MANY moons ago, there was a bloke called "Honda" in my footy club.
Unfortunately for him, it had nothing to do with being a descendent of the marque's founder, Soichiro. Nope, he was a "Sibbick", and we canny Aussies had coined the nickname. That's a tribute to the longevity and notoriety of the Civic.
The 10th generation Civic has now arrived, and the timing couldn't be better for Honda. Struggling through the GFC and natural disasters over the past decade, the outlook is beginning to clear.
Early indications are they're on a winner. Sales numbers have been strong in the competitive small car segment. We sampled the second-rung VTi-S and range-topping VTi-LX for some household testing.
Spacious with generous internal proportions, the Civic feels more mid-size than small.
Across the dash are some engaging lines which capture passenger attention, bolstered by the centrally located colour touch-screen.
Finding your way through the system needs little analysis, and from the base model you have the advantage of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
These systems essentially mimic your phone on the touch-screen when plugged in… it's outstanding, you can send and receive text messages, use Siri for searches and making calls, make use of your apps and it also means you don't really need the sat nav embedded.
Our range-topping VTi-LX gets all the bells and whistles in terms of technological functionality. It did freeze twice, but a quick software "reflash" had it running seamlessly again.
The driver has a digital readout in a modern set-up, featuring a large speedometer along with a range of configurable trip computers, with a tachometer sitting above like a rainbow which glows different hues depending on your driving style.
Various buttons are on the steering wheel for easy access, with the highlight coming via the volume control which can be turned up and down via a swipe of the nodules.
Finding the fan speed under climate control can be a little slow and clunky, but once the system is mastered things become easier - you just need some patience.
The seats are fairly flat in both cloth and leather formats, although reasonably supportive.
On the road
Two petrol four-cylinder engines are offered, one with a turbo and one without.
Neither will rekindle Honda's motor racing prowess. Indicative of the small sedan market, the performance is solid and reliable.
While the 1.5-litre turbo option is more responsive under acceleration and has more linear strength under your right foot, it's not remarkably stronger than the 1.8-litre naturally aspirated powertrain.
When pressing for a rapid response, the continuously variable transmission can become flustered as the engine races to meet driver expectations. That's typical CVT operation, although some manufacturers (Subaru for one) do an impressive job of getting it to operate like a conventional automatic shifter.
You are encouraged to explore the Civic's ability due to its impressive road holding and responsive chassis.
Carving through the corners with aggressive ease, it feels impressively dynamic, with sharp steering and adept ability. Neither outstandingly quiet or noisy, the sedan feels rock-solid with an air of confidence and predictability.
Using the adaptive cruise control VTi-LX (which keeps you a safe distance from the car in front), it lacks some finesse.
The likes of Mercedes-Benz and Audi have mastered this realm, whereas you can hear the Honda mechanisms clicking under operation and the braking can be abrupt.
What do you get?
Honda had the option of bringing in a bargain- basement model, but opted to start with higher pricing and meet buyer feature expectations.
Our VTi-S came with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, 17.7cm LCD screen, reversing camera, LCD instrument cluster, cruise control and LED running lights, 16-inch alloys, parking sensors, smart keyless entry, LaneWatch blind spot monitoring and leather steering wheel.
The top-shelf VTi-LX gets everything available, including 17-inch alloys, auto lights and wipers, dual zone climate control and digital radio, electric sunroof, better audio and sat nav, and power heated leather seats, as well as the Honda Sensing safety suite, with warnings and then interaction to prevent you hitting the car in front or straying from your lane and adaptive cruise control with Low-Speed Follow which offers near autonomous low speed driving.
We especially love the LaneWatch camera mount to the left rear mirror. It gives you a view of exactly what is in your blind-spot - a unique function in the industry.
Among the leaders in the "super small" sedan category are the Toyota Corolla SX ($22,990), Mitsubishi Lancer LS ($23,500), Holden Cruze Z-Series ($22,640), Nissan Pulsar ST-L ($22,490), Kia Cerato S Premium ($24,990) and Mazda3 Maxx ($22,390).
Without exaggeration, the boot is massive. Just shy of 520 litres, it's better than a Commodore, and trumps its nearest rivals in the Toyota Corolla (470), Mazda3 (408) and even its HR-V SUV stablemate (437).
Two large suitcases were easily ensconced, and the seats fold 60-40 by the pull of a lever in the boot to handle other gear.
Up front and there's some interesting storage positions, one in front of the shifter and one below. There are two cup holders in the front console, and another two in the rear fold-down armrest. Doors can handle drink bottles, but they are a tight squeeze.
Fuel consumption was close to the official figures, so expect about seven litres per 100km for both the turbo and naturally aspirated models. Capped-price servicing is available, but there is no roadside assist unless you take out the "Plus" warranty which extends coverage for the car to five years/140,000km.
As always, everyone has an opinion on looks. Responses to the coupe-like Civic were essentially positive, although some, including motoring colleagues, were passionate about their dislike for the sharp lines.
Coupe-like staying at the rear makes for an arresting offering, and we especially liked the blue colour scheme. The hatch is on its way early next year, but the sedan looks more cohesive at the back - but we'll reserve judgement until it arrives.
The dark clouds have parted for Honda. This Civic is another fine step forward, and followed strong performances from the now much-loved HR-V.
With the hatch on its way, along with the fire-breathing Type-R derivative, that will only strengthen the Civic stance.
Solid and reliable with strong and dynamic underpinnings, the Civic has become a pivotal player again in the compact automotive game. Sadly, the other "Honda" has long retired.
Model: Honda Civic VTi-S and VTi-LX.
Details: Four-door five-seat front-wheel drive small sedan.
Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol generating 104kW @ 6500rpm and 174Nm @4300rpm (VTi and VTi-S); 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol with 127kW @ 5500rpm and 220Nm @ 1700rpm (VTi-L, RS and VTi-LX).
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic (paddle shifters on 1.5-litre turbo models).
Consumption: 6.4-litres/100km (1.8-litre engine); 6.0-litres/100km (1.5-litre turbo engine).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $24,490 (VTi-S); $33,590 (VTi-LX).
What matter most
What we liked: Standard features, impressive chassis and suspension set-up, gigantic boot.
What we'd like to see: More cohesive operation of radar cruise control, quicker operation of climate control system.
Warranty and servicing: Three year/100,000km. Service intervals are every 10,000km or 12 months. The naturally aspirated average price is $286, the turbo is $279.
Driving experience 15/20
Features and equipment 16/20
Functionality and comfort 15/20
Value for money 17/20
Style and design 16/20
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