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Honda Civic 2021 review: RS sedan

The Civic RS sedan has power and presence.

Daily driver score

3.7/5

Urban score

3.9/5

The Honda Civic's 10th generation is drawing to an end. Well, I say that, but there's still a pretty solid chance that the 11th generation won't quite be here this time next year.

I make the point because we've already seen a "prototype" for series 11 of the Honda Civic Story, but also because we won't actually get the car we've seen – the sedan. Just 20 per cent of Civic sales go to the booted version and then you have to merge that data with the rise of SUVs, both with Honda buyers and the market at large. 

Things is, I think the sedan is the better of two for a variety of reasons which I will explain below. I also think the Civic, despite its advancing "age" (four years isn't really that long in the current climate) is still a fairly sensible choice among its peers, which include some serious competition.

Price and features - Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Civic RS price has slowly crept north, along with the prices of its mostly Korean rivals, now at $34,090. It's a fair bit more than the Ford Focus ST-Line, but you can't get a sedan version of that and infuriatingly neither can you get the wagon.

The Civic RS price has slowly crept north and is now $34,090. The Civic RS price has slowly crept north and is now $34,090.

The RS has 18-inch alloys, a 10-speaker stereo, faux leather seats (nothing wrong with that), auto LED headlights and DRLs, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, electric driver's seat, auto headlights and wipers and a space-saver spare.

The 7.0-inch matte-finished touchscreen runs Honda's homage-to-the-80s software package that is bolstered by the presence of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also has DAB, which is a nice touch, but it is missing built-in sat nav, which most of its rivals have.

The RS has auto LED headlights. The RS has auto LED headlights.

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?

Making fun of the Civic's over-supply of angles and lines is really very easy, so for once I'll refrain. Partly because the sedan is better than the hatch in this respect and also because – somehow – I have become quite fond of its wacky face. The sedan's profile is also more flowing and, with all the RS piano black and extra aggro (which ironically means yet more lines and angles), it sat much more happily in my camera lens than before. I wonder if the Civic's controversial looks have aged well in the same way Chris Bangle BMWs have? Because we're all suddenly pretty fond of those now, aren't we?

The Civic seems to have an over-supply of angles and lines. The Civic seems to have an over-supply of angles and lines.

My changed opinion is bound to infuriate Honda's designers who have cleaned up the Civic for its next version. At this point I should mention that the sedan is on its last legs here in Australia – we won't be getting the next one.

The interior is as good-looking as it is practical. I still don't like the angles of the gauges in the left and right sections of the dash, but the central digital dash section is really good and easy on the eye. The RS picks up some subtle features like the strip of chequered flag fabric on the seats. It's a nice, clean look and I like the use of metallic materials on the climate controls and the stereo. It's a very calm interior, quite a contrast to the exterior.

Practicality - How practical is the space inside?

The Civic's cabin is swimming in space and and filled with comfortable seats and lots of storage.

The Civic's cabin is swimming in space. The Civic's cabin is swimming in space.

The back seat is super-spacious as it has been forever. Having driven the i30 Sedan last week, I'm having difficulty splitting the two for legroom and lounging space. Where the Civic loses out – and it's close – is in rear headroom.

The back seat is super-spacious as it has been forever. The back seat is super-spacious as it has been forever.

There are four cupholders and bottle holders and a massive central bin between the front seats, big enough to conceal the massive new PlayStation 5 (okay, maybe not that big, but it it certainly looks big enough).

The boot holds a gigantic-for-a-small sedan 519 litres with the seats in place. Honda doesn't supply a total figure with the seats down, but it will be a lot. The opening for the bootlid is a little tight, so don't get too excited at Ikea.

The boot holds a gigantic-for-a-small sedan 519 litres with the seats in place. The boot holds a gigantic-for-a-small sedan 519 litres with the seats in place.

Engine and transmission - What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The 1.5-litre four-cylinder has a light pressure turbo bolted in to produce 127kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm between 1700-5500rpm. Those numbers are 23kW and 46Nm up on the 1.8-litre, which goes without the turbo.

You can let the continuously variable transmission (CVT) look after the turning of the front wheels or if you're feeling sporty – not an unreasonable expectation if you've picked the RS – you can use the paddle shifters which tell the computer to put some fake gears into the box for you to shift up and down.

