Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
It’s hard to believe the Honda Civic is now in its 10th-generation. It first went on sale in Australia way back in 1973. Interestingly, Civic is Honda’s longest-running nameplate. There is some heritage here that many of the Civic’s competitors can't match.
For this review, we are looking at the Civic in VTi-LX specification. It’s the range topper, the culmination of the best of the generations that preceded it.
The Civic VTi-LX starts at $33,590 plus on-road costs. At first glance, it’s difficult not to think the price is getting up there for a car in this class, but Australian buyers are increasingly favouring the high-spec models. With this in mind, it should be stated, at that price, the car comes fully loaded. In fact, the only option to consider is metallic paint. Our test car was optioned with Lunar Silver metallic paint which lifts the price to $34,165 before on-roads are applied.
What is most striking about the Civic is how grown up it is. It’s no longer a small car, it’s huge. To get some perspective, a quick comparison was made with some models from the previous two generations. The new model has far more usable space and can easily meet the needs of a family.
The design of the Civic has also come a long way. In the past, some of Honda’s designs have been too conservative, essentially at odds with the innovative aspect of the brand’s image. With this new generation Civic, the comfortable cardigan feeling has well and truly been shaken off. There is some genuine flair and creativity in the styling without going overboard that allows the Civic to stand out, in a good way. It should have showroom appeal with buyers of all ages.
The modern design is complimented by LED Fog lights, auto-levelling LED headlights and 17-inch alloy sports wheels which are all standard exterior appointments.
The headline act in the new Civic VTi-LX is the engine. It’s a completely new turbocharged 1.5-litre DOHC, direct-injected inline 4-cylinder with variable timing. It’s a strong performer for a small engine, it doesn’t need to be worked hard. It produces 127kW of power and 220Nm or torque. It also makes quite a nice sound.
There is also a new transmission in the form of a CVT. While the merits of this type of transmission continue to be debated, this is definitely one of the better versions of a CVT. It’s easy to let the mind wander about how much better the car would be with a conventional automatic, however, the fact is, the engine and transmission work well together.
There is a sense of accuracy about the way the drivetrain does its business. It always feels positive and sure of itself.
Some purists may lament, for there is no longer the option of a manual in the new Civic, it’s auto all the way – perfect for those of us who enjoy a latte while navigating the daily commute.
When driving the car, the improvement in dynamic ability is immediately noticeable. It’s a fun car to drive both in and out of town. The body is tight in the corners and there is a distinct sporting flavour to the car.
Paddle shifters are on hand for those wanting to feel more in control of the car. Car Conversation is not yet convinced these are necessary for a car equipped with a CVT.
The chassis is well sorted, the ultra-rigid and lightweight structure offers a balanced drive. For the first time, the Civic uses front and rear hydraulic compliance bushings. The benefit of this is improved ride compliance without compromising the handling set up.
Everything from the steering response to the suspension calibration works seamlessly to provide a good balance between sport and comfort. Everything is precise and stable. Over poor road surfaces, the VTi-LX easily betters its rivals.
Refinement is another area where the Civic stands tall. The new Civic has lowered noise, vibration and harshness levels. The use of strategically placed body sealants, sound-absorbing undercovers and better isolation of the engine compartment combines to provide a comfortable driving experience. Road and wind noise levels are very low and would now be close to best in class – Mazda should take note.
Visibility is excellent for a car that sits this low to the ground. From the driver’s viewpoint, the thin A-pillars allow for a clear, unobstructed view of traffic conditions.
With so much technology on offer, the noticeable omission of stop-start fuel saving technology is slightly puzzling.
Convenience is catered for with standard Smart Entry, it allows the car to be opened without touching the key – it will also automatically lock itself when the driver has moved 2.5 metres away.
Inside the cabin, it’s modern and well set out. The digital instrument cluster is a great touch, providing easy access to information. It’s also very easy to read, especially the digital speedo.
Comfortable seating is on offer for the driver and passengers. The driver’s seat features an 8-way power adjustment. With the ability to manipulate the seat to such a degree, it’s disappointing a memory function isn’t included. If there is more than one driver, constantly resetting the seat is a nuisance.
Interior storage is brilliant with the huge centre console leading the way. The storage compartment under the dash provides a great storage solution for devices that have the potential to distract the driver.
