2012 All-New Honda Civic Malaysia Media Test Drive & Full Review
Following up on the launch of the all-new 2012 Honda Civic two weeks ago, Honda Malaysia has brought us on a media test drive from Kuala Lumpur to Penang, and back, leaving us a good impression of what the ninth-generation Civic has to offer against its fellow Japanese rivals, up-and-coming Korean alternatives and the premium-imaged European competitors.
All 2012 Honda Civic variants, the 1.8, the 2.0, the 2.0 Navi and the Hybrid 1.5, come with the rather nice 4" color LCD display that shows all important vehicle information such as fuel consumption, settings, radio station, CD/mp3 song list etc. This comes nicely integrated into the two-tier dash that is now Civic’s trademark. The entire range also comes with the ECO button that regulates throttle input and transmission logic, optimizing fuel consumption to achieve better overall fuel economy by training the drivers to drive in a more linear manner.
Main differences between the variants are, the 1.8 is equipped with fabric seats, standard build-in stereo with mp3 and USB support. The 2.0 has the same features but with paddle shifters, one-touch boot release, leather seats and keyless entry with engine push start button. The higher-spec 2.0 has extras such as GPS, multimedia and bluetooth telematics system. The 1.5 hybrid comes with leather seats and engine auto start/stop, along with the standard stereo unit with mp3 and USB support.
The key differences on the engine front compared with the 8th Gen, is that instead of the famed double overhead cams present in all Honda Civics since the 90s, the new Civic’s engines now make do with single overhead cams. While it might sound like there’s some giveaway here, yet reality proves that the new Civic delivers comparable (slightly higher) power output compared with the old one. Honda cites that the tuning of ECU and improvements in optimizing airflow intake and exhaust have resulted in the capability of removing one camshaft, but yet still maintaining performance, and at the same time, reducing weight, bulk and servicing needs by reducing moving parts in the engine bay.
Another difference is that the ingenious solution of placing the handbrake lever next to the gear shifter to free up cubby space in the center console is no longer around; the handbrake lever returning to where they were. Honda cites that based on their surveys, many previous owners complained that the handbrake lever stands in the way of the gear shifter, which we did not recall being a problem in the previous 8th Gen Civic, especially given that most of them are automatic slushboxes.
Lastly, with improvements made to various components of the car, servicing intervals are now extended from 5000 km to 10,000 km.
We got on the 2.0 Navi variant at first, and immediately, we notice the stark difference compared with the previous 8th Gen’s interior: the new one possesses quite a bit of afterthoughts for the fitting of different specification on the car, especially the center console. The out-of-place holder for the GPS unit protrudes itself like a sore thumb in a cabin that’s otherwise rather well-designed. The LCD screen and the placement and angle of it proves to be rather difficult to view under direct sunlight, and yet it still operates well while driving.
The ESP steering which saves fuel and weight now stands in the way of every driving enthusiasts who used to storm around town in Honda Civics, who grew up dreaming of racing in Civics and smiling evilly while attacking corners in Civics. While the chassis is very well-developed and the suspension setups are almost perfect in balancing between sports driving and comfort cruising, the steering is however overtly light and overtly compensating, and gives zero feedback, deterring all efforts of trying to relate in any manner to performance driving. This is rather disappointing as the entire car, from engine performance and drivetrain to transmission power delivery is perfect.
It’s not all bad; in fact the new Honda Civic manages to achieve one thing that’s a remote concept in most of today’s new cars, especially European makes—Zen-like fluidity. The transmission and power delivery are exceptionally smooth across all three engine lineups. There’s no dual clutch stutters at low speeds, no sudden turbocharged boost that kicks in and spills the drink of your passengers either. Every bit of acceleration and lift-off is not greeted by a sudden change in momentum linearity. Of course this is in line with Honda’s new direction in focusing on efficiency, but having driven all three, whichever speed or gear we are in, acceleration is smooth, very smooth. This makes the Civic a car that is very family-oriented, very user-friendly and comfortable, be it for city dwellers or suburbia penchants.
Speaking of family owners, the Honda Civic also boasts a large boot, comfortable rear seats and, most importantly for those with kids, Isofix mounting points. And very lastly, while many blast the boring design which is uninspired compared with the old one, the truth is that, in the metal, the new Civic comes with cleaner lines and a more refined design, especially the rear lamp clusters. Overall, consider the new 9th Gen Civic as an evolutionary product in which Honda sought to improve every aspect possible, in order to appeal to a broader segment instead of just pursuing enthusiasts. But then, we can’t help but linger on the nostalgic memory of knowing every new Civic would come with something shocking. This time around, there’s no 8th Gen culture shock, only the little progresses made here and there to ensure it’s better—likewise the transition from 6th Gen to 7th Gen.
In a sea of Japanese C-segment sedans, the new Honda Civic might again prove to be highly appealing when put aside the ageing Mazda 3, the reserved Nissan Sylphy and the accomplished arc-rival Toyota Corolla Altis. Yet, the Malaysian market for C-segment sedans is no longer the exclusive playgrounds of the Japanese, not with the arrival of bold new Koreans that are extremely well-built, specced and designed, as well as the technologically -advanced Europeans that offer more bang for buck, power, features and drive-ability.