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Test drive review: 2016 Honda Civic Turbo

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With more than 6,000 bookings secured, Honda Malaysia is off to a flying start with the all-new Honda Civic. Thus far, 3,600 units have been delivered to owners. These figures surpasses Honda Malaysia’s original forecast of 1,200 units a month.

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Surprising? It depends on which side you’re on. Sure, the SUV market is growing exponentially, but that isn’t stopping Honda from raking up the sales figures of its all-new Civic. The Civic has some serious competition going on, as it goes head-to-head against the Toyota Corolla Altis and Mazda 3.

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This is the tenth-generation of the Honda Civic, in which its history can be traced back all the way to 1972. The Civic was sold worldwide in various body styles and platforms, and later gave birth to models like the Honda CR-V. In short, it was a momentous task for Honda to develop the tenth-generation Civic.

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Honda Motor Co unveiled the tenth-generation Civic on 17 September 2015 in the United States, with two engine and two gearbox choices across five variants. Two months after that, the Civic was spied in Thailand. The Thais received the all-new Civic earlier this year, marking the arrival of the Civic in the Southeast Asia region.

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We got the all-new Civic in June 2016 in three variants, with two variants getting the newly-developed 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo powerplant. The entry-level model continues to be powered by Honda’s reliable 1.8-litre i-VTEC engine, though with a new CVT in place of the dated five-speed automatic.

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On paper, the Honda Civic Turbo features impressive output figures even with a small displacement engine. Thanks to the turbocharged 1.5-litre engine, the Civic is able to output a healthy 170 hp and 220 Nm to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). With its new turbocharged mill, the Civic is one of the most powerful sedans in its segment.

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Apart from its new engine, we have to applaud Honda Malaysia for offering six airbags, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist (BA), Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) and Auto Brake Hold as standard equipment across the range. This is definitely good news for entry-level buyers, who in the past, were relegated only to basic safety equipment.

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When compared to the predecessor, the tenth-generation Civic definitely sets the bar higher up. The interior may not feature the two-tier dashboard of its predecessor, but in place is a futuristic full TFT LCD display. Furthermore, the hard plastics on the ninth-generation model is replaced by soft touch plastic, enhancing the Civic’s appeal. For us, the sole criticism is the new model’s steering-mounted buttons, which lacks the tactile feel the rest of the cabin has.

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In addition to its new dashboard, Honda engineers have picked the best features from other models to be implemented into the Civic, like the hidden HDMI and USB ports for smartphone connectivity and large cup holders on the centre console. Honda has managed to free up quite some space on the centre console, as they have ditched the old-style handbrake with a new electronic parking brake. This also allows the Civic to feature Auto Brake Hold.

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Behind the wheel, the Civic continues to impress. We had the opportunity to sample both the 1.8- and 1.5-litre variants of the all-new Civic. Sure, in terms of outright power, the turbocharged variant will leave its sibling eating dust, but the naturally-aspirated variant can also hold its own pretty darn well.

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Our route took us through some of the most scenic places in Sabah, including a nice hilly stretch heading towards Kinabalu Park. As mentioned in our first impressions article, the Civic is more than capable of carving corners, even in stock form. With the right amount of steering input, the Civic flows from corner to corner with no drama. Whilst the stock Continental MaxContact 5 screeched in protest, the Civic never understeered or oversteered.

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Shock tuning on the Civic was also excellent, as the Civic strikes the perfect balance between handling and ride comfort, something its rivals fall short of. In fact, the Civic feels remarkably matured behind the wheel, as opposed to the playful nature of the Mazda 3.

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The forced-induction Civic certainly has an edge in power delivery, as the Civic accelerates effortlessly and smoothly thanks to the CVT. Even with uphill climbs, the Civic never broke a sweat. The CVT also withstood the uphill test.

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Brake bite is also strong, given that we had three passengers in the Civic, plus various bags we carried along. During the downhill excursion with the Civic 1.8, we noticed that comfort was slightly better than its turbocharged variant, partly due to its high profile rubbers all round (55 series vs 50 series).

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Compared to its earlier-mentioned rivals, the Civic feels considerably ahead of the pack. Whilst the Corolla Altis, in its 2.0V guise had strong acceleration, steering was heavy and numb, resulting in a less-than-ideal driving experience, even with considerably less body roll than its predecessors. However, the Altis boasts strong residuals over most Japanese makes. On the other corner is the Mazda 3, which rewards the driver with a more exciting drive, though interior feels dated in comparison to the Civic. The six-speed automatic on the Mazda certainly adds a sportier touch, as keen drivers can attest to that.

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Driving experience aside, the Civic is also one of the first models in Malaysia to offer both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In our experience with Android Auto, we were pleased with the system’s overall performance, as it was able to locate waypoints with ease. Audio playback through the Civic’s 8 speaker set up was also immersive. Our sole niggle with the system was the fact that the cards scrolled on their own accord, which made navigation a pain, as we had to manually scroll back to the navigation screen.

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In a nutshell, the all-new Honda Civic sets the bar higher for its rivals. The Civic ticks all the right boxes, including an excellent powertrain, impressive safety equipment and well designed cockpit. No surprise why more than 6,000 Malaysians think the same. The best, reborn.

Specifications: Honda Civic 1.5 TC

Price: RM135,800 (OTR with insurance)
Engine: 1.5-litre inline-4 VTEC Turbo
Horsepower: 170 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 220 Nm @ 1,700 – 5,500 rpm
Transmission: CVT with paddle shifters

2016 Honda Civic Photo Gallery