This is what nearly $34,000 worth of small Japanese sedan looks like: meet the 2016 Honda Civic VTi-LX.
When we say Japanese, we mean, of course, that Honda developed and designed the Civic sedan in the land of the Yen, but it’s built where Baht is the currency: yep, Thailand.
It would be fair to assume, then, that you could be scratching your head at the price-tag: officially, it’s $33,590 plus on-road costs (or about $37,300 based on Honda’s website calculator gizmo).
Seems like a lot of money for a small sedan – but this is where you need to perhaps think outside of the three boxes for a second.
It arguably doesn’t look as European as that model, but dimensionally it’s pretty close: the 1oth generation Civic measures 4644 millimetres long, 1799mm wide and 1416mm tall, where the Accord Euro stretched the tape measure to 4740mm, 1840mm wide and 1440mm tall. And there’s crossover in terms of where the high-spec models of the Civic are priced – the Accord Euro kicked off from $30,915 up to $43,715 for its final model year, 2015.
Let’s go back to that original premise – just how much sedan does your money buy you here, then? Plenty, and it’s a nicely fruity model in terms of standard equipment as well.
Well, it’s building on the already well-specced models lower down the range, so it has a standard 7.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio, a 10-speaker stereo, leather seat trim and steering wheel, heated front seats, driver’s seat electric adjustment, LED headlights and more.
Goodies exclusive to the VTi-LX variant include adaptive cruise control (which was more tentative than the system that’s offered in the base model Skoda Octavia, priced from just $21,990), an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and this Civic is the only model with in-built satellite navigation with live traffic updates – that tech is essentially negated by the fitment of phone mapping mirroring, if you don’t mind footing the bill for data.
There’s a focus on safety kit, too, including lane departure warning and mitigation systems, lane keeping, Honda’s clever lane watch system (a camera monitors the left lane and as soon as you indicate it displays the image on the centre screen) and blind-spot monitoring, and there’s also forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking. That last item is also available on the base Octavia, so maybe consider that if safety is a key driver for you.
All Civics have six airbags (dual front, front side and full-length curtains) and a rear-view camera, while models from VTi-S up have front and rear parking sensors fitted, too.
On top of all that gear, you get the latest in engine technology from Honda. The top three models in the Civic range are powered by a new 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is teamed to the brand’s take on the continuously variable transmission (CVT) auto.
The engine is good for 127kW of power at a thrummy 5500rpm, and 220Nm of torque across a broad 1700-5000rpm band. This powerplant is offered in three models across the new Civic range, including the VTi-L (from $27,790) and the sporty RS ($31,790).
The engine and gearbox team nicely together, and it is pretty rapid from a standstill despite some off-the-line lag if you tramp it. Give it plenty, though, and the noise from the engine – because of the CVT – may become grating over a longer period of time. Or you could just drive it more gently, because it actually performs better if you do.
Apply the throttle, say at about 20km/h, and you’ll zip to 60km/h without any effort whatsoever. It builds pace very nicely provided you’re not monstering the throttle.
The steering of the Civic is arguably one of its highlights – depending on your personal preferences. The electric system is very quick to react at low speeds, and it's even pretty rapid to change direction at higher speeds. Apply a quarter of a turn of lock and you’re where you want to be, while some competitor products require more arm-work to have that sort of outcome.
The downside of the steering is that it lacks the connectedness that you’ll find in, say, a Mazda 3, meaning you might be annoyed that you feel isolated from the actual road surface.
The suspension is quite good, with the Civic being one of only a few small cars featuring an independent rear suspension setup rather than a torsion beam layout. That means it maintains its composure when you hit rough patches through corners better than a torsion beam model, which could skip about somewhat.
Around town, the ride can be a little bit firm over really sharp speed bumps or road joins, but it isn’t clumsy in that regard, and settles quickly after a big bump.
With so much gear and a decent drive experience making this car feel pretty special, you might expect the Civic's interior to further its case – and it sort of does, and sort of doesn’t.
The reason for that is because while it is a very spacious place with lots of thoughtful storage and a nice low seating position, the ambience isn’t much different to that of the lower-spec models. In fact, it feels pretty similar in here as it does to a $25K Civic...
Don’t discount the fact, though, that this Thai-built model is extremely well assembled, with very good gap consistency and quality touch points and switchgear. The high-res touchscreen system helps in that regard, and while it is a little slow to load up if you’re in a hurry, the camera displays are good enough. We had some issues with the CarPlay in our test car, though – it wouldn’t start!
The menus of the media system look a bit old school, too, lacking the crisp fonts and stylised menus of some rivals. The display in front of the driver, with its large digital speedometer readout and multitude of information displays that can be seen below (including map directions, fuel use, media controls and more) is brilliant.
It is one of the roomiest cars in the class for adult occupants, easily large enough for four big boppers and their gear for a weekend away – provided they’re not too tall, as head room is a little shy of best-in-class due to the raked roofline of the sedan. The amount of leg and shoulder room on offer is excellent, but it misses out on rear air-vents.
There are lots of convenient storage areas, including big bottle holders in the doors, map pockets, a flip-down armrest in the back, and one of the deepest centre console bins in the business. One of the cleverest features is the hidden USB points behind the centre console, and there’s a little porthole that allows you to run the cable to a shelf that sits in the middle of the dash – no messy cables.
The boot offers 517 litres of space, which is more than some sedans in the next size bracket up, and that means you can easily fit a couple of large suitcases, or a pram and all the kiddie accoutrements, or a couple of sets of golf clubs.
You may want to consider the Kia Cerato sedan or Hyundai Elantra if long-term ownership is high on your list of purchasing considerations, as the Honda falls short of those models with a three-year/100,000km warranty. The Civic also requires servicing more regularly than some competitors, with maintenance due every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever occurs first. Thankfully, the servicing is thoughtfully priced at just $281 per visit.
It is hard to deny the 2016 Honda Civic VTi-LX is a well-equipped, competent and pleasant small sedan, one that has lots of safety kit and enough luxury to feel special enough to justify the $33,590 price tag.
That said, if you’re not after all the electronic bells and whistles, a lower-spec VTi-L, with its $6000 lower price, could be a better option as it still gets the turbocharged engine and doesn’t want for much in terms of goodies.
Click the photos tab for more images by Sam Venn