If there’s a brand known for cockpit practicality, it’s this one. And up until this generation, the Honda Civic hatch was the standard bearer in the small car segment.
The reason that function isn’t there anymore is simple – this is a new platform, which, unlike the previous model, has seen the fuel tank revert towards the rear of the car, as the Japanese brand aimed to lower the centre of gravity of the car.
The result is no Magic Seats, but a better drive experience, and perhaps more importantly, a better driving position. In the old hatch you were literally perched on top of the fuel tank to enable those rear seats to flip up and out of the way or drop down flat. But now, the Civic hatch has one of the most comfortable and natural driving positions in the class.
You’re down low, but it’s still somehow easy to get into and out of – well, at least for a 32-year-old. If you’re older, we’d suggest you thoroughly try it out for yourself.
The seats are comfortable enough, and supportive enough, although they’re nothing special for a car that has a sporty badge like RS. There is no lumbar adjustment, either, so you’ll probably also want to make sure you’re happy with the seat comfort if you plan to do long trips. Maybe ask for an extended test drive?
As for rear seat comfort, there’s great space in the second row for adults, with enough room for a six-foot-plus adult to slot behind a six-foot driver and be comfortable for leg-, shoulder- and toe-room. Headroom it a little tight for the very tall. If your rear-seat occupants are much smaller, there are dual ISOFIX anchor points and three top-tether points, but no rear air vents in any model.
Although it’s not as smart as it once was for stowage, it’s not like the Civic hatch isn’t practical – with a boot space of 414 litres, it is among the best examples in the compact car class, with only the Peugeot 308 hatch bettering it with 425 litres.
Oh – wait there – that only applies to the models in the range that aren’t the RS; because of its twin exhaust, the RS a considerably smaller boot hold, at 330L. Still, the boot of the Civic RS is 22L larger than a Mazda 3 hatch. The seats fold down, but they don’t fold flat, so sliding in long items may be a two-person job. When the seats are folded down there’s 770 litres of space.
One more thing on the boot area; that stupid soft cargo cover might be a more stylish alternative to a parcel shelf, but that's about all it is.
Loose item storage in the cabin is above average, with large pockets in all four doors, and a particularly terrific deep centre console box which is large enough to swallow a laptop, tablets or a handbag or small backpack. And that bit doubles as a set of bottle holders.
There’s a clever little shelf below the screen to store your devices, behind which resides another storage section with twin USB points and 12-volt charging options, with a smart little cut-out allowing you to feed through your charging cables. Genius for car neat freaks. We’ll get to the infotainment stuff in the next update.
I mentioned in update one that the Civic doesn’t have the full safety suite. Indeed, it has six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain), a rear-view camera and Honda’s LaneWatch side camera system (which I’ll cover off in the next update), but it falls short on tech.
There’s no autonomous emergency braking – which is standard in all Mazda 3 and VW Golf models, and available (for an option cost) on all Corolla, Astra and Focus models. The Honda is the only one of the big sellers that requires you to step up to the top-spec model, the VTi-LX that sits above the RS for $33,690, and you can’t get any of the Honda Sensing safety suite on lower versions, even as an option.
That Honda Sensing suite includes AEB, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. The issue, according to Honda, is that they can’t split the package up. So, it’s all or nothing.
Maybe the best thing for Honda Australia to do would be to at least make it optional on the other models at a nominal fee, like its competitors do. Honda argues it complicates things too much – but if it appeases buyers it could be worth the effort.
There’s more on the safety topic to come – be sure to check in for update three to find out more.