Mazda 3 SP25 Astina 2016 review
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Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the Honda Civic VTi-LX with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
One of the few pieces of firm, safe ground in the CarsGuide office is our collectively dim view of the 1.8-litre powered new Honda Civic. We're not angry, we're just disappointed, as everyone’s parents likes to say at some stage. It's a weird mix of a car that has us scratching our heads.
The 1.5-litre turbo, which powers the majority of the range, sounds more our speed, and what better way to explore that hypothesis than with the top of the range VTi-LX.
The name seems a bit silly - the VTi and VTi-S are both 1.8 naturally aspirated engines, while the rest of the range is the 1.5-litre turbo, whether called VTi-L, RS or VTi-LX. What's definitely the same is the polarising sedan body, solid interior and CVT transmission. We have lots of questions.
The VTi-LX occupies top slot in the Civic sedan range, coming in at $33,950. That buys you a 10-speaker stereo, 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, side-vision camera (left-hand side only), front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, sat nav, LED headlights, heated front seats, keyless entry and start, auto wipers and headlights, a truckload of safety gear, leather wheel and gear selector and electric sunroof.
Despite the racy shape, there's a heap of room inside, even an elusive fifth seat for a real human is in the offing.
The stereo, which includes DAB, is run by a snappy seven-inch display. The basic Honda software is reasonable to look at but not particularly intuitive and the icons are tiny and hard to use. There is no proper volume dial either, just two capacitative sliders, one on the steering wheel and one on the screen itself, making it hard to quickly adjust the sound level. And annoying.
One big plus is Apple CarPlay, but the problem that blighted the VTi-S we drove also affected this one - you had to plug the phone in, unplug then replug it to make the stereo recognise the iPhone. We didn't test the Android Auto interface.
The active cruise appears to differ from the system on the CR-V, in that it will continue to work at low speeds and works in stop-start traffic. That's pretty good at this price point.
The new Civic has not yet been awarded an ANCAP star rating.
Despite the racy shape, there's a heap of room inside, even an elusive fifth seat for a real human is in the offing. Front and rear-seat passengers luxuriate in lots of headroom and rear passengers can stretch their legs in moderation, even with six-footers up front.
The central part of the dashboard is an excellent, high-definition fully digital readout that gets just about everything right.
The cabin has four cupholders, two in each row. The front pair are gigantic and will take pretty much anything (including big camera lenses) and the console is deep enough to lose a small animal.
The boot is a whopping 519 litres and can be extended by dropping the rear seats. The aperture is a bit narrow at the rear bulkhead, meaning larger items may not fit.
This Civic will not go down as a design classic, but then, neither will the one before it. After a brave and funky hatch that we got from Europe for the eighth generation, the ninth generation sedan was sleek but dull and the hatchback a toned-down iteration of the eighth.
It's all gone a bit wonky with number 10. Honda has taken a clean shape and done a Subaru to it, adding all sorts of protuberances and carbuncles on the nose and tail to produce an odd-looking sedan. It's not outright ugly, just awkward, with anime-overblown details, like the oversize taillights and weird grille/bonnet/duck lips on the nose.
The fake leather is quite indistinguishable from the real thing and an improvement on the wetsuit material in the lower models.
Inside is rather better, with just a couple of jangly, unnecessary bits on the temperature and fuel gauges. The central part of the dashboard is an excellent, high-definition fully digital readout that gets just about everything right.
The rest of the cabin is good, too. The fake leather is quite indistinguishable from the real thing and an improvement on the wetsuit material in the lower models. You sit low in the Civic, an impression furthered by the high centre console, so the coupe roofline translates to a coupe feel inside.
The USB and HDMI ports are hidden away in a multi-level arrangement under the dash, with a clever cut that has little notches to help control your cables. A very thoughtful touch.
Civics from the VTi-L onwards sport the 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo developing 127kW and 220Nm. Compared to the larger 1.8, power is up by 23kW and torque by a whopping 46Nm (or 26 per cent). The front wheels are driven by Honda's continuously variable transmission, which spends a lot of time pretending to be an eight-speed automatic, reinforced by steering-wheel paddles.
Honda claims 6.0L/100km on the combined cycle. Without the aid of stop-start or energy recovery, we got 7.9L/100km (0.4L/100km less than in the VTi-S figure) in mostly gentle suburban and city driving.
The engine in this Civic should be in every Civic. The transmission should be left to the 1.8. That's a fairly stark assessment that requires some explanation.
When pottering around in traffic, the difference is striking - the turbo is far more relaxed and doesn't need to be worked as hard.
Whereas the CVT makes the most of the 1.8's skinny numbers, it is much less at home in the turbo. The whole package is noisier and the irritating flaring (where you lift off the throttle but the revs and speed keep rising for a moment) is magnified because the bigger torque number brings more shove.
When pottering around in traffic, the difference is striking - the turbo is far more relaxed and doesn't need to be worked as hard. Ask a bit more of it and things just get noisier and lawn-mowery and discouraging. No, it's not a performance car, but the engine is a good one and needs the transmission to match.
The rest of the experience is perfectly acceptable apart from the jiggly ride, again common with the cars lower in the range. Smooth surfaces are fine but expansion joints and high-frequency bumps unsettle the cabin. Body roll is noticeable but kept in reasonable check, the handling biased towards safe understeer rather than fun neutrality.
Honda's warranty runs for three-years/100,000km but if you want roadside assist, you'll be asked to stump up for Warranty Plus.
Service pricing is published on the Honda website and you're expected to present your Civic to the dealer every 10,000km or 12 months. Up until 100,000km the vast majority of services are $281, with the 80,000km service coming in at $310.
These prices are are ever-so-slightly lower than the 1.8 (not enough to make a difference to a purchasing decision) and don't include certain items such as brake fluid, filters and spark plugs. All prices are available on the website and are listed as "adaptive items."
Civics with the turbo engine are better - that's the one liner. The VTi-LX seems like reasonable value when stacked up against offerings from market leaders like Mazda's 3 SP25 and by-the-fleet-numbers Toyota Corolla ZR sedan. It's certainly more interesting than either. Looking closer in the sales charts, the Honda is really going after the Hyundai Elantra which, at the top level, is cheaper, has a better transmission and chassis but can't match the engine.
It's not a simple choice, because the Civic doesn't do anything startlingly well to put it ahead of its closest competitors, so it's going to come down to an emotional decision. I'm not entirely sure the Civic has the spark to light that particular fire.
|VTi-L||1.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO||$14,400 – 20,240||2016 Honda Civic 2016 VTi-L Pricing and Specs|
|VTi-LN||1.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO||$14,700 – 20,680||2016 Honda Civic 2016 VTi-LN Pricing and Specs|
|VTi-S||1.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO||$13,200 – 19,140||2016 Honda Civic 2016 VTi-S Pricing and Specs|
|Hybrid||1.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO||$14,300 – 20,130||2016 Honda Civic 2016 Hybrid Pricing and Specs|