Honda Civic VS Hyundai i40
- Looks are good (or bad)
- Suspension and steering are both terrific
- Plenty of legroom in the rear seat
- CVT drones at pace
- Standard safety lacking on base models
- RS is noisy on the wrong road surfaces
- Impressive ride and handling
- Diesel engine provides plenty of oomph
- Tiny display screen
- No AEB
- Tyre noise
If you think the new Civic Hatch looks a little lower-slung than its sedan sibling, that can likely be attributed to the crushing weight of expectation placed on its little metal shoulders.
See, this 10th-gen Civic might be the most important car Honda has ever made. While most manufacturers were pouring funds into their SUV ranges, Honda was diverting a huge chunk (heavily tipped to be a whopping 35 per cent) of their research and development budget into the Civic, using the evergreen nameplate as a key pin in their Australian comeback.
And with that much riding on it, it had to be good. In sedan form, which launched here last year, it mostly lived up to the hype, with Honda shifting more than 800 units per month. And with the Civic hatch finally touching down in Australia, Honda is hoping to add 1000 sales to the tally.
So the question now is, does this new hatch version shine, too?
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
A wagon and not an SUV, eh? Respect. You see, when most people now think of a new car they think of an SUV, especially when they want something with a bit of cargo space. But not you.
So, what are the strengths and weaknesses of this Korean wagon, and should you wait or buy it now? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||1.7L turbo|
Energetic and engaging (if not quite sporty), the Civic hatch is quiet and comfortable around town, but it can more than hold its own on a twisting backroad, too. It’s looks will either appeal or not, but a lack of comprehensive safety equipment on the cheaper models is sure to ruffle some feathers.
For us, the cheapest way into the turbocharged engine forms the pick of the bunch, so we'd call the VTi-L the sweet spot.
The i40 Tourer in the Active grade is great to drive, it’s practical, and should be low-cost to run. But you can bet the new version, due to arrive soon, will be, too. If you can wait, it's a safe bet the new i40 Tourer will have an updated look, improved safety equipment and retain all the good points of the previous model.
Would you buy the current i40, or would you be mad not to wait for the new one, coming soon? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The word 'polarising' is usually a thinly disguised way of saying 'lots of people don’t like it'. And the all-new Civic sedan was, well, very polarising. A glance at this new hatch version shows it hasn’t strayed too far from that design approach, either.
It’s as understated as a snakeskin suit in all grades, but nowhere is it quite so busy as in the RS trim level, in which the sporty trimmings jump out from every possible angle. Strangely, though, we quite like the way it looks, and it's undeniably an individual in the small car segment.
Inside, Honda has produced the comfortable and tech savvy interior that was missing from the outgoing model, but the sense of well executed semi-premium fades as you approach the spartan rear seat.
The i40 wagon looks good, I even caught myself doing that admiring 'look back' thing you do when you walk away from your car. Thing is, the current i40 has the ‘old’ Hyundai styling that dates it compared to the new i30, Sonata and Kona, which reflect the brand’s latest look.
This brings me to something you should really know – the newer, updated i40 will arrive in Australia soon, and it will be more in line with Hyundai’s current design approach.
The i40 is also up against some hot-looking rivals. The Mondeo is gorgeous, the Passat is stately, and the Commodore also looks stunning. To be honest the i40 is the least attractive of that lot form where I’m looking. It’s also about the same size as that trio at 4775mm long, 1815mm wide and 1470mm in height.
My mum would call the interior of the i40 Active smart looking, but she doesn’t mean tech-smart, more school dance smart, and if she ever said that before you went to a school dance you’d get changed immediately.
Yes, it looks smart in a tidy, stylish way, but that tiny screen, cloth seats and ordinary plastics lower the tone compared to the Premium's more 'premium' interior.
The Civic hatch is surprisingly spacious in the cabin, where up front the two seats are split buy a central bin housing two of the fattest, deepest cupholders we’ve ever seen (that would be America’s 'Big Gulp' influence on the Civic’s design), along with a hidden USB and power source that sits behind the centre console, hiding the ugly chords while you’re plugged into touchscreen unit.
The back seat, is plenty spacious in the longer and wider hatch - which also sits on a 30mm longer wheelbase than the outgoing car - with more shoulder, leg and knee room for backseat riders.
