July 12, 2016 @ 05:45 PM

6 reasons why the new Honda Civic is something completely different

After the burn of the ninth generation Honda Civic, it looks like Honda is pulling out all stops to make it right. This is the Generation Ten

Words: Chris Ng
Photography: Chris Ng & Honda Malaysia

Not exciting. Bad interior quality. Lacks charm. Those are the words that Honda had to endure the moment they unveiled the ninth-generation Civic, the first of its kind that will not be offered in the company’s home country of Japan. Honda’s last Civic in Japan drove off into the sunset in the form of the eight-generation car. In effect, the ninth-generation Civic was made for the ‘rest of the world’ although development was partly done in Japan. 

The new, tenth-generation Civic will not be sold in Japan but in other countries that still see this C-segment car as a viable purchase. In the same vein, Honda of Japan and America have collaborated to produce the new one. While the process is similar, something has changed.

This isn't the Civic we once knew. 

… that is if you don’t factor in the turbodiesels. But seriously, Honda have always run the Civic with naturally-aspirated engines of various tunes and power. Over the years, they’ve become very good at squeezing more horses from a small engine, culminating into the 8000rpm-revving screaming VTEC engines that produce more than one horsepower for every 10cc; sometimes, even more. With the bowing-out of the FD Civic Type-R and its K20A engine, the subsequent naturally-aspirated power mills seem, well, run-of-mill.

This isn’t to say that Honda has totally barred all naturally-aspirated engines from the Civic, the 1.8-litre workhorse still reports for duty, but they’ve totally done away with the 2.0-litre in favour of the tinier, more powerful and more efficient 1.5-litre turbocharged engine.

The 1498cc engine is all-new, for obvious reasons. It has Dual Variable Timing Control, one at the intake and the other at the exhaust ports that eliminates nearly all of the residual gas in the cylinder. 

The whole concept of the 1.5-litre turbocharged engine isn’t to worry bigger-bored turbocharged cars on the highway but rather give a quicker sprint out of the door. A small bore with a long stroke engine is perfect for the task while the small-diameter turbine helps it move along quicker. The pairing works for two reasons: it doesn’t need much atmospheric volume to get it spinning at optimum and it doesn’t take much time to do so. An electric wastegate expels souls of burnt fuel (read: exhaust) from the turbine. Cooling comes from a low negative pressure intercooler and the exhaust manifold is water-cooled. Oddly enough, the engine doesn’t have a separate oil-cooler. Even though the engine is small, it still armed with tricks like the bowl in piston and high tumble intake port to improve its efficiency and thermal management. 

And now, the numbers. The 1.5-litre engine produces 170bhp at 5500rpm and generating a twist of 220Nm at 1700-5500rpm. It is mated to a CVT tuned to reduce the inevitable turbo lag and allows the Civic to complete the 0-100kph sprint in a delightful 8.2 seconds with speeds topping out at 200kph. The new mill is more powerful and quicker than the replaced 2.0-litre with five-speed automatic, but is it better?

I briefly drove the Civic, with both engines, in Chaing Mai to get first impressions. And to be honest, I preferred the punchier 1.8-litre workhorse than the ever-smooth 1.5-litre turbo mill. In all situations, the 1.5-litre Civic will always blow by the 1.8-litre car without effort, whether it was on the straights or climbing an incline. Yet, there’s just more feel coming from the larger and older engine. More test drives need to be done. 

… making the Civic visibly large, even more so when you park it next to the ninth-generation car, which in turn is bigger than the eight-generation. Here are the new Civic’s dimensions - 4630mm long, 1799mm wide and 1416mm tall. In comparison, the previous Civic is 105mm shorter, 45mm slimmer and 20mm taller. The wheelbase has grown as well, it’s now 2700mm which is 30mm more than the previous model.

The overall growth spurt also hollowed out more living area. There’s more shoulder space between person and the door to make the interior airier. Rear passengers also get 55mm more knee room, which is enough to give the impression that the Civic is even larger than it already is. 

… or two-tiered of anything for the interior. The interior of the new Civic is somewhat of a throwback to simpler times, and all the better for it. Now you have only one screen where all information is displayed instead of two and you know what buttons to press to engage what you want. There’s no more double guesswork.  

… but that’s not really saying much. Honda has always done justice to the Civic’s handling and there’s no break in form here. In fact, the latest generation is always better than the one before. The tenth generation isn’t any different. 

Honda formed the Civic around a new body in white with strategic placement of braces and reinforcements that improve rigidity constructed on the ever-popular lightweight metals and alloys. It now weighs 22kg less and has 25% more torsional stiffness. McPherson Struts holds up the front and independent multilink suspension does the same for the rear. 

If the teaser drive in Chiang Mai proved anything, it was that the Civic gripped better and it is grinningly even-footed that I took those very long and wide turns without scrubbing off speed prior to entry. The Civic also proved its worth when chucked around the tighter switchbacks of Chiang Mai’s finest. Dual-pinion variable ratio electric power steering opened up direct channels to the front tyres and road, which let me know if I am on target. When needed to, the front immediately alters course at the exact moment I fed off-centre angles into the steering wheel. 

In fact, I would be off the mark to say that the new Civic handles just as good as a German-made front-wheel drive car. Fancy that.

… and instead have all the lines and curves, especially in the rear, of a fastback. Yet, you can’t fold the rear seats down and there’s a visible bulkhead that prevents the slotting in of long objects. Be that as it may, the outer shell of the Civic looks bolder than ever before. Low bonnet, down-swooping roofline towards the rear and strong shoulder lines that pull the front and rear together pushes the design into the next decade.  

… but the upsize needed to be done to keep the car relevant. Honda has acknowledged that the B-segment City has grown close to the size of the ninth-gen Civic, effectively cannibalising sales from the C-segment car. On top of that, the introduction of the HR-V has also put a sizeable bite into the Civic’s pie. 

Size-wise, the Civic is slowly encroaching into the Accord’s territory, albeit the latter is still larger in every conceivable way. At least for the moment, the current Accord is safe where it is and to ensure that, Honda said that they have plans to make sure the Accord will still sit comfortably on its D-segment throne.

Honda is banking much on the Civic to jump start the C-segment market. The new turbocharged engine and better equipment suggest that this Civic will claw back its share of the pie. Initial signs are encouraging but if it falters…

Visit our photo gallery for more pictures of the 10th generation Honda Civic.

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