Honda Civic: Compact Conqueror

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Honda Civic: Compact Conqueror

Honda adds an economical 1.6L engine to its Civic range of staple sedans for 2017 - and comes up trumps!

By George Kuruvilla

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Published: Fri 21 Apr 2017, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 30 Apr 2017, 11:17 AM

With the new-generation Honda Civic, the Japanese manufacturer has proved that affordable commuters can be more than reflections of one's dirham-counting abilities and emerge a chic proposition. But by introducing powertrain choices, namely a largish 2.0L engine and a turbocharged 1.5L, the traditional Civic customer who seeks sale-on-sale price tags and frugality thought they digressed from its hallowed path. That explains why Honda has introduced the cheaper and smaller 1.6L engine to its range. Here is our take on it!

With the new Civic, Honda has created a global product that, according to us, bears a striking, almost-handsome appearance. This is an original design. The new Civic has grown into the fastback design it was meant to be - a car with a sloping rear roofline caught between a sedan and a hatchback - which, in German, translates to four-door coupe. This form improves aerodynamics, and adds space in the rear and boot. The new vehicle also wears a larger footprint extending to 4,650mm in length and 1,799mm in width, while the metallic scalp brushes the 1,416mm mark!
Honda's new compact - described in our 2.0L model review - bears a sporty silhouette with sculpted surfaces. The broad chrome grille that extends into headlamp domain is retained, so is the sharp nose with its three aggressively segmented air-intakes. There is more sculpted paneling across the doors and the pillars have been blacked-out to keep cohesion between the windows. Visibility from the driver's seat is great all around.
As we investigated the interiors, we found that the high-quality essence observed in Civics of the past remains. It is a modern clean cabin with good ocular and ergonomic appeal, administered by the careful use of silver trims, two-tone architecture and switchgear that is accessible and operable. All those earnest measures to up its sporting quotient means that the seat is lower now by 20mm, as low as in an Audi TT. That does give the driver a low-slung driving position and theoretically improves centre of gravity, but some may find it a task for the knees during ingress and egress. The seating posture is good, but more adjustability for lumbar support would have helped. They are nice-looking seats though, upholstered with scruffy- but-resilient fabrics and trimmed with a mimicking carbon-fibre centre lining. The rear is more compliant of space requirements than some of its rivals. The floor isn't flat because of the bump that accommodates the exhaust pipe, but there is plenty of legroom and headroom otherwise. To achieve the latter, they've made the rear seat bottom sink - not ideal for taller folk.
From a control's perspective, we have the chunky three-spoke steering wheel that, again, adds a great degree of sportiness; and functionality comes in the form of several spoke-mounted buttons that serve volume, radio etc. The multimedia interface used in the Pilot SUV and Accord Sedan is something I'm not going to hold up banners of supports for but, surprisingly, this cheaper 1.6L Civic comes with a simpler-to-use smartphone-sized 5-inch infotainment screen with a proper volume knob and other physical buttons.

With the 2.0L and turbo 1.5L engine, Honda has managed to satisfy the Civic customer that craved power, but now they get back to their roots by equipping it with a 1.6L inline 4-cylinder, 16-valve SOHC i-VTEC motor which, at peak, churns out 123hp at 6,500rpm and 151Nm torque at 4,200rpm. The 23bhp and 36Nm differential against the 2.0L may seem to work against it but in real world driving, there isn't much of a difference. This motor too gets linked to a CVT.
From the get go, you  feel this may bear the heart of a 1.6L motor, but it pulls from stops and low speeds with the enthusiasm of something with a larger displacement; even entering highways does not require second thoughts. The near-11 second run to 0 to 100 m/h does not reflect the torque available low down and that helps with everyday driving situations. Once you are on the highway, the 4-cylinder may run out of puff, especially during overtaking.
With better noise insulation overall, the Civic is surprisingly quiet on the inside - much improved over its predecessor - with the occasional drone of the CVT. Also, ride quality has improved, thanks to longer wheelbase and newly designed hydraulic dampers. It's got that familiar quality Honda 'thud' noise and feel when you go over tarmac larger irregularities, but it maintains composure. Then, we arrive at the million-dollar question: how economical is the Civic? With a claimed fuel economy of 18.4km/L or 5.34L/100km, the 1.6L Civic clearly justifies its purpose as an econo-box. And it certainly will take a while before you empty that near-50-litre tank, keeping your running expenses light.

The 4-unit speaker system is standard across the range and is limited in its spectrum of sound, but it does its job. You have USB connectivity, which is tucked away under a tray and wireless streaming via Bluetooth, which syncs with your phone only when stationary. As for air-conditioning, there is no dearth of cooling. This variant includes rear ventilation, which is good. Hard controls make it easy to operate. Also part of the package is Smart Entry, the essential rear parking sensors, auto headlight off timer, electric parking brake with brake hold function that replaces hand lever with a compact, easy-to-operate switch. The base LXi has ABS with electric brake force, Vehicle Stability Assist to improve maneuverability, Hill Start to overcome the large mall ramps, two airbags, etc. As for practicality, all grades include 60:40 fold-down rear seats and a voluminous trunk, so you can shop all day without worry.

Honda has always been a beacon of quality and reliability. With the new Civic, they have created a commuter that is also easy on the eye, shedding old skin for a new sporty fastback guise. This 1.6L is a compelling buy, considering it is very driveable around the city and fuel-efficient. Negatives aren't many! Yes, the seat bottoms are low and highway acceleration isn't the best, but that is it. It's also a good time to buy Honda, given the dealer is providing customers with a 5-year/100,000 km service contract and an equally long warranty extending over unlimited mileage.

Good: Fastback exterior styling and increased space; new tech; punchy, but frugal 1.6L engine; reliability and resale
Bad: Low seat bottoms all around; highway acceleration; could be a tad cheaper
Author's rating: 8/10 stars

Honda Civic Tourer 1.6 i-DTEC has set a new Guinness world record title for 'Lowest fuel consumption - all 24 contiguous EU countries (all cars)', recording an average 100.31 miles per gallon over 8,387 miles

Body type: 5-seater; 4-door compact sedan
Engine: Front-engine; 1.6-litre inline 4-cylinder; front-wheel drive
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission (automatic)
Peak output: 123bhp @ 6,500rpm; 151bhp @4,300rpm
0 to 100km/h: 11.0 seconds (estimated)
Top speed: 190 km/h (drag limited; estimated)
Price: Starting at Dh67,900

Car Qs
Q: I am regular Khaleej Times reader and would like to seek your advice regarding colour polishing. I have a 2015 model, black-coloured vehicle. It has some scratches on the bonnet and top. The scratches are due to the rubber wiper and are not deep down. In  view of the above, is Diamond Brite polish useful? Will it remove the scratches permanently?
- Makarand Patkar
A: Car bodies are coated with several layers of paints and often include an overlaying clear coat that gives it that shine. If the scratch isn't too deep and the metal panels aren't visible - which is usually the case - a simple polishing procedure should bring back the finish. However, we recommend that you employ a specialist.

Do you have questions about car maintenance or a specific car you're looking to buy - or about anything to do with cars? Write to George Kuruvilla at He will be replying on these very pages.

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