Where the FD Civic was a smash when it first came out, the new FB takes a more conservative approach: less exotic Brazilian supermodel and more sexy librarian. Understated, but with curves in all the right places.
The interior carries over the split-level dashboard theme of the old car, but with more space for instrumentation on the upper tier. Particularly nice is the multi-display info-screen, which includes an integrated back-up camera. Plastics don’t feel up to par with the high standards set by the FD sedan, and the sliding center armrest is gone, but it’s still good compared to the competition. Plus, Honda has sculpted even more space out of the car by adjusting the dashboard, armrests, and seats. The old Civic was already very spacious. The new one is almost Accord-like.
While the rear seats are a bit low, the front seats are perfect. Gone are the torturously stiff backrests of old (yay!), which are now replaced by softer foam. Thigh bolsters are still tight, but they’re more supportive than suffocating.
Honda Civics have always been sportier than your common everyday commuter. From the spunky little EF hatchback to the screaming SiR, the Civic has provided (relatively) low-cost high-octane entertainment to generations of motoring enthusiasts. At first blush, this one seems promising. The well-bolstered seats and small leather-wrapped steering wheel are perfect for hard driving. Unfortunately, the car has other ideas. This is the first Civic to come with an “ECON” mode, as seen on the new CR-V. This mode alters throttle response, transmission logic, and other parameters to increase fuel economy.
In “ECON” mode, driving the Civic is as close to the electric car experience as you can get for this money. It’s quiet, smooth, and refined. Also boring. Turn it off, and you get peppier acceleration, a little more snarl from the venerable R18 engine under the hood and...
...that’s about it.
The new electronic power steering is vague and numb. The suspension is tuned more for comfort than curves. Where the FD would stick like a ninja and cut like a razor blade, this new car obviously hasn’t been listening to Vanilla Ice. It’s not a poor-driving car, but it doesn’t encourage the shenanigans that previous Civics did.
So it’s not a sports sedan. Instead, it’s quiet, smooth, and comfortable 0 much more so than any Civic that came before it. The unobtrusive ECON lights help you see whether you’re driving economically (the dashboard lights up green) or wastefully (blue, blue, blue). Ergonomics are second to none. Space is out of this world. Think the City has an impressive trunk? The Civic’s trunk is hu-u-uge. There’s enough space there to fit a baby stroller, crib, assorted baby bags, groceries, luggage for the weekend trip... and even the baby.
That 140 hp R18 is still a powerful, economical alternative to the 2.0s you can buy in this price range, and returned between 7-12 km/l in mixed driving with up to nearly 18 km/l on the highway. Not bad for an “old” engine mated to a “mere” five speed automatic. I’d ask for a paddle shift, but that doesn’t match the car’s personality.
More Sugar, Less Snark
The Civic may not be the enthusiast’s car anymore, but it’s now a thinking man’s car. Unfortunately, the thinking man may be turned off by the rather high Japanese import price. At P1.074 million, the Civic is more expensive than other 1.8 liter offerings, but that doesn’t seem to be hurting sales. Honda sold 598 units last March - all made in Japan, all over P1 million. Imagine what sales will be like when the Thai version gets here.
Honda did right by the Civic. They fixed things that needed fixing, and left alone things that didn’t. Unfortunately, they’ve strayed from their core audience, and I can’t help but feel a bit sad that some of the spicy flavour has gone. Like “American Idol” post-Simon Cowell, the new Civic is pure, inoffensive vanilla gelato. But while there are those of us who will miss the Brit’s caustic sarcasm, sooner or later, everyone has to settle down and grow up.
Besides, there’s always “X-Factor”.