Honda Civic VS Toyota Yaris
- 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
- Striking looks
- Roomy interior for front seaters
- Cheap to service
- Old tech gearboxes blunt the experience
- Driver aids optional on lower variants
- Noisy at highway speeds
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|
There is no other brand of car in Australia with a reputation to rival Toyota's. Think about it – whenever anyone asks about a car for a youngster, or their aunt who doesn’t really drive much, or an older parent, what’s the first brand that’s invariably brought up?
The Yaris has served as the brand’s smallest passenger entrant in Australia since 2005, and more than 220,000 have found new homes in that time.
Toyota has just updated the local range – comprising the entry level Ascent, the mid-grade SX and the top-shelf ZR - and it’s now only available as a five-door hatch after the four-door sedan was deleted from the line-up.
It's fair to say that it's motoring at its most basic, but does it represent good value for money?
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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 light car market continues to be decimated by the intrusion of small crossovers, making it harder for car companies to move metal without adding loads of extras – and bumping up prices.
With items like steel wheels and the lack of basic functions like auto wipers, one-touch indicators, six speed autos and the like, though, has the contemporary looking Yaris missed the mark against newer, better-equipped rivals?
Toyota's reputation for longevity and resale, especially in the smaller cars, is unrivalled in the category, though, and that will play in its favour.
Overall, the Yaris is a solid little city car with an enviable reputation, but maybe just priced a little out of its league.
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 Yaris has come a long way from its early days of being, well, a plain old ordinary little hatch. New design tweaks for this update include an overtly sculpted bonnet and bumper treatment and intricate headlight details that help to set it apart from the small-car pack, while the more restrained but tidy rear end brings to mind the brand’s larger Corolla.
The top-spec ZR adds LED headlights and tail-lights to the redesign, while it and the SX also get fog lights.
Inside it's a similar story, with a heavily sculpted, multi-layered dashboard treatment and flat-faced dash and console. Even the door card design and the seats are quite contemporary.
The only design tweaks for this update are restricted to the use of piano black plastics in place of some silver trim… and that’s it.
The use of 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps on the base Ascent and even on the mid-grade SX model spoils the look a bit, while on the inside it's too easy to find an ocean of hard-touch plastics that reveal the Yaris’s modest price point.
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 small Yaris five-door, five-seat hatch is comfortable even for the tallest of drivers, with great visibility, easy-to-read controls, and a steering wheel that's adjustable for both height and reach.
Toyota's ubiquitous small touchscreen multimedia system controls functions like audio, Bluetooth, phone streaming and radio across the three models, with satellite navigation added to the ZR.
There are climate control dials instead of buttons for the Ascent and SX, while the ZR gets a digital readout. All three miss out on small, nice-to-have features like one-touch indicators and a digital speedometer.
The steering wheel features controls for audio and phone, while basic cruise control is standard, as well. The exterior mirrors are electric, and the driver's window sports an auto-up function, while the other three are normal. The ZR’s wheel is covered in a thick leather, while the SX makes do with a thinner leather-like cover, and the Ascent is left au naturel.
While the central speedometer is large and easy enough to read, the switches for the Toyota 'Safety Sense' gear – standard on the ZR and a $650 option on Ascent and SX, comprising AEB, lane departure warning and auto headlights - are randomly scattered across the length of the dash.
Speaking of the auto headlights, they just don't work very well at all, unfortunately. In high beam mode, they are unable to pick up oncoming headlights in time to dim quickly enough, and they won't even switch on if there is the merest hint of reflected light alongside even a darkened road.
For rear seat passengers, it’s a pretty basic story, with reasonable headroom but not a lot of knee and toe room if taller people are in the front. The middle sash belt retracts into the roof, too, making it a bit difficult to use.
There are two ISOFIX points on the back seats, but no cupholders or bottle holders in any form for rear seat passengers - they can share a single cupholder between the front seats, though.
There’s a pair of side-by-side cupholders in the front, along with a couple of small slots in between the front seats, thanks to the lack of a centre console bin.
There are a couple of pockets moulded into the plastic of the centre console between the seats, but they are not very deep and don't hold items particularly securely. The front doors do have bottle holders, along with small pockets.
The rear hatch measures 286 litres across all three variants, and there’s also a false floor that that allows you to hide smaller belongings out of sight. It also makes for a level loading area when the 60/40 split fold seats are dropped.
There is a space-saver spare underneath the floor.
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.
It costs $15,290 RRP for the 1.3-litre four-cylinder Ascent manual and $17,330 for the 1.5-litre SX self-shifter, with the optional four-speed automatic transmission needing $1530 more. The auto-only 1.5-litre ZR costs $22,470, an increase of $650 that’s reflected in the addition of the safety gear.
