- Fun to drive
- No manual option
- No auto lights
- Lack of active safety
Almost a household name, the Honda Civic has been sold in Australia since the 1970s. Hitting peak popularity in the 90s, hard times have fallen upon the Civic’s sales locally thanks to a hugely talented competitive field. But is this sales decline justified? We tested the 2020 Honda Civic VTi-S to find out.
Price & Specs: 6/10
For 2020 model year, there are six available Civic models in Australia – including the hypo hot hatch Type R. We tested the second-from-base VTi-S, which is proving to be a popular spec in Australia. Pricing starts at $22,790 plus on-road costs for the entry-level VTi, though the VTi-S we tested is $24,990 plus on-roads.
The VTi-S adds 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and push button start, front and rear parking sensors, rear privacy glass, a leather steering wheel and front foglights. This is on top of the VTi’s features, which include a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, climate control, an eight-speaker sound system, LED daytime running lights, cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity.
Yet we’d skip past the VTi-S and go to the $28,390 VTi-L for two main reasons: you get Honda’s peppy 127kW 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine, and active safety tech called ‘Honda Sensing’. In 2020, it’s simply not good enough to not offer a car without auto emergency braking (AEB) and it’s worth noting that almost all the Civic’s rivals – the Kia Cerato, Volkswagen Golf, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, Skoda Scala, etc – all offer this tech as standard across the range. Yet in the Civic, you have to spend more than $30k once on-road costs are figured into the equation.
The VTi-L also adds goodies such as 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, electric-folding mirrors, and other safety tech such as lane departure warning, auto high beam, lane assist and adaptive cruise control. Yet the $28,290 Mazda3 G20 Evolve has blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, rear automatic braking, LED front and rear lighting, sat-nav, automatic wipers and 18-inch wheels in addition to the Civic’s equipment.
The Mazda3 is also a lot newer than the Civic, and it includes a lot more standard equipment. Honda Australia need to sharpen their pencils with the Civic’s value equation because it’s really not adding up.
Drive & Engine: 7/10
The 2020 Honda Civic VTi-S is equipped with Honda’s 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. Producing 104kW of power and 174Nm of torque, the engine is definitely past its use-by-date, and lacks both the performance and economy to hold a candle to rivals – the Mazda3, for example, uses a 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine and a six-speed automatic. If the Civic were offered with a manual transmission too, it would fare much better.
The lacklustre drivetrain makes up for much of the driving experience, unfortunately. Around town, the engine and CVT automatic makes for a good team though and performance is reasonable. The revs are kept low, and drivability is good too. Fuel economy, at a claimed 6.4L/100km is good too – though the larger Mazda engine uses less. We used 7.2L/100km in our testing.
Ride & Handling: 7/10
Venture out of town and the Civic’s shortcomings become apparent. The engine becomes quite loud, and thanks to the CVT auto – which doesn’t replicate real gears, unlike the turbo model – if you need power, it’s just constant noise. The lack of noise insulation is also apparent, because the Civic is quite loud at speed thanks to lots of road noise. It can be quite tiresome on longer journeys.
Thankfully, the Civic’s dynamics are sharp and it’s actually quite a fun car to drive. The steering is alarmingly quick – don’t worry, you get used to it – and thanks to the car’s low-slung driving position, you feel as though you’re behind the wheel of a go kart. It’s just a shame that there isn’t more grunt to go with the sweet handling.
Interior & Practicality: 7/10
This generation of Civic’s interior is a big step up on the previous model, which really felt like a product of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). There are funky digital dials, a sweeping layout and a lovely open air feel to it, and while the materials aren’t amazing, everything feels well made and built to last.
The 7.0-inch centre touchscreen is easy to use. It’s a 7.0-inch unit with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is good because the standard system is both laggy and has pretty utilitarian graphics. It’s an ergonomic place to be however – everything is where you’d expect it to be in the cabin with easy to use controls and even good visibility thanks to large windows.
Some of the switchgear could be improved however. There’s nothing precisely wrong with the controls, but it just feels cheap. The steering wheel controls are plasticky, ditto the stalks, and even the indicator noise could use more refining. While it could be much worse, the cabin of the Mazda3 is just so much nicer to feel and touch.
Unlike the Mazda however, the available space in the Civic is excellent. While three adults will not like sitting in the back seat, there’s ample room for four and their luggage with a huge 414-litres of bootspace. That’s comfortably bigger than the Mazda3’s small 295L space.
Service & Warranty: 7/10
The 2020 Honda Civic VTi-S comes with Honda’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing for the 2020 Honda Civic VTi-S is due every 12 months or 10,000km, which is shorter than rivals such as the Toyota Corolla.
The overall cost of servicing the Civic hatch for three years is $1,165, which equates to an average of $388 per service. This is more than the Mazda3 ($1,061 over three years/$353 each year), which shares the same 10,000km intervals. The Corolla costs a lot less to service over five years than either the Civic or Mazda3 do for three.
The 2020 Honda Civic VTi-S DiscoverAuto Score: 7.2/10
The 2020 Honda Civic VTi-S is a solid product and it’s easy to why it sells well globally, though it is outclassed against a slew of newer competitors. If it were equipped with the 1.5-litre turbo engine, a manual or a proper automatic, the full active safety sandwich, it would likely sell even stronger in Australia.
It’s a shame because the Civic offers many likeable qualities – it’s genuinely quite fun to drive, it’s spacious with a huge boot for the segment and it’s also handsome to look at.