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 Home » Honda Civic News » 'No, vicar, that really is a Honda Civic. More tea?'

'No, vicar, that really is a Honda Civic. More tea?'

Honda's radical new five-door Civic has just been launched in South Africa, one model only, but a car as different to the accepted concept of this automaker's homely family vehicles as a showgirl at a Mother's Union tea afternoon.

A showgirl, however, with excellent pedigree, impeccable manners, great fashion sense, good schooling; a little fast, perhaps, but nevertheless acceptable in rather more conservative circles despite having a cute nose and a very, very sexy tail.

A lass-about-town who might cause the vicar to purse his lips a trifle on first glance but, on closer acquaintance, welcome as a worthy parishioner with whom being seen in public would not require later penance

Honda, in short, has produced a car that'll be as popular with the boys as with the girls – in a purely platonic way, of course – and turn heads to neck-cricking point in shopping-mall car-parks, on city freeways and even standing on the gravel chips outside the Village Hall.

In automotive terms, she's one-of-a-kind though she does have a younger sister who's considerably more flashy – that's the Civic Type R which will arrive in South Africa in about a year from now wearing full-length skirts and carrying a whole different attitude. Much naughtier but, from what I've heard, still very nice

But back to the Honda Civic five-door – sure, it's a mundane name for such a different set of wheels but chosen, I'm told, because the automaker didn't want to spin off a whole new branding exercise and possibly tarnish the Civic's reputation for comfort, reliability and performance developed over the past 20-odd years.

The five-door is, however, a unique car despite simply carrying a Civic logo on its aerofoil-equipped and high-lifting tail door. It shares the 1.8-litre, 103kW, i-VTEC engine of other Honda models and a number of interior features but is otherwise assembled on a completely different platform.

"The engine," Honda says, "provides levels of driveability, fuel efficiency, exhaust emissions and performance that confirm our outstanding reputation for advanced engine technology and our position as the world's largest engine manufacturer."

It's hooked to a six-speed manual gearbox whose shifter, sprouts on a ball-type mounting from the fascia rather than the floor and if stirred vigorously (Honda engines just love revs) will haul the car to 100km/h in 8.6sec and on to a top speed slightly in excess of 200km/h.

The 1.8-litre unit will be the only one available for now; a 2.2-litre diesel already in use in the Honda Accord is being considered, however, and Honda's experts in Japan are analysing SA's latest "cleaner" diesel fuels.

The steering wheel is adjustable, the pedals are of fashionable naked aluminium with rubber studs and there's a large left-foot rest of similar design. The driving position is excellent – the seat is 50mm higher than on earlier models – and the instruments and driving data are displayed on four screens on two levels.


Honda hasn't, however, taken into consideration the bright sun of Africa and unfortunate reflections can make the information disappear into a grey haze as the light refracts through the plastic coverings. Annoying, but not enough to discourage purchase of the car.

Honda says the Civic has "a near-futuristic, high-tech and sporty cockpit" and calls the fascia assembly, which uses a combination of soft and hard plastics, its Dual Link design. Some of the instruments have a three-dimensional look; speed is displayed digitally through the top of the steering wheel while other less-important information comes from a "multiplex" array visible through the lower half.

The electronic display occupying the upper portion also features a rev-counter, the lower the odometer with two trip-distance meters, outside temperature, trip data display (instant fuel consumption, tank range, average speed, average fuel economy, elapsed time) and an enlarged warning light area.

The multi-functional steering wheel retains the current Honda layout. On the top left are the audio remote control switches and on the opposite side cruise control.

Honda has got clever with its rear seats to greatly improve functionality and versatility and says the boot is the largest in its class "by a substantial margin" - even bigger than some D-segment cars.

Dive-down feature

The average is around 320 litres but the Civic five-door has 485 litres with the rear seats deployed and 1352 litres to the window with them folded which will, the automaker says, take three mountain bikes (front wheels removed and the rear seats folded down), three large Samsonite cases or three standard golf bags.

But wait, there's more… the rear seats also have a one-motion, dive-down feature that instantaneously creates a flat load space on the rear floor – think tall pot plants standing upright behind the front seats, for instance. The action is quick, requires only one hand, and locks into place.

There's also a compartment beneath the normal boot floor that's big enough to take the equivalent of a piece of aircraft-sized hand luggage – out of sight, out of somebody else's mind.

The left side of the fascia carries an illuminated 14-litre glove-box, a large centre pocket, removable ashtray, a 6.9-litre centre-console box (doubles as a front armrest), a multi-use double cup holder with a sliding lid, and each of the four side doors can take a 500ml bottle as well as paperwork.

The new Civic will be one of the safest cars in its class, with all the current safety features from front and side-curtain crash bags through anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and electronic brake pressure control to each wheel to anti-whiplast active front head restraints.

Stock limited

Honda also expects the Civic to achieve EuroNCAP ratings of five stars for front and side impact safety, three for pedestrian safety and four for child protection safety.

Stock is, however, limited for South Africa. The cars are assembled at one plant only – in Swindon, England – to supply all of Europe. South Africa is one of the few countries outside that area to get the Civic hatch and Honda SA is expecting to sell around 70 a month.

More plants are in the process of going on line and should improve production by about 400 000 cars a month.

  • The new Honda Civic five-door is priced at R204 000 and comes with a five-year or 100 000km service plan and a year's roadside assistance. Service intervals are 15 000km.


  • 'No, vicar, that really is a Honda Civic. More tea?'
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