Let’s be honest, there’s a big perception problem around the 2017 Honda Civic RS hatch.
People in the office who ended up taking it for a spin, got into it thinking – because of the RS badge and the aggressive/outspoken styling –that it was going to be a hot hatch. Or, at least a warm hatch.
But many of those CarAdvice team members who drove it returned to the office to regale me with their tales of, “it’s not that sporty, is it?”
The answer is no, it’s not that sporty. But get rid of the badges, the silly winglets and body add-ons, and delete the boot-shrinking twin-exhaust system, and I bet those responses would have been different.
The reality is, however, these colleagues of mine were mainly driving in traffic, getting from the office to home or vice-versa, or – worse yet – ducking to the airport. Bumper-to-bumper, peak-hour, headache-inducing, daily-grind driving that can’t be enjoyed in any car, no matter how much you like it.
Still, there was something to be said in defence of the Civic, in that it is particularly good at dealing with this type of terrible traffic that seems to plague Sydney from 5am-10 am and 12pm-7 pm weekdays.
Its direct and responsive steering makes judging gaps during lane-jumps and slotting into parking spaces particularly easy, and while some may wish for more ‘feel’ through the wheel, there’s a playful and enjoyable element to driving the Civic that many of its competitors can’t come close to. It’s darty and fun.
Competitors also fall short on its ride comfort – for a low little hatch on 17-inch wheels with low-profile Bridgestone Turanza ER33 rubber (215/50 in size), it glides over rough surfaces lovably. Offset bumps don’t flummox it, and while really sharp edges can be heard in the cabin, it remains composed.
The drivetrain? Well, you can sure as hell hear it working. In fact, it is a bit grating if you’re spending a lot of time in traffic, mainly because it’s not a nice noise – it’s just a buzzy hum with a touch of coarseness to it. That twin exhaust outlet clearly does bugger all to improve the sound.
Part of it comes down to the continuously variable transmission (CVT) auto, which is designed to allow the engine to rev out and hold revs high to gather speed consistently, rather than shuffling through gears as pace increases. It does a good job, it must be said, but the noise is underwhelming.
On the odd occasion, you might notice just a touch of turbo lag – for instance, if you hit the throttle suddenly when taking off from the lights – but it’s entirely more manageable than some other turbocharged small cars out there.
Look, after a few solid weeks of driving this thing on my commute – from the lower Blue Mountains to McMahon’s Point, a round-trip of 150km, often a mix of free-flowing and stop-start traffic depending on the way the M4, M7, M2, Lane Cove Tunnel and all the ancillary roads are coping on the day – I was more relaxed than I expected.
There’s a cohesiveness to the drive experience, but I have to concur with a lot of my colleagues – in day-to-day driving, it isn’t that sporty.
Maybe on the open road it’ll make up for it? Stay tuned for our next instalment on this long-term review, where we’ll take a look at how the 2017 Honda Civic RS hatch handles country road-trips.
Click the Photos tab above for more images by Sam Venn.
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