Volvo V40 VS Honda Civic
- Great looks
- Responsive, torquey engine
- Simple to use interior controls
- Small boot
- Limited rear legroom
- No Apple CarPlay
- Roomy cabin
- Strong powertrain
- Comfy ride
- Fussy styling
- Fiddly multimedia system
- Some road noise intrusion
I miss my old phone. Sure, my new phone has a bigger screen and it’s smarter and faster, but my previous phone was smaller and easier to use, and now when I go to do a screen shot I accidentally hit the volume button every time.
What I really want in a phone is a new version of the old one – and I have a feeling people may feel the same way about the 2018 Volvo V40.
Some time next year the completely new generation V40 is expected to arrive and there will be some things I’ll miss about the old one. So, this really is your last chance to buy a new ‘old’ Volvo V40.
In a last-hurrah review, I road tested the V40 in the Inscription grade with the T4 petrol engine. What’s so 'missable' about it? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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|
I’m going to miss this V40 like I do my old phone, and for many people this hatch really could really be close to perfect: excellent safety equipment, enjoyable to drive, cool prestige styling and some lo-fi buttons and dials that are far easier to use than swiping a screen. This is your last chance to own an old, new V40.
Would you wait for the new V40 to arrive or would you prefer the current version? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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 V40 has been around forever (well, since 2012) but somehow it still looks great – it’s the Nicole Kidman/Rob Lowe of cars.
The thing is Volvo’s new-generation vehicles now have a different look, which will be worn by the next V40, and that seriously dates the current car.
Sure, in 2016 this V40 was updated and given 'Thor’s Hammer' LED running lights like the new-gen cars, but it’s clear the V40 has the old look.
The question is: are you the type of person who would be annoyed if this time next year somebody in the latest ‘new-look’ V40 pulled up beside you at the lights. If yes, then stop reading now… we’ll just wait a moment for you to leave.
Okay, it’s just us now. We don’t need those shallow people anyway, right? They don’t know what they’re missing out on – like an interior with lots of buttons. I’m serious the centre console actually has a numerical key pad for making phone calls. There are also lots of dials for the climate control and seat warmers and for the auto parking system.
All of these buttons will be replaced by a sexy, large touchscreen in the new V40, which will make the screen in the current one look like the slot in Ned Kelly’s helmet. Wait, don’t leave. See, I’ve road tested the new X60 and I missed just flinging a dial to make the cabin’s temperature cooler, instead I had to go into the screen’s menu, find the climate functions, and then slide my finger down a little digital ladder until I found 21 degrees. It’s a frustrating design and potentially distracting in that it takes your eyes off the road longer than twisting a dial does.
I’ll stop the rant. So, yes, the interior of the new V40 will look so sleek and minimalist, decluttered of its buttons and sporting a large vertical screen, but there are functional advantages to keeping it simple.
That said the current V40’s cabin is still special and elegant. The Inscription grade brings milled aluminium trim to the centre console and that leather steering wheel. Volvo owners would be aware of that solid, well-built feeling with a high-quality fit and finish.
What are the V40’s dimensions? Compared to the Audi A3 Sportback the V40 is 59mm longer at 4369mm end-to-end, 72mm wider at 1857mm across, and 5mm shorter in height at 1420mm.
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.
Umm, next question. Okay, the V40 is not very practical. Those small rear doors don’t open wide, making entry and exit potentially difficult for older or less limber folks.
Legroom in the back is limited – although at 191cm I can just sit behind my driving position and headroom is getting tight, too – but still there’s just enough room for me.
The V40’s cargo capacity is 335 litres and that’s smaller than the A3 Sportback’s boot space (380 litres) and the BMW 1 Series’s luggage capacity (360 litres). The aperture of the boot itself is also small.
There’s even a practicality issue with the driver’s doorway – that windscreen is so slanted that the A-pillars either side of it are hard to dodge for taller people when trying to get in, but especially when climbing out.
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.
Price and features
The Volvo V40 in the mid-range Inscription grade with the T4 engine lists for $43,990. When I road tested it for the first time five years ago (in 2013) it was $45,990, and it’s a better car now than it was then, with more standard features.
The list includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen with reversing camera, sat nav, eight-speaker sound system with CD/DVD player, digital radio, and internet connectivity – but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Also standard are front and rear parking sensors, an auto parking system, plus power adjustable driver and front passenger seats. There’s also leather upholstery, leather-trimmed steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch 'Sarpas' alloy wheels and proximity key entry.
The safety equipment list is impressive, too – you can read all about what’s looking after you in the safety section below.
Also, don’t forget that because the current V40 is due to be replaced, dealers will be keen to move their stock to make way for the new one and that means you should be able to get yourself a bargain.
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.
Engine & trans
The V40 line-up has three petrol engines to pick from and the T4 sits right in the middle between the most powerful T5 and the least grunty T3. A 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine the T4 makes 140kW/300Nm and delivers it through a smooth six-speed automatic.
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.
If you’re only going to stick to urban areas you’ll see higher usage – our trip computer was reporting an average of 14.9L/100km on a regular peak hour commute, but motorways drop the figure to about 8.0L/100km.
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.
Good handling and a fairly comfortable ride complete a prestige and easy-to-drive package that’s only really let down by heavy steering and slightly noisy suspension. That heavily sloped windscreen does present some visibility issues, but it’s not a deal breaker.
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.
First tested in 2012, the V40 the achieved one of the highest-ever scores awarded by EuroNCAP and saw ANCAP give it the maximum five-star rating in Australia. Back then the V40 came standard with advanced safety equipment only making it onto cars these days such as AEB, it also had the world’s first pedestrian airbag, which inflates to protect people from hitting the A-pillars and windscreen.
The 2017 update added blind-spot warning as standard on the Inscription grade. A $1300 option package brings Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Active High Beam Control, Forward Collision Warning and Road Sign Information. A $3000 package brings adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto braking, plus pedestrian and cyclist detection.
ABS, EBD, traction and stability control are of course there to step in should you need it, too. You’ll find three top tether and two ISOFIX points in the second row for child seats. A space-saver spare is under the boot floor.
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.
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.