Grown-up boyracer discovers a different sort of thrills that the tenth gen Civic has to offer
SINGAPORE - What happens when 8600rpm of screaming VTEC mayhem, an uncompromising ride, razor-sharp steering responses and manually shifting gears in heavy traffic are, gulp, no longer your cuppa? All of us eventually come to that point in our lives, when new ‘duties’ (in my case, a wife, son and helper) demand that a compromise of some sort be reached.
Having owned both a Honda Accord CL1 Euro-R and Civic FD2 Type-R over the course of the past 14 years, it is clear I have a soft spot for cars that offer a combination of four-door practicality as well as good driving fun. My ideal car should offer space, comfort and speed, but we know that seeking this perfect balance today is not easy unless cost is (almost) no object and you can buy a few cars to suit your different needs.
Looking back, the Accord Euro-R was in many ways close to perfect car for me, because it had all the essential attributes I was looking for: power, refinement, handling and build quality in a well thought-out sedan package.
On the other hand, the FD2 Civic Type R that I daily-drive these days is raw and uncompromising, especially if you happen to be riding in the rear. Based on the gorgeous eighth generation four-door FD Civic, the Type R boasts enhanced rigidity, reduced insulation, weight reduction, firmer suspension, shorter gearing and that screaming mad K20A two-litre naturally-aspirated engine. It can best be described as a driver-focused, track-ready sportscar that happens to bear some resemblance to the family sedan it is adapted from.
From afar, its rear wing and red Brembo calipers are the only tell-tale signs of something more serious beneath. It rides so firm that you become intimately familiar with Singapore’s road surfaces, right down to the thickness of the painted lane markers. For the many owners to whom it was a sole family car, it quickly formed something of an intense love-hate relationship – driver loves it, family hates it!
Fast forward nine years, I am boyracer bachelor no more but a mellowed family man looking for some sanity in my daily drive – or rather preserving mine from the complaints coming from the back (just kidding honey!). Performing family duties, playing chauffeur and an occasional weekend cycling trip now fills my calendar instead of the regular track days or b-road blasts up north.
What’s remarkable about the Civic is how versatile the platform is; as we’ve seen, Honda can work its magic to transform it into as manic (like the Type R) or as mellow a car as you’d like, especially if the few days we spent with the tenth gen Civic Turbo was any indication. This gen will spawn a fire-breathing Type R model as well, and we understand that it will be available through the official Kah Motor network. Regardless of your preference though, the Civic been able to straddle a wide spectrum of buyers in the mid priced market, spanning drivers looking for a practical, easy-to-drive daily transport to those in search of sporty performance.
For those in search of a spirited drive in a practical package, yet can live without the Type R’s uncompromising performance, Honda’s Tenth Generation Civic Turbo, with the FC1 chassis code, could just be the answer.
Taking the car out for the first time, the added convenience and safety features that are driven by new technologies were immediately apparent. The overall feel and look of the car coupled with its interior styling has also become more matured and some-might-even-say, European.
Features that were once found in premium European cars are now part of the Civic’s package: auto headlights, auto dimming rear view mirrors, parking assist, rain-sensing wipers, automatic keyless operation, electronic parking brake and even service interval reminders now come standard. I am particularly fond of the reverse camera with superimposed gridlines coupled with four built-in sensors that offer not only precision but also safety while reversing, especially when less experienced drivers from my extended family are driving it. If it hasn’t struck you yet, it’s very clear that the primary focus of the new Civic is premium comfort and convenience. Then again, Honda has always excelled in endowing its Civic range with premium accoutrements that far surpass the demands of the segment.
Another firm favourite that both the wife and I appreciate on the new car is its keyless operation, as we no longer need to dig for the key to unlock the car while juggling hand-holding my son, our assortment of barang-barang, and groceries from the supermarket!
In terms of space, both legroom and boot space has been brought up to levels previously available from the likes of the earlier Honda Accords. Unlike the FD2, the FC1 offers comfortable accommodation for 3 adults in the rear and generous boot-space, which can be augmented by folding down the rear seats.
The new model feels agile and is easy to drive. Power linearity has taken another step forward with turbocharging, so the engine’s 220Nm is available from just 1700rpm. Power delivery is delivered via a CVT gearbox, which has already seen multiple refinements over the years – Honda’s Earth Dreams CVT features a torque converter with lock-up clutch for even better transmission control on the go. Fully loaded, my four lunch kakis were surprised with the acceleration, with one even commenting that the shifts did not feel like any CVT he knows. A shift to ‘S’ immediately gives the rev-happy engine a racy character, and the 0-100km/h sprint is dispatched in a drama-free fashion and with little effort from the driver. The FD2R, on the other hand, would certainly have required more work in the matching of gears with revs to keep pace.
Thanks to the new Civic’s well-tuned rear multi-link suspension, going over road imperfections no longer feel as bone-jarring as in the FD2R, since the Type R really thrives on a race-track’s perfectly smooth tarmac – for once, my rear passengers could send text messages while I was driving the FC1! If the test-drive of the new Civic had taken place the previous weekend, my son’s stomach might have been more settled than the trip home in my Type R, where the jiggly ride jiggled out a large part of his meal after a particularly heavy lunch...
It’s not just about the comfort either, because the new car includes new features in enhancing road safety, such as a Lanewatch feature: a small camera on the left mirror gives a view of the immediate left blind spot when the left signal indicator is active, so it’s easy to spot kamikaze e-scooter road-riders who don’t seem to lack any sense of self-preservation or respect for the laws of the road.
What I was really enthused about is the car’s infotainment system, which is centered around a seven-inch double-DIN touchscreen that is complemented with a full LCD tachometer and steering wheel controls. Seamless integration with different audio sources (ipod, USB, Bluetooth, HDMI, Apple’s CarPlay) means all journeys can now be fun for the whole car: my passengers can now watch Youtube videos with the audio piped through the car’s sound system.
Apple’s CarPlay turns the car into a natural extension of your iPhone for the hands-free interaction with voice calls and messaging features. Moreover, your phone’s GPS navigation can now be displayed on-screen without worrying about future map updates by the car manufacturer, which can sometimes add to ownership costs further down the road.
As an audiophile, the biggest delight to me comes in the form of the car’s eight speaker system, especially now that the new Civic’s cabin insulation means I can actually listen to my tunes – it is by far the best sound I have heard from a stock unit of a car in this segment; I certainly wasted no time in shuffling through the different genres of music from my iPhone during the drive just to explore the car’s sound reproduction.
There is a lot to like about the Civic Turbo, since it is an answer to those in search of a premium mid-priced sedan that is versatile for a wide range of duties. For a Type R owner looking to embrace more grown-up and family-oriented sensibilities, the car offers what my family has been missing for many years in comfort, yet retains elements of sportiness that I continue to enjoy in a daily-driver, especially around the busy Singapore roads. STORY GAY ENG JOO / PHOTOS PETER LEE
Honda Civic Turbo
Engine: 1498cc, inline4, turbo
Transmission: Earth Dreams CVT
Top speed: 200km/h
Fuel consumption: 5.9l/100km