Honda Civic VTi Road Test & Review

$19,250 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    7.2L
  • Engine Power
    103kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    171g
  • ANCAP Rating
    4Stars

Honda Civic VTi gets the basics right, but is that enough?

Model Tested: 2010 Holda Civic VTi; 1.8-litre SOHC i-VTEC, four cylinder, petrol, five-speed automatic, sedan - $25,290*

There’s nothing innovative or exciting about the Honda Civic VTi, but that doesn’t stop it being a very solid performer and a pleasure to drive. If you were writing a school report for the VTi, in-class performance would definitely be ‘satisfactory’.

The Honda Civic sedan is available in three models, the VTi, VTi-L and Sport. Both the VTi and VTi-L house Honda’s 1.8-litre SOHC i-VTEC engine, while the Sport sedan moves up to a 2.0-litre DOHC i-VTEC engine. All models offer the choice of an automatic or manual transmission, mated to a five-speed gearbox. It’s nice to have this choice across the range. It’s only when you move up to the R-Type hatch that you score the six-speed gearbox, but in manual only.

Our test vehicle is the base model VTi, five-speed automatic. At face value, the VTi represents a nice package, but when you draw comparison to the market, the Civic falls short of its feature-packed competitors such as the Mazda3 and Holden Cruze. Remember the over-achievers in your English class that made your ‘satisfactory’ work seem, well, less than satisfactory? For the Civic, the Mazda3 and Cruze epitomize those annoying classmates. Just when you think you’ve got it sorted…

The Civics body is built on a classic shape with nice sharp lines. It’s a conservative shape that stands the test of time and has the potential to please a broad customer base. If you’re after a look that screams something beyond wholesome, you can stump-up for a few eye-catching options such as front and rear spoilers and side skirts, fog lights and chrome exhausts.

The Civics 1.8-litre engine puts out 103kw and 174Nm – just a smidge under that of the 1.8-litre Holden Cruze at 104kW and 176Nm. The Civic is, however, 192kg lighter than the Cruze CD, weighing in at 1202kg. The Civic translates this power into a spritely drive, respectable for a vehicle of this type.

From standstill, the Civic is quick to action. It feels obedient and responds with an eagerness to please, like a well-trained puppy. There is a lovely simplicity to the Civics performance that is quite endearing. While it’s no showstopper, there’s a lot to like about its on-road performance. I thoroughly enjoyed driving the Civic VTi, despite my love of all things bling and the Civic’s distinct lack thereof.

Gear changes are well spaced and power is constant and smooth. Not for a moment did I feel cheated in this regard.

While the steering wheel feels a little cheap in hand, the actual steering is great. It handles well, offering nice feedback through the steering wheel. You feel a connection with the road and you can steer with the confidence that good feedback provides. Suspension is firm, but nicely tamed, to deliver a very comfortable ride with minimal body roll. The Civic is nimble and handles with poise, even under pressure.

Visibility is very good and manouvreability is a breeze, which makes the Civic a great city car, although rear parking sensors would be a nice addition. These are an option across the range.

It’s the Civics interior that is the biggest let down. It’s plain, outdated and underdone, particularly when you line-up against newer, more flashy competitors.

The interior plastics are cheap looking. The steering wheel and handbrake feel tacky in hand and the drab grey interior of our test vehicle does this car no favours. The dash and instrumentation is very basic and lacks visual appeal.

The centre console includes a couple of storage boxes with retractable lids. In, say, a Volkswagen these retractable lids look classy, but the Honda doesn’t pull it off with the same flair.

Design woes aside, the cabin is very comfortable. The manual adjust seats are comfortable and offer good support, the driving position is good and everything is in easy reach of the driver.

The audio system is very basic, with just a single CD in-dash and four speakers throughout the cabin. It also lacks simple pleasures such as steering-wheel mounted audio controls. It pumps out a decent level of sound nonetheless.

The Honda Civics cabin space and comfort is great, for all passengers. The second row seats are very comfortable and offer good head, leg and shoulder room, but you’re left wanting for air-vents and a centre arm rest.

The cabin is well insulated, with minimal road and engine noise to be heard. The Civic provides three child-seat anchor points.

When it comes to load space, the Civic has a boot capacity of 376 litres. Our test vehicle did have a second row split fold function, however, it was one large fold rather than a 60/40 split configuration that can be found in the VTi-L and Sport. For someone like me, who is rarely without a child seat, this type of split fold is rendered useless.

To engage the release for the seats you need to pull a lever in the boot and push the seats forward. I’m too short to reach the seat backs through the boot, and so I had to head back around to the second row to pull the seats down.

Remote opening of the boot via the key is good.

The Civic VTi manual claims to return a combined fuel consumption of just 6.9 litres of fuel per 100km, and 7.2 litres for the automatic, with CO2 emissions of 171g per kilometer.

The Civic measures up well when it comes to safety. Every Civic features Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution are also standard. All Civics also come equipped with driver and passenger front and side airbags as well as a curtain airbag that extends to the second row. The Civic sedan scores a four-star safety rating from ANCAP.

The Honda Civic is an incredibly mixed bag which sees highs and lows in equal parts. Nice exterior, drab interior. Great steering, cheap steering wheel. Great cabin comfort, lacks modern conveniences. Priced at $22,990 for the manual and $25,290 for the automatic, the Civic is not a cheap buy. Competitors such as the Mazda3, Holden Cruze and Mitsubishi Lancer sully the efforts of the Civic when it comes to base model bang for buck. They drive well, too, so while the Civic gets the basics oh so right, it may not be enough to stay in the competition.

And so the school report would finish with something like uninspiring, like, ‘the Civic adequately completes all tasks at hand, but could try harder’.

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