2019 Honda Civic: First Drive Review

Honda’s iconic Civic sedan is back after a break. Does it still have the magic to make you stop thinking rationally?

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 2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

25 million Honda Civics were bought around the globe over its 10 generations. Icon, right? In our neck of the woods, the Civic story is a lot younger. It started off in 2006 with the futuristic-looking 8th generation Civic, which gave Honda a cool halo and won fans for speaking with its heart rather than just the head. While it wasn’t the most practical sedan, it scaled heights that its rivals could only dream of. The Civic stirred up the passion and imagination of the play-it-safe Indian car buyer. And then, it disappeared.

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

The 9th gen Civic that followed had a troubled beginning and chose to skip India. Now, half a decade of Civic-less existence later, the nameplate is roaring back into India. In the meantime, the executive sedan club has grown more varied and more appealing, and who can forget the rise of SUVs. So, will the new Civic make a mark and talk to your heart? Maybe ask you to open up your wallet too? We answer a few questions to see if the recipe spells success.

Update: The Civic has been priced at Rs 17.7 lakh to Rs 22.3 lakh accross India. The petrol CVT is available in three variants V, VX and ZX and the diesel manual is available only in the VX and ZX. Full details are here.

Q1 - Looks like a boss?

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

This tenth gen Civic looks smashing! Swoopy, isn’t it? Honda has squashed it down, making its roof lower by 17mm compared to the 8th gen car. The squashing has resulted in it becoming longer (by 111mm compared to the 8th Gen) and wider (by 49mm compared to the 8th Gen).

The India Civic uses the subtle tweaks that Honda brought with the facelift in other markets. Yes, it has come to India late in its lifecycle. But, it’s here to wow. There is no shortage of determination or strength in the lines that race up the hood or as they carve up the sides. The roofline flows down as it would on a two-door car, making it look almost like a fastback.

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

Watching it move down the road, the glare of the full-LED headlamps on the top end ZX variant we were driving made it look all the more mesmerising. The futuristic 17” alloy wheels make it look properly head turning too. The rear could be accused of being a bit of a hit or a miss because of the XL-sized tail lamps on the tightly packaged rear. But, the lamps with LED elements look stunning in the dark. So, there’s no doubt that the Civic has upped the Civic sense!

2) Does it feel Honda enough?

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

Over the last couple of years, Honda has been working hard to bring the OG Honda ‘feels’ back into their cars. The Amaze was a step in the right direction, the CR-V too, and the Civic states this emphatically. The Civic’s cabin, which we wouldn’t call lavish, is certainly upmarket. There is the right use of soft-touch materials and premium looking inlays. More importantly, it is accompanied by a sense of quality and durability that reminds us of the second-generation City. Feel it. Yes.

If you are expecting a revolution in cabin design coolness levels, don’t. The Civic isn’t breaking any mould this time around. The design is crisp and angular and could be considered a more sophisticated iteration of the City’s driver focussed layout. It also shares a lot with the CR-V, like the chunky steering wheel, the 7” digital display (nope, no dual-layered setup this time around) for the driver and the infotainment screen that also incorporates some of the controls for the air conditioning system. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay? Of course.

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

The cabin has plenty of feel-good bits too like light coloured leather seats, a remote engine start that will allow you to cool the car before you get in (petrol only!), Honda’s super useful Lane Watch assist that sends a video feed to the infotainment screen from the passenger side ORVM, an 8-way adjustable powered seat, a sunroof with one-touch operation, and dual-zone climate control. And did we mention, there are six airbags as standard? There are plenty of intelligent storage spaces in the cabin. The rear occupants get air-con vents too but the lack of charging sockets is galling. But there’s something the Civic isn’t missing this time around. Next question.

3) Has better boot space, right?

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

Nope. Forget about extraordinary, at 430 litres the boot space isn’t even ordinary. The segment topper, a certain Czech bomb, has 590 litres! The comparison that will really get you is with the Civic’s younger sibling, the City. Yep, at 510 litres the City betters the Civic by a fair margin. So, what’s better now?

4) Does it have the ground clearance and rough road capability?

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

This was a genuine problem area with the Civic of old but, well, not anymore. For India the tenth generation Civic has been raised 20mm at the front and 15m at the rear. Honda hasn’t shared an official ground clearance figure, but 170mm (unladen) has been suggested. What matters more is that loaded with three occupants and some luggage, the Civic keeps its chin and belly clean as it clambers over speed breakers and down dusty paths.

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

What is even more impressive was the way the Civic sails over poor roads. The longer-travel suspension gobbles up most surprises and even the rudest ones are muffled by bump stops that are taller by 15mm! The lower variants with 16” wheels will be even better at dealing with our roads. Imagine that!

Since we are on the topic of comfort...

5) Is it better in the second row? More spacious?

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

Although the Civic has grown bigger in every which way, it isn’t a game changer in terms of backseat experience. The low roof and seat will make getting in and out more laborious for older occupants. The tapering windows cut into the sense of openness further. To balance this Honda chose light colours for the seat and door pad upholstery. The low hip point (lower by 20mm) also eats into the under-thigh support.

