Honda Civic VS Infiniti Q30
- Roomy cabin
- Strong powertrain
- Comfy ride
- Fussy styling
- Fiddly multimedia system
- Some road noise intrusion
- Concept car looks
- Willing engine
- Standard safety
- Concept car practicality
- Lacking multimedia
- Priced in the big leagues
The clue’s in the name.
A permanent fixture of the small-car scene for nearly 50 years, the Honda Civic has long been a strong urban runabout proposition, providing quality, efficient and progressive engineering at affordable prices.
Here we take a longer look at the Civic RS – one of the more popular and sportier grades in this 10th-generation series – to see how effective the updates are, as small cars struggle to stay relevant against the onslaught of compact SUVs.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Welcome to the future - where your Mercedes-Benz is a Nissan and your Nissan is a Mercedes-Benz.
Thanks to the state of various global manufacturing alliances the Q30 is mechanically, largely a previous-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class, with a similar arrangement seeing the new Mercedes-Benz X-Class ute comprised largely of Nissan Navara underpinnings.
Recently, the Q30 has had its range of variants trimmed from a confusing five down to two, and the one we’re testing here is the top-spec Sport.
Make sense? I hope so. The Q30 Sport joined me on an 800km trip along the east coast in the height of summer. So, can it make the most of its German/Japanese roots? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Civic RS may look like it was designed to keep up with racy Golf GTIs through twisting mountain passes – and it can certainly hold its own thanks to assured handling and roadholding – but it actually shines best as an urban family runabout proposition.
The key points to remember are that the turbo engine provides enough low-down punch for rapid round-town driving while returning reasonable economy, the suspension’s ability to soak up the rough stuff should help calm and soothe away the most trying commute, and the cabin’s focus on functionality and simplicity (fiddly multimedia screen aside) serves to enhance rather than distract from the job at hand.
With nearly half a century’s experience building Civics, it’s clear that Honda hasn’t forgotten how to build an excellent town car. Like we said in the beginning, it’s right there in the name.
The Q30 Sport is a left-field choice in the premium hatch segment. For those who don’t care about badge equity and are looking for something different, the Q30 provides maybe 70 per cent the feel of its well-established competition while offering decent value courtesy of standard safety and spec inclusions.
The biggest letdown is how much better it could be with just a little extra in every department. Even in this top-spec the drive experience is a bit generic, and it’s missing an up-to-date multimedia experience limiting its appeal to a younger audience.
Even with its promising mixed heritage, the Q30 hardly feels more than the sum of its parts.
Is the Q30 Sport different enough that you’d consider it over its premium hatch rivals? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Two things are immediately apparent about the Civic hatch’s brash aesthetics. Firstly, it’s big for a so-called small car, reflecting the model’s US-focus and with the upshot making for a pleasingly spacious cabin. And secondly, Honda’s designers seemed uncertain as to when to put pencils down. It’s a melting pot of fussy styling.
For some, the sleek fastback-style four-door sedan is a little more elegant, but both shapes stand out as truly individual. Sadly, with a move to cleaner and more geometric lines nowadays, gen-10 Civic is unlikely to age quite as gracefully as several earlier iterations.
That said, the RS’ large, turbine wheels fill the guards nicely, while that vast interior is right on the money, now that the fiddly touchscreen interface has partly given way to hard buttons for faster and more intuitive access to multimedia, ventilation and vehicle-control settings.
Sure, the Civic’s handsome dash architecture is swathed in a sea of monotone plastic, but it’s of hardy and consistent quality, is well-crafted (save for one persistent rattle in our test car) and is created to prioritise function over form, from the perfectly-placed screen and considered ventilation outlets, to the easy reach of most switchgear (barring the USB ports below and behind the buttressed centre-console layout.
Few cars at any price present a greater choice of, or more effective, storage solutions. Enormous cavities to lose things in seem to proliferate everywhere.
The RS’ stitched leather trim contrasts well to the matt metallic highlights decorating the dash and door cards, adding a dose of athletic intent. It’s fair to say, then, that – unlike the exterior styling – the Civic’s interior may weather the years better.
The Q30 drew more than just looks for its badge. It genuinely looks like a concept car from a motor show stand. Not the paper mache Mars rover early prototype kind, more like the six-months-before-production kind.
