Pulling into the Honda showroom to collect my test car, I scour the car park to catch my first glimpse of the brand new Civic. There aren’t many cars on the compound, and I spot what I think is an Accord parked right outside the showroom entrance. It isn’t until I draw closer that I realise my mistake - the car that I thought was the Accord is actually the Civic.
Now in its 11th iteration, the Civic is easy to mistake for an Accord, partially because Honda has employed some level of russian doll styling with these two sedans, but mostly because the Civic has grown, markedly I might add, in size, and in stature. To me, these are all good things. 10 years ago, I’d have lamented the new Civic’s apparent absence of sportiness.
However, I am now in my 30’s, married, and am a father - which means that the judgements of my younger self have now mellowed. Thus, the Civic’s growth feels natural to me, almost like the sporty sedan that had once appealed to my younger self, has grown with me, and grown with the times, to become what it is today.
The theme of growth and process continues on the inside and the new Civic looks like a teenage boy has finally found a proper shirt to tuck into his pants. Impressively, the Civic manages to be longer and wider than its predecessor, while still managing to be lighter. With a wheelbase that is 35mm longer than its predecessor, rear passenger comfort is at its all time best in a Civic and is perhaps the best in class in this regard, beating out both the Altis and the Mazda 3 in terms of wheelbase and rear passenger legroom. The transmission tunnel is also relatively small, and will not pose too much of a hindrance. Rear headroom is also decent, despite the faux-fastback, coupe-esque features dominating the C-pillar design.
Upfront, a completely redesigned cockpit features a significant step up in build quality from its predecessor, and is one of the best I have seen in a Honda or in any Japanese car to date. Even applying significant pressure with my left leg hard against the centre console did not seem to elicit any sort of creaking from the car - Although, while driving around, there was the tiniest rattle somewhere within the aircon assembly. Obvious - but not enough to make you feel like you could do better in another similar classed car. I feel that part of the reason why this is the case, is because no other mid sized Japanese sedan has ever been accorded (pun not intended) the same attention to interior design found in the new Civic. The cockpit felt authentic, original, and unique, without any cookie cutter features found in most Japanese cars and even some continental cars. Across the dash, a honeycomb designed air conditioning grille dominates your eyeline, hiding behind it 4 air conditioning vents controlled by the quirkiest and most original of mini joysticks. I absolutely loved it. The whole cockpit feels extremely contemporary and fresh, while maintaining a level of sophistication that would make shoppers in this segment feel like they got more for their money - and don’t we all love good value?
Up top, an easy to use 9 inch touchscreen infotainment unit brings the user experience together and is responsive to the touch, though it isn't the most high resolution and seemed to struggle with colours a little bit, with some nightime footage from the rear cameras looking like a black and white CCTV replay. It is equipped with both Apple Carplay and Android Auto. For some reason though, the former is only usable via a USB cable while the latter is able to pair wirelessly. Thankfully though, the new Civic comes with 2 USB ports upfront, located just above the now standard wireless charging port.
Pairing and engaging Apple Carplay on the Civic wasn’t the most straightforward process, but not so difficult that it would bother anyone who is remotely tech savvy. While driving, the infotainment unit also doubles up as a blind spot viewer, where upon engaging your left signal, the infotainment screen automatically changes to a live feed of your left blind spot, from an exterior camera - very nifty, especially when trying to keep track of those pesky cyclists squeezing between you and the kerb.
Earlier I described the Civic’s growth as natural, and one that gelled with the times. Just like a matured man who now prioritises insurance coverage over the shiny and pretty things of his youth, the Civic’s real party trick is that it now features the full suite of Honda’s active safety systems, called Honda Sensing. It blows my mind to say this, but the system is by far the best active safety system I have used in any car I have driven - better than what you get as standard on some of the more premium continental makes and models. Who would have thought that Honda, a maker of bread and butter models like the Civic, would develop an active safety system that was so intuitive to use, and so confidence inspiring. To date, the Civic is the only car that I have trusted to bring me to a completely assisted stop behind another car at a traffic light.
Many other cars come equipped with some form of adaptive cruise control and distance monitoring, but the truth is, not all the systems are built equal, and Honda Sensing really nails it. For starters, Honda utilizes two sensors where your fog lamps would usually be, instead of the usual one that is placed where a car’s emblem might be. This means that while in adaptive cruise control, the system senses pretty early on when another car has cut in front of you, allowing more time for a gradual decrease in speed, and a smoother drive overall. In other cars, the system usually only kicks in once the car has moved completely in front of you, resulting in perhaps a more urgent stab of the brakes. Honda Sensing’s lane keeping assistance is also one of the most confidence inspiring lane keeping assistance systems I have utilised. While a great number of other systems will bounce you between lines, the Civic keeps you clean within the lines, and seems to “read and guide” rather than “see and bounce”. Overall, it was so secure to operate that I managed to make it from Paya Lebar to Punggol during peak hour traffic without having to disengage from adaptive cruise control.
Aside from an impeccable active safety suite of systems, the Civic lives up to its pedigree of being one of the most driveable in its class. Fans of the Civic will be glad to know that the Civic still sits as low as ever, and you still feel like you are almost touching the ground, with plenty of positive road feedback. Not great news for the old folks climbing into the car, but a real plus point for the positive driving dynamics of the Civic. With purposeful acceleration, the Civic’s 1.5L turbocharged engine, mated to a CVT provides a responsive and spritely kick off the line, and feels a tad quicker than its predecessor, perhaps due to its reduced weight. Although the CVT does drone a little bit under acceleration, it is still one of the better ones on the market, and the turbocharged engine does bring the car up to speed pretty swiftly, reducing the time taken for the car’s speed and revs to match up and quieten down. When needed, the drive modes on the Civic are easily selected via a toggle switch below the gear selector, and activates with the most pleasant chirp - a confirmation beep that would sound right at home on a 90s video game. Personally, I found the sports mode did not value adding much above speeds of 100km/h, and only seemed to emphasise the unpleasant drone of the CVT. On the flip side, for a purposeful but unhurried drive, I actually liked the car in Economy mode best, which seemed to limit the revs, reduce the drone, and still provided enough power for most ad hoc overtaking. In Economy mode, the Civic almost felt like it was running on a torque converter, which was pleasant.
Rounding off the package, and perhaps what will prove to be the biggest selling point of the Civic among those who are less bothered with safety systems and technology, is the fact that the Civic is impeccably comfortable, and rides with the plushness and regality of a car that is way beyond its years and stature. On the stock 16 inch wheels, the Civic ironed out the bumps and irregularities on our local roads with surprising ease, yet felt firm and planted through corners with negligible body roll, no doubt also a result of the car’s low ride height.
Overall, the Civic feels like a car that has had a lot of thought put into it - Space utilization, interior design, and its carefully curated equipment list. Even the fact that the Civic is power rated for Cat A doesn’t feel like coincidence, and all this thought behind the 11th generation Civic culminates in a product that is extremely good value, and profoundly well rounded as a midsize family sedan. With Cat B COE pricing pushing the Volkswagen Golf and the Skoda Octavia into a different price tier, it seems like Honda’s move to keep the Civic within Cat A is a wise one, and in my opinion, effectively cements the Civic as the car to beat in this segment. It may be more expensive than its closest competitors, and borders dangerously close to cars sitting a segment above, but there is no denying that it is value for money. Young families who want superb ride quality and a spritely drive, with superb active safety systems to keep their young ones safe will be hard pressed to find a more compelling buy in Cat A.
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Credits: Words by David Foo. Photos by Clifford Chow