Delayed by last year's tsunami, the latest Honda Civic has finally arrived on South African shores. Given the manufacturers good track record, expectations of the new generation Honda Civic are high.
What is it?
The new four-door Honda Civic has arrived to challenge the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Jetta and Chevrolet Cruze.
Building on the solidity of its predecessor, this ninth-generation model is slightly shorter and has a reduced wheelbase.
But, despite these more compact proportions, interior space has swelled, with 40mm more legroom. Shoulder room is now up by 75mm.
Other noteworthy features include a new upmarket interior blessed with a proper multimedia system and the introduction of a 92kW 1.6-litre engine to keep pricing competitive.
How does it look?
Um, pretty much identical to the last one if you ask me. Save for the new front/rear light clusters and a revised radiator grille, you'd be hard pressed to notice anything radically different.
So that means it's as exciting as the PC in your office cubicle.
What's it like to drive?
If those uninspiring looks were anything to go by, I was expecting the worst. But, after a lengthy trek through the Eastern Cape, I was actually pleasantly surprised with the little Civic's handling prowess.
Not only does it feel nimble and surefooted, thanks to that new lightweight chassis, but the steering - an electronic system debuts to aid fuel efficiency - is quick, direct and endowed with a goodly amount of road feedback.
In typical Honda fashion, the five-speed manual gearbox was a joy to use, swapping cogs with a precision and dexterity that will please keen drivers.
Negatives? Well I did find the ride a little harsh over some surfaces; that shorter wheelbase definitely makes itself noticed.
And the split-level dashboard still makes it well nigh impossible to see how fast you're going because the steering wheel obstructs the digital speedometer.
At launch, I only got to sample the 104kW, 1.8-litre VTEC engine, which did a fair job hustling the Civic from A to B. However, up here at Reef altitude, I think it might have a tougher time. The 1.6-litre will only be available to buy later this month.
Any special features?
Well the one thing that stood out was the inclusion of an ECO button. Fitted as standard across the model range, this basically softens the mapping of the engine in order to help reduce overall fuel consumption.
In addition to this you also get those ECO assist coaching lights built into the instrument cluster.
As seen in the CR-Z sports hybrid, they glow blue if your throttle foot is too heavy, green if you're helping to ease the plight of Mr Polar Bear and his slowly melting icecaps.
This system sounds a bit gimmicky but it actually does make a difference in influencing your driving style.
Should you buy one?
If you're shopping in this class then the new Civic is definitely worth a look.
For, not only is this Honda generously equipped (even the entry-level 1.6 Comfort gets four airbags, air-conditioning and an auxiliary-in port), it's also pretty good to pilot.
Other plusses to sweeten the ownership experience include this marque's incredible reliability and fine after-sales service.
Perhaps best all is the fact that buying one of these means there'll be one less Toyota Corolla clogging up our roads.
Engine: 1598cc four-cylinder (1.6 Comfort); 1798cc four-cylinder (1.8 Comfort, Elegance, Executive)*
Power: 92kW at 6500rpm; 104kW at 6500rpm*
Torque: 151Nm at 4300rpm; 174Nm at 4300rpm*
Transmission: five-speed manual or automatic
0-100km/h: 8.8 to 12-seconds depending on model
Top speed: 197 to 200km/h depending on model
Fuel: 6.6 to 6.8l/100km depending on model (claimed combined)
CO2: 157 to 160g/km depending on model
1.6 Comfort Manual R209900
1.6 Comfort Automatic R221900
1.8 Comfort Manual R229900
1.8 Comfort Automatic R241900
1.8 Elegance Manual R259900
1.8 Elegance Automatic R271900
1.8 Executive Manual R269900
1.8 Executive Automatic R282900
A rather good drive
More spacious on the inside
We don't like:
That split-level dashboard
Ride can get a bit choppy