I’ve been standing in front of the 2019 Honda Civic RS for several minutes, and I haven’t quite realized it yet. Okay, so maybe I should be a little embarrassed, as a veteran motoring writer, not to have noticed the changes. But the new ‘Belrina Black’ alloy wheels soon catch my eye, and it hits me: “Oh, new Civic. Right.” Those big 18-inch wheels are a whole lot more aggressive than the previous 17-inch alloys. I can’t help but think that the color was chosen specifically to ride on the popularity of the Type R, with its 20-inch black alloys.
Soon, I’m poring over the new front end, with its subtle RS badging on the grille and a new front bumper. I’d initially thought the black strip was simply the old bumper stays blacked out, but they’ve actually gone AWOL. The lower grille is now slightly wider, bleeding into the foglight surrounds. More air is certainly a good thing for a turbocharged engine, especially in our hellish tropical traffic.
Nothing has really changed under the hood. If there is any power to be gained from (slightly) better cooling, it isn’t reflected in the spec-sheet figures or the drive. The high-tech 1.5-liter engine under the hood still makes 171hp at 5,500rpm and 220Nm of torque from a lowly 1,700rpm. The CVT is still as responsive as ever. Honestly, I was hoping for more, but given that nothing in this class is quite as potent as the Civic, that’s not a big deal. This is still the big dog in terms of performance, with the quick-reacting CVT giving it stoplight bragging rights to take on more potent, more focused sport compacts one rung up.