HONDA CIVIC MAKES AN IMPRESSIVE COMEBACK

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Honda has launched the latest (10th generation) version of its small-medium Civic sedan. First released in 1973 Civic is not only Honda’s most popular car ever but also sits fifth on the list of the global best-selling passenger cars in history.

The new Civic sedan will go on sale in the second week of June and it can’t come quickly enough for Honda with sales having slumped dramatically over the past two years.

Honda’s latest Civic sedan has a sleeker, bolder fastback style which could be crucial because the updated Civic hatch won’t arrive here for another year and the younger buyers that Honda will be targeting typically opt for hatches over sedans. The bolder style of the new sedan might just sway them.

The range will be completed later in 2017 with the arrival of the first ever Civic Type-R hot hatch.

Unlike the previous model all Gen 10 Civics will come from the same factory, with the same design and specifications.

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Five variants are offered, two (VT-i and VTi-S) with the previous 1.8-litre naturally-aspirated 104 kW / 174 Nm petrol engine, the other three (VTi-L, RS and VTi-LX) powered by an all-new 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol unit with 127 kW and 220 Nm.

Both engines are linked to new-design CVT transmissions with, for the first time with Civic, no manual option. The 1.5-litre comes with paddle shifters.

Infotainment features include USB cabled linking with either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as well as Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. Only the VTi-LX gets dedicated satellite navigation, including SUNA traffic updates. Lower spec models get mapping from their smartphone.

The price-leading VTi gets 16-inch steel wheels. All others step up to alloys, 16-inch in the VTi-S, 17s in the others.

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All models in the Civic range get the standard suite of safety equipment (airbags, enhanced brakes and stability/traction control) that’s effectively found on every new car sold in Australia. These are added to by an emergency stop signal, tyre pressure warning and a three-mode reversing camera.

The Civic VTi-S, VTi-L and RS grades also get a strange feature called LaneWatch which uses a camera mounted behind the left-hand mirror that turns on when the left blinker is used.

The top spec Civic VTi-LX takes safety to a higher level with the Honda Sensing suite that includes Collision Mitigation Braking System; Road Departure Mitigation System; Forward Collision Warning; Lane Departure Warning; Lane Keeping Assist System; and Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow.

New automotive technology is added progressively through the range. Advanced lighting features including halogen projector beam highlights with an auto-off; LED daytime running lights; and integrated LED light bars in the taillights.

Honda has identified the RS variant as its hero model although the enhancements are all on the surface with no performance tweaks. It comes with an integrated body kit, including a gloss black grille, rear spoiler, sunroof and sportier 17-inch wheels.

Based out of Albury the 2016 Civic sedan media launch was one the most comprehensive of the many hundreds that we’ve attended. It started off with the unusual step of allowing us to re-acquaint with the outgoing 9th-generation model, not just visually but during a 70-kilometre drive program to allow a before-and-after comparison.

Following the usual presentations the remainder of the launch was spent driving the new model but also interspersed with hands-on demonstrations of the various new features including the infotainment technology, the adaptive cruise control’s Low-Speed Follow and even lifting the car by hoist to show the new streamlining underneath.

The interior is spacious, stylish and comfortable with an ambience that you don’t always feel in cars of this size. The dashboard is right up to date with a large touchscreen, digital instrument panel and plenty of clever storage ideas.

The boot is large (around 518 litres) with a flat floor and low loading height. Space-saver spares are used in all models.

The new turbo engine should become a major selling point. It’s quiet and efficient with more than enough power and torque for all but the most demanding of drivers. The CVT is well-matched to the engine and seems to avoid most of the annoying fluctuations that bugged earlier examples.

New Civic has a road presence that’s been lacking in recent models and it’s now the sort of car that could cope with a long interstate trip. It’s quiet and comfortable, grips well through corners and has a nice steering feel.

Civic competes in the largest and most competitive segment of the Australian new car marketplace and it has struggled in recent years against the three big guns not only of the segment but the entire passenger market. Between them Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Hyundai i30 accounted for 52 per cent of the sales in the small car segment in 2015. By contrast Civic picked up just two per cent of segment sales.

The 2016 Honda Civic sedan certainly deserves to be scrapping neck-and-neck with its bigger-selling rivals.

The complete 2016 Honda Civic range is:
VTi 1.8-litre petrol four-door sedan: $22,390 (CVT)
VTi-S 1.8-litre petrol four-door sedan: $24,490 (CVT)
VTi-L 1.5-litre turbo-petrol four-door sedan: $27,790 (CVT)
RS 1.5-litre turbo-petrol four-door sedan: $31,790 (CVT)
VTi-LX 1.5-litre turbo-petrol four-door sedan: $33,590 (CVT)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Honda dealer for drive-away prices.

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