The very first Honda Ballade launched in South Africa was a long-bonnet ugly beast with the handling characteristics of a blancmange pudding.
The next iteration was a wondrous revelation and, I believe, set the course for pretty much all Japanese-built Hondas from then on. It was perfectly proportioned, sat square and confident on the road and – most importantly – because you could clearly see both front corners, the ideal point and squirt gymkhana car.
Moving forward to the latest generation of the Honda Civic – the ninth in the series – that sense of proportion (and the fact the front corners are clearly visible) carries through, even in a much more modern design style.
Either cars tug at the heartstrings or they do not. Liking them is a purely emotive reaction and no amount of design-speak will change that. I like the look. A lot. Well, more than a lot…
The Civic 1.5T Sport is not, and never will be, a Golf GTI muncher. It was not designed or intended to take on the hot hatches. Rather its intention is to provide just enough to make the corpuscles break into a gallop when asked, yet take cognisance of fuel efficiency and daily traffic grind needs to pootle along in Eco mode.
In aiming for high levels of design and comfort, the challenge for Honda engineers was to combine a sleek and aerodynamic exterior with D-segment levels of spaciousness and comfort.
Its styling carefully reflects a low silhouette for a four-door sedan, creating the overall impression of a sleek sports coupé.
This gives the Honda sedan a more aggressive, athletic and dynamic appearance, while also creating more interior room compared to the outgoing model. Overall, the wheelbase has been increased by 30 mm, and the total length by 109 mm, while the height has been lowered by 20 mm.
The reduced height and the more dynamic aesthetic appeal also translate into a lower centre of gravity for greater on-road stability, boosting cornering confidence and encouraging sporty, engaging driving.
Advanced full LED headlights and LED daytime running lights are fitted to the 1,5-litre Turbo models for the first time while, at the rear, the Civic’s characteristic bracketed tail light design has been re-interpreted with eye-catching LED light bars on either side.
The Civic’s interior treatment embodies Honda’s ‘Daring ACE Design’ concept, combining high-quality materials with an ergonomically intuitive centre console and a sporty yet comfortable driving position.
The uncluttered interior design features extensive use of attractive soft touch and accent materials that heighten the sense of premium quality. On an ergonomic level, it offers refined, user-friendly access to the various controls.
Overall, Honda has managed significantly to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) to achieve high levels of on-road quietness.
Leather seats (heated in front) are standard on all but the entry-level model and the steering wheel offers tilt and telescopic adjustment.
Rear-seat knee space has increased by 55 mm, along with further gains in shoulder room for the rear occupants. Boot capacity has also improved by 20%.
One of the new features is the advanced interface provided by the high-resolution, 7-inch- WVGA LCD display that forms the centrepiece for the digital audio system. The expansive IPS display can be viewed from both driver and passenger seats and the air-conditioning can also be operated on the display panel.
The system enables connection with numerous smartphone functions, including maps for ease of navi operation. This makes it the most convenient and connected Civic ever.
Honda’s first-ever 1.5 VTEC Turbo engine produces 127 kW of maximum power at 5 500 r/min, along with 220 Nm of maximum torque – the latter available in a broad range between 1 700 r/min and 5 500 r/min.
These outputs are comparable to a 2,4-litre naturally aspirated engine, but offer the equivalent fuel economy of a Honda Jazz. The engine achieves Euro4 emission requirements, making it one of the most environmentally friendly engines in its class.
With an engine bore pitch of only 80 mm, this unit is extremely compact, and achieves a substantial weight reduction compared to a conventional naturally aspirated engine.
In line with Honda’s ‘Earth Dreams Technology’, it is paired with a new series of CVT gearboxes as standard.
Even though it is one of the better CVT gearboxes around, I really wish Honda would look at a ‘proper’ automatic gearbox along the lines of Volkswagen’s DSG or the Porsche PDK.
However, this combination achieves a combined cycle fuel consumption of 5,9 l/100 km for the 1.5 VTEC Turbo when run in Eco Mode. Switching over to Sport mode does kick this up to 6,3 l/100 km or 7,9 l/100 if full hooligan mode is used.
Underpinning the Civic is a lightweight, low-inertia and high-rigidity platform. Through the expanded use of ACE technology and high-tensile materials, significant improvements have been achieved in the dynamic performance, handling and safety of the new model, while reducing the body weight by 22 kg.
The front MacPherson strut and rear multilink suspension systems have been newly designed, including the addition of a sub-frame to the rear. Linked to the increases in body and chassis rigidity, the new platform ensures substantial performance and safety improvements.
Steering technology adopts dual-pinion electric power steering (EPS) to create a linear and smooth feel with an integral sense of security. This is further enhanced with the adoption of a variable ratio that adjusts constantly according to the driver inputs and driving conditions – thereby giving the driver the perfect balance between high-speed stability and low-speed agility and responsiveness.
It works. All too often ‘nanny’ systems in modern cars are irritatingly intrusive and on brisker drives actually detract from the driving experience.
On the Civic, the Agile Handling Assist (AHA) feature is integrated with the Civic’s EPS and vehicle control systems to facilitate driving enjoyment, as well as overall control and stability.
AHA anticipates a loss of control during cornering and helps to prevent it by continuously modulating brake and throttle inputs in small, imperceptible increments to assist overall driver control. For the average driver, if this kicks in you have exceeded the limits of your ability anyway.
An additional safety net is provided by means of the Vehicle Stability Control, which is standard on all models, incorporating Hill Start Assist, along with anti-lock brakes and electronic brake force distribution (EBD).
All models are equipped with dual front, side and curtain airbags, complemented with a reverse camera and rear parking sensors on all but the base model.
Engine: 1 498 cc
Power: 127 kW @ 5 500 r/min
Torque: 120 Nm from 1 700 r/min
0-100: 8,2 sec
Top Speed: 194 km/h
Boot: 424 litres
Tank: 47 litres