It’s the face that could launch a thousand sighs. The new Honda Civic, to be launched in India early March, looks so extraordinary and so futuristic that you park it in the garage of the Avengers and it won’t look out of place. We drive it near Bangalore.
What is the Civic?
If the City made Honda in India, the Civic helped Honda spread its wings globally, including in the tough American market. It’s Honda’s best-selling model in the world (25 million units sold since 1972), and is manufactured in 10 factories and sold in 170 countries.
Honda sold what is globally called the eighth-generation Civic in India from 2006-13 (55,000 units sold). It then skipped the ninth-generation, and now the tenth-generation will be launched next month.
How does it look?
It’s the face of the future Honda. It’s a face that can send most car designers back to school. The new Civic looks edgy, premium, sporty. From the sides it looks like a fastback, from the rear like a coupe. But the front has too much chrome. At over 4.6 metres in length and a wheelbase of 2.7 metres, it’s a big car. Overall, it’s a shape that won’t look old or dated even 10 years from now.
How is the cabin?
The cabin isn’t as radically designed as the exterior; elegant, it nevertheless is. The dashboard look-and-feel is more or less similar to what you find in the City sedan, but there is more use of soft-touch material in the Civic. We drove the top-end variant, which gets features you find in German luxury cars. For example, if you activate the left-turn indicator, a camera on the left-side mirror projects the entire left-side of the road on the central display, detecting blind-spots. The Civic has most driver-assistance features you’d need from a car this size and price.
Space is plenty, but ideally the Civic is comfortable only for four adults—the central transmission tunnel eats up legroom for the fifth passenger. And even though it has a sloping roof, the seats are low and your head won’t scrape the roof. Boot space, at 430 litres, is average.
Which engines power it?
For the first time, the Civic will be available in diesel—the 1597cc engine that produces 118bhp power and 300Nm torque. Mated to a six-speed manual transmission, it has an astonishing fuel-efficiency of 26.8kpl (in ideal test conditions).
The petrol engine is 1799cc; it produces power of 139bhp and torque of 174Nm. Mated to a CVT (continuously variable transmission) gearbox, it returns 16.5kpl.
As of now, the diesel variant will be offered only with a manual gearbox and petrol only with an automatic.
How does it drive?
Diesel: NVH levels are very good, and minimal engine or tyre or wind noise enters the cabin. The engine is not the most powerful in its class (Skoda Octavia sets the benchmark), but it doesn’t feel lethargic at any time (like Toyota Corolla Altis does). Acceleration through the gears, again, is not in the same league as that of the Octavia, but is better than Corolla or Hyundai Elantra.
Petrol: The engine performance is above-average, but the best thing about the petrol is the overall drive feel. Forget outright performance, the joy of travelling in a cabin as quiet as your living room is unmatched. It’s the best petrol car in its class if you simply want to drive from point A to point B in luxury and with ease (courtesy CVT). But if you really want to make the most of the engine power, there are paddle-shifters.
As far as ride and handling is concerned, the car feels balanced, and drives well on both smooth roads and potholes. Its turning radius is 5.85 metres and the ground clearance has been raised by 20mm (compared to international model) for Indian roads—even then, the car is very good at cornering.
How much will it be priced?
Since the Civic is an executive sedan, we expect it’ll be priced in the Rs 18-24 lakh (ex-showroom) range. But at this price point, it’ll also have to compete with the many SUVs in an SUV-crazy market. Nevertheless, the Civic is an aspirational brand, and is a natural upgrade for those who currently drive the City. The new Civic looks like a million dollars. But it’s not just another pretty face, it’s a much improved car compared to the one that was discontinued in 2013.