26 September 2023

Nice Car, Shame About The Price

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By Paul Gover.

The all-new Honda Civic is a good car.

It’s not great, but the 11th generation of the Civic has plenty to like.

It’s stylish, roomy, has a big boot and it is fitted with the first continuously variable automatic transmission that is not – for me – penance.

Why then, is it not an automatic pick for the all-star team in 2022?

It’s all about the price, and the way Honda Australia is selling the new Civic.

The bottom line is a price-tag of $47,2000. Not negotiable. And only one model.

So lots of people who would have considered a Civic in the past have been locked out of the newcomer and will, instead, be going for a Toyota Corolla or a Mazda3 or a Hyundai i30 or Kia Cerato.

Those cars are just as good, sometimes better and sometimes not, but eminently more affordable and with brand values which are just as good as the fading flag at Honda.

It’s easy to understand the thinking at Honda Australia on the new Civic.

Buyers are deserting old-school passenger cars in favour of SUVs, the Civic costs a lot to build and import, Honda sees itself as a premium brand, and it has a new ‘agency’ sales model which is intended to simplify the sales process for customers but has led to complaints – and legal action – from its dealers, despite Honda Australia giving examples of buyers who are happy.

So it’s one model and one price, at least until Honda Australia can land a hybrid version of the new Civic and the highly-anticipated Type R performance model that promises to really push the limits of small-car pricing.

Against that turbulent backdrop, the Civic still needs to be assessed as a car.

The single-model approach means the VTi-LX is a five-door hatchback with a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine, CVT transmission and front-wheel drive, with a lot of standard safety and luxury equipment but not a sunroof.

It drives well. Performance is good, noise levels are low, it runs on (relatively) affordable 91 fuel, and there is great cabin space.

Inside, the Civic feels more like an Accord – for people who remember it – with space for five and lots of room to stretch out. The seats are cushy in the front and fine in the back for adults, with great legroom for youngsters.

The design work is impressive and the final finishing is everything expected of a Honda.

But the infotainment screen is smallish for 2022 and the digital instrument display is basic, without the head-up display that usually comes on top-end small cars.

There are lots of USB ports, and an easy-to-use inductive charger for a smartphone, but no cover on the cupholders in the centre console.

To drive, the Civic is fine. It’s not remotely sporty, unlike earlier models and the upcoming Type R, but people paying close to $50,000 are more likely to be older and wanting something cushy.

Honda’s work on the CVT is impressive, as it does not cause the engine to drone incessantly like some others and it has steps for ‘gears’ that closely mimic the operation of a proper automatic. There are also flappy paddles for manual-style shifts.

The ride is comfy, the cornering grip is fine, and it’s only a little noisy on the freeway.

So there is a lot to like in the Civic, and yet it seems destined to fail because it’s just another car and – despite the Honda badge – it costs too much to make sense for too few people.


Position: small car

Price: from $47,200

Engine: 1.5-litre turbo petrol

Power: 131kW/240Nm

Transmission: CVT, front-wheel drive

Plus: roomy, comfortable, Honda badge

Minus: price

THE TICK: not at nearly $50,000

Score: 6.5/10

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