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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but when it comes to the 2019 Honda Civic RS sedan, it’s pretty safe to say it is one handsome thing. And weirdly, the RS sedan is $300 more affordable at $31,990 before on-road costs. Go figure.
You would think when the letters RS are used on a car, it would mean it’s sporty (i.e. Renault Megane RS or Ford Focus RS), but the 1.5-litre petrol-powered Civic RS isn’t as ‘hot’ as those two little letters mean. It is only sporty in appearance.
It has the largest rims in the range at 18 inches, a neat boot spoiler, and LED headlamps on the outside. On the inside: a red-stitched leather steering wheel, new leather seat trim with red stitching, drilled alloy sports pedals, while also adding in less-sporty features such as eight-way power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate, and a 10-speaker audio system. The Civic also has front and rear parking sensors, and a reversing camera with normal, wide and top-down views.
The Honda Sensing safety suite is now finally standard, which includes features such as forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control. Other 2019 updates include electrically folding rear-view mirrors, new dashboard trims, a volume knob, and tweaked climate controls.
One sporty thing is the low driving position, and after fumbling around for the steering wheel adjustment lever a mile down the steering column, it’s a comfortable place to sit, especially when the heated seats are turned on when it's a cold day. This varies from driver to driver, but this reviewer felt the seat base could’ve done with a squab extender as it felt a tad short.
The new dash trim is quite nice and has a grey snake scale-like appearance. The rest of the upper dash and door trims are of good sturdy rubber and padding, but the rear seat area has more plastics. To make it feel sportier, black hood lining would’ve been a nice addition over the light grey.
Honda has been known for making the cabin as practical as possible, and the same goes for the Civic. You’ll probably lose a lot of things in the huge central armrest where you could fit a few 600ml bottles. A USB connection can also be found in there. A handy two-level open-storage compartment in the centre console is large enough for a couple of phones, but the USB and HDMI connection on the bottom shelf can be hard to see and access. The solitary cup holder is wide and deep, along with the glovebox, leaving more room for odds and ends without the instruction manual getting in the way.
It seems Honda listened and returned an actual volume knob to the dash – front-seat passengers, rejoice! While we are on volume, the steering wheel control for it is in an annoying spot, where you have to twist your hand to get to it. A separate and large climate-control button is placed below the infotainment screen, which you can then adjust via the screen, or you can opt for using the manual controls for the dual climate.
The infotainment is set out well, but sometimes it can be a bit slow scrolling through the menu. Inbuilt satellite navigation only comes standard on the top-of-the-range VTi-LX, so you won’t find it on the RS. However, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can help with that. Connecting Bluetooth for the first time took a mere 10–15 seconds, including importing contacts. Not bad.
In the back seat, there is a lot of leg room, and considering the sloping roof, head room is fine for average adult height. If you plan to seat a child in the back (there are three anchorage points and up to two ISOFIX points for bub), they will be able to see a lot out of the low side windows, and vision towards the front is excellent.
Door pockets are large enough for a sizeable drink bottle, which can also be placed in the cup holders in the fold-down armrest. And if you plan to seat three people in the back, you’ll be pleased to know the middle seat is softly padded on the base and back.
To fold the 60:40 seats, a lever can be accessed from the boot, but it doesn’t automatically fold them, so you need to head back to the rear doors to push them all the way down, which can be a bit annoying. The opening to the 525L boot (111L more than the hatch) is big enough to easily manoeuvre a suitcase into, with a space-saver hidden under the floor tray. There are no bag hooks or storage compartments either.
The engine start/stop button is in an easily accessible and viewable place on the dash. When on a cold start-up at idle, it will rev high, and it does sound a bit buzzy when squeezing out its 127kW of power and 220Nm of torque, but it is much quieter when at cruising speed. It's a fun car to drive, and while it isn't amazingly quick, it handles a tight corner quite well.
We got close to the claimed fuel economy. On the freeway, we achieved 6L/100km (the claim is 5.2L), and around town we got 6.8L (claimed 8.3L). It can take 91 unleaded, so it shouldn’t cost you too much to run.
It does have a sport driving mode by selecting it via the gearstick, but all it does is hold onto the gears of the CVT transmission. At least the nice rubber-backed plastic shift paddles provide a little more fun. After pressing a few buttons to figure out how to turn on the cruise control, the adaptive cruise control worked well, but entering a tunnel, for example, it would not hold the speed on a decline.
Auto high beam is handy to have, but it was less than perfect. It wouldn’t turn off when cars were parked on the side of the road with their headlights on, or even cars turning right when the Civic was making a left turn. It was quickly turned off.
Vision around the car when driving is great, and with the Honda Sensing suite not including blind-spot monitoring, the left-side mirror camera that displays on the 7.0-inch touchscreen when the left indicator is used can help with those lane changes.
The Civic was last tested in 2017 by ANCAP and received a five-star safety rating, with front, side and full-length curtain airbags, and other safety gear, including ESS and EBD.
It has a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, with service intervals every 12 months or 10,000km.
While the Civic does most things well, it battles to outshine its competitors. However, with the addition of the Honda Sensing suite in the 2019 update, it brings it closer into line with others in the segment. If you’re after a practical sedan with a bit of style and flair, it’s worth giving the Civic RS a look.