Test Drive: Honda Civic 1.8 E CVT

The Philippine introduction of the 2016 Civic was billed by Honda as the “rebirth of an icon” and, indeed, this latest incarnation is a refreshing and much-needed makeover, bringing back the Civic’s vaunted sporting heritage. Let’s find out why this particular Civic has already received a number of prestigious awards, including 2016 North American Car of the Year.

Design: 4/5

A major departure from its rather bland predecessor, the 10th generation Civic resurrects the bold and aggressive styling traditionally associated with this marque. The latest Civic has a coupe-like silhouette, a bold front fascia with LED daytime running lights, distinctive character lines, a low and wide stance with sweeping body lines, and a distinctive rear with C-shaped LED tail lamps.

The Civic 1.8 E CVT variant rides on futuristic, lightning-spoked 16-inch alloy wheels fitted with 215/55 tires. For this trim level, the interior utilizes black fabric upholstery for the seats, and urethane material for the steering wheel and the shift knob. The rear seats fold down 60-40 to accommodate additional cargo, and the center seat back can be lowered for use as an armrest with cupholders.

Only the driver seat has a manual height adjuster. The other seats, in particular the front passenger seat, are fixed too close to the floor, such that passengers would tend to have their knees hunched up, a position that could become uncomfortable over long distances.

Another change that’s not altogether welcome is the loss of the flat rear floor that Honda is famous for. In the current Civic, there is a sizeable middle hump in the rear compartment.

One small design detail that tech road warriors will love is the device tray on the center console “floating” above the USB/HDMI/power jack, so you can plug in your cords and keep them out of sight. Notches at the rear of the device tray hold the cords neatly in place and readily accessible. On the downside, the jacks are a bit inaccessible and hard to reach on the fly, so it’s best to put in all the wires before reaching for the ignition.

Hardware: 4/5

The unit we tested, the E variant, is powered by a 1.8-liter SOHC (single overhead camshaft) i-VTEC engine that produces maximum power of 141 ps at 6500 rpm and maximum torque of 17.4 kg-m at 4300 rpm. It is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 1.8 E variant comes only with the standard PRNDSL shift knob without paddle shifters.

Stopping power is assured by front ventilated and rear solid disc brakes; when parked, an electronic parking brake keeps the car in place. Precision steering is delivered via an electric power steering system that incorporates dual pinion gears and a variable gear ratio.

The instrument cluster is a full-color TFT multi-information display that can be customized to show your preferred speed or vehicle-related data. The audio system consists of a 7-inch advanced display screen with six speakers. It also has a multi-view reverse camera with dynamic guidelines.

Safety features include driver and passenger side SRS airbags, vehicle stability assist, hill start assist, anti-lock brakes, emergency stop signal, ISOFIX, and immobilizer.

User Experience: 4.5/5

Honda describes the Civic’s chassis design as the most sophisticated in model history, resulting in outstanding ride quality, more responsive handling, and improved steering. Indeed, for me, the single most outstanding feature of this particular model is how well it cushions your ride from the potholes, humps and bumps of the metro. This, thanks to fluid-filled suspension bushings that isolate you from road vibration without sacrificing precision handling and road feel.

McPherson struts with stabilizer bar and rear independent multi-link suspensions work well with the rack and pinion electric power steering system so you retain car control and can confidently attack corners, even at speed.

Let’s face it, though. While we daydream about revving up the Civic on the open highway, most of our time in the car will be spent sitting in traffic and chugging over patchy metro streets. This is where you will truly appreciate the amenities that Honda thoughtfully included for your driving convenience. For instance, activating the auto-brake hold (ABH) function can really ease knee strain—you step on the brakes and they stay engaged even when you take your foot off the pedal; the brake hold is released when you step on the accelerator.

The Civic has a smart key that includes remote engine start so you can turn on the engine and the aircon from outside the car. The push-start ignition system means you don’t have to take out the smart key to operate the car. This combination of advanced convenience features does have a dark side though. On the first day of my test drive, I parked the car in front of my office building but, horror of horrors, forgot to switch off the engine (blame it on the fact that it’s also very quiet and you hardly feel any vibration). I returned some hours later to find a very worried security guard keeping a close eye on the Civic. Thankfully, the smart key has a walk-away function that automatically locks the car doors when it’s out of range.

Techie types will also appreciate the 7-inch infotainment system with advanced touch controls, entertainment features, and smartphone connectivity. Although the E-variant is missing navigation features, you can easily pair your smartphone via Bluetooth so you can make safe, handsfree phone calls, or access your music playlists. Plugging in phone in via the USB jack lets you access either Apple CarPlay or Andriod Auto.

Some small irritants that could be addressed in future upgrades: one, the electrostatic steering wheel controls are too sensitive, an accidental swipe could result in a change of mode, radio station or volume. The on/off switch on the audio system: every time I reach over to adjust the aircon vent, I end up accidentally turning the unit off.

Value: 4/5

At PHP 1,088,000, the lowest-priced variant of the new Civic family is not cheap, but Hondas are always good value for money for many reasons, not the least of which is of their high resale value. The Civic 1.8 E CVT packs performance, comfort and convenience in an iconic package that will hold its appeal over time. For the generations of Civic enthusiasts out there who have fond memories of the Honda racing heritage, this incarnation is the one you have been waiting for.

What’s Hot:

  • The Honda driving experience, levelled-up
  • Fluid filled suspension bushings for excellent ride, even over humps and potholes
  • Lots of techie features

What’s Not:

  • Engine does not shut off automatically even when key is out of range
  • Seats (especially the front passenger) are too low

Bottomline:

This Civic is an excellent combination of performance and comfort, with carefully considered features to make your drives more pleasurable.

Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE August 2016 issue

Words by Maribelle Alba

Photos by Barry Ortiz

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