Let's face it, the ninth-generation Civic was faced with a lukewarm reception. With toned-down styling, higher price tag and uninspiring dynamics, it could be said that Honda really had to step its game up with the all-new model.
When we first saw photos of the tenth-generation Civic (internally known as the FC), it was a bit of a shock with its Solid Wing Face fascia, fastback profile, plus sharp lines and creases throughout the car's already handsome body. A radical departure? You bet. Seeing it in the metal made us even more curious what it would be like behind the wheel. Fast forward several weeks since its launch, we found ourselves on a flight to Bohol to try out both the 1.8 E and 1.5 RS Turbo and see if the all-new model has well and truly erased the sins of the previous model.
While the range-topping 1.5 RS Turbo is the highlight of the new Civic lineup, I was more curious with the 1.8 E. A question that was running through my mind was “will it be more of the same with the old engine?” and stepping inside, it feels like you are not missing out much when it comes to features. In the 1.8, you lose the power seats, leather trim, navigation, rear spoiler and 18-inch wheels. What it does have is a rather impressive infotainment that includes smartphone mirror-link. Also, the new dash layout ditches the old “floating” speedometer for a more conventional placement and made it much easier to adjust to the corners of the car.
Cruising around Bohol, the car provided a comfortable drive and ride thanks in part to the spacious interior. Ergonomics were also spot on and the infortainment system came with a safety lockout that prevents the use of mirror-linking while driving. As for steering, the new electric power steering is unlike the previous Civic, offering feedback even at low speeds. So far, so good.
Despite the old engine, the mating of the CVT and the 1.8 mill made for a comfortable drive and made good use of the powerband. We never felt left behind in the convoy and carried the extra weight rather well. There was confidence in overtaking and the chassis handled off-camber corner with aplomb. Speaking of its chassis, I could say that it borders on European levels of ride and rebound. Even as we drove over roads still damaged from the earthquake (paging the DPWH), the Civic took on the rutted path with no problems. We capped off the first day with the (not so) entry-level Civic and overall, I reckon 1.8 E will make for a good daily car but the fun to drive characteristic can be felt.
The next day, it was our turn to drive the 1.5 RS Turbo. More aggressive-looking than its lower powered brother, the larger wheels and rear spoiler set expectations high for this sportier Civic. The cabin feels the same, apart from leather and more luxuries, plus navigation system. Around town, it felt like the standard 1.8 model but it all changed when the roads opened up.
On winding roads, the RS Turbo feels more planted, thanks in part to slightly firmer suspension and a wider contact patch. One can drive this car in full confidence when out on a spirited drive. Put the transmission in Sport and there is less lag, zooming you straight into the horizon. The turbo was especially helpful going uphill as it helped us do climbs with no effort whatsoever. While it's no SiR, one can think of the RS Turbo as an SiR that went to manners class with its blend of performance, comfort and dynamics, not to mention the amount of kit you get standard on both models. Speaking of efficiency, we also noted that the RS Turbo was more efficient than the 1.8 E. It was the equivalent of having cake that doesn't make you fat.
After the drive, we took a few minutes to talk to Masanao Kataoka, senior assistant vice president for Honda Cars Philippines. He said that one goal the team set was to offer “the best of both worlds” to customers, offering both performance and efficiency with the turbo engine. One challenge in the making of the said powertrain was pairing it with the continuously variable transmission. He added that making it feel seamless with the transmission was difficult, but after we drove it, we can say that the engineers indeed deserve a pat on the back.
Kataoka said reservations are doing well for the Civic so far, saying that there are currently over 1,500 reservations for the new car. “About 60 percent ordered the 1.8 and 40 percent for the turbo”, said Kataoka. As a treat, Kataoka also said there may be more models coming to the Philippines in the future.
Perhaps there is no need to say that we thoroughly enjoyed driving the all-new Civic. Over the course of 500 kilometers, we got down from the cars with smiles on our faces and memories of the previous generation model banished from our minds. Honda did their homework with the tenth-generation model and it's a great return to form for the Civic.
We missed your fun side, Civic, and we're glad you have it back.