted in the back. It doesn’t sound like much but makes a world of difference.
It legitimately has far more legroom than even some ‘large' sedans I’ve driven and ridden in, and the centre seat could fit an adult-sized human in decent comfort for a long-distance drive. Impressive.
The boot is also close to largest in the class. With the seats up, there’s 517 litres (VDA) of space on offer, which compares very well with the Mazda3 (408L), Elantra (458L) and Impreza (460L) but is just barely eclipsed by the new Kia Cerato (520L).
In the cockpit too, there’s plenty of stowage space under the centre console including two large movable cupholders (although without those little variable edges, so a tilt-risk for small stuff) plus some smallish cubbies in the doors for front and rear passengers. These won’t hold larger belongings or bottles, but they’re sufficient for smaller objects like wallets, books or keys.
Everything is also very easy to reach, but the sunroof eats a little headroom which could be a challenge for those over 182cm tall. I also had to question the choice of not including a dial for volume control. There are wheel-mounted buttons and a touch interface on the screen itself. But that’s kind of clunky when you need volume down in a hurry.
Up this end of the Civic hierarchy, there’s just the one drivetrain. A 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, producing 127kW/220Nm, mated only to a CVT auto. The Civic is front-drive only and, much to the dismay of old-school Civic fans, there's no manual option in sight.
That engine puts it middle of the pack compared to small sedan competitors. The enthusiast’s choice may be either the Mazda3 SP25 with a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre (138kW/250Nm) or the Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo which has an impressive 1.6-litre turbo (150kW/265Nm). Both of those can be had with a six-speed auto or DCT respectively (or, better yet, a six-speed manual option on either).
But the Civic still outshines the Cerato’s ordinary-all-round 112kW/192Nm 2.0-litre offering (which is also a bit thirsty) and Subaru’s infamously underpowered 115kW/196Nm non-turbo 2.0-litre engine which is also asked to pull a much heavier AWD layout.
Honda’s smaller engine choice and CVT is designed to be frugal. On the combined cycle, Honda claims the VTi-LX will drink 6.0-litres to 100km. There’s not too much variation in the field with Mazda also claiming 6.0 for the SP25 Astina, and at the other end of the scale, there’s Kia’s Cerato which is touted to drink 7.4L/100km.
After a week of driving over a tank of petrol I scored 7.7L/100km which is closer to (but surprisingly less than) Honda’s urban estimate of 8.0L/100km.
Despite being turbo'd the VTi-LX will happily drink bargain-basement 91 unleaded, and the tank holds 47 litres.
The Civic presents a strange dichotomy between the luxury spec and its sporty frame. As mentioned earlier, you sit nice and low in the Civic, and you have this chunky, well weighted steering wheel, giving you the illusion of sportiness at the helm.
It lives up to that by feeling nicely planted in the corners. This is largely due to all Civics having a more sophisticated independent rear suspension. Thankfully, it’s not a stiff tune either. It’s well sorted over bumpy stuff, there’s not a rattle to be heard in the cabin, and you don’t have to cringe every time you spot an incoming car park speed bump or unfortunately-positioned pothole.
The engine won’t exactly have you setting lap-times, however, and it’s a tad noisy in the cabin when it comes to really getting the power down somewhere past 2500rpm.
Then, there’s the CVT. It truly isn’t the worst CVT I’ve ever driven (I’m looking at you, 1998 Nissan Micra…) and in terms of actual driving the experience isn’t dulled much. You should know it creates a slightly unpleasant rubbery characteristic, where your inputs feel delayed because it takes time for the CVT to react to changes through the driveline.
For example, when laying off heavy acceleration, it will keep accelerating for half a second after you’ve taken your foot off. It’s a minor issue, but a noticeable one.
It also produces an annoying high-pitched whining sound at low speed and when you come to a full stop. You won’t be bothered by this if you drive around with the (actually great) 10-speaker stereo on most of the time, but you shouldn’t have to rely on it.
In terms of your ability to alter the engine’s characteristics, there’s an ‘Eco’ button which seems to make the CVT fight you as you try to extract revs out of it, and a sport mode on the transmission which seemed to make the accelerator a little more responsive and forced the CVT to act a bit more like a traditional auto.
Paddle-shift appears on the VTi-LX and RS grades but while the ‘gear changes’ they trigger didn’t have a long delay on them, they proved unsatisfying anyway.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
This is where the VTi-LX shines above the rest of the Civic range. Finally arriving at this top-spec grade is the ‘Honda Sensing’ safety suite.
This includes Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) with Lane Keep Assist (LKAS) and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) as well as the welcome addition of Adaptive Cruise Control.
It’s a shame you have to spec all the way to the top of the range to get AEB (available across all Mazda3 variants), but as I said earlier, it’s worth the extra $1800 over the RS.
I could argue the Forward Collision Warning system was a little too sensitive, but as it just had large flashing light on the dash and a mild beep, it was really just comforting to know it would alert me in a real emergency.
All Civic sedans feature three top tether child seat attachment points across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchors on the outer rear positions, and carry a five-star ANCAP safety rating as of April 2017.
Rural buyers (who probably aren’t looking at a luxury Civic anyway) will be dismayed to know there’s only a space saver spare under the boot floor.
Honda offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty across its range. This is great but should be the minimum.
It compares well in this segment to fellow Japanese competitors, the Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza, which fall behind with outdated three year/unlimited kilometre warranties.
Hyundai is bang-on par with a similar five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, but the bar to beat, as ever, is Kia with its seven-year/unlimited kilometre promise on the Cerato.
A comfortable and convenient daily driver that ticks all the safety and tech boxes, the VTi-LX is a compelling offering given it is better value than the RS, and not overpriced for its spec level.
What it lacks in an interesting powertrain it more than makes up for with its huge cabin space and well sorted ride. Whether you choose it or not could very well come down to the looks…
|RS||1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$25,888 – 36,565||2018 HONDA CIVIC 2018 RS Pricing and Specs|
|Type R||2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$44,888 – 54,428||2018 HONDA CIVIC 2018 Type R Pricing and Specs|
|VTi||1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$15,840 – 20,240||2018 HONDA CIVIC 2018 VTi Pricing and Specs|
|VTi-L||1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$22,999 – 29,990||2018 HONDA CIVIC 2018 VTi-L Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||7|