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Honda Civic 2020 review: RS sedan


This week I was test driving a Honda Civic sedan, which is bigger than the famous and long-lived hatch  (only slightly on the inside, but the exterior is much longer) and thus theoretically a better bet for families.

There are five sedan variants in the range and I was driving the RS, which is second from the top spec, and costs $32,565 before on-roads.

There is tough competition in this segment from the ever-popular Mazda 3 and the Toyota Corolla sedan. Does the Honda Civic have what it takes to beat them? I put the sedan to the real-world test, with my family, over seven days to find out.

How spacious is it?

Because this is the family segment, it can be hard to imagine a small car can ever have enough space, but the Civic sedan doesn't feel small inside. There is more room than in the hatchback version and we didn't have any issues at all with leg or head space, even with the taller members of my family.

  • The boot also has a surprising amount of space; 525L is more than some mid-size SUVs. (image: Dean McCartney) The boot also has a surprising amount of space; 525L is more than some mid-size SUVs. (image: Dean McCartney)
  • It fits the bulky CarsGuide pram, and groceries/school bags will fit, too, so there really is enough space for a family of four. (image: Dean McCartney) It fits the bulky CarsGuide pram, and groceries/school bags will fit, too, so there really is enough space for a family of four. (image: Dean McCartney)

The back seat also has enough space, and I had loads of room. At 161cm I can easily fit with enough space between my knees and the seat in front of me, and taller adults would also be able to fit comfortably. For a small car, that's great news.

The boot also has a surprising amount of space; 525L is more than some mid-size SUVs, although this boot is lower and not as convenient to use, there is still a load of room here. It fits the bulky CarsGuide pram, and groceries/school bags will fit, too, so there really is enough space for a family of four.

The back seat has enough space, and I had loads of room. (image: Dean McCartney) The back seat has enough space, and I had loads of room. (image: Dean McCartney)

How does it look?

With a glossy black grille and tyre rims, the Civic RS model stands out as one of the better looking in the range. It's quite sporty and long for a small car, although it does remind me of a 1980s car, but in a good way. The 80s are back, right?

  • With a glossy black grille and tyre rims, the Civic RS model stands out as one of the better looking in the range. (image: Dean McCartney) With a glossy black grille and tyre rims, the Civic RS model stands out as one of the better looking in the range. (image: Dean McCartney)
  • It's quite sporty and long for a small car. (image: Dean McCartney) It's quite sporty and long for a small car. (image: Dean McCartney)
  • It does remind me of a 1980s car, but in a good way. The 80s are back, right? (image: Dean McCartney) It does remind me of a 1980s car, but in a good way. The 80s are back, right? (image: Dean McCartney)
  • The Honda Civic RS sedan costs $31,990 before on-road costs. The metallic paint job is an extra $575, taking the total price to $32,565. (image: Dean McCartney) The Honda Civic RS sedan costs $31,990 before on-road costs. The metallic paint job is an extra $575, taking the total price to $32,565. (image: Dean McCartney)

When it comes to design flair, the Civic sedan doesn't fare so well. There are leather-appointed seats with a red-stitched trim that look as though they've been built to a budget, although they will wear well and are so much better than fabric seats for a family. The leather steering wheel feels amazing - soft and lovely to touch while driving. There's also a sunroof in this model, which is a pleasant  addition, and the front seats are heated, but sadly they're not very comfortable. I had to do a two-hour drive this week and by the end of it I actually couldn't wait to get out.

Everything else looks quite dated, design wise. From the air vents to the centre console, it all feels like it needs an update. It doesn't look terrible, it's just not fantastic and with some other competitors bringing out new models it's easy to fall behind in the style stakes.

There are leather-appointed seats with a red-stitched trim that look as though they've been built to a budget. (image: Dean McCartney) There are leather-appointed seats with a red-stitched trim that look as though they've been built to a budget. (image: Dean McCartney)

How does it drive?

Once you're going in the Civic, it drives well - nice and smooth and effortless. There's a 1.5-litre turbo engine under the bonnet, which gets up hills quickly. I took the Civic on a really long highway drive, and it coasted along and overtook with ease when I needed it to.

The steering wheel is quite heavy, so it doesn't feel as nimble as a small car should. Any kind of turning while driving is not as easy as it should be, which makes getting into tight parking spots quite annoying, and even doing U-turns or reversing into parks is harder than it should be for a car this size.

The  reverse-parking camera is not super high definition, but you can see what you're doing, and there are parking guidelines on the screen to help.

There's a 1.5-litre turbo engine under the bonnet, which gets up hills quickly. (image: Dean McCartney) There's a 1.5-litre turbo engine under the bonnet, which gets up hills quickly. (image: Dean McCartney)

How easy is it to use every day?

The Honda comes with keyless entry and the front seats are power adjustable, both of which are good inclusions in this price bracket.

The interior storage is also quite good. There are two cupholders in the front, both deep enough if you want to fit bottles in there, and the centre storage bin is large for a small car. There's a spot to throw keys and a phone, plus an extra shelf below the centre console where you can feed your cord to plug into the USB point, so everything is nice and tidy. Rear passengers also get two cupholders in the centre armrest and there are bottle holders in each door.

If you have to do children's seat belts up, bending over in a low sedan can get tiresome after a while, and the boot is also low, so lifting things out of it can get heavy, but this is more of a category issue than a problem with the car itself.

Once you're going in the Civic, it drives well - nice and smooth and effortless. (image: Dean McCartney) Once you're going in the Civic, it drives well - nice and smooth and effortless. (image: Dean McCartney)

How safe is it?

On this Civic RS model, which is second from the top of the range, the safety is great. Almost everything comes as standard, including auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure alerts. Some of the safety is not as sophisticated as you would get in other cars, for example the forward-collision warning is a flashing light on the dash that is easy to miss. But it's there. On some of the lower-spec Civics, the advanced-safety stuff is not standard.

You'll get airbags for driver and front passenger and side curtain airbags that extend to the back row. There are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether points to fix kids' car seats in safely.

What's the tech like?

The Honda Civic has Apple Carplay and Android Auto, which essentially turn the multimedia screen into a large version of your phone, and you can use your maps app to navigate and your streaming app to listen to music or podcasts.

There is a decent sound system and I could turn the volume up to a good level without distortion.

What does it cost to own?

The Honda Civic RS sedan costs $31,990 before on-road costs. The metallic paint job is an extra $575, taking the total price to $32,565.

Fuel consumption is a claimed 6.3L/100km and the Civic sedan is covered by Honda's five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, with a six-year rust-protection warranty.

Services are recommended every 12 months or 10,000kms.

Can a family of four actually live with a small car, rather than a small or mid-sized SUV? (image: Dean McCartney) Can a family of four actually live with a small car, rather than a small or mid-sized SUV? (image: Dean McCartney)


The Wrap

The Honda Civic feels like it's lacking a little in the design department, and I didn't love the steering, or how the seats felt over long periods of time. It does do the job of a suburban car, however, which is essentially how you'll use a vehicle this size, and it is more spacious for a family of four than a regular small hatchback, with its extra-large boot.

I gave it a family rating of 7 out of 10. My children gave it the same; sadly they're not huge fans of this colour.

Likes

Interior space
Boot space

Dislikes

Interior design
Stiff steering wheel
Uncomfortable front seats

Scores

Nedahl:

3.5

The Kids:

3.5

$31,990

Based on new car retail price