New Civic could easily be mistaken for the previous generation, especially from the front.
New Civic could easily be mistaken for the previous generation, especially from the front.
Nip-and-tuck operation is more obvious frpm the rear.
Nip-and-tuck operation is more obvious frpm the rear.
Interior has been tidied up to the point where it looks almost understated.
Interior has been tidied up to the point where it looks almost understated.

This all-new Honda Civic isn't a huge departure from the previous version.

In terms of looks alone, especially from the front, the new model could easily be mistaken for the previous generation which was sold in South Africa for the past five years, and also won SA's Car of the Year in 2007.

That said, the ninth-generation compact sedan is an all-new model with more efficient engines, repackaged interior and redesigned chassis.

IT'S A SIPPER

On the engine front, this generation sees the introduction of a 1.6-litre engine, which brings the base price of the range down to just below the R210 000 mark.

The engine still employs Honda's two-stage i-VTEC system and produces respectable outputs of 92kW at 6500rpm and 151Nm at 4300rpm. According to Honda, you can expect a 0-100km/h sprint time of 9.6 seconds at the coast, a 200km/h top speed and average fuel consumption of 6.7 litres per 100km.

The familiar 1.8-litre engine is also available, and it's been updated to reduce its fuel appetite. The motor puts out 104kW at 6500rpm and 174Nm at 4300rpm for a claimed 8.8-second 0-100 run. The top speed and fuel consumption match those of the 1.6.

Both engines can be had with either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearbox.

BUT IT HUFFS AND PUFFS

Strangely, no 1.6-litre models were available to sample at the car's Knysna-based media launch this week, but our writer, Jesse Adams, did get to sample the 1.8 with both gearboxes:

“As you'd probably guess, these small sedans aren't known for their performance prowess, especially considering the brand's focus on greener motoring, and some of the test route's long straights saw the Civic huffing and puffing quite heavily.” Jesse said.

“A short fifth gear ratio (manuals are 5-speed only) didn't help the situation either, and the automatics also rev quite high at standard South African b-road speeds.

A GOOD STEER

“Thankfully the Civic's direct steering, which has been one of its strong points for decades over various models, makes up for lack of grunt,” Jesse added.

“It's a new electronically assisted system that keeps the Honda-typical lightness, and over some of Oudtshoorn's more challenging passes the car turned out to be quite a keen handler.”

For the record this new Civic, like the best of its rivals, boast a fully independent multi-link suspension set-up at the back in addition to a revised McPherson strut suspension at the front end.

SMALLER, YET ROOMIER

From a packaging point of view, though, the new Civic is a completely different car.

More space efficient, it offers more interior room despite the car's length being reduced by 15mm and the wheelbase by 30mm. Luggage room is also up, from 389 litres to 440.

Jesse describes the cabin as being similar to that of its predecessor, but he did take a liking to its new colour display in the two-tiered instrument cluster, which displays on-board computer info as well as iPod album art and entertainment details.

That said, he was disappointed a little about the speedometer placement, which just as it is in other current Hondas, is obstructed by the steering wheel: “A silly oversight in my opinion, although some taller journalists commented it wasn't a problem for them.”

AND IT'S KITTED

Finally, the range offers three trim levels and even the entry-level Comfort is well equipped with the likes of 15-inch alloy wheels (with full-sized spare), MP3/CD/Aux audio system, air conditioning and electric windows and mirrors.

In addition to all that, the Comfort trim adds curtain airbags and heated side mirrors to the mix while the flagship Elegance throws in 16-inch alloys, automatic climate control, leather seats, multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth cellphone connectivity as well as USB and iPod slots.

PRICING:

1.6 Comfort - R209 900

1.6 Comfort AT - R221 900

1.8 Comfort - R229 900

1.8 Comfort AT - R241 900

1.8 Elegance - R259 900

1.8 Elegance AT - R271 900

1.8 Executive - R269 900

1.8 Executive AT - R282 900

Prices include a five-year/90 000km service plan and three-year/100 000km warranty.