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The weekend has once again landed, and this time I find myself behind the wheel of the Honda Civic VTi-S hatch ($24,490), which sits in between the entry-level VTi ($22,390) and the VTi-L ($27,790). Next up in the five-strong hatch range is the sporty-flavoured RS ($32,290), before it tops out with the VTi-LX ($33,590).
When it comes to design, sometimes it’s not good enough to be different - you need to be distinctive. It's an attitude Honda seems to have taken to heart with the styling of this 10th-generation Civic.
Sitting noticeably lower that its predecessors, this Civic looks sharper and even (dare I say) a little sporty, with an imposing front end featuring a bold piano-black grille and LED headlights. The interesting design cues continue at the rear of the car, and culminate with the distinctive C-shaped tail lights.
Of the 45 years the Civic has been around, it's the last five that have seen the biggest change in car-buying behaviour. While it was once all about passenger cars, now SUVs of all sizes are being purchased in huge numbers.
This new Civic needs to bring something special to be considered a contender. We had the weekend to find out whether it was up to the challenge.
The Civic's schedule for the day started early with a shopping trip to Woolies to prep for a picnic later in the day. As is now customary with my weekend tests, the kids made immediate use of the centre armrest, plonking their drink bottles in the two cup holders located within.
Space is not something I associate with hatches, but it appears Honda has gone with a bigger is better approach. At 4515mm long, the Civic hatch is 129mm shorter than its sedan equivalent, and yet longer than its Mazda3 and Golf rivals. Its lower profile makes its length even more noticeable.
This extra length is particularly evident inside the cabin, with generous amounts of leg and headroom for front and rear passengers. Sitting behind my driving position (I'm 180cm tall), there was at least a hand-width of space between my knees and the seat in front. Of course, the drawback of all this space is more area to clean after the kids make their usual mess.
Storage is well catered for in the Civic, too. In addition to the two cup holders in the rear there's two enormous holders up front in the centre console. They're great for storing huge drink bottles, but they too easily swallow all but the largest of takeaway cups, making the retrieval of my hot coffee a more awkward task than usual.
My daughter sitting in the front seat alerts me to the hidey-hole behind the centre console where the USB and power source sit. It's a great place to store your cords while you're plugged into the touchscreen, and a thoughtful touch.
The Civic makes do with cloth seats throughout which offer reasonable amounts of comfort. Up front, the extra lumbar support and low positioning of the seats required some getting used to. And I can't help thinking the mass of plastic that covers much of the cabin gives it a slightly cheaper feel.
On the flip side, I like the more premium-flavoured features such as the LED DRLs, the 7.0-inch touchscreen (that is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped), its proximity unlocking feature and the second colour screen in the driver’s binnacle for trip information.
The rather cramped Woolies' carpark allowed me to make good use the car's reversing camera and parking sensors (front and rear), all of which are standard on the VTi-S. Acutely aware of the car's size, I instinctively baulked at the sight of one of the 'small car' dedicated parking spots and instead opted for one of the bigger bays on offer.
We soon made tracks for the picnic. Our destination was the local National Park which features a number of twisty roads, giving me the chance to test out the Civic’s handling. The steering has a genuinely sporty feel about it, with the slightest inputs eliciting a sharp response. What’s more, the fact it sits lower to the ground than any previous Civic ensures it stays incredibly sure-footed through corners.
The morning was spent tackling the City2Surf, leaving the afternoon free to get to know this car a little better. The VTi-S was equipped with a 1.8-litre petrol engine good for 104kW at 6500rpm and 174Nm at 4300rpm, matched with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
While it was perfect for hauling myself and three kids around the 'burbs, its sedate acceleration poses no danger to those with a pacemaker. Any urgency from a standing start quickly tapers through the mid-range, a feeling not helped by the loud drone from the CVT invading the tranquillity of the cabin.
The ample space in the boot easily swallowed up the kids' gear from the weekend and, at 414 litres (seats up), is larger than its rivals like the i30, Golf and Mazda3. With the seats down (60/40 split), the cavernous amount of space available is impressive.
On the safety front, the five-star ANCAP safety-rated VTi-S comes with six airbags, yet misses out on Honda's 'Sensing Suite' (only available on the top-of-the-range VTi-LX), which includes AEB, lane departure warning and some other premium tech.
A bit of safety kit which does come standard is Honda's 'LaneWatch'. It works by activating a side mounted camera when you indicate to turn left, beaming an image of the lane running alongside the left-hand side of the car up onto the 7.0-inch screen. I found it incredibly distracting, and consequently my inclination was to turn it off more than make use of it.
Over the course of the weekend I covered around 350km of urban and city driving, with the trip computer indicating fuel consumption of 7.7-litres per 100km – slightly higher than Honda's claimed combined 6.4-litres per 100km. Still, 7.7-litres is nothing to grumble at.
The Civic is a sensible, easy-to-live-with hatch courtesy of its quiet and comfortable ride. I suspect its lack of safety tech, particularly in comparison to its rivals, puts it at a disadvantage. On the flip side, its ample passenger space, practicality and modest fuel consumption should put this on the radar of families looking for a functional and affordable second car.
|RS||1.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$19,200 – 26,730||2017 Honda Civic 2017 RS Pricing and Specs|
|Type R||2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN||$31,200 – 40,920||2017 Honda Civic 2017 Type R Pricing and Specs|
|VTi||1.8L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$12,800 – 18,590||2017 Honda Civic 2017 VTi Pricing and Specs|
|VTi-L||1.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO||$15,400 – 21,670||2017 Honda Civic 2017 VTi-L Pricing and Specs|