The 1.5-litre four-cylinder has a light pressure turbo bolted in to produce 127kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm between 1700-5500rpm. The 1.5-litre four-cylinder has a light pressure turbo bolted in to produce 127kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm between 1700-5500rpm.

Fuel consumption - How much fuel does it consume?

Honda's official testing suggets a combined cycle figure of 6.3L/100km which is lower than the 1.8-litre, a nice bonus when you have all that extra power to play with. My week with the Civic was mostly suburb-bound and I scored a respectable (indicated) 8.2L/100km.

Safety - What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

All Civics come with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls.

The Honda Sense package adds forward collision warning, forward AEB (high and low speed), lane departure warning and lane keep assist.

The Civic sedan was last assessed by ANCAP in April 2017 and scored five stars. The Civic sedan was last assessed by ANCAP in April 2017 and scored five stars.

One of my favourite Honda quirks is LaneWatch. Flick the indicator for a left-hand turn and the media screen displays the output of a camera pointed down the left-hand side of the car. It's still too bright at night, but you can disable it or tap the button on the end of the indicator stalk to cancel it.

You also get two ISOFIX anchors and three top-tether points.

The Civic sedan was last assessed by ANCAP in April 2017 and scored five stars.

Ownership - What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Hondas ship with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is competitive as more and more manufacturers consider this a minimum. 

The "Tailored Servicing" program caps nine of the first 10 services at $281, with just one service jumping to $310. That's reasonable value for a turbo engine, except servicing is every 12 months or 10,000km. That means more than one trip per year to the dealer if you drive more than 10,000km per year.

Driving - What's it like to drive?

This iteration of the Civic has been with us for a while now. I wasn't absolutely sure about it when I first drove it – that was partly down to the less-than-stellar 1.8 and an at-times doughy CVT.

Over the years I've been very lucky to drop my posterior into two, three or even four Civics per year. During that time I have noted some subtle changes, such as the CVT's more attentive nature and the progressive improvement of the ride on particularly bumpy surfaces, such as Sydney's concreted arterial roads.

The main advantage of the turbo engine is that it doesn't have to work as hard as the 1.8 to keep the Civic moving. The main advantage of the turbo engine is that it doesn't have to work as hard as the 1.8 to keep the Civic moving.

The RS itself is no different mechanically to the other 1.5-litre turbo-engined cars in the range (it's an entire engine's worth of power short of the madcap Type R) but over the years, that has meant good things. I've always liked the low-set driving position, it's lower than many hot hatches. You sit in and down in the Civic and it feels quite sporty.

Turn the wheel and it's all very positive, with a very pleasant ride and handling balance. The CVT is still a CVT but, especially in the turbo, it has more grab off the line and doesn't indulge in flaring as you'd find in a Subaru, turbo or not. It's actually fun to drive, especially if you draft in the paddles to do some work.

But it's also a car you need never provoke to enjoy driving. The comfortable ride and secure handling make it the kind of car anyone can like. The steering wheel is just right, the controls all feel really nice to use and touch. There's nothing particularly flashy about the Civic apart from its looks, but it's such a comfortable car with a super-solid feel to its engineering.

The steering wheel is just right, the controls all feel really nice to use and touch. The steering wheel is just right, the controls all feel really nice to use and touch.

The main advantage of the turbo engine is that it doesn't have to work as hard as the 1.8 to keep the Civic moving. The extra torque is always there and makes it a much more relaxed car around town than the 1.8-powered Civics, while giving you the extra grunt to push out into traffic, or pull off a tricky overtake.

As a car to drive, the Honda Civic feels great. It had a good start, but the later addition of the turbo 1.5 and the continuous honing of the chassis, steering and driveline – an endearing, unheralded trait that Mazda and Honda do so well – has taken what was a solid car and turned it into one I'd genuinely consider owning, even in this wild orange colour.

What it doesn't have is a full suite of safety systems, which is a real shame, because its main rivals do. Some of us are happy to forego things such as reverse cross-traffic alert and some are not. If you can, the Civic sedan should be in the reckoning. And the clock is ticking.
 

$34,090

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.7/5

Urban score

3.9/5
Price Guide

$34,090

Based on new car retail price

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.