It’s all swoopy with curves cutting all down the sides, and Infiniti has done a good job imprinting the brand’s signature design queues – like the chrome-framed grille and notched C-pillar - on the front and rear three-quarter views.
It’s genuinely hard to tell it shares major componentry with the last-gen (W176) A-Class from the outside and I’d place the overall look somewhere between Mazda and Lexus’ design languages for better or worse.
While the front is swoopy and resolved the rear is a bit busy with lines everywhere and bits of chrome and black trim all over the place. The tapered roofline and high bumpers set it apart from your regular hatchback fare.
It might grab the eye for the wrong reasons, but it certainly gives the Q30 a slick look when viewed in profile. I wouldn’t call it a bad looking car, but it is divisive and will appeal only to certain tastes.
Inside is simple and plush. Perhaps a little too simple when compared with the new (W177) A-Class with its entirely digital dashboard or the 1 Series with its M bits. One could even argue the Audi A3 has done ‘simplicity’ better.
The seats are nice in the two-tone white-on-black trim and the Alcantara roof is a premium touch, but the rest of the dash is a bit too basic and dated. There’s a smattering of buttons down the centre stack which are replaced with more intuitive touchscreen functions on most rivals, and the 7.0-inch touchscreen looks small, distantly embedded in the dash.
The materials are all nice to the touch, with most important touch-points clad in leather, but it also feels a little claustrophobic, with the abundance of dark trim, thick roof pillars and a low roof-line, especially in the back seat. The switchgear, which is mostly dropped straight out of a Benz A-Class, feels good.
The overall feeling in the Civic is that it’s low, wide and roomy. A big small car, if you will.
Getting in and out is easy, broad yet enveloping seats provide ample support up front and reasonable comfort, even for three (at a squeeze), out back, and that’s backed up by ample space for legs, knees and shoulders. Taller scalps might scrape the rear ceiling, though.
Back up front, that big central touchscreen does demand familiarisation – and the fact you need to confirm an action every time you restart the car is annoying – yet the basics are spot-on, from the excellent driving position and super-clear dials, to the abundant ventilation, logical control layout and the aforementioned storage bonanza.
The USB and 12V ports are a stretch away behind the two-level lower-console layout, but there’s nothing difficult or intimidating here otherwise.
That said, while the forward view is commanding and confidence-inspiring, shallow side and rear glass makes reverse parking tricky and the rear camera essential.
Speaking of the back of the Honda, a long, flat cargo floor offers very competitive luggage space (at 330 litres). With only a lipped sill to lift bulky things over, loading is effortless, although not everybody will appreciate the gimmicky cargo cover blind that needs to be pulled across like a sunshade. A space-saver spare lives below the floor.
Note that if you’re coming from the two earlier-generation (2006 and 2011) Civic hatches sourced from Britain, you may be disappointed to find that Honda’s ‘Magic Seats’ aren’t fitted, since the older cars were based on the Jazz supermini and had their fuel tanks beneath the front seats to enable the base and seat-back ensemble to fold down into a cavity for extraordinary floor-to-ceiling space.
Still, reflecting its focus on the key US market demographic, few rivals this side of a Kia Cerato feel, or are as accommodating as, our Thai-assembled Honda.
Infiniti calls the Q30 a “crossover” rather than a hatchback and this is best reflected through its pumped ride height. Rather than hugging the ground like the A-Class or 1 Series, the Q30 sits propped up, almost like a small SUV.
There’s also the QX30 which is an even more pumped version of this car complete with plastic guards in the vein of Subaru’s XV. The QX30 is also your only way to all-wheel drive now that the Q30 is front-wheel drive only.
While the extra ride height means you won’t have to worry about scraping expensive body panels on speedbumps or steep ramps you won’t be wanting to get too brave off the tarmac.
Interior space is fine for front passengers with plenty of arm and legroom, but back seat passengers are left with a small, dark space which feels especially claustrophobic. Headroom is not great no matter which seat you’re in. In the front seat I could almost rest my head on the sun-visor (I’m 182cm tall) and the back seat was not much better.
Rear passengers do score nice seat trim and two air-conditioning vents though, so they haven’t totally been forgotten.
There’s average amounts of storage up front and in the back, with small bottle holders in each of the four doors, two on the transmission tunnel and a tiny trench – useful for keys maybe – in front of the air-conditioning controls.