Options are limited to metallic paint at $450, and colours include blue, orange, white, grey, black, red and silver.
On average, the Yaris is priced relatively well in a class that contains cars like the Mazda2 and the Honda Jazz, but new entrants like the updated Suzuki Swift do highlight the fact the Yaris’s mechanical package, in particular, is ageing.
The Ascent comes with a 1.3-litre four cylinder petrol engine, auto headlights but not auto wipers, standard cruise control, steering wheel with controls for stereo and phone, electric windows, manual air, a single USB port and a 12 volt socket.
The SX gets a bigger 1.5-litre engine, fog lights, tinted glass and upgraded cloth trim over the 1.3-litre entry-level Ascent model.
The ZR, meanwhile, gets the 'Safety Sense' system, LED headlights and tail-lights, 16-inch alloys, two-tone cloth trim and automatic single-zone climate control.
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.
The Yaris uses a naturally aspirated 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine for the base Ascent, which makes 63kW/120Nm, or a 1.5-litre all-alloy four-cylinder petrol engine that’s good for 80kW/141Nm in the SX and ZR.
The little (2NZ-FE) unit is basically a short-stroke version of the larger engine, and also features all-alloy construction.
Fitted with Toyota’s variable valve timing system and a steel timing chain, meanwhile, the (1NZ-FE) 1.5-litre isn’t the last word in refinement, but it delivers a surprisingly spritely mid-range despite a modest torque figure.
Both engines are backed by either a four-speed auto, or five-speed manual (in Ascent and SX, at least - ZR is auto only). Both transmissions are lacking at least one gear to make highway cruising more bearable, while the listless, unweighted feel of the clutch pedal in the manual is quite dispiriting.
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 claims a fuel consumption figure of 6.4 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle across the 1.3-litre and 1.5 litre auto-equipped engines, 5.8L/100km for the 1.3-litre manual, and 5.9L/100km for the 1.5-litre manual.
Over a test period of approximately 200 kilometres on average, we recorded a dash-indicated figure of 7.7L/100km for the 1.3-litre auto, 7.3L/100km for the manual SX and 7.2L/100km for the ZR.
The Yaris will drink 91RON without a drama and uses a 42-litre tank, which equates to a range of about 700km between fills.
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.
The Yaris is really basic motoring 101. A five-speed gearbox sounds like a throwback to the past, but the performance of the 80kW 1.5 litre 4-cylinder petrol engine in the SX is actually quite sprightly.
The 1.3-litre auto is a bit more breathless, and is really hobbled when bolted to the four-speed auto – it struggles more to get up to speed.
Things are nicer in the 1.5-litre auto, but that lack of an overdrive gear cruels the car when taking off from rest, or leaning on it to get up to speed, or crest an incline; it just has to work too hard in the lower gears.
A lot of noise from the engine gets back into the cabin, though, and both the manual and the auto Yaris are compromised when it comes to highway cruising, thanks to that lack of a taller gear.
While the ride is comfortable, it can be quite noisy thanks to tyre roar, and it’s not really conducive at all to inter-city touring. The ZR’s larger 16-inch, better quality tyres improve noise and ride comfort, though.
Around town the manual is pretty handy, especially when using third gear, with just enough torque available to pull you around quite comfortably.
The clutch action is pretty average, with no real discernible bite point, which makes it a bit of a chore to use.
The steering is good, though, and its ride and handling is more than acceptable for the class.
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.
Even the basic Yaris has seven airbags and a reversing camera as standard, which are good additions to the range and help it to a maximum five-star ANCAP rating.
The 'Smart Sense' kit, which adds forward collision prevention (but not AEB) and lane departure warning as well as auto high beam, is a $650 option on Ascent and SX, but standard on the ZR.
As mentioned, buttons to control the optional safety system are scattered at random around the cabin, which makes them less easy to use.
For example, the lane departure warning system uses beeps instead of vibrations or light indications, which is quite irritating, and with the switch within easy reach, it's too tempting to just turn it off.
Likewise, the addition of the automatic high beam headlights really isn't worth the price of admission, given their poor performance in our testing.
Regardless, the addition of AEB in the ZR is worth the price of admission.
A three-year/100,000km warranty comes with the Yaris, which is shorter in time and distance than many of its competitors.
Its six-month/10,000km service intervals are also quite short, offset by a relatively low fixed price servicing scheme. The service interval, though, does reflect the typical usage cycle of a city car.
Over three years, the Yaris should cost around $840 to maintain through a dealer across all variants.