TEST DRIVE: 2016 Honda Civic RS Turbo – The Reigning Champion
The recent generations of the Honda Civic have been a hit-or-miss affair. Following the popular fifth- and sixth-generation models, known colloquially within the Japanese carmaker’s faithful followers as the EG and EK, the seventh-generation Dimension–as it is identified locally–was a major disappointment as it abandoned the sportier double wishbone front suspension setup for the simpler and more affordable MacPherson strut. Honda then won its followers back with the clean and futuristic design of the eighth-gen FD model only to lose them again with the drab, uninspired styling of the ninth-gen FB model. The current model though, the FC, is a complete turnaround for Honda because not only does the car look good, it drives a whole lot better as well, and the Honda Civic RS Turbo here is the best of the bunch–for now, at least.
STYLING – 9/10
The Civic’s styling is a far cry from its predecessor. Gone is the wedge-like profile and in its place, a sleek sedan with a silhouette that can easily be mistaken for a hatchback–which is probably why there’s a Civic hatchback being offered in other countries save the Philippines, at least for now.
The Civic has a long and low stance which is enhanced further by the slim LED headlights and High-Gloss Black grille for the RS Turbo. The same headlight design also adds a touch of drama to the Civic since it echoes that of Honda’s all-new NSