Garry Fabian road tests and reviews the 2013 Honda Civic.
The Honda Civic remains an enduringly popular model for the Japanese brand and, now into its ninth generation, the small car has racked up more than 20 million global sales since 1972.
Honda’s latest Civic range was released from the outset with the hatchback being a far cry from the previous generation that saw Honda Australia notoriously import the hatch from England years after the sedan with price tags that made the Volkswagen Golf look like strong value!
The Honda Civic hatch is again shipped from its production plant in the UK (the sedan comes from tariff-free Thailand), though this time its pricing is more palatable – starting from $22,650.
Choices remain limited for the hatch, however.
Where the Civic sedan is offered in five trim levels, including a hybrid version, the hatch is either a VTi-S base model or higher-spec, auto-only VTi-L.
It’s a fairly steep financial leap to the VTi-L, too, which starts from $29,990, and that will be a tough ask for those buyers wanting their Civic hatch to have notable features such as cruise control and Bluetooth (either connectivity or audio streaming, though the former can be added as an accessory option).
In addition to cruise and audio streaming, the Civic VTi-L includes a rear-view camera, fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone air-conditioning, electrically retractable side mirrors, sporty aluminium pedals, heated seats, one touch power windows front and rear, leather steering wheel and leather appointed seats.
The cloth seats in the base Civic hatch may not feel as luxurious, but there’s no question of their comfort.
Honda has also put some effort into furnishing the Civic hatch’s cabin with a good selection of materials and plastics that are soft to the touch, mixed – inevitably at this price point – with harder surfaces.
The Civic is another Honda to feature an interior influenced by the Insight and CR-Z hybrids, and that brings both positives and negatives.
The design has an element of space-age modernity to it, as did the previous Civic hatch, though there are some familiar ergonomic issues – the worst of which is the high-set digital speedo that can be easily obscured by the top of the steering wheel.
Rear vision is also poor, hindered by an integrated tail-light/spoiler design that dissects the back window.
The deep dashboard creates a sense that you’re quite a long way back in the car, though at least the driver-oriented centre stack is within reach. Its buttons are also in easy sight because Honda continues to use large, capped type as if it’s acknowledging its average buyer is likely to be myopically challenged.
There’s good space for adults front and rear, though the cabin particularly excels at practicality.
There’s a wealth of storage spaces, but the Civic hatch’s trump card is again its so-called Magic Seats.
Based on the clever, flexible seat-folding system first seen in the Honda Jazz city car, the 60/40 split rear seat cushions can be folded upwards to create an alternative cargo area easily accessed via the rear doors (which open via hidden handles).
If the rear seats are in use, the Honda Civic hatch’s deep boot is still decently sized at 400 litres (50L more than a Golf’s boot, for example) and includes a luggage net.
The rolling refinement of the Honda Civic is a good match for the Golf; it’s a quiet car whose supple ride is also Golf-like, absorbing the surface irregularities of churned city streets or deteriorating country roads.
Combined with a steering wheel that feels sporty and offers linear progression from lock to lock, and a manual gear-shift that is one of the best in the segment, the Honda Civic is a pleasant if not exactly rewarding car to drive.
It’s competent on twisty roads but the steering lacks feel and the base model’s 16-inch tyres have more limitations than the Civic’s chassis, leading to under-steer early on.
The ride and handling is admirable, though, considering the Civic still employs a torsion-beam rear suspension layout when its best-in-class rivals (Golf, Mazda3, Ford Focus) all employ more expensive and more sophisticated multi-link set-ups.
The engine isn’t the most flexible unit however. A lack of low-end torque is something of a Honda trait, and there’s no bucking the trend here with just 174Nm of torque, produced at 4300rpm, not helping drive-ability.
The Civic does attempt to help you save fuel – whether you like it or not – with a gear indicator in the manual model and Eco Assist that comprises light bars next to the digital speedo that glow green, bluey-green then blue to indicate whether you’re driving behaviour is, in order, good, okay or bad from a consumption point of view.
Drivers can also press a green ECON button on the dash to retard throttle response. In addition the current model also features the “A button” when on the engine will “rest” when stopped at lights and “turn on “ again when the clutch is depressed.
This takes a little getting used to initially, as you get the impression the engine has stopped. But the advantage is it extends the fuel economy a little further.
For small car buyers looking for a spacious, well built and cleverly practical hatch, the Honda Civic has much appeal.
Honda’s rate of progress seems to have slowed of late and the Civic hatch doesn’t feel like a major advance over its predecessor – leaving plenty of areas for improvement for the 10th-generation model.
Unlike the sedan, the hatch’s pricing/equipment set-up that sees the entry-level model falling short on some key standard features and the only other variant being expensive doesn’t help matters.
NUTS and BOLTS – 2013 Honda Civic Hatch
Engine: 1.8 litre petrol producing 103kW and 174Nm
Transmission: Five-speed manual or five-speed automatic
Safety: Five stars
Origin: United Kingdom
Price: From $22,650