Taller occupants will have to stretch out their legs to find a comfortable seating position but thankfully, the knee room on offer is healthy and the seats are cushy too. If you are taller than six feet, the headroom will be a concern. Honda claims that shoulder room has increased by 40mm but it doesn’t feel like a genuine three-seater in the back, or better than the 8th gen car in this regard. If you notice, there is no headrest for the middle passenger either. There’s also the matter of the prominent hump in the floor. We don’t think Honda engineers thought of this as a genuine three seater either.

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

But step into the driver’s seat, which is also set lower by 20mm (compared to the 9th gen Civic), and it all starts to feel right. You sit low and stretched out like you would expect to in an open-wheeled racer. The tilt and reach adjustable steering lets you get into the right position and even tall drivers won’t feel cramped here. The armrest falls perfectly to hand, er, elbow and focuses you on the track ahead. Snap out of it, it might feel racy, but it’s a road car. So...

6) Does it handle?

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

The Civic really connects with you, what started with the seating position also extends to the steering. The variable ratio steering rack makes it responsive when you chuck in into a corner while letting you feel the pebbles the front wheels are grinding down on. Your enthusiasm won’t be let down by the chassis, which proved to be lively and confident. The all-independent suspension also limits body roll well, just squishing a bit to the outside before settling and giving you the confidence to hold your line. Honda’s Agile Handling Assist makes the Civic feel nippy and if you should overdo it the Vehicle Stability Assist will help clean things up. The brakes, discs on all corners, are absolutely super too, with a strong bite and good feel at the pedal. But it could have done better in one area.

7) The engines - smile-inducing or not?

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

The Civic for the first time offers a petrol and a diesel engine. The 141PS 1.8 litre petrol is all too familiar. Some tweaks to the intake and exhaust claim to improve responsiveness, but the difference would be hard to make out as the engine is now mated to a fuel-efficient transmission option - a CVT. Let me be clear, the petrol is NOT available with a manual transmission. Sure, the CVT offers seven steps, or gears, and steering mounted paddles to select the gears, but these don’t do much to build the sense of excitement when in the mood to hustle. Even on highways, overtakes will require some planning. In the city, the CVT is smooth and intuitive, responding to light or heavy prods from your right foot with a fitting amount of urgency. Honda claims a fuel efficiency of 16.5kmpl for the petrol, which is over 3.5kmpl more than the older Civic!

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

So if you want a manual, you’ll have to pick the diesel. The 120PS 1.6 litre diesel ditches the 9-speed auto transmission as seen on the CR-V for a six-speed manual. This delivers a segment-busting 26.8kmpl, company-claimed of course. This number, while hard to believe in a 1353kg sedan, is thanks to the tall gearing. The Civic, revved to its near 5000rpm redline, will hit an indicated 90kph in second gear!! Whether you rev it hard or at idle, the engine is suitably muted and smooth. Thankfully, the engine makes enough torque at low RPMs for you to sail through the city or cruise down highways calm and smooth. But overtakes will require you to work the stubby gear lever, which is perfectly positioned. Sadly, we can’t say the same about the shifts, which felt a bit clunky and vague.

So are these engines smile-inducing? That depends, on whether you want a relaxed and capable sedan or a hooner.

8) What could be better?

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

Well, Honda has packed the Civic with features and equipment. The 8-speaker music system, height-adjustable seatbelts at the front, a three-point seatbelt for the middle passenger at the rear, ISOFIX seat mounts, electronic park brake and hill hold assist make it well packaged. However, ambient lighting, a larger and sharper touchscreen, and a powered passenger seat would have made the experience far richer.

9) Is it pricey?

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

The tenth generation Civic has arrived in India in the second half of its lifecycle. Because of this, the localisation levels are only about 30 per cent. As expected the base variants do miss out on some wow features but they are not entirely stripped down. Prices start at Rs 17.7 lakh for the base V petrol CVT and reach up to Rs 22.3 lakh (pan India prices) for the top end ZX diesel manual.

10) Would you buy one? Which one?

2019 Honda Civic First Drive Review

So, the Civic makes a comeback and despite its imperfectness, reinforces the need for sedans in a world of SUVs. The “completeness” quotient of the Civic isn’t significantly higher than before, but its appeal factor is. Significantly. The connection it makes, be it the sense of excitement for the driver or the calmness in the backseat, makes you want to overlook its lack of punch and space in the backseat. So, if we had to choose, we’d pick the manual gearbox and learn to live with the diesel. A petrol manual Civic ZX would've been the combination we would pick blindly. But, for now, we can’t. So, for a little bit longer we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

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  • Deepak | 7 months ago Seriously KS... You think you are the mad scientist... But fact remains you ain't no scientist but a nerd and no you're not mad... You plain imbecile! Sticking to just the edit content and avoiding all ...Read More 0 Reply

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