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 Home » Honda Civic News » We drive the new Honda Civic




We drive the new Honda Civic

12/12/2005

Honda Civic
Yes, Honda's new 5-door Civic hatch is radical, firstly in interior and exterior design, secondly in packaging and versatility and thirdly in clever new i-VTEC engine technology.

One would expect it, not so? A throaty howl starting at 4 500 r/min, gradually rising to an enthusiastic shriek by the time the rev needle maxes out at just over 7 000 revs.

Or think of the new eighth- generation Honda Civic's 1.8- litre i- VTEC- mill as an audio experience not dissimilar to the Honda S2000's, albeit a tad less steroid-induced.

This of course, from a company who dreamt up VTEC- technology to produce riveting top- end performance accompanied by a spine-chilling soundtrack when the second set of cams starts to kick butt at high revs.

Mechanically, VTEC has always pumped iron. But the real charm lies in the audible change of engine acoustics. Mr Hyde becomes Dr Jekyll, and the personality change is signified in no uncertain terms.

In fact, it is shouted out. For upwards of 5 600 r/min, VTEC-engines mean business. This is real Honda territory, when cams, pistons, con rods and the crank churn out a symphony of perfectly synchronized mechanical bliss.

Honda mills enjoy working.

Which comes as no surprise, really, seeing that Honda is the world's largest engine manufacturer. Some 20 million units per year power cars, bikes, boats, lawnmowers and the like with Honda horses.

So, what else would one expect of a company whose engines dominated F1 in the mid-to late-80s and early-90s?

What else, but a lively 1.8-litre 4-cylinder with a terrific sound track, to power their new futuristically styled Civic hatch to stardom?

Models bound for SA

Being the world's largest manufacturer of engines, it virtually follows that the heart of any Honda must be the power plant.

Likewise with the new Civic range, which really consists of two separate model lines, based on two different platforms: the 4-door sedan (which debuts in SA in just more than a month's time), and the 5-door hatch (which follows in the middle of 2006).

Wheels24 recently drove two variants of the 5- door hatch in the south of France, and both impressed - the 1.8 i-VTEC with its lovely shriek and lively performance, at least at sea level, and the 2.2 CTDi with a willing common rail turbo-diesel, served by second generation Bosch injection on an all- aluminium 16-valve 2.2-litre.

The latter is exceptional, not only for strong mid- range punch, but also because it drives easily at both the bottom and top ends of the rev range, a somewhat uncommon phenomenon amongst diesel mills with their penchant for sluggish off-boost performance below 2 000 r/min, combined with a stone-walled zone above 4 500 r/min.

Like VW's new 2-litre diesel, the 2.2 CTDi revs to 5 000 r/min, which provides just a little bit of breathing space at crucial moments.

Even though the last 500 revs does nothing in terms power hikes, it does mean you're not forced to change gears at uncomfortable moments.

Honda is, like the other Japanese manufacturers, waiting for local diesel fuel to be cleaned up before the 2.2 CTDi will be a proposition.

In the mean time we will concentrate on the 1.8 i-VTEC, as even the 1.3-litre petrol unit (already known to SA via the Jazz, but now with a new intake system and drive-by-wire) will not make it to our shores. At least not in the Civic.

The 5-door hatch, furthermore, will only be driven over here via Honda's newly developed 6- speed manual transmission, with the brand new 6-speed electro-hydraulic box called i-SHIFT as a possibility for later release.

The 4-door sedan, however, will be powered via the 1.8 i-VTEC coupled to the 6-speed manual or a newly developed 5-speed auto box.

Brilliant packaging

The message transmitted by the throaty new 1.8 i-VTEC is immediately obvious, of course: Honda has returned to its sporty roots, last seen in the super- handling sixth- generation Civic with its low and wide stance.

Which is not to say that the lessons learnt from the more upright, functionally friendlier seventh- generation Civic have been forgotten.

Instead, Honda has achieved the remarkable feat of lowering and shortening the eighth-generation Civic hatch - including a substantial reduction in wheelbase (from 2 680 to 2 635 mm) - without shrinking interior space.

Which all points to one single factor: brilliant packaging, no doubt helped along by a fuel tank placed under the front seats.

Combined with a torsion beam rear axle to free up boot space and provide for a fully flat floor once the 60:40 split seats have been folded forward and glided - quite easily, it has to be said - into the rear footwells, the new Civic's interior offers class-leading accommodation all around.

Another very useful option is to simply tilt the seat squabs upwards, to create a massive free space directly behind the front seats, measuring more than 1.2 m from car floor to ceiling - big enough for small children to stand upright in (to change bathing trunks, for instance, when holidaying by the sea).

Used to its full capacity, including a well in the boot floor (which could also be utilised for a full-sized spare wheel if a space saver or tyre seal package is not to your liking), the boot itself stretches to 485 litres, just 15 litres short of a Merc E-Class's volume.

The downsides are two-fold:

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We drive the new Honda Civic
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