Honda Civic Review: Civic for Everyone

Honda Civic Review: Civic for Everyone

OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
18 Oct 2006

Moving the Civic upmarket seems only natural, especially for a progressive car company like Honda. Having 1.8- and 2.0-litre engines seems appropriate for the largest and most sophisticated Civic to date, especially as the competition, especially from the Korean car makers, seems to be getting more competent and aggressive in the 1.6-litre category.

Well, six months after the new Civic was launched, out comes the 1.6-litre model, powered by a shorter stroke version of the same engine block of the 1.8-litre. While it is no surprise that there should be a smaller version of this new generation i-VTEC engine, one can’t help but applaud the marketing department for launching the Civic with its larger engines first, and then mopping up the remaining fence sitters with the 1.6-litre version.

It goes without saying that the new Civic is a truly impressive car, and when it was first launched with its bigger engines, most people didn’t mind moving the car into the next higher tax bracket. Now that there is a 1.6-litre model, will this new engine make the other models, especially the 1.8, obsolete and irrelevant? Well, yes and no.

In many ways, performance-wise, the 1.6-litre loses very little against the 1.8. Its output is down from 140bhp to 125bhp, and torque is down from 174Nm to 151Nm. But following in the best Honda tradition, it is an excellent, free-revving engine, and the deficit in power is only an on-paper technicality. The car doesn’t feel under powered or lacking in any way. Both the 1.6 and 1.8 are mated to the same smooth and precise 5-speed automatic transmission, but it is only in the 1.8 that the driver gets steering mounted paddles to manually up- and down-shift.

From behind the steering wheel, both cars share the same futuristic two-level dashboard that seems so natural that it makes one wonder why no one has thought of it before. Like Civics of the past, this 8th generation model is a trend-setter that will many rivals will soon be imitating this dashboard design. The most obvious difference is that the 1.6 gets an aftermarket hi-fi system while the 1.8 has a fully integrated unit with remote controls on the steering wheel. On the other hand, if you’re an audiofile that wants to fit an extra-powerful aftermarket 2-DIN headunit, then the dashboard on the more affordable Civic might work better to allow this flexibility.

One advantage the 1.6 model has over the 1.8 is that it gets the same high-geared electric powered steering as the top-of-the-line high-performance DOHC 2.0-litre model. For an electric steering, the feel and feedback is a revelation, and wonderfully satisfying. It is probably the most communicative and sensitive steering set-up found in any front-wheel driven car. The 1.8-litre gets a slower ratio hydraulic steering that isn’t as immediate or communicative.

From the outside, there are two obvious differences between the entry-level model and its more expensive siblings – firstly, the door mirrors do not have indicator repeaters, and secondly, the door handles are body-coloured instead of being chrome-finished. Other than this, it will be really difficult to tell the 1.6 from the other models.

So is there a compelling reason to get a Civic 1.8 VTi-S over the more affordable 1.6 VTi? No, not really, unless one thinks having the aftermarket hi-fi spoils futuristic appearance of the dashboard. In all other matters, one is not likely to notice the differences between the two models. In addition to saving annual road tax, the other compelling reason for getting the 1.6 is its excellent, more sporty steering, which is the real reason the Civic remains the most desirable 1.6-litre car in its class.

Credits: Justin Lee

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