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The new Honda Civic is a head turner with first-in-class changes

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One should take time to appreciate the finer things in life, they say — like a vintage red wine or a great novel that you can read over and over again and discover something new every time. The new, 10th-generation compact is one such thing that calls for repeated appreciation.


The new sedan — the company’s biggest launch in years — is an entirely different car from what was first brought to India in 2006. One of the earliest premium Japanese cars, it was pulled out owing to dwindling sales and a mismatch in Honda’s portfolio of petrol and diesel cars. Its low ground clearance that led to painful sounds each time the car went over a pothole or a speed bump didn’t help either.


The launched a couple weeks ago is almost revolutionary by comparison. For one, the radical styling that consists of 17-inch diamond-cut wheel rims and a chrome grill that comes with a sleek coupé -inspired profile — the kind you’d expect to see in an Acura or a Lexus sports car — make the Civic one of the best-looking cars on the road today irrespective of price. A turbaned gentleman in New Delhi, in fact, walked across to where it was parked to say that he had an Accord and preferred this Civic.


True, most new cars turn heads when they are launched, but the Civic isn’t just playing off the novelty of its looks. It’s a gambit that reflects bold market moves layered across segments. The vacuum in the market for mid-range sedans, where there are few competitors in the segment that includes the Toyota Corolla and the Skoda Octavia, needed to be filled for a while now. The Civic slips into this space beautifully.


Honda Civic 2019


2019



The ground clearance problem of the earlier Civic having been permanently fixed, the sedan cruises over bumps, potholes and uneven roads with the ease you’d expect from larger and higher SUVs. I even drove over a pothole with malafide intent. Nothing, no scraping on the under-carriage.


There is, however, a good chance you won’t realise how good this car, which has a coupé -like rear, looks the first few times you step into it because there’s just so much going on with the design and styling. But what you will notice immediately is that it starts with the push of a button, has an automatic gear shift, an alternative paddle-shift and a cockpit-like interior.


The interior is replete with many firsts: a mechanically powered adjustable driver’s seat; a camera that auto-activates surrounding views when you hit the indicator; and a locking system that deploys by itself when you walk away with the key.


The interiors, while reminiscent of other cars from Honda, have visible improvements. There’s an electronic sunroof, plenty of cup holders and cubby holders, and also a large infotainment touch screen that can be accessed through steering mounted controls. The back seat is comfortable and has ample leg room. And, the trunk is large.


Honda Civic 2019


Honda Civic 2019



The car I tested was kitted out with a 1.8-litre engine that generates 140 hp. While it has the same engine as the earlier Civic in India, there is also the automatic continuous variable transmission, or CVT, which is standard across the petrol range.


As of now, however, the missing engine variant is the zesty 1.5-litre petrol turbo, but one cannot rule out its possibility in the future.


While the petrol engine is smooth and silent — like all Honda gasoline engines — the acceleration in the middle of the speedometer lacks the punchy zip because the CVT is electronically designed to prevent massive spikes in speed. Though this ensures better fuel efficiency, it takes away the spiritedness of a car that has manual transmission.


Go ahead and push the Civic around corners and it will handle the curves like a champ, remaining stable and comfortable at all times.


At almost Rs 22 lakh, will the Honda Civic win back lost market share and its loyalists? That’s a question a prominent Mumbai car dealer answered best when he saw me looking at the pictures of the Civic on my iPhone at the airport. “In the end, it’s almost always the way a car looks that buyers go for,” he said wisely.


That’s hard to disagree with — and the people behind the new Honda Civic seem to know it.



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