Which is just as well, as there’s not much else happening back there, with no air vents, power outlets or USB points on offer, with just the two cupholders housed in a pulldown divider that separates the rear seat.
The i40 wagon nails the practicality category. Storage space is excellent with a deep, wide console bin under the centre armrest, and there’s another big well in front of the gear shifter.
There are large pockets in all the doors with bottle holders, two cupholders up front and another two in the fold-down rear armrest, plus another storage area in there, too.
Rear legroom borders on limo territory and even at 191cm I can sit behind my driving position with about 50mm of space between my knees and the seat back. Headroom back there is also extremely generous.
The rear doors open wide, making for an easy exit or entry, too.
Price and features
Thanks to what Honda refers to as its “One Civic” philosophy, this new hatch lineup perfectly mirrors the sedan range that was launched here last year, with the only major change being the ‘Ring-burning Type R, which will be hatch-only when it arrives later in 2017.
And that means the five-strong Hatch range kicks off with the entry-level VTi ($22,390) before stepping up to the VTi-S ($24,490) and the VTi-L ($27,790). Next up is the sport-sprinkled RS ($32,290), before the range tops out with the high-flying VTi-LX ($33,590).
Entry-level shoppers will make do 16-inch steel wheels, fabric seats and single-zone climate control, but there are some nice and premium-feeling flourishes, like LED DRLs, a 7.0-inch touchscreen that’s now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-equipped and a second colour screen in the driver’s binnacle for your trip information.
Stepping up to the VTi-S adds 16-inch alloy wheels, integrated LED indicators in your wing mirrors and proximity locking and unlocking, along with some clever safety stuff we’ll come back to under the Safety heading.
Along with a better engine (more on that in a moment), springing for the VTi-L will earn you 17-inch alloy wheels, twin-zone climate control and automatic windows in both rows, while the sporty-flavoured RS adds LED fog and headlights, along with a hearty dose of sporty styling courtesy of a bumper kit, skirting and a liberal splashing of piano black highlights.
Inside the RS gets leather trimmed seats, a better 10-speaker stereo and and a standard sunroof, too.
Finally, the range-topping Civic - the VTi-LX - gets satellite navigation, and a fairly comprehensive suite of safety kit.
There are only two grades in the i40 range - 'Active' and 'Premium'. And when it comes to engines you again have two choices - petrol or diesel. The latter adding $2600 to the price.
If you’re looking for the most affordable way into an i40 wagon go for the Active. Listing at a base price of $35,690, 'our' i40 Active Tourer diesel had one option – 'Ocean View' metallic paint, adding an extra $595.
The Active grade costs $9160 less than Premium, and as much as I’d like to say that top-spec car is pretty much the same, with some shiny bits of door trim added, I’d be lying.
The Active really does miss out on some decent stuff – the screen is the smallest I’ve seen since I wore a digital watch, at 4.3-inch (the Premium has a 7.0-inch), there’s air-con but not climate control, there’s keyless entry but not a proximity key or push button start.
The Active doesn’t get a power tailgate with a handsfree function like the Premium, or tinted rear glass, or a digital speedo, or a panoramic sunroof, or a power adjustable driver’s seat, or heated seats, all of which are standard on the Premium grade.
Yup, the Active may be as base grade as you can get but it still comes with paddles shifters, LED daytime running lights, an electric handbrake with auto hold function, front and rear parking sensors, cloth seats and 16-inch alloy wheels.
A list price nudging $36K may seem high, but don’t’ forget you’re paying more for the diesel engine. There’s good reason to spend the extra on the diesel, too – which I’ll explain below.
The i40 Active Tourer diesel undercuts the $39,040 Ford Mondeo Ambiente diesel wagon, while the Volkswagen Passat 140TDI wagon only comes in the mid-spec Highline grade for $49,990 (and is a bit ‘next level’ by comparison), while the Mazda6 wagon in Touring spec with diesel engine is $41,440.
Other rivals? Yes, the new Holden Commodore Sportwagon diesel is $38,890. So, compared to its rivals the i40 Active Tourer is a bit of a bargain.
Engine & trans
Like the sedan version, there are two engine choices on offer, with the cheaper option a 1.8-litre petrol engine, good for 104kW at 6500rpm and 174Nm at 4300rpm found in the VTi and VTi-S trim levels.
The better option, though, is a perky turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine that will push 127kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm at 1700rpm to the front tyres.
