Everyday fun for a premium
It's been a while since I last drove a Civic, but I'm glad my return behind the wheel was with the RS.
I hold the Civic in high regard, and a lot of it stems from childhood memories. I grew up in Isabela, but my summer vacations were spent in my mom's hometown in Batangas. During those days, I always looked forward to sitting at the grandstands of Batangas Racing Circuit to watch the races. And whether it was a PDRF race or PTCC, most of the time the winning car is a Civic. Actually, at one point all the cars in PTCC were Civics.
By the time I was old enough to drive, my curiosity about the Civic grew, up until I was able to get behind the wheel of a Civic SiR. And yes, that included an experience of a tuned one running at full tilt. I'm sure most of the older generation (and some of my age) will agree that the SiR was unlike anything else at the time in terms of driving thrills. This could be one of the reasons why up to now, SiR prices still pull a premium, whether or not there's Race Wars.
Newer generations of the Civic came after that, but most weren't quite close to what the SiR offered in terms of driving fun – until Honda came up in 2016 with the RS Turbo. Then last year, they followed it up with this new RS variant, which is now the eleventh-generation Civic model.
Now before I get to the driving part, let me share what I think Honda has made to level up the RS even further.
Personally, I like cars with very minimalist styling, and the new RS is right on the money. From the Gundam styling of the tenth-generation model with all those bulges and intakes, this one for me has better proportions than the one it succeeded. As my teammate, Marcus would say, the Civic has become a tito car. To some extent, I agree.
It has grown in size to the point where it's as big as the fifth-generation Accord. If you don't know what that is, it's the one that came out back in the mid-90s - the time of the EG Civic. However, this RS variant with the gloss black side mirrors, door handles, and the ducktail at the rear keeps the Civic's sporty vibe.
But the thing I do like the most outside is the wheels of the Civic RS. These are the same ones found on the USDM-spec Civic Si. As far as I know, not a lot of countries in the ASEAN region had these Work CR Kai-like wheels on. When I took a closer look, I noticed the wheels are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. If you're the kind of person who likes to have a good set of rubber for both track and daily, you'll definitely appreciate the Civic RS already comes equipped with these.
The minimalist treatment has also found its way to the eleventh-generation Civic's interior, and I think Honda did their homework very well in giving the RS impressive interior materials. A quick side story – I actually had the FK8 Civic Type R for a week before switching over to the new RS. And apart from the bucket seats which I loved on the Type R, the cabin of the RS feels a lot more premium, and very clutter-free.
It's an all-black affair inside, and you have leather on the touch points with some red stitching. There's a combination of leather and suede on the seats, and the perforations on the latter mean you won't burn your bottoms during hot weather.
The previous Civic RS had its climate control functions integrated into the touchscreen, but for this new model, Honda kept it simple with the three-knob treatment. The physical switches feel very tactile and for me, this one's easier to use when you're driving, as you can adjust the A/C controls while still keeping your eyes on the road – and without the worry of accidentally putting it on the max setting.
The back seat has plenty of legroom for my size, and it's nice that it has rear A/C vents. There's an armrest with two cupholders in the middle, but the placement is a bit low. It serves more like a divider between the two rear passengers. Also, despite being a top-spec model, it doesn't have rear USB charging ports; I reckon it could have had one in the empty panel below the vents.
What it makes up for though is the Bose 12-speaker sound system. And yes, it sounds fantastic. This made me turn up the audio volume a little higher than I normally would when driving. In my time with the RS, smartphone connection via Android Auto worked seamlessly, as well as the wireless charging pad – though I noticed bigger phones may have trouble fitting in the latter.
As a compact sedan that's going towards the midsize territory, expect a lot of boot space with the Civic RS – 495 liters to be exact. The trunk easily swallowed our camera gear during the shoots, and I like that it has a latch at the back that can be pulled to fold the rear seats in a 60/40 split.
Like the entry-level Civic V (the base S is no longer being offered), the Civic RS is powered by a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder DOHC VTEC Turbo. It has 178 PS and 240 Nm of torque, and it's paired with a CVT. It's the only variant in the Civic line that has paddle shifters, and an extra drive mode called Sport.
Once you get behind the wheel of the Civic RS, you'll immediately notice that you're sitting in a pretty low sedan, so you do have to be good at judging if the car would clear parking ramps and humps without doing the “syete”. It's pretty clear that some who have already tested the RS misjudged its ride height, as I received the car with scrapes and dings under the front bumper and even its side skirt.
The ride height itself already gives a hint that the suspension is tuned more on the firm side, or rather the sporty side of things. It's not exactly stiff or uncomfortable by any means, but you'll feel more of the road imperfections with the RS than what you'd normally experience on any other compact sedan. Even more so since it has 18-inch wheels and high-performance tires.
On city traffic, there's the premium sound system that would keep me entertained, and the full Honda Sensing suite means going through expressways is a relaxing experience. I know I shouldn't rely much on the car's adaptive cruise control, but most of the time there's no need for me to take over the braking part as the system already acts for me in a smooth way. In terms of fuel consumption, I averaged around 9.5 km/l in the city (19 km/h average) and 18.5 km/l on the highway (75 km/h average). But really, the Civic RS is best enjoyed once you enter winding roads with smooth asphalt.
There's no significant pitching and rolling whenever the Civic RS is being driven spiritedly. It stays flat, stable, and controllable while the tires give you the confidence of entering corners at speed and come out unscathed. One of Honda's strong suits in terms of driving dynamics is the feel of the brakes and the preciseness of the steering. The Civic RS is sharp in those aspects, and that's where it gave me the most satisfaction in driving it. Quite simply, this part reminded me of how the Civic really was in the first place – an everyday car that can give you plenty of driving thrills.
But then again, a lot has changed in the time between the Civic SiR and the Civic RS. Back in the day, sedans were the practical choice for daily drivers, but now most car buyers would lean towards crossovers as their primary choice for mobility. That said, the Civic had to evolve, and so does its pricing.
At PHP 1,775,000, you're already looking at SUV segment prices for a Civic RS. But then again, the RS is no longer a car built to appeal to a broad audience and instead belongs to a more niche market, where buyers would pay a premium to enjoy driving daily and to some extent, nostalgia. It's been over 20 years since the last SiR came out, after all.
If you take away its pretty hefty price tag, the Honda Civic RS for me is an excellent car for what it is. It's as close as you can get to a modern-day SiR, and you guessed it. The only thing keeping it from becoming one is a six-speed manual.