The Civic comes with a 1.8-litre petrol engine mated to a CVT, while the 1.6 diesel comes only with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Both engines have modest power outputs and, sadly, neither live up to the Civic’s sporty image.
The 1.8 i-VTEC motor is essentially the same naturally aspirated petrol motor that powered the first Civic, but it has been upgraded to meet the latest emission standards and in the process produces more power as well but not enough by today’s class standards. Maximum output is a modest 141hp, which is one of the lowest amongst its rivals (1hp more than the Corolla Altis) and not surprisingly, the Civic is outgunned off the traffic lights. A 0-100kph time of 11.48sec is a whole second slower than the Elantra (who would have thought that?) and more than three sec behind the Octavia. The saving grace is that it manages to beat its erstwhile rival, the Toyota Corolla, which is nearly a second adrift. The petrol Civic’s performance figures are far from thrilling and will certainly disappoint enthusiasts but some consolation can be found in the rev-happy nature of this i-VTEC motor, which is silky smooth and happy to spin with full gusto to its 6,400rpm rev limit.
Paddleshifters offer a bit of that manual connect in the petrol-auto.
In fact, to get the most of out of this engine, you have the rev the guts out of it because the mid-range is pretty flat and lifeless and it only wakes up past 4,500rpm. It’s at times like these you wish you had a manual gearbox, but it won’t be an option even in the future.
That’s not to say the CVT is bad. In fact, this is possibly the best CVT we have driven and the seven ‘steps’ programmed into the transmission work quite well, giving you a bit of a manual transmission feel via the paddles.
Where the CVT really scores is in city traffic. It’s responsive and reacts quickly even to the smallest of throttle inputs. The linear power delivery, which only a CVT can deliver, makes the Civic an exceptionally smooth car in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
No rear armrest audio controls like the ones in the older-gen Civic.
Our expectations with the diesel were even lower, considering its pretty modest output. Power and torque figures of 120hp and 300Nm is a bit of a mismatch in a car that looks fast even when it’s parked. The reality is that like the petrol Civic, the diesel variant too lags behind its main rivals in the litmus 0-100kph test with a time of 11.15sec, making it slower than both the Octavia and the Elantra; the gap, however, is not as wide as with the petrol equivalents.
At low speeds, and in the urban crawl, you won’t miss the lack of power because the 1.6 diesel engine, just like the 1.5 diesels in the Amaze and City, on which it’s based, is very responsive from low speeds. It’s when you go faster that you feel the lack of mid-range punch and the need to constantly shift down to extract the maximum out of the engine. It helps that this motor revs to 4,900rpm, which is impressive for a diesel and, to some extent, helps compensate for the relaxed power delivery. The Civic diesel comes with unduly tall gearing and that blunts its performance considerably. The 6-speed manual gearbox, with its short-throw gear lever, is fun to operate but the clutch is a bit heavy and can be ponderous over long periods in stop-start traffic.
While there are vents, annoyingly there’s no provision to charge your smartphone at the rear.
The 1.6 has been fettled with a lot of sound-deadening material and is pretty refined. You can still hear the diesel clatter but it’s not obtrusive and the engine feels best when you don’t rev it too hard.
To sum up, both engines do the job and are adequate for daily driving, especially for city use, but when it comes to sheer performance it falls short of the enthusiast’s expectations.