Honda - the Japanese company that has held true to its core competence of building quality, small capacity-engined products that are reliable, trustworthy and well supported in terms of aftersales service. Hondas are tried and tested cars and I've had the ownership experienced myself, so I am one that can attest to the solid build quality and bulletproof reputation. Despite the way the world is going as far as sedans are concerned, Honda continues to offer its range of small sedans in varying degrees of size and sophistication, and the Civic Sedan 1.5T Sport is one of the best South African's are likely to get, after Honda SA said goodbye to the American-inspired Accord.
The Honda Civic Sedan is expectedly good. Sold now in 3 derivatives, we have the most sporty of the 3 on review here, this being the sleek Honda Civic Sedan 1.5T Sport priced at R487 900.
The revised design sports a transformed grille and headlight clusters with LED and DRL's as standard. Honda has also added a new hue to colour palette. Named Platinum Pearl White it is a replacement to the previous Orchid White Pearl. The other fresh exterior addition is the fitment of 17-inch charcoal-coloured alloys to the Sport model that enhance the well-aging Civic Sedan and give it a hint of athleticism within a modern and typical Honda boldness that keeps the Civic looking the part.
The Honda approach to interior design is just as bold as its exterior and the interior of the Civic Sedan Sport boasts a largely digital interface. The graphics stand out strongly against the otherwise dark background. The instrument cluster is all digital, still common to Honda’s of old in terms of layout, but now entirely digitised. There is a 7-inch Infotainment screen that houses the connectivity and application functions including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay syncing technology. What Honda has added to the infotainment are physical buttons on the right hand side of the touchscreen for Home, Telephone, Audio and ‘Back’ functions as well as a conventional ‘Volume/Power’ knob. This is a very good thing - physical buttons go a long way to faster and easier navigation of systems in the context of a moving vehicle and I immediately felt more comfortable using the buttons when I could as did my passengers. Accessing the touchscreen is still a necessary task but again, while this is a small rework, it goes a long way in ensuring practical motoring. Climate Control also remains operable by buttons and dials with the information being displayed on the screen above.
The remainder of the cabin is typically Honda-quality. The seats are comfortably designed and appointed in black faux-leather. Legroom is fantastic for a sedan in this segment. It is surprisingly good here and when you observe the depth of the boot, you have to applaud Honda’s packaging with this car. To give you some perspective, the boot space is larger than that of a Subaru Impreza Sedan (by 28-litres) or the Hyundai Elantra (by 68-litres).
Reviewing the Honda Civic Sedan involved a lot of inner-city driving and peak traffic jaunts. The process can be stressful, paIn the Honda Civic Sedan however, I felt entirely at ease with a calm and confident drive. Even in this Sport version, the 17-inch wheels strike a good balance of comfort supported by a chassis that feels light and nimble. The electro-mechanical steering is also light – it makes for ease of driving in parking and city-like environments but is perhaps a touch too light lacking feedback for the open road.
The engines in the Civic remain unchanged with the Sport powered by a 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo with 127 kW of power with 220 Nm of torque. The delivery feels swift and sporty with acceleration figures respectably brisk for a car at this level. 0 – 100km/h comes in at 8,2-seconds and claimed max speed is 200km/h. The CVT transmission operates in a similar fashion to most modern CVT’s and is pleasantly silent for most occasions especially cruising along on the national highway at highway speeds where it settles into a quiet waft. It’s here you can sense the lack of noise further enhanced on this revised Civic. It makes for a pleasant drive indeed. The ride becomes less refined when you require a dose of right-foot application – it accelerates briskly enough but its accompanied by a louder sound that stands out from the overall experience of the car. This is about the only criticism I have for this car. It’s a standout product from Honda with good build-quality, practical packaging, good performance and efficiency with claimed fuel consumption of 5,9l/100km on the combined cycle and backed by a reputable and strong brand.
The issue with the Civic is that not many people are buying it. As a product it has many things in its corner. It’s an excellent car. Honda sells it with all manner of standard features all of which I’ve mentioned above plus keyless entry, walk-away auto locking and a comprehensive service plan.
But stacked in another corner playing against the Civic are things that are sadly, out of its control. It’s a sedan for one and South Africans, like most other global markets are choosing the SUV over sedans at an staggering rate. It’s also a sedan that plays in perhaps the least regarded space there is within that segment. It’s a segment that is not cheap enough i.e. Corolla Quest or VW Polo Sedan. It’s a segment that is not expensive/premium enough. i.e. BMW 3-Series or C-Class. It plays in a space where at that price level (R487 900), consumers are likely to choose an SUV alternative of which there are many very good options or a product with a badge that has more appeal. It’s sadly why the Honda sells less than 10 Civics every month and its why, in my opinion these numbers are unlikely to improve.
I feel sorry for the product team here. It has built a great car with great packaging, spec and credentials. It's beautiful to look at for the most part and it serves up pleasant performance with pleasing efficiency too.
So, should you be one of those sensible and considered buyers looking for a good sedan for yourself and your family, the Civic Sedan is certainly worth a drive and an offer to purchase. Do take care of it though...it's a dying breed.