Life is about compromise. We were all set to get a Golf. After all why wouldn’t you? We couldn’t quite get the GTI though. All we could afford was the TSI. I tried telling myself it’s a turbo AND supercharged. But really what it was saying was more akin to country AND western. It wasn’t Gram Parsons, nudie suit wearing, rocked up country either. It was Slim Dusty in an East German pub with no beer and I wasn’t having it.
Then came the Honda Civic hatch. Not the sedan that comes from Thailand, like so many Singha Beer tank tops, hangovers and botched tribal tattoos. She’s pukkah as the Brits would say, made in the UK for proper European tastes thank you very much. Refined yet not too posh for Bunnings runs.
Frankly I’ve never had a car that’s made such a lasting first impression. It looks great and is built like a Toyota but doesn’t bore you to death. Unlike the German uber box, the Honda has fanatically direct steering and a notchy short throw gear shift. The clutch too has plenty of feel and is nice and precise. Oh and the naughty and nice ‘eco’ vs ‘rev’ lights on the dash. Revs? I’m only too happy to oblige. It secretly thinks it’s a motorbike, with plenty of power past 5 thousand revs.
Honda’s Fit and finish is superb. Great quality plastics and leather all with a nice bespoke feel throughout. Nothing feels like it’s borrowed from somewhere or outright stolen from VW (I’m looking at you Hyundai). Nor are the seats rock hard like its German counterparts. Oh yeah and what can’t be done with the back seats isn’t worth mentioning. Form and function all nicely balanced.
The back seats have the flexibility I’ve been looking for in a double jointed gymnast girlfriend all my life. They go up so you have the full floor space, kind of like a panel van. Dogs, drum kits and mountain bikes, you’re all welcome here (not all at once obviously). I can confirm it takes a full five piece drum kit.
What’s bad about it? Honda definitely cut corners on the suspension. It’s too harsh and choppy for a daily driver. At first I thought it’s the inherent sportiness and the spirit of Soichiro Honda. Sadly not, just some spotty accountant in Swindon counting the pennies he saved. Simply put, it would be so much better with a better sorted suspension for Australian roads.
Other corners have been cut too. While the Imola Red paint looks good from afar, up close you will see it’s very thin and easily scratched. Sad considering quality wise, every other aspect of quality is nearly flawless. But for someone who likes to keep a tidy looking car, it’s very disappointing.
Like all Hondas, the car has no low down torque. Which means at the traffic lights you only win in the wanker states. Because you have to rev the guts out of it to take off fast. That gets old really quick. Lucky I did get the manual though. Because if you’ve ever strung ‘driving’ and ‘fun’ together in a sentence, you can forget the auto. Less exciting than a vegetarian butcher. Oh and understeer? This car has it in spades when pushed.
In fairness though it’s no GTI nor does it have any aspirations. You can always get a Type R or an S2000 if you want something properly fast. She has the poise and eloquence of a British girl, yet she likes a bit of rough. With the seats folded flat, I’ve had it fully loaded for several tip runs and Bunnings benders. For those brief moments when you do actually get to push your car, it’s plucky and fun.
What’s more this is a car my wife can’t destroy – and hasn’t. This is a woman who’s killed a Honda Accord and a Toyota Cressida. Why don’t I trust her with something turbo charged and supercharged? Let alone a performance car? Clearly it would end in tears. I’d rather put my life savings in a Greek bank.
This is a car you can love without obsessing over. The problem is without a GTI you’re left with just a Golf. Which as far as I’m concerned has the gormless appeal of a Bavarian bank vault. Without the Type R you’re left with this plucky British Civic and that’s a pretty damned good place to be. Hurrah.