How Honda are 'sensing' change with new Civic: from engines and tech to starting price
First Drive in Barcelona: Honda Civic
It might seem churlish in the presence of impressive new technologies on Honda's new Civic to start with price, but it raises an important point.
The Civic gets here early next month and will cost from €23,750 ex-works. On the face of it that's a significant opening sum for a 5dr family hatch. But it does away with a lot of 'bull' about entry-level prices. Hardly anyone buys bog-basic-lucky-to-have-four-wheels cars any more.
The fact is, the Civic starts with equipment levels, especially safety technology, that would have most rivals on that price point at least.
This tenth-generation is markedly bigger inside. And there are two new petrol engines - a 127bhp 1-litre i-VTEC turbo and a 180bhp 1.5 i-VTEC turbo. The 1.6 diesel arrives later.
The Civic (sadly only 5dr hatches are coming to Ireland; the 4dr saloon is gorgeous) is based on a new platform which will underpin the likes of the next TYPE R (later this year).
I think the Civic has the biggest spread of safety technology, as standard, in the family hatch segment. That alone justifies not opting for a lower entry-level price version.
They call the safety package 'Sensing'. It includes intelligent adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, Collision Mitigation Braking (stops car if it senses a front-end crash is unavoidable), lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, lane keeping assist system, Intelligent Speed Assistance (adjusts speed to road sign), low-speed following (keeps distance) and traffic sign recognition. Yes, there's a lot.
And then there are the engines. The best way I can describe the 1-litre is 'sweet', with the lovely note you only get from a 3-cyl engine. At 127bhp it was plenty lively with the slick, easy 6spd manual gearbox. I wasn't as impressed with the 'automatic' CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission - €1,600 more than manual). But I liked that manual a lot; we had fun. It will also make it into the Jazz and F-RV.
They claim consumption of 4.8l/100km (110g/km, €190 road tax). The figures for the CVT are: 106g/km (still €190) and 4.7l/100km.
The 1.5 litre 4cyl (133g/km, €280) and 5.8l/100km) was more than lively; not nearly as sweet sounding or appealing as the 1-litre but with 180bhp it fed plenty of energy over mountain twists and roads. If you like a good drive but don't want a hot hatch, it might suit. Its CVT version (139g, €280 tax, 6.1l/100km) was excellent.
A new multi-link rear axle gave a lot more of the stability/flexibility I'd expect, given the focus on upping dynamism. It's not Ford Focus sharp; more a sprightly/solid Golf feel. As a driver, I sat 20mm lower (hip point - 35mm) and it made a big difference.
It was a light-touch drive, despite many twists/turns, with few demands; the steering was direct and progressive. On tight bends, they told us we wouldn't have to move our hands on the wheel (9 o'clock-3 o'clock formula) because of how the system picks up the angles. They were right - most of the time.
I had loads of front and rear-seat space. That's partly due to the larger platform but also because they moved the petrol tank from under the front to the rear seats; there is still a substantial 478 litres in the boot.
While a 30mm extra width (such elbow room) doesn't seem a lot, will some people find it a tad too expansive on narrow roads? We did, a bit.
A big sound-proofing effort kept the cabin so quiet we could barely hear the 1-litre ticking over. But there was distinct wind noise off wing mirrors and rear-door arches at moderate speed.
Rear visibility is better because the hatch-window spoiler is lower, but thick pillars either side are no help.
The infotainment and connectivity elements you now expect in a car are there in numbers. The Honda Connect system works with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Back to the pricing. For that €23,750 Smart ('entry-level') and in addition to the Sensing safety package you get Bluetooth, f/r parking sensors, 16ins alloys, 5ins Monitor Audio, auto climate control, USB and 8 speakers.
Smart Plus Pack (€26,250, expected big seller) adds Honda Connect with Garmin nav, rear-park camera, dual climate control, 17ins alloys, front fogs, 2 USBs, electric driver seat lumbar support, auto wipers.
Premium (€30,150) adds blind spot info, leather, heated front/rear seats, glass roof, adaptive damper system (all round), High Power audio (11 speakers).
And Premium Plus Pack (€31,650) adds wireless charging, LED headlights, front fog LEDs.
There's much to like about this bigger, tech-packed newcomer, not least that impressive swathe of safety elements - and that 'realistic' starting price.