I was really keen to get behind the wheel of the Civic, and that was simply due to the fact that it was a sedan. After a spate of SUVs and MPVs, I was eagerly waiting for a vehicle with a low seating position, and the Civic hits the nail right on the head. Yes, the high seating of SUVs and MPVs do offer a better view out and that’s quite handy, given the terrible state the roads are in. But for me, there is something just magical about driving a vehicle seated low to the ground. You feel more connected with the car, and with the Civic I didn’t even have to begin driving to appreciate this.
Driving position is absolutely spot on.
The low-slung position feels just right, your legs and hands are placed comfortably, with your knees and elbows bent just the right amount, and you sink in with your hips slightly below knee level, and still have decent outside visibility. I couldn’t wait to get moving, but driving a new car requires about a couple of minutes to set up – seat position, outside and inside mirrors and storing knick-knacks like your sunglasses, wallet and, of course, plugging in your phone. While I found the power-only outlet quite easily, ten minutes had gone by and I was still trying to locate the USB with the audio interface connection. I gave up my search and call my colleague Saumil who, after a good laugh, tells me to move my left leg away from the console and shine a torch (it’s nighttime) in that direction. And there it is!
Below the centre-console box is a shelf with the USB, power outlet and an HDMI port too. It’s actually a clever design; the ungainly ports are out of sight and there’s a slot through which you can pass the wires. There’s also two integrated wire clamps to keep things neat and tidy. Unfortunately, it’s all overly complicated. The lower shelf isn’t illuminated, and a phone plugged in does not fit in the centre console and the shelf below is rather shallow too. I wouldn’t recommend keeping anything here as it could slip out easily and get lodged below the pedals.
IT'S COMPLICATED: Not enough space in the shelf to place your plugged-in phone.
That aside, the infotainment system can mirror some information onto the instrument panel display too, giving you two simultaneous outputs. For example, I could access Google Maps on the touchscreen as well as music info on the instrument panel, and vice versa. Another neat touch is navigation data popping up on the IP screen as soon as you flick the turn indicator. This helps, because at this point the centre screen displays the blind-spot camera feed – it’s clear, quite intuitive and easy to use as it gives you a wide view of the left-hand side of the car.
DOUBLE BARREL: It displays the phone’s info on instrument panel as well.
Having only just entered our fleet, I may not have spent a lot of time with the Civic, but I really like – actually let me correct that; ‘love’ – the suspension. Perfectly in sync with the hint the sporty seating position delivers, the Civic turns out to be a real nimble handler, and pointing it through corners on my way home was immense fun. It’s planted and has very little body roll, and I’m quite sure it will keep my daughter from getting car sick too. The ride too is quite comfortable. Yes, it’s a bit stiffly damped but not harsh, and it’s a bit more noticeable at the rear.
POINT OF VIEW: The blind-spot camera offers a clear and wide field of view.
But the brilliant ride and handling magnifies the Civic’s one major weakness – its engine. I’ve only spent time with it in the city, but boy is it weak! At 141hp, power is lower than the Octavia and Elantra, and it shows. Every time I put my foot down for just a small change of pace (like to close a gap) there isn’t enough power, and the gearbox drops a gear or two to serve up momentum – which, when it comes, isn’t really a great deal.
Fuel efficiency thus takes a beating. So far we’ve got a best of 7.8kpl in the city and a low of 6.3kpl. The trouble is, besides the fact that it’s a petrol-auto, due to the inadequate performance from the powertrain, you’ll easily end up overworking it. Sadly the Civic has the legs, just not the heart.
FAINT HEART: Engine performance doesn’t live up to the car’s dynamics.
But I’m quite sure there’s going to be a long line waiting to get their hands on the keys. It’s a comfortable car and such a sweet handler, and like I said – after all the SUVs, I know we’re all simply longing for a nice low-slung sedan.
Photography: Ashley Baxter and Omkar Dhas
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