Both engines are partnered with a CVT automatic transmission, with or without wheel-mounted shifters, depending on the trim level.
At 104kW, it may be less powerful than the petrol (121kW) but its 340Nm of torque gave it the shove to accelerate impressively from 1750rpm (idle is 800rpm).
The engine and dual-clutch combination performs beautifully; smooth even at low speed in traffic, and shifting down intuitively to make best use of engine braking.
Fuel use is pretty impressive across the board, with the 1.8-litre engine sipping a claimed combined 6.4-litres per hundred kilometres, while the turbocharged version needs just 6.2 litres on the same cycle.
Emissions are pegged at 150 and 142 grams per kilometre of C02 respectively.
Honda struggles a little in explaining exactly what its new 1.5-litre turbo-powered Civic is.
Is it a hot hatch? Nope, the incoming Type R will handle those duties. Oh, so it's a warm hatch, then? Not really - it's mechanically identical (same engine, gearbox and suspension) to the other, top-tier Civics. In fact, only the brand of tyres seperate the RS from the more luxurious VTi-LX.
"We would say it's a 'sporting hatch'," says Honda's head honcho, Stephen Collins.
And sporting it is, with its clever turbocharged 1.5-litre engine a willing and perky unit, delivering plenty of oomph all over the rev range and with no noticeable, soul-destroying lag in its power delivery.
The steering, too, has a sporty flavouring, it's super direct, and offers such crisp direction changes that you have to pay keen attention driving, as even the slightest input will see you steering out of your lane. And while the ride is a little crashy through bumps, it pays you back with composed cornering antics that see the front wheels hanging on to the tarmac for much longer than you might expect.
But the best trick of the 1.5-litre engine is that it doesn't require much accelerator to make it move, which means there's never too much strain on the CVT auto in town. And, given the auto is both loud and intrusive when you ask too much of it, that can only be a good thing.
Like most CVT 'boxes, it's quiet and composed in city driving, but loud and with a tendency to surge when you start to test it. So much so that heavy acceleration requires a kind of lucky dip as to when to back off the throttle, with the Civic continuing to accelerate for a moment or so even once you get off the gas.
Happily, then, the 1.8-litre models are much easier to classify. They're the cheap ones.
It's a a simple, honest and hardworking engine that feels both slower and slower to respond than its newer, turbocharged sibling, but is more than capable of getting up to speed, even if it struggles to add pace from the mid-range onward.
A comfortable ride, impressive handling for the class, and a great engine and transmission mean the i40 Active Tourer diesel is engaging and enjoyable to drive.
The driving position is excellent, the seats are large but supportive, and the pedal feel is spot on. The i40 Tourer is way better to drive than it needs to be and would embarrass some cars from more prestigious brands.
It’s not all perfect: the cabin could be better insulated with wind noise obvious at 90km/h and tyre rumble intruding on course chip roads; visibility is hampered by those slanted A-pillars and the reversing camera image is next to useless thanks to the business card-sized screen in the Active.
While some of its key competitor are throwing safety functions at all trim levels, with Honda it’s still sadly a case of you get what you pay for.
The entry-level VTi, for example, makes do with six airbags (front, front-side and curtain) and a 180-degree reversing camera, opting for the VTi-S, VTi-L or RS adds front and rear parking sensors and Honda’s cool 'LaneWatch' (with activates a side-mounted camera when you indicate, beaming an image of the lane running alongside the lefthand-side of the car up onto the 7.0-inch screen).
The entire Civic range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Hyundai’s website says the i40 Tourer scores the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. That’s true, but a bit sneaky because that ranking was given to the car back in 2013, and a lot has changed in terms of safety equipment in five years.
AEB, for example, is becoming common. So is rear cross traffic alert and blind spot warning, along with adaptive cruise control. You can’t get any of this advanced safety equipment on the current i40, not even the top-spec Premium.
Don’t get me wrong, the i40 is extremely safe with its suite of airbags, plus traction and stability controls - it’s just that the bar for safety has been raised higher.
The new i40 is expected to come armed with more up-to-date safety equipment.
If you’re fitting child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether anchor points across the rear row. It’s great to see a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor, too.
The i40 Tourer is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km/12months at a capped price of $339. A servicing plan is also available for three years ($777), four years ($1136), and five years ($1395).