There are some other nice touches, including soft leather trim on the seats and steering wheel. There's also a sunroof. The plastics are softish but don’t feel as nice as some of the soft-touch materials used in other cars in this class or price bracket.
The design of the dash, especially the passenger side, is extremely fussy. There are too many horizontal lines that make it look unnecessarily cluttered.
For those that like technology, the infotainment system is excellent. It’s intuitive with a fast response time. The system allows users to swipe, tap and pinch – just like on a smartphone or tablet. The 7.0-inch LCD screen incorporates a very good Garmin satellite navigation system. Also, it’s pleasing to report, both Apple Carplay and Android Auto are supported.
One of the clever features is the camera hidden in the left side mirror. It shows a wide angle view of what is out to the left of the car on the infotainment screen, very handy for school drop-offs and avoiding cyclists.
For music lovers, The VTi-LX comes standard with a premium 452-watt audio system with ten speakers, including a sub-woofer.
The interior's best feature is space. The abundance of space on offer is excellent. It’s on the same wheelbase as the recently reviewed Corolla sedan at 2700mm. The Civic cleverly takes advantage of every millimetre to maximise rear seat comfort. However, like others in the class, a bit of extra rear headroom would be most welcomed.
Speaking of space, there is also a massive boot, coming in at 517 litres. A figure many large cars struggle to match.
What differentiates the VTi-LX from other Civic variants is safety. The VTi-LX comes standard with the Honda Sensing Suite, a package of driver assistance technologies to alert the driver and take action when a collision is imminent. The Honda Sensing Suite consists of Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Road Departure Mitigation System (RDM), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow (LSF).
The Sensing Suite is an excellent inclusion on the VTi-LX. Disappointingly, it is not able to be optioned on other models in the Civic range.
All Civic models get Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), dual front, side and full-length curtain airbags, Tyre Deflation Warning System (DWS), Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) and Straight Driving Steering Assist. There is also a very good rear view camera with trajectory guidelines.
From the perspective of safety, the Civic VTi-LX presents a brilliant package. The only thing that could improve it further would be the addition of a head-up display.
Fuel economy is also a talking point of the VTi-LX. This test covered some 731km, some of them painfully slow in the city, returning a figure of 6.3 litres of fuel usage for every 100km covered. An excellent return that is only slightly above the official number of 6.0l/100km.
The Honda Civic VTi-LX requires servicing every 12-months or 10,000km – or when the Engine Oil Monitor light comes on. The Honda Tailored Servicing Program is available for a maximum of 5 years or 100,000kms (whichever occurs first). Visits to the service centre will set you back $281 plus the cost of any extra items that may require replacement such as, brake fluid or the cabin air filter.
Honda back the Civic with a 3-year/100,000 km warranty. There is no beating around the bush, it’s not good enough. For a car that’s been on sale since '73, it’s time to add another two years to strengthen the ownership proposition.
In thinking about the Civic being part of the Australian automotive landscape for so long, why is it not in the current top 10? It’s a recognisable nameplate, manufactured by a good brand with a solid reputation. 
After spending a week in the Honda Civic VTi-LX, it’s puzzling why it doesn’t sell in much higher numbers. It’s a great size, it’s well packaged, it’s loaded with kit and most importantly, it’s much nicer to drive than its big selling rivals, the Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3. The Civic is definitely a car that is underrepresented in the current market and worthy of consideration for those looking at small and medium sized sedans.
Honda has kindly given Car Conversation access to other models in the Civic range, keep an eye out for our review of the Civic in VTi and VTi-S specification.
2017 Honda Civic VTi-LX Sedan Specifications
Price from $33,590, plus on-road costs Engine 1.5L 4 cylinder turbocharged petrol engine Power 127kW @ 5500 rpm Torque 220Nm @ 1700 - 5500 Transmission CVT automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 6.0L/100km Tank Capacity 47L Length 4644mm Width 1799mm Height 1416mm Wheelbase 2700mm Tare Mass 1331kg Turning circle 10.6m Service Intervals 12-months or 10,000km Warranty three year/100,000 kilometre
Let's start a Car Conversation, why do you think the Civic is so underrepresented in the sales data? Are you excited by the Civic's new design?