In the Philippine market, few cars are greeted with more anticipation than an all-new Honda Civic. The Civic occupies that special realm where affordability and excitement meet. It's a family sedan that doesn't emasculate the driver into a kind of domestic submission. That's why car enthusiasts and regular motorists alike always look forward to the introduction of each generation.
Today, after months of anticipation, the all-new Civic is finally introduced to the local market. We already had a close look and seat time in Honda's new car, and we're happy to tell you that it's certainly worth the wait.
The one we drove was the 1.8-liter EXI variant. At first glance of the front profile, you will be forgiven for wondering if you're looking at an all-new car or an extensive redesign. The bumper, grille and headlights have the same angular profile as the outgoing FD-series Civic. But let your eyes linger a bit and you'll see a more wedge-like look, the headlights sweep back more.
If you still have doubts upon seeing the face, the rear will convince you that this is all-new metal. The new taillights are an obvious departure from the usual simplicity of Civic design. The white reflectors extend into the trunk like the Accord's. The 16-inch alloy wheels are new to the Civic, but they look similar to what the City wears.
Whereas the exterior changes might be described as conservative, the cabin is something else. Right in front of the driver, the digital speedometer from the FD is still there, but this time there are rows of lights on either side that either glow blue or green (more on this in a bit). Beside the digital speedo is a five-inch screen that displays a variety of information: trip meter, door-ajar indicator, clock, outside temperature and the display for the rear back-up camera. And this rear camera comes installed from the factory, not some add-on to reinvigorate an aging model line. The screen even has a choice of three wallpapers, and if you don't like what's programmed in, you can swap it with one of your own. Amazing.
The dashboard, including the HVAC and entertainment system controls, is angled toward the lucky driver. But he or she doesn't even need to reach that far to change the song or adjust the volume, the leather steering wheel has audio controls, a feature previously found only on the top of the line 2.0-liter variant.
And here's the special treat: on the other side of the steering wheel are cruise control functions, because, yes, the all-new Civic has cruise control. While it isn't the first in its class to have this (the Subaru Impreza brought it in first), it's still a very useful, not to mention upscale, feature to have. But wait there's more: on the bottom left of the steering wheel are dedicated buttons for the hands-free calling function.
The new Civic is chock-full of interesting toys, but there's one very special feature Honda wants to highlight. To the driver's left, just beside the door, is a very visible green button labeled 'ECON.' Once pressed, it will do several things that will affect fuel economy. It will alter the drive-by-wire throttle response to be less responsive (countering those who drive with heavy feet), change the transmission shift timing, and even adjust the air conditioner. When you're driving efficiently, the lights on either side of the digital speedo change from blue to green, the latter color being the undisputed hue for environmental friendliness. Step harder on the gas and it reverts to blue.
Oh, and there's one more thing. Like what Honda Cars Philippines (HCP) said before, this first batch of Honda Civics comes straight from Japan. In other words, these are basically JDM specs you read about, and this isn't even the top-tier 2.0-liter variant. As of the launch today, only this 1.8-liter EXI variant will be offered in the Philippines, and this is the only variant. There is no more 1.8V base model like before. The 2.0-liter version will be available in several months time.
Under the hood is the same 1,798cc, SOHC inline-four from the FD Civic, still mated to a five-speed automatic. As expected, power figures of 139hp and 174Nm of torque are the same. But the HCP people say the coming 2.0-liter will be a new powerplant.
You might be wondering, how long will HCP keep bringing in units from Japan? Will the cool features still be there once the Thai factories are fully operational? It's hard to say but, if you're in the market for a compact sedan at this point, it might be wise to make a reservation for this P1.074-million car. We just have a feeling these units will sell quickly.
Photos by Dinzo Tabamo
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