Honda Civic 1.8S: Mid-range Executive Motoring Well Up to Mark

By Lee Pang Seng

HONDA Malaysia is not sitting pretty as the rivals in the market step up in their respective model offerings through attractive pricing and updated versions to pander to the whims of prospective buyers. Late last year, the ninth-generation Civic was introduced in an updated form with a better level of equipment and new body aesthetics to stamp its presence more vividly.

The three-model package is continued with the 1.8S serving as the entry level variant but it now comes better featured to make it an attractive buy. At RM113,198.10 on the road with insurance and GST, the Civic 1.8S holds strong appeal as a very attractive proposal, especially with its strong level of appointments against what the rivals have to offer.

We had a weekend with the Civic 1.8S and enjoyed what it had to offer in everyday motoring while revelling some when driving the car through our favourite winding course. The youthful leanings of the Honda brand are clear in the sharply flowing lines of the front, enhanced by the new grille and lower grille assembly. This fast looking profile from a stationary standpoint can be boosted further if one were to consider spending a bit more on the optional Modulo kit.

The Smart Entry feature is now a standard item and a welcomed one; as long as you have the key fob with you in your pockets or the handbag for the lady owner, all you need is to put your hand in the door handle and a sensor will unlock all the doors. To lock them, press the black button on the door handle. It’s more convenient than the remote although that is an option that normally comes with the system should you choose to use it.

And of course there is the other convenience that comes part and parcel of this Smart Entry system; the Stop-Start button. The car would prompt you via the centrally located display to step on the brake and push the button to bring the engine to life. To ‘kill’ the engine, merely press the button again once you have come to a stop and put the gearshift into Park.

We like the digital instrument panel that is housed in the extended cowl section on top of the dashboard. The speedometer provides the speed in numbers and this section is flanked on the sides by a real-time fuel consumption readout in kilometres per litre and the fuel tank level. There are also bar markings that serve to indicate economical driving, starting from blue (uneconomical) to blue green (moderately economical) and green (fuel efficient).

The tachometer remains analogue in relaying engine speed and is housed in a binnacle behind the steering wheel and beneath the digital panel. This appears to be a bit of an afterthought in design as the driver has to look further down from road level to know how far he can push the engine.

That may be irrelevant for a car with automatic transmission as the Civic 1.8S comes with a five-speed automatic. This transmission will have its preset points to upshift hydraulically according to accelerator load. The location of the gearshift is indicated via icons on the side of the tachometer. If you want the transmission to upshift earlier and the engine to go easier on fuel consumption, the green Econ mode button is there to be activated.

The steering comes with two set of controls within thumb reach; the left for the audio system and the right for the cruise function during highway drives. There are no paddle shifts for this model but you can select lower gears sequentially via the gearshift if you want a lower gear for the winding stretches.

Minor storage points may be a little wanting if you want to slot your newspaper in the door pocket, which you can’t as it is rather small. There are, however, adequate cupholders front and rear; the rear ones are in the foldable armrest. The centre console box with lid would be useful for small items. Other convenience items are the one-touch up-and-down driver’s window and retractable door mirrors that are useful when parking in tight spots.

Sitting on a 2670mm wheelbase has given the latest Civic good interior room, with everyone enjoying comfortable space headwise, elbow-wise and legwise. The boot, as expected, looks voluminous to swallow a lot of luggage, which is useful as the Civic does not come with reclining rear seatrests for a more solid body structure.

We were also impressed with the spacious engine compartment as well. You don’t see the four-cylinder engine crammed into a tight compartment as is the case in many modern cars; instead there are actually space on the firewall side and the grille area. Perhaps, this serves as a buffer zone of sort in a frontal collision.

The 1.8-litre engine is quite the exception today in being a single overhead camshaft unit with four valves per cylinder. Honda believes the engine can still deliver decent performance with this design using a chain-driven camshaft system. The engine is undersquare with 81mm bore and 87.3mm stroke to displace 1798cc. Its output is rated at 104kW (141PS) at 6500rpm and 174Nm at 4300rpm.

The Civic 1.8S is not too heavy a car at 1225kg kerb and the power-to-weight ratio is about right; the output should please most in the performance provided. We could mosey along in urban traffic without the engine lagging when going up inclines and a slight prompt of the accelerator would bring up the speed quickly, especially when passing slower vehicles.

We also liked the quiet way in which the Civic motors along; the firewall is reasonably well insulated to keep engine operation distant, even when it was revved up to 4000rpm and beyond. The aerodynamically efficient body profile kept the noise of air turbulence around the door mirrors, roof and sides low, even during some fast drives on the highway. The tyre roar did come through, indicating the various road surfaces. Perhaps better suspension mounts that could absorb the noise would help.

We were also not disappointed when taking the Civic 1.8S through our favourite corners, using a lower gear to get good engine torque. The body roll was nicely controlled and we could carry pretty good speeds through. The Goodyear Eagle NCT 205/55 on 16-inch alloys complemented the MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension well for dynamic control, and the electronic power assist steering gave us sufficient feedback to keep our confidence high. The Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) that comes as standard played its part in keeping the Civic dynamically efficient.

Ride-wise, the Civic could hold its own against rivals; the feel might have a bit harder on initial road impacts but it was not jarring. The suspension’s capacity to absorb impact harshness was fully enjoyed by all on board, which is a boon with the often potholed and bumpy state of our roads.

If you are not too particular about how many airbags you have and could do without the bigger seven-inch info display and navigation system that are standard to the Civic 2.0-litre, the more affordable 1.8S is a bargain with its reasonably high level of equipment and performance. It makes good sense to be practical sometimes.

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