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Civic Pride and justly so


This is a hard one. Hard because the Honda Civic is a car that left me just a little undecided after a week with one. Something that's rare these days when virtually all new cars vary from good to great, with just a few exceptions. But - and you can capitalise that "but" - this indecision didn't last long.

There is a lot to applaud about the 10th generation Civic. And I do mean a lot. The styling, for one is striking. It could look too busy and too fussy, but somehow Honda has slickly pulled it off,  and it looks like nothing else on the road which is a good thing  for those who don't celebrate anonymity.

In the press material, Honda speaks of it being "more aggressive." This, however, is not something to celebrate. The last thing the world - and specifically South African motorists - need right now is aggression of any sort. So to me it' s a shape that's more futuristic than pugilistic. Something that's underscored by the "bracketed" tail-light design with LED light bars on either side.

It's also lower and longer than the previous Civic. Size-wise, it's close to the discontinued, wonderfully smooth-riding Accord, a car that the Civic has effectively taken over from, with the result that it now sits in the D-segment alongside vehicles such as the Volkswagen Jetta.

Build quality is top drawer, outside and in. And speaking of the interior, it's an airy, uncluttered place to be, replete with top-grade, soft-touch materials and (almost) excellent ergonomics, more of which in a second.

There's also a new high-deck centre console that houses the likes of the new electric parking brake and brake hold function. Rear-seat knee space is up by 55m, and shoulder space is up too, and there are heated seats up front.

Drive comes courtesy of a 1.5-litre VTEC turbopetrol motor. As with most new forced-induction motors, power delivery is smooth and seamless with 127kW on tap, and 220Nm of torque from 1,700rpm right through to 5,500rpm.

Zero to 100km/h comes up in 8.2 seconds, topping out at 200km/h, while fuel consumption is a claimed and believable 5.9 litres per 100km. Safety is also well taken care of by the likes of Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and six airbags.

That's the applause-worthy stuff, and even then I'm only touching on the Civic's plus points. Leaving me marginally less ecstatic was the CVT gearbox.

Now the CVT fitted to all Civics - and there are four variants in the range, namely two 1.5T models, and two non-turbo 1.8 models  - is one of the best I've yet encountered. But it's still a CVT, and like most of the breed, it doesn't always fare terribly well under sudden throttle inputs, which can leave it flustered.

Also questionable is the fact that so many vehicle functions - including audio and climate control - are accessed via the new seven-inch touchscreen. Call me a Luddite if you will, but I prefer simple knobs, buttons and levers, even if they don't look as aesthetically cool as a touchscreen. I also question the safety aspect of prodding away at a screen while on the move.

But these are comparatively small things, and the inherent appeal and excellence of the Civic package far outweighs them.

Add in the fact that your R430 000 includes a five-year/200 000km warranty, and a five-year/90 000km service plan, and it's clear that if you're looking for a sizeable sedan with just slightly left-of-centre appeal, the Civic needs to be recommended, highly recommended.

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