Honda's all-new Civic five-door hatch, released on the South African market this week, was developed specifically to meet the requirements of the competitive European market.
The development concept, said Honda SA managing director Yoshiaki Nakamura, revolved around a theme of 'Clean-Dynamic', and the resulting shape is 20mm lower and 10mm wider than the outgoing version.
It's all about aerodynamic efficiency: the horizontal brake light also works as a spoiler to manage airflow over the top of the car, while the tail light clusters protrude in just the right place to cut off body-side airflow and reduce turbulence.
A full-length undertray, and larger covers over the rear suspension, help smooth airflow under the car.
The new Civic five-door is available with a tweaked version of Honda's 1.8-litre, 16-valve SOHC i-VTEC, now good for a claimed 104kW at 6500rpm and 174Nm at 4300, driving the front wheels through either a six-speed manual gearbox or a new five-speed automatic with paddle shift.
The range-topping new 2.2-litre i-DTEC turbodiesel engine, however, is available only with a six-speed manual gearbox. Quoted outputs are 110kW at 4000rpm and 350N at 2000.
All Civic five-doors now come with Eco Assist, a sort of video game that coaches drivers on the most fuel-efficient driving style. The system also incorporates a green 'ECON' button that defaults to the most economical settings for the car.
SPRINGS ‘N THINGS
The Civic's MacPherson-type front suspension and electric power steering system have been revised, says Honda, to improve handling, comfort and stability.
And while the basic torsion beam axle layout for the rear suspension has been retained for maximum interior space, it now has more rigid trailing arms and fluid-filled bushes, which are intended to improve stability and handling without sacrificing ride comfort.
The new Civic has already scored a full-house Euro NCAP safety rating, thanks to front, side and curtain airbags as standard kit. Active safety systems include vehicle stability assist, antilock braking with electronic brake-force distribution and emergency brake assist, and a tyre deflation warning system.
The previous Civic was known for its futuristic interior layout; that's been retained but with a more upmarket feel, according to Honda.
The dual-zone dashboard layout presents essential driving and vehicle-related information at the natural point of focus for the driver, while the information interface - including a colour TFT screen that shows vehicle, entertainment, Bluetooth connectivity and support-related data - places audio and aircon controls within easy reach.
The new Civic's wider and lower body produces what Honda claims is the roomiest interior of any C-segment car, with 1431mm of shoulder room between the driver and front seat passenger, and 792mm between the driver and rear seat passenger.
Boot volume is 401 litres, with another 76 litres in a discreet under-floor compartment.
The new i-DTEC Exclusive flagship model comes with a panoramic glass sunroof, a premium sound system with amplifier and subwoofer, Bluetooth hands-free cellphone connectivity (with dedicated buttons on the steering wheel), and high-intensity discharge headlights with auto-levelling sensor and integrated washers.
Also standard on the Exclusive are front and rear parking sensors, with a reversing camera.
1.8 i-VTEC Elegance - R248 000
1.8 i-VTEC Elegance A/T - R261 000
1.8 i-VTEC Executive - R270 000
1.8 i-VTEC Executive A/T - R283 000
2.2 i-DTEC Exclusive - R343 800
Prices include a three-year or 100 000km warranty and a five-year or 90 000km service plan. Service intervals are 15 000km.