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Honda’s lean, green machine


AS a motoring journalist I’m often asked, “What’s the best car you’ve driven?” or “What car would you buy?” I find these to be particularly confusing questions because the answer would depend on what I’d be using the vehicle for.

So, when our new Autodealer long-term test vehicle arrived at the office I was hoping that Honda SA provided us with the ideal vehicle to use every day. It’s been about a month since we took delivery of our frugal 1.6-litre i-DTEC Civic and each time I get behind the wheel, I feel more and more impressed.

Let’s start with what is potentially the most important factor in any car, particularly in South Africa… fuel economy. Honda claims the Civic will consume just 4.1 litres/100km on a combined cycle while emitting only 109g/km of CO2, with a 50-litre fuel tank that gives you a range of over 1 200km. During our first month, driving the car, we racked up nearly 1 000km and hadn’t filled up. At the time of writing some 940km had been completed with an average fuel return of 5.3 litres/100km and a range of 158km.

The figures don’t really add up but we assume the consumption dropped below five and the car hadn’t yet reflected the change. The amazing thing is, I sit through soul- destroying traffic during my 42-kilometre commute to work, meaning the Civic isn’t actually allowed to show its full fuel-saving potential.

The engine itself is a joy with a decent spread of torque (300Nm) and not as much lag as I had anticipated. It has more than enough power with 88kW on tap but it’s the torque band I make use of the most. The engine is also a lightweight unit and comes in at 47kg, less than its 2.2-litre i-DTEC brother, meaning less weight over the front axle and better handling.

The road-holding is very good indeed thanks to a solid chassis which bodes well for the next Type R. My one reservation is that the ride is a bit harder than I had expected. I prefer the harder damping, personally, but I suspect it might not be to everyone’s liking.

Perhaps the best part of the car, for me, is the gearbox. I know that Honda make great manual boxes but this one is just superb. In addition to the short throws and easy shift action, it’s also some seven kilograms lighter than the other manual transmissions previously offered by Honda on the Civic.

There are a few niceties that come as standard which makes this car a great daily proposition. For instance, there are heated leather seats as well as a premium audio system with Bluetooth, AUX and USB inputs as well as a reverse camera. The camera comes in handy as the rear light extended over the back window, can obstruct rear vision.

As we continue our journey with the Civic we look forward to seeing just how many kilometres we can get out of a tank by taking to the open road in the coming months. With a sticker price of R325 500 and a five-year/90 000km service plan along with a three-year/100 000km warranty we’re very impressed with the little Honda at the moment.

Article written by Sean Nurse
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