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VTEC Victor

The 1.5-litre DOHC VTEC turbocharged Civic is victorious on all counts against its higher capacity sibling.
OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
29 Aug 2019
The 1.5-litre DOHC VTEC turbocharged Civic may cost $23,000 more than its 1.6-litre sibling, but it's a no brainer to splash the extra cash for this VTEC victor. 
What we like:
Fuel-efficient turbocharged VTEC engine and smooth acceleration
What we dislike:
CVT transmission
average sound system

The Honda Civic is a car that needs little introduction, having been around for more than four decades since its launch in 1972. The '90s were really the heyday for the Civic with the legendary EK4 Honda Civic SiR being the object of desire for just about every car fanatic out there. Because of the overwhelming popularity of this era of Civic, every Civic launched since then is invariably compared to the EK4 Civic — the victim of its own success.

We reviewed the 1.6 Sedan i-VTEC Civic in July 2019 and our editor Clifford Chow, felt that it was "well-packaged, drives well and has a comfortable ride". So how does our test car, the 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo compare against the 1.6-litre i-VTEC? Other than the apparent difference in engine capacity, the engines are also very different.

The 1.5-litre Civic has a DOHC VTEC TURBO engine, while the 1.6-litre Civic has a SOHC i-VTEC engine. And because of the car’s turbo, power and torque numbers are much better with maximum power rated at 127kW (versus 92kW) and maximum torque at 220Nm (versus 152Nm).

Top speed is slightly better at 200km/h (instead of 197km/h), but it is with the century sprint that the turbocharged Civic really shines. It clocks in at 8.5 seconds (versus 11.7 seconds), shaving off an amazing 3.2 seconds! And despite the power and speed increase, the smaller capacity car is also more fuel-efficient — rated at 5.9 litres/100km instead of 6.7 litres/100km.

Externally, there are also a few differences with the 1.5-litre Civic getting a sunroof, twin exhaust, chrome door handles (instead of body-coloured door handles), 17-inch alloy rims (instead of 16-inch alloy rims) as well as automatic LED headlights.

There are also a few differences features-wise with the turbocharged Civic having rain-sensing wipers, additional side and side curtain airbags and leather seats (instead of fabric). It also has a LaneWatch System that enhances blindspot visibility with a camera mounted below the left side mirror. The LaneWatch System activates the screen on the dash whenever you signal left. It's disappointing that the LaneWatch System only covers blind spots on the passenger side of the car and not on the driver's side also. Also disappointing is that the LaneWatch System does not actually warn the driver if there's another vehicle in the blind spot. It is only a camera system, and it only covers the passenger side.

On the inside, the car retains the quality, refinement and finish that you’d expect from Honda. The plastic panels take on a brown accent that still looks stylish and contemporary.


In the middle of the dash, sits a 7" touchscreen display (the same screen that the LaneWatch System is displayed on) and audio system that puts out tunes through the car’s 8-speaker sound system. Sound quality is average and could certainly do with an upgrade.

I do like that the car comes with USB and HDMI ports that are easily accessible near the footwell. Although the car does not come with a wireless charging pad, Honda did include a dedicated spot for you to place your mobile phone. And it even comes with useful cable holders to keep your charging cables neatly in place!

The car is spacious enough for most small families and offers plenty of legroom. There are also plenty of storage compartments for all your little knick-knacks. Passengers in the rear will also appreciate the additional aircon vent that helps to cool the rear compartment faster.

The Drive

The 1.5-litre Civic’s DOHC VTEC turbocharged engine offers plenty of power for everyday driving conditions in Singapore.

The car also handles well, and I found the steering to be responsive and sharp. This Civic's upsized 17-inch wheels (the 1.6-litre Civic has 16-inch wheels) help to improve stability in the ride without sacrificing comfort.

I've never been a fan of CVT transmissions, and I find the Civic's Earth Dreams CVT transmission to be a double-edged sword. On the plus side, you'll find acceleration to be flawlessly smooth and power delivery to be very linear when you are driving off from a standstill. But, if you stab at the pedal a bit to get more power, that CVT whine is a sound that I'm really not partial to.

If you want to be even more fuel-efficient, the Civic offers an Econ mode to help further gain more mileage. I quite enjoyed driving on Econ mode as it helps to smoothen the transmission further by keeping the revs down. As such, there's almost no CVT whine on Econ mode.

For those that enjoy manually selecting your gears, the Civic comes with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. On this, I fully agree with Clifford's comment that "with virtual gearing, the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel are rather pointless I feel". Cars with CVT transmissions don't have physical gears. Instead, it uses pulleys that are connected by a belt to give you continuously variable transmission, or CVT.

Our Thoughts

The 1.5-litre DOHC VTEC turbocharged Civic may cost $23,000 more than its 1.6-litre sibling (LX version), but it's a no brainer to splash the extra cash for this VTEC victor.

In every aspect, it outperforms the car with the bigger engine capacity — you get better features, more power, more torque, faster pickup, higher top speed. What’s more, you’ll enjoy cost savings with lower road tax and better fuel economy (rated at 5.9 litres/100km or 16.95 km/litre)!

*All information accurate as at 28 August 2019

Credits: Words by Khim Yap. Photos by Khim Yap and Clifford Chow

Cars in this article
Honda Civic 1.5 Sedan VTEC Turbo (A) 2019

Honda Civic 1.5 Sedan VTEC Turbo (A) 2019

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