ROAD TEST: Honda Civic has sensible style and stature
Signs of the sedan exodus have been in the spotlight for a decade.
While some manufacturers have abandoned passenger cars altogether to fulfil SUV appetites, Honda maintained the sedan rage with its long-standing Civic.
The 10th generation Civic arrived in 2016 after a few underwhelming offerings. Before that there was a challenging decade for the proud Japanese carmaker, the global financial crisis and natural disasters all conspiring against progress.
During recent years we've seen the HR-V return, a new CR-V, while the Civic is further testament Honda is back on track.
That still doesn't mean everything is peachy. Sales of sedans and hatches are slowing, and Honda confirmed earlier this year it would close its UK car plant in 2021, while a second-shift production line will turn idle at the US's Ohio facility during August.
Exactly why so many buyers are turning their backs on sedans and hatches is difficult to fathom. One short drive in the Civic and it proves how good these vehicles are in terms of ride and handling.
Base variants start from $24,990 drive-away, yet it's the mid-rung VTI-L which shapes as the best value in the range that is now available for $30,990 with free on-roads.
Key updates to the latest variants lie in the technology, yet carryover features include 17-inch alloys, seven-inch touchscreen with digital radio and smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, chequered black seat trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Design-wise the cabin won't be challenging beauty pageant winners. Horizontal lines provide a sense of space across the dash where key operations are easy to find and use.
There isn't many bells and whistles in the VTI-L level of specification, with basic aircon operation and manual alteration of seat position and height.
Honda is throwing its weight behind Civic deals, currently offering a benchmark-meeting seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist for the same period. There is also free 12 months registration and CTP insurance cover.
Servicing is required annually or every 10,000km (the latter is short in comparison to rivals), with the first seven services costing $281. Depending on how many kilometres you cover, that price will rise by about $55 for an air cleaner every 60,000km, along with other items like filters and plugs. All prices are on the website so you have forewarning.
For the circa-$30,000 price-tag, Honda has some pretty good technology.
Civic has a five-star safety rating from 2017, but key updates just introduced include radar cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous braking that can help avoid or lessen the impact of an accident if the driver fails to act fast enough, lane departure warning and also steering assist to keep the Civic in a lane, as well as automatic high beam headlights.
Honda also has a camera mounted under the left side mirror. When you indicate it shows any vehicles on the left-hand side...but other manufacturers have better blind spot warnings on both sides.
There are also parking sensors front and back, as well as a reversing camera.
Despite being a compact sedan, it does offer reasonable four-adult accommodation courtesy of generous rear legroom if those in the front maintain a reasonable position.
Cup-holders are in a deep centre console, and each door can also handle a bottle.
There is a unique storage area below the dash and in front of the shifter, where there is access to USB and 12-volt ports. Initial access is cumbersome, but once phones or devices are plugged in they can be stored nicely.
Operationally there is little likelihood of confusion due to the common-sense approach. Access to the aircon mode and fan speed is found via a button below the touchscreen.
Base Civic variants are powered by a 1.8-litre four-cylinder, yet the VTI-L is the entry into more powerful performance derived from a 127kW/220Nm 1.5-litre turbocharged four-potter.
With an extra 23kw and 46Nm of shove over the non-turbo models, it's swift without being savage.
The same engine is found in the cosmetically sporty RS variant which costs about $4450 more - the VTI-L is the better buy because the donk is far from athletic. It does are reasonable job as long as it's not pushed hard.
Jump on the right pedal and the continuously variable automatic takes some time to deliver a result. There's more noise than action, which is a familiar trait for these transmissions.
Remain judicious and sensible on the throttle and the Honda feels composed and well balanced with responsive steering and refined handling in highway, city and rural surrounds. Fuel consumption was a thrifty 6.6 litres for every 100km on regular unleaded.
I remember when Honda was fancy. The prices have dropped from a couple of decades ago, but I still get Japanese quality and it's something different compared to mainstream big-sellers.
This is a small car which offers big car comfort. For the price I get solid equipment levels with the peace of mind of a long warranty and impressive build quality reputation.
KIA CERATO SPORT+ $28,040 D/A
Comes with a similar safety sheet, but has blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert, and is powered by a non-turbo 2.0-litre 112kW/192Nm 4-cyl. Honda has matched Kia's industry-best warranty. Solid drive and impressive comfort.
MAZDA3 G20 PURE $28,902 D/A
Just released, this new Mazda3 has gone upmarket. Strong specification levels, and powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cyl good for 114kW/200Nm. Not as fast as it looks, but a quality contender.
Good looks and refined performance make the Civic a sound and reliable choice with Japanese badge kudos. Latest safety additions bring it up to speed with the key rivals.
AT A GLANCE
HONDA CIVIC VTI-L
PRICE $30,990 drive-away (good value)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 7yr w'ty; $1405 for 5 years /50,000km (excellent)
ENGINE 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 127kW/220Nm (solid)
SAFETY 5 stars, AEB, adaptive cruise, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high-beam (competitive)
THIRST 6.0L/100km (miserly)
SPARE Space-saver (standard nowadays)
BOOT 519L (generous space)