Even the centre console box is shallow, despite a large opening. Once I had collected enough loose objects on my trip I started to run out of room for things in the cabin.
There are nettings on the back of the front seats and an odd extra one on the passenger’s side of the transmission tunnel.
Power outlets come in the form of a single USB port in the dash and a 12-volt outlet in the centre box.
The boot is a much better story despite the swoopy roofline with 430 litres of space available. That’s bigger than the A-Class (370L), 1 Series (360L), A3 (380L) and CT200h (375L). Needless to say, it ate up two large duffle bags and some extra items we brought with us for our week-long trip.
This is due to its impressive depth, but it does come at a cost. The Q30 only has the sound system’s base and an inflator kit under the boot floor. There’s no spare for long distance trips.
One irritation I have to mention is the shift-lever, which was annoying in its tilt-shift operation. Often when trying to change to drive from reverse or vice versa it would get stuck in neutral. Sometimes I wonder what’s wrong with a shifter which locks in position…
Price and features
Instead, like a Civic in Lululemon, the RS is the automotive equivalent to an athleisure outfit, striving for a sporty yet stylish and easy fit.
To that end, the $33,540, automatic-only RS continues with the 127kW/220Nm 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo engine (rather than the 104kW/174Nm 1.8-litre naturally aspirated unit powering the lesser VTi and VTi-S), but introduces larger alloy wheels (up from 17 to 18 inches) shod with top-shelf Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres (a massive thumb’s up), reshaped bumpers, a new rear diffuser, different grille and fresh colours.
Stepping inside, the RS adopts auto high-beam headlights (of superb spread but tardy response since sometimes they don’t switch off in time, so dazzle on-coming traffic), physical buttons (including a volume knob at last) for the 7.0-inch touchscreen and dual-zone climate-control systems, and updated seat and dash trim inserts. Still looking fresh.
Only turbo Civics offer Honda’s ‘Sensing’ safety package that brings autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop/go functionality, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist and steering assist, thus almost matching direct rivals like the Corolla and Mazda3 that standardise most of these from base-model up.
There are a couple of driver-assist omissions, though. More on that in the Safety section below.
Other RS goodies include leather upholstery, heated front seats, a powered driver’s seat, LED headlights, a multi-angle reverse camera with inside-lane view to avoid cyclists (brilliant), privacy glass, DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, a (smashing) premium audio system and keyless entry/start with walkaway locking. Handy.
The RS undercuts the $35,590 Hyundai i30 N-Line Premium and $35,090 Mazda3 G25 GT (though lesser-equipped grades are available in both), matches the $33,490 Kia Cerato GT Turbo but trails the $32,240 Ford Focus ST-Line with Driver Assist Pack and $32,135 Corolla ZR – but the latter makes do with the standard 2.0-litre engine and the ZR Hybrid for an extra $1500 is substantially down on oomph against this lot.
The spare is a space-saver while all RS colour choices are either metallic or pearlescent, with no cheaper flat paint alternative.
If you’re shopping in this segment, there’s a good chance you’re not looking for a bargain buy, but the Q30 shines in some areas its competition doesn’t.
A promising start is the complete lack of a lengthy and expensive options list with items which should be standard. In fact, apart from a reasonable set of accessories and the $1200 premium 'Majestic White' paint, the Q30 has no options in the traditional sense.
The base Q30 scores 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with high-beam assist, heated leather seats, flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, leather trim on the doors and dash, Alcantara (synthetic suede) roof-lining and a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen supporting DAB+ digital radio and built-in navigation.
Our Sport adds a 10-speaker Bose audio system (which could have been better…) dual-zone climate control, a fixed panoramic sunroof, fully-electric front seats and Nissan’s 360-degree ‘around view monitoring’ parking suite.
It might have premium aspirations, but value-wise Q30 is still specified like a Nissan.
The standard safety suite is also reasonably impressive, and you can read more about it in the safety section of this review.
Our Q30 Sport comes in at a total of $46,888 (MSRP) which is still premium money. The price pits it against the BMW 120i M-Sport (eight-speed auto, $46,990), Mercedes-Benz A200 (seven-speed DCT, $47,200) and fellow Japanese premium hatch act - the Lexus CT200h F-Sport (CVT, $50,400).
Herein lies the Q30’s biggest problem. Brand recognition. Everybody knows the BMW and Benz hatches by virtue of their badges alone and the Lexus CT200h is known by those who care about it.
