Honda Civic VS Toyota Prius C
- 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
Toyota Prius C
- Miserly fuel use
- Eye-catching exterior design
- Surprisingly quick away from lights
- Feels record-player old in places
- Some cabin materials feel cheap
- Standard safety is underdone
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|
Toyota Prius C
See if you can guess the name of the world's first ride-sharing app. You're thinking Uber, right? Nope. It was a company called Sidecar. It's broke now, shuttered for good in 2015. What about the first video-on-demand service? Netflix? Nope. Amazon beat them to it, for starters, but so did many other, now-defunct companies who tried it even earlier.
The point is, being first on the scene is no guarantee you'll be the best, or the most successful. I mean, just look at electric cars; plenty of manufacturers were doing all-battery models before (and arguably better than) Tesla, and every one of them is now parked in Elon Musk's gargantuan shadow.
Before full-electric there were hybrids, and first to arrive on that particular scene in any meaningful way was Toyota and its awkwardly shaped Prius, back in 2001. And they had that field to themselves for a while, but soon enough the other manufacturers trotted out hybrid and plug-in hybrid models of their own.
And so Toyota shook up the Prius offering, launching the seven-seat Prius V, and the bite-sized (and Yaris-based) Prius c we've tested here, in 2012, hoping to broaden the appeal of its hybrid offerings. Problem is, 2012 was an awfully long time ago, and so Toyota has waved its wand over the ageing Prius c for 2018, changing its design, tech offering and interior in an effort to keep it fresh.
So, is the Japanese giant still head of the hybrid class? Or has it been beaten at its own game?
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
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.
Toyota Prius C6.6/10
It's as if the the future is firmly rooted in the past at Toyota. The Prius is still undoubtedly clever, frugal and easy to drive, but it is feeling so old in places that the bad had begun to weigh on the good. If you're a tech-head or have a right foot crafted from lead, then there's nothing to see here. But if the thought of saving money at the bowser sets your heart aflutter, then step right this way.
Does a Prius c make you feel green, or just queasy? Let us know 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.
Toyota Prius C7/10
The good news is that it doesn't look quite so quirky as the full-size Prius. The not-as-good news is that it's still no beauty-contest winner. Not helping matters was the fact our test vehicle was painted in a retina-burning yellow (they call it Hornet Yellow, and it's new for 2018) that looked almost nuclear.
Viewed front on, the blacked-out section of grille and bumper gives the littlest Prius a vaguely manta ray-shaped front-end, while the headlights climb both upwards and back into the body, lending a sense of sportiness to this very unsporty hybrid. From the back, the chunky bumper, vertical taillights and rear windscreen spoiler all add a little attitude to the design.
Inside, you'll find a small but premium-in-places space, with a gloss-black stereo surround that angles the main controls toward the driver, while the digital driver's binnacle is pushed toward the centre of the car, displaying speed, fuel and other key info above the stereo, rather than in front of the steering wheel.
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.
Toyota Prius C6/10
Not very. This is a Yaris-based city car, let's not forget.
That said, it never feels cramped up front, with enough shoulder and headroom to ensure you feel separated from your fellow passengers, where you'll also find two cupholders, and an infuriating USB connection housed in the touchscreen - so your cord dangles from the dash when connected.
Climb into the back, and you'll find yourself in a pretty snug space. Sitting behind my own (5ft-8inch) driving position, it's only the scalloped back of the driver's seat that affords me any clear air between my knees and the seat in front, and the space behind my head and the roof lining is minuscule, too. But again, we're talking city car space here, so you can't expect to lounge about back there.
The ambience in the backseat leaves a little to be desired, though. The door trim pushes into the passenger space, and the plastics used in the rear are rock hard. There's a single cupholder to share, and a seat-back pocket on the rear of the passenger seat, but that's it; there's no vents, USB or power sources. There's no bottle-room in the rear doors, either.
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.
Toyota Prius C6/10
We've just spent a week behind the wheel of the Prius c i-Tech; the top model in the two-variant range, sitting above a cheaper model known simply as the Prius c.
At $26,540, it ain't cheap for a city car (and it's $4k more than the most-expensive Yaris on which it is based; more worryingly, it's only $1500 cheaper than an Audi A1), and the standard features list is more a novella than War and Peace.
Outside, you'll find 15-inch alloy wheels, remote unlocking, LED headlights and front fog lamps, while inside you'll leather-look seats (they're actually vinyl), sat-nav and climate-control.
Tech is covered by an (old-school feeling) 6.1-inch touchscreen that pairs with a six-speaker stereo, but there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
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.
Toyota Prius C7/10
Under that little hood lives a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine good for 54kW, which pairs with a 45kW electric motor. Toyota lists combined outputs at 74kW at 4800rpm and 111Nm at 4000rpm.
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.
Toyota Prius C8/10
If that last section didn't impress, this one surely will. The little Prius c will sip a claimed 3.9L/100km on the combined cycle.
That's very low, and the fact it accepts cheaper 91RON fuel makes it a very affordable car to run. Except... the onboard computers revealed a slightly less-impressive 5.1L/100km after my time with the car.
Emissions are a claimed 90g/km of CO2, which is very good.
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.
Toyota Prius C6/10
In much the same way that you don't buy an exotic performance car for its ability to run to the shops, you're unlikely to be buying the Prius for its ability to set your pulse racing.
But happily, it doesn't feel wobbly or disconnected, either. It's aided by being such a small package, and when you're not wafting silently about in electric mode, and you've coaxed that little petrol engine into life, it serves up more than enough poke to navigate the city, and even to leave the slow-reactors in your rear-view mirror at traffic lights.
The ride is good, too, feeling connected to the road below without feeling uncomfortable, although the little Prius does tend to track with the corrugations in the road, leaving you to wrestle it back into line. That's a job made easier by light and surprisingly direct steering, which feels tailor-made for the city.
Finally, the leather-look seats are comfortable, even over long distances, the razor-thin A-pillars make forward vision easy and it's a very simple thing to drive and manoeuvre into parking spaces. And all of those are good things.
Not so good? Well, the entire drive experiences feels a little beige and emotionless, it can get noisy and there are parts of the cabin that feel downright cheap. Worst of all, though, is that for a car that once heralded the future, it's feeling very, very dated.
But there are some amazing quirks attached to driving an (almost) electric car, including the delivery of eco awards for using the least amount of fuel (they were awarded for 2.6, 3.2 and 3.6L/100km over as much as 25km - none of which occurred during my tenure). The hardest thing to get used to was the absolute silence served up in electric mode. I counted four seperate occasions when I walked away from the car with it still turned on.
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.
Toyota Prius C6/10
Every Prius c arrives with seven airbags, along with a reversing camera and... wait, that can't be it, can it? Oh... Forget AEB, lane-departure warning and the like, this future-focused Prius has a safety package firmly rooted in the past.
It was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, but was tested back in 2014.
Toyota Prius C7/10
Toyota offers a three-year/100,000km warranty, while the batteries are covered for eight years or 160,000km. The car's six-month service intervals might sting a little, though, but with each service capped at $140 for the first three years, even taking two trips to the dealership a year isn't too expensive. Just annoying.