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Driven: 2012 Honda Civic
|Date: 11 Jun 2012
||Author Type: Registered Journalist
|Author: Julian Lurie edited by Gary Mackay
Honda has endowed the Civic 5-door Hatchback with a major upgrade for 2012, as it continues its mission to remain at the top of its class, with appeal to a wide range of customers. Whereas the previous generation Civic's styling was bold and futuristic; the new Civic compact hatchback’s latest evolution not only ups the ante as far as style and design is concerned, but also achieves higher levels of interior quality, sophistication and safety, together with enhanced performance and efficiency.
The basic shape is unchanged, but the 2012 model 20 mm lower and 10 mm wider than the outgoing model, while its new bold styling embraces sporty and futuristic elements, raising the new Civic hatch to a higher level. Honda says it has revolved around a theme of ‘Clean-Dynamic’, with aerodynamic efficiency central to the Civic’s design.
The eye-catching horizontal brake light, for example, also works as a spoiler to manage airflow over the top of the car, while the rear combination tail light clusters have an aerodynamic function too, protruding at the optimal position to cut off body-side airflow and reduce turbulence. The central fuel tank layout, which allows for more space in the cabin, has been retained, and build quality is excellent.
Inside, the new Civic comes with a high standard specification, and a comprehensive array of features. The new i-DTEC flagship model adds a top-notch Exclusive trim package, which incorporates a panoramic glass sunroof, a premium sound system with amplifier and subwoofer, Bluetooth hands-free cellphone connectivity with dedicated buttons on the steering wheel, and HID headlights with auto-levelling sensor, integrated washers, and a reversing camera, combined with front and rear parking sensors.
The new Civic uses the same split-level dash concept as the outgoing model, with the two zones separating the control areas. The Driver Interface zone gathers essential driving and vehicle-related information, while the adjacent Information Interface zone places devices such as the audio system and ventilation controls within easy reach, and incorporates Honda’s intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID), a colour TFT screen showing vehicle, entertainment, Bluetooth connectivity, and an ECO Assist function which coaches drivers on the most fuel efficient driving style, and is combined with a green ‘ECON’ button that activates the most economical settings for the car.
The increase in the Civic’s exterior dimensions has allowed for a much roomier interior, making it a comfortable 5-seater, with a massive 401 litre boot, and an easily accessed under-floor compartment adding a further 76 litres, and of course the versatility of Honda’s renowned ‘Magic Seats.’ Also the handbrake lever has been moved to allow for more space.
In terms of safety the new Honda Civic 5-Door boasts the maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and the fitment of front, side and curtain airbags as standard, as is Vehicle Stability Assist, ABS with EBD and EBA and a tyre deflation warning system.
Two engine options are available – a 1.8-litre 16-valve SOHC i-VTEC engine, delivering 104 kW at 6 500 r/min, and 174 Nm of torque at 4 300 r/pm, which is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a new five-speed automatic with paddle shift controls. It is said to complete the 0 to 100 km dash in 9.1 secs, has a top speed of 212 km/h, while using just 6.1 lt/100km and a CO2 output of 146 g/km.
The second engine is the range-topping 2.2-litre i-DTEC turbo-diesel which is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. It is credited with 110 kW at 4 000 r/min, a substantial 350 Nm at 2 000 r/min, and sips diesel at the rate of just 4.7 lt/100 km, with a CO2 rating of just 124 g/km.
I drove both models at the Cape Town based launch, starting out in the 2.2 i-DTEC Exclusive Manual. From behind the wheel, front visibility is good, but rear vision, which was a topic of critism on the previous model, has been improved ten fold by re-designing and re-positioning the rear wing. The digital speedo may not be everyone’s “cup of tea”, but it is bold and easy to read, and you soon get used to it.
Start the engine, and right from pull off the 2.2i D-tec motor feels great. It is smooth, quiet, responsive, and mates exceptionally with the 6-speed manual gearbox, as it delivers power to the front wheels. Acceleration through the gears takes a fairly quick 8.7 secs to get from rest to 100 km/h, and has a top speed of 216 km/h.
The clutch engages positively, and the gearbox slides between ratios as fast as you want it to. The power steering is light, but precise, and the handling in the twisties was excellent. There was tire squeal, and I could provoke only the most minor of under-steer in the tighter bends, albeit at speeds far quicker than one would normally travel. The ride is on the firm side, and body roll is well controlled.
At around-town speeds, the steering feels a bit light, but firms up nicely as speed rises, and also becomes livelier. There’s no bump steer, no nervousness, and traveling the freeways the tracking is good and the car an absolute pleasure to drive. The brakes are fade-free, and the pedal is firm and informative.
My second drive was in the 1.8 i-VTEC. It’s not as powerful or responsive as the diesel, but after travelling a few “kays” you get used to the difference and it becomes very pleasant to drive. The motor is smooth and quiet, cabin noise is well controlled, and of course, the ride, handling and comfort are much the same as the diesel, however, if you prefer your Civic with an automatic transmission, you’d have to choose a petrol model as the diesel is only available with the 6-speed manual box.
Pricing for the new Honda Civic hatch
1.8 i-VTEC Elegance Manual R248 000
1.8 i-VTEC Elegance Automatic R261 000
1.8 i-VTEC Executive Manual R270 000
1.8 i-VTEC Executive Automatic R283 000
2.2 i-DTEC Exclusive Manual R343 800
Prices include a five-year/90 000 km service plan, and three-year/100 000 km warranty. Service intervals are every 15 000 km