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2019 Honda Civic review: Rice to the occasion

Honda's Civic is a staple of the car market but is anything but bland. A 2019 update keeps it fresh

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The Civic 1.5 Turbo sails through corners effortlessly thanks to its engine. It may only be 1.5 litres in displacement, but turbocharging gives it a meaty 173 horsepower and 220 Newton-metres of torque.

Singapore

IF THERE were an automotive equivalent of rice, your typical three-box Japanese family sedan is it. They're a staple of our roads here and are appropriate for use in many different ways, but can sometimes be as boring as, well, plain white rice.

Yet, even this humble grain can be made properly tasty and exciting. Just think of yangzhou fried rice, for instance. That's the Honda Civic in a nutshell. It stands out as a serving of driving pleasure among the bland competency within the segment.

A facelift for 2019 brings the minutest of changes to the recipe, but like a light sprinkling of seasoning, it enhances the experience more than you might think.

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Extra chrome garnishing on both bumpers, and new LED foglights mark out the new Civic; inconsequential, yes, but this is still one of the most handsome small sedan shapes around.

Conversely, the most significant change to the car is found inside. Physical buttons have been added to control the infotainment functions, volume, and aircon fan speeds, and they represent a much more ergonomic solution compared to the finicky and frustratingly distracting touch-sensitive buttons of before.

Given that no mechanical revisions have been made, the driving experience is identical to that of the outgoing car. That is to say, the Civic is easily the family sedan for those who see driving as something more than a Point A to B exercise. That's particularly so for the Turbo variant that The Business Times drove.

For that, you can mostly thank the Civic's chassis, which feels taut and remains planted through corners of all types. It might not cosset the backside quite as well as some rivals, but the extra stability and confidence - perceptible from even the slightest turn of the steering wheel - is well worth the trade-off.

Complimenting the ease with which the Civic sails through corners is the effortlessness of its engine. It may only be 1.5 litres in displacement, but turbocharging gives it a meaty 173 horsepower and 220 Newton-metres of torque, which offers up brisk and unstrained acceleration, especially at higher speeds.

As before, the continuously variable transmission smoothens the acceleration, though it does sap some thrills for really keen drivers.

When it comes to the humdrum stuff though, the Civic is more than adequate, but less than stellar. Legroom is good, but the sloping roof means taller passengers have to duck slightly when getting in and out, and though the boot is large, its opening is rather narrow.

The biggest chink in the Civic Turbo's well-rounded armour is its position in the market. A price tag of S$121,999 with Certificate of Entitlement puts it within touching distance of some very tough competition. The Volkswagen Golf offers less size but more features, the Mazda 6 offers more comfort, space and a grown-up image.

For that reason, the Civic works best with the cheaper 1.6-litre option. It may only have a bread-and-butter engine, but it still retains the handsome looks, best-in-class dynamics, ease of use and decent spaciousness, and all for a good S$32,0000 less than the Turbo.

At this end of the market, simplicity and value are virtues. As with a solid plate of fried rice, who needs frills when the base is so satisfying?


Honda Civic 1.5 Turbo

Engine 1,498cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 173bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 220Nm at 1700-5500rpm
Gearbox Continuously variable transmission
Top Speed 200km/h
0-100kmh 8.5 seconds
Fuel Efficiency 5.9L/100km VES Band/CO2 B/ 135g/km
Price S$121,999 with COE
Availability Now