Everyone has to grow up some time; it’s a natural order of things. Even our favorite bands and artists go through this process so as not to be branded as a one-trick pony.
The same thing applies for automakers, especially revered models such as the Honda Civic. Sleeker, wider and softer, these are but a few words that describes Honda's latest-generation C-segment contender.
A few weeks ago, we got our hands on the much-awaited turbocharged Civic RS Turbo which was quite the performer. Now, we get behind the wheel of the more sensible E variant and see how the entry-level Civic fares up against the competition.
One look at the 2016 Honda Civic and you know it's all-new. Immediately noticeable is the fastback styling which gives the car an aggressive stance and the illusion of motion while standing still. Up front, Honda's 'Solid Wing Face' design stood proudly while being flanked by LED headlights with integrated daytime running lights. As a way to distinguish itself from the RS, the 1.8E Civic's grill is finished in chrome instead of high gloss black. I also liked how the designers managed to make the flowing lines of the front bumper seamlessly flow towards the distinct beltline.
The rear is perhaps my favorite section of the 2016 Civic. Love it or loathe it, the striking design is attention-grabbing. Most find the new taillight design overly done, but for me, it’s a nice rework of the previous generation’s design. The sleek shoulder lines highlight the car’s fastback styling while the contoured trunk lid adds a nice touch of sophistication. There may be a lot going on at the back of the 2016 Civic, but I think many would agree that this is an improvement over the outgoing model.
Stepping inside, the new Civic felt and looked wider. For a C-segment sedan, it’s actually quite big and spacious for its size. Some of my peers even said that the cabin felt like an Accord rather than a Civic. Like the RS Turbo, it also gets the same futuristic dashboard which which is one of the model's key features.
At the center of it all is the tablet-inspired infotainment system. It has the same amount of features, including wi-fi hot spot connectivity, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay. It does not have navigation as standard however. Users can even install their own apps on the system by way of the 'App Installer'.
The 3-pod digital gauge cluster is pleasing to the eyes, especially when one watches the startup ceremony of the instrument panel. The steering wheel is made from urethane but has an ergonomic design which felt natural. Soft touch plastic was extensively used throughout the cabin but there were some portions that still had hard plastic. For a car priced at more than a million Pesos, I somehow expected every panel to have ditched the old material.
In typical Honda fashion, it has an engaging, yet comfortable driving position. It even has a telescopic steering rack for better configurability while the seat features height adjustability. One might also notice that it has a raised transmission tunnel. Despite its unconventional design, it actually helps the driver reach the gear lever and switch-gears easier.
Sitting at the back, one might notice that the rear occupants seat lower than the ones up front. This is because Honda had to take into account the fastback profile of the new Civic. In spite of that, passengers that tower above 5'8 will have plenty of legroom thanks to the long 2,700mm wheelbase.
Providing power to the front wheels is 1.8-liter SOHC R18Z1 inline-four that is mated to an Earth Dreams developed continuously variable transmission (CVT). Carried over from the previous Civic offering, it still generates 141 metric horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 174 Nm of torque at 4,300 rpm.
Driven by the familiar 1.8-liter motor, the 2016 Civic delivered ample pulling power in both everyday city driving and spirited highway driving. The CVT was certainly quite the match with the engine as it was able to send all available power to the pavement with no drama. It even has Eco Mode which restricts the ECU, accelerator and fan speed of the climate control system for better fuel mileage.
Put the pedal to the metal however, and the powertrain comes alive. Sure it's not as powerful as the RS Turbo, but it is no slouch. If one opted to make full use of all that horsepower and torque, the car can be set to Sport Mode by setting the CVT to 'S'. This makes the engine respond quicker while also enabling drivers to fully rev up the engine to the redline.
Handling-wise, the all-new Civic is a point and shoot car. Even though it's relatively wider, the everyday sedan has road-holding capabilities that can rival other high-performance cars. It runs on Dunlop Ensave eco-tires but the car did not felt like it sacrificed grip for better fuel economy. Honda was able to balance out the car's handling and fuel efficiency just right.
Like the CR-Z that I got to drive several months ago, the 2016 Civic's brakes were great as well. A light prod of the brake pedal was all that was needed to shave speed when one had to dive into a corner or make emergency stops. The electrically assisted power steering system felt numb during low speeds but progressively felt better when one is driving at high speeds.
With the Earth Dreams developed CVT, fuel economy on the 1.8-liter motor was substantially improved. On heavy traffic conditions, it did not dip below 7.5 km/l. Normal city driving, on the other hand yielded 10.3 km/l. Meanwhile out on the highway, it can easily average 17 – 17.5 km/l of fuel.
Even though most of the attention is directed towards the Civic RS Turbo, the 1.8 E is still a decent sedan that looks and feels great. Priced at just PhP 1,088,000, this entry-level model almost has the same level of handling, ride comfort and features of the RS, minus the turbocharger.
Most might want the RS Turbo just because it's more powerful, but think of the 1.8 E as a Civic that's all grown up. It still has performance credentials under its belt but has been refined and tweaked for everyday use. It's content to live its life in normalcy but can still deliver an exhilarating drive should the need arise.