As some of you know I’ve been contemplating upgrading the ole slushbox Civic to something a bit more… more. So I’ve started doing the homework. But I figured this could be a thread where people could actually review their experiences of real test drives to collate data.
Basically just relate your experience of a car you’ve test driven. It doesn’t have to be new, it can be a second hand, but just be clear which is what.
The hot hatch market has been going nuts lately, everybody knows that. If you want to stick FWD, this is probably the nuttiest you can get from the factory. Having been reviewed favourably against the competition in terms of its capability, is that enough to offset its inconveniences in the pursuit of being a honed weapon, and significantly higher costs?
I went to my local strip, which has a pretty big range: Ford, GM/Holden/Opel, VAG (VW/Skoda/Audi), FIAT, Alfa, Hyundai, KIA, Toyota, Mazda, Honda, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover. Of these, I never dress upmarket enough to warrant a second look from the posh guys. Of the rest, the Honda dealership offers the best experience. It’s smaller (so are the sales volumes), but the crew never miss a beat.
Disclaimer: I get my Civic exclusively serviced at this particular dealership and have a perfect service record, so they probably offer me slightly more attention than a standard looky-loo. Honda boast high retention rates and they’re likely keen to keep this track record. The review is probably favourably biased as a result.
It’s a factory rice rocket. There is zero escaping this. None of its competitors are quite as in-your-face. Honda swears that everything is functional, but the fake vents do say otherwise, so they must mean all the extra stuff. I know it’s controversial. I’m a pretty loud person stylistically, so this is no problem for me. I could daily this without a second thought.
Unlike the 9th gen where the fuel tank was literally under the front seats, the seating position is low and sporty. Despite this, getting in and out isn’t much harder than usual. The bucket seats are fantastic. Everything feels quite cosy but in fact this 10th gen Civic has the best interior room in the class all around. That cosiness is really just the fact the seat is nice and firm which I’m going to need later on. Storage compartments galore, and a good elbow position, which is apparently a problem in the Focus RS. Loud red trim lining everywhere, which, again, is something I am perfectly fine with but I don’t know about you. I just love the feel of the steering wheel, the materials, the size, the heft. Buttons on it are a little loose and finnicky though. It’ll take some getting used to. The media center does support iPlay etc. and has all the necessary cables and aux ports. The touch screen is a bit smaller than competitors and it is a bit laggy and the interface is nearly as confusing as the M6’s iDrive. I’m used to the 9th Gen’s billion levels of redundancy so this isn’t a big problem but folks who want their convenience
and like their iPhones that could get annoying. One reviewer said the materials felt cheap and nasty compared to cheaper competitors but I don’t know what they were smoking.
Suspension and electric steering has come a long way since the start of this decade. Namely, electronic dampers are some magical shit. The Type R allows for Comfort, Sport and R mode. The steering was criticised as being a bit too light in Comfort mode but it does make for very easy driving, without much sacrifice in driver engagement (important). The damping is good enough to make light work of Australia’s shitty back street roads. Honestly I was a bit concerned about the 30 profile (wtf!?!?) tyres but you can’t even tell, it’s that comfy. Well, comfy compared to the slightly crashy ride of my current daily driver anyway. You know there’s bumps but it’s not like it’s going to wear you out after a few hours (I hear that’s more of a problem with the Renault and the Peugeot, hopefully will find out later). I suspect a lot of the family car crowd will still think it’s a bit firm but they’re not me.
Next, the shifting. With this being the first big torque turbo Honda made, everything is a little stiffer and gruntier compared to the Hondas of legend but the shifter is still delightfully light and quick. Simple and direct: it’s just an alloy knob on a real short stick. It slides between gates like a knife through hot butter. No stupid locking mechanism to engage R, the shift protection is in the box itself. It shifts beautifully when you drive slow, it shifts beautifully when you drive not so slow. Driving fast… we’ll come to that. The clutch too is as precise as ever. It’s all part and parcel of a driving experience that is always engaging no matter if you want it easy or you want a workout, and that’s probably to me the one marvel about this car above all else.
Type Rs automatically come with all the safety doodads and lane assist and emergency stop and all that jazz. If i’m going to pay 58k AUD non-negotiable for a C segment hatch, it better.
Let’s face it, the Type R isn’t a street racer. Well, it can be but only if you do some seriously illegal shit, and I’m not into that. By the time you get from OH SHIT OH LORDY to the actual proper racing range of the Type R you’re probably doing anywhere between 50-100km/h over any posted speed limit.
That didn’t stop the dealer from encouraging me to give it the beans on a nice empty stretch of road. At this point I’m going to go on a tangent to say some reviewers criticised the “flat exhaust note” of the Type R. Yeah, it is flat, but screw that. That’s not even worth a footnote compared to how you feel when you pull R mode, drop into first and give it the beans.
“Automation turbos” are pretty 80s. The Type R is a far more modern thing, and you can just feel the growling potential even at low RPMs and the sheer eagerness with which the car accelerates even at street speeds. But hit 3k in comes ALL THE POWER and you will get instant wheelspin and the dash will light up like a Christmas tree as you bang off the rev limiter. Shift into second at 60 and floor it again and you’ll instantly redline as well. The TCS will let you go for a bit, and surprisingly, the E diff does its thing so deftly that you won’t feel too much torque steer.
Handling in the Type R is, if you want, weaponised. It grips and grips and grips and if you unsettle it… it can get a little tail happy, which caught me by surprised as I was expecting the fronts to let go first. But no, Honda opted for virtually no understeer whatsoever and then tuned their ECS to give you some kind of controllable tail sliding just for extra nose in. Point, blast off (within reason). It’s probably a real bugger in the wet. Also the R mode dampers are too stiff for anything other than a perfectly surfaced road. Not that it’s uncomfortable, it’s just to the point sudden direction changes are a bit compromised. Dialing in “super heavy steering” isn’t a remedy: it just reminds me of my brother’s Aurion in which the steering is heavy because the thing’s a damn bus and can’t turn for nuts. The main thing that bothers me about this is that Honda doesn’t let the driver configure that setting, otherwise I’d have stuck to sport steering and sport dampers and it would have been perfect.
- Best interior room space and boot in class by a pretty big margin
- Drives really damn nice whether you’re doing slow or fast
- Full safety equipment
- Not that economical either
- Actually only seats 4, not 5
- Who the hell makes 245/30R20 tyres!?
- Rice rocket looks all day all night
- Can’t configure R mode
This is pretty much me in car form, so I’m biased. Honda are confident that their car is worth the money they’re asking (edit: that’s 58K AUD), and they’re probably right. I drive less than the average Australian by a margin so the extra fuel costs won’t hit me too hard. I can’t pretend that I don’t really really want one, so I’ll just declare that this definitely is the one to beat.