The Honda Civic is one of those cars that you actually need to drive to understand.
The Civic RS has no right to claim the RS badging that is associated with much stronger performance than the insipid 1.5l turbo 131kW 240Nm attached to a CVT box 4 door saloon that is this blue (the correct colour) lump of Japanese misery on paper.
But before I get there – take a look at this interior. I absolutely loved it- the air vents are modern, classy and unique. I am over gear sticks – I prefer gear dials and one push switches but that is the only niggle I had with the interior of the Civic. OK, that and the ‘bolt on’ feel to the infotainment (but at least Honda made an effort with that and it is better than average in terms of resolution and brightness quality). Everything inside the car feels quality and it is one of the best cabins I have been in in some time.
Given the nature of this site – the Bose sound system has to come in for some comment. It’s extremely good and tempered with it’s deep end low response that could have blown out of proportion. Audio in cars these days is becoming better and better and the RS is no exception to the rule in that you can have your music as loud as you like and it will not offend. Further I found it easy to balance to neutral without sound processing there to fix things that may or may not be broken I found myself in deep enjoyment of the music from the car.
But cars need more than good looks on the inside and getting back to performance and that niggly RS badge.
0-100 in a leisurely 8.3s (by modern and RS standards) confirms it. How dare Honda abuse the sacred RS insignia in such awful arrogant fashion? It’s simply untenable. I hated the car even before I sat in it after collecting it from Edenvale. Having to take it home in late afternoon traffic didn’t improve my first impressions all that much. It wasn’t super fast off the line – and yeah, once the turbo kicks in it pulls OKish but I’m not all that sure it’ll see terribly much off in a robot to robot dash in equivalent new car rand spend. As it happens at the time the Honda came in just post the fabulous Subaru and just ahead of the GR86 which I knew was on the way and maybe I wasn’t expecting too much from the car. The Civic Type R just seems to be far more interesting than this poser wannabe.
I did note on the way home with it that the gearbox felt good. I have a new found suspicion of CVTs entirely due to the wizardry and fiendish delivery and sheer brilliance of the Subaru’s box that has changed the way I see CVTs forever. Crappy ones are now simply no longer acceptable because man alive – a good one is a life changing experience. I found that initially the Honda was snappy, a little revvy and not as good as the Subaru’s overall, but still pretty impressive.
And so it was that I found myself the day after wandering around aimlessly in the car in the foothills of Northcliff wondering what to do with it having just dropped off my kid for a playdate whose dad is an avid petrol head with a collection I can only dream of, feeling moochy as a consequence. So I planted the loud pedal to the floor and for the hell of it banged the Civic into a right corner to confirm my inner confirmation bias of equally insipid run of the mill handling performance from the car.
And just like that my life changed.
The RS tore around the corner as if it wasn’t there. Not so much as a tyre squeal, not a hint of protest, nothing. It just yanked my face off. You get that ‘hello’ moment every now and then in cars but in this case in my mind was the ‘why did they put a 235/40 Pilot Sport on this thing – what a waste’ thought that had suddenly turned into an ‘I totally fuggen get it’. I couldn’t hit Sport mode fast enough and grab those flappy paddles with enthusiasm bordering a man lost in the desert without water for a week discovering an oasis with skimpily clad bikini outfitted cold beer delivery people.
The car became alive and the harder I pushed it the more it responded. A front wheel drive affair it may be but it grips to the road like a tenacious bull terrier with a stick and a waggy tail. That CVT box has 7 steps but being CVT you can bang it into “1st” from around 30km/hr and it just bumps the revs up and keeps them there all the time. I cannot think of another car that is going to exit a corner faster than this one – or with as much aplomb and lack of drama. It is physics defying stuff and I have to admit that despite my total love of ‘more power’ I think that yet again the Japanese have built a car that shows you don’t need 348kW to be happy and that 131kW applied properly will still be faster (or as fast) in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing.
Eventually when you get to the point of adhesion loss the RS is so forgiving that it’s like kicking a dandelion in the fields. You just get some typical front wheel scrubbing and it is then you might hear some protest from the tyres but the car remains flat, agile and nimble and whilst I didn’t do it I’m pretty confident you could, on track, do an emergency lane change whilst sliding – such is the communication from the chassis and steering.
It is a thing of magnificence. From a saloon!
Almost as a side issue I have to note that if you drive it with a modicum of restraint (you won’t) you will be pleasantly surprised with your fuel consumption.
And yes, just like the GR86, I loved this car. Thank heavens I am not in the position of having to choose between any of them – and why not toss the WRX into the mix as well? Spoiled for choice we are, from Japan.
Long may this proud tradition continue!
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