Even without the extensive options list, it makes the price of entry against such established competition tough. While you might see a couple of them around Sydney, the Q30 is a relatively rare sight which garnered more than a few quizzical looks in the towns of NSW’s mid-north coast.
The standard spec is also missing the all-important Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. It rendered the 7.0-inch multimedia screen clumsy and largely useless, although the old-fashioned built-in nav gives peace-of-mind when you’re out of phone reception range.
If you have an Apple phone you can make use of the iPod music playback feature via the USB port.
Engine & trans
Diesels aside, Honda famously eschewed turbos for decades, relying instead on multi cams, variable-valve timing and other high-tech advances to get the most out of its (mostly brilliant) petrol engines.
For Australian buyers, the tenth Civic broke the rule, and with it brought a terrifically flexible 127kW/220Nm 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo that maintains the urge of old Hondas at the top end, without the need to rev the daylights out of it at lower engine speeds.
Driving the front wheels via an ultra-smooth continuously variable transmission, off-the-line response is pleasingly immediate, and the power just keeps on coming on, making for a slick and rapid machine.
In fact, there’s enough torque on tap for the driver to avoid the engine droning typically associated with CVTs in most instances, except when mashing the pedal right down for, say, fast overtaking.
That droning comes about because the single-speed CVT is tuned to keep the engine revving at a pre-determined spot (usually close to the red line) to achieve access to maximum power.
That’s about the only time when the 1.5-litre turbo ensemble hits a sour note, as it's also accompanied by an uncharacteristically un-Honda gruffness. But, like we said, it’s avoidable for most urban scenarios, and soon just blends in with the rest of the RS' driving experience.
For 2019 the Q30 has had its list of engines trimmed from three to just one. The diesel and smaller 1.6-litre petrol engines have been culled, leaving a 2.0-litre petrol.
Thankfully, it’s a strong unit producing a once-V6-range 155kW/350Nm across a wide band from 1200-4000rpm.
It feels responsive and isn’t let down by a slick-shifting seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
The new-generation A-Class equivalent, even in 2.0-litre A250 guise produces less torque with outputs of 165kW/250Nm, so for the money the Infiniti scores a solid serving of extra punch.
Another key benefit to going turbo in the RS’ case is commendable fuel consumption. We managed a trip-computer-indicated 7.9L/100km around our mostly-urban driving loop, against the official combined average of 6.4L/100km. That’s just 1.5 litres shy of the claim.
Honda states that standard 91RON unleaded petrol is fine, and with the 47-litre tank, over 734km between refills is possible.
Over my week-long test the Q30 returned a figure of 9.0L/100km. I was a little disappointed with this figure given much of the distance covered was cruising at freeway speeds.
It’s made worse when you pitch it against the claimed/combined figure of 6.3L/100km (not sure how you could achieve that…) and the fact that I left the irritating stop-start system on for much of the time.
For a leader in the luxury hatch class consider the Lexus CT200h which makes full use of Toyota’s hybrid drive and pitches a fuel consumption figure of 4.4L/100km.
The Q30 has a 56-litre fuel tank and takes a minimum of 95 RON premium unleaded.
Honda has tuned the 1.5-litre turbo/CVT combination to great effect around town, since it offers seamless acceleration and (mostly) quiet operation in almost all urban environments, for un-intrusive point-to-point motoring. It’s a slick city-friendly machine.
Perhaps it’s the quality Michelin Pilot tyres talking, but the RS’ steering, handling and roadholding behaviour really seemed to have improved over the already-competent pre-facelift version released over three years ago.
From the first turn of the wheel, the Honda feels connected to the road and nicely measured in response, yet is also light and agile enough to be easy to manoeuvre through tight spots and between gaps in traffic. The turning circle is also small for effortless parking.
Out away from the confines of the Big Smoke, the car continues to feel secure and surefooted, taking fast curves with a flat and solid attitude that encourages keener drivers to step things up if feeling inclined to. Brakes feel natural, progressive and reassuringly strong.
The biggest stride the Civic’s taken, however, is in its ability to absorb all sorts of bumps back in the urban jungle, smoothing over bad roads with a high degree of isolation.
And this is despite the switch to larger (18-inch) alloys. You can probably attribute the sophisticated multi-link rear suspension system, elevating the Honda to the pointier end of the class in terms of dynamics.
About the only criticism is the level of road-noise intrusion at even moderate urban speeds, but even this is still within the class average. That said, Honda ought to ride in the latest Mazda3 or Volkswagen Golf if it really wants to see how quietness should be done.
Still, overall, the RS impresses with its maturity and refinement.
Thanks to its shared underpinnings with the A-Class the Q30 Sport drives largely like you would expect a premium hatch to drive. It’s just lacking a bit of character.
The engine is responsive, the transmission is fast and the availability of peak torque from just 1200rpm will lead to spinning the front wheels if caution is not applied. Power is no real issue.
Although Infiniti says it has tuned the Q30 in Japan and Europe, the ride has an undeniably Germanic flavour. It doesn’t feel quite as tight as the A-Class or 1 Series but it doesn’t feel as soft as the CT200h, so it strikes a decent balance.
The Q30 uses MacPherson strut suspension in the front and multi-link at the rear, more suited to a premium car than the torsion bar rear on the new Benz A 200.
The wheel has a nice amount of feedback, and thankfully doesn’t use the larger Q50’s strange ‘Direct Adaptive Steering’ which has no mechanical connection between the driver and the road.
If you’ve driven a decently-specified A-Class before the drive experience will feel familiar. The added ride height seems to remove a bit of feel from the corners, however.
There’s also the inclusion of three drive modes – Economy, Sport and Manual. Economy mode seems to be the default with Sport simply holding gears for longer. Steering-wheel mounted paddle-shifters could be used to mill through the seven gears in 'Manual' mode, although this didn’t add much to the experience.
The addition of active cruise control and adaptive high beams proved to be fantastic for reducing fatigue on long highway stints during the night, but the lack of a padded surface on the inside of the transmission tunnel proved uncomfortable for the driver’s knee on longer trips.
I persisted with the stop-start system to test it, but it proved slow and irritating. Under normal circumstances it would be the first thing I’d turn off.
Visibility was also a bit limited out the rear three quarter courtesy of the low, swoopy C-pillars.
As stated earlier, only the turbo Civics in Australia score Honda Sensing, and that currently covers most of the driver-assist safety offered right now in the small-car class. Yet all Civics, regardless of turbo status, score a maximum five-star ANCAP rating, awarded in 2017.
Sensing includes camera and radar-based AEB, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection (but not for bicycles like some other rivals), adaptive cruise control with stop/go and slow-traffic follow functionality, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, steering assist and auto high beams.
However, unlike the Mazda3, Corolla, and various others, the Civic misses out on Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and Front Cross Traffic Alert (FCTA), which automatically brakes the vehicle at up to a certain speed when nosing or reversing into traffic.
Other safety items are six airbags including curtain items covering second-row outboard occupants, stability and traction control systems, and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.
For younger travellers, there are two ISOFIX points and three top tethers fitted.
The Q30 scores some decent active safety goodies alongside the usual refinements. Active safety items include auto emergency braking (AEB) with forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring (BSM), lane departure warning (LDW) and active cruise control.
There’s also Nissan’s signature ‘Around View Monitor’ 360-degree reversing camera which sounds more useful than it is. Thankfully there is also a standard reversing camera.
The Q30 carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of 2015 but has not been tested to the more demanding 2019 standards.
The rear seats also benefit from two sets of ISOFIX child seat mounting points.
As previously mentioned, there’s no spare wheel in the Q30 Sport, so best of luck with the inflator kit if you end up with a flat in the outback.
It also calls for servicing once every 12 months or 10,000km whichever comes first, and features capped-price servicing known as 'Honda Tailored Servicing', that lasts for five years or 100,000km.
As of May 2020, each standard service costs $297 (except the 80,000km one, which is $328).
That’s more than Toyota’s regime, which for Corolla ZR is $180 for the first four years/60,000km.
As with all Infiniti products, the Q30 is covered by a four-year/100,000km warranty and a three-year service program can be purchased with the car. Pricing was not available for the 2019 Q30 model year at the time of writing, but its 2.0-litre turbo predecessor averaged $540 per service once a year or every 25,000km.
Credit where credit is due, the Q30 edges out the European competition by a year of warranty length and general service pricing. This market segment is still wide open for a manufacturer to take the lead offering five or more years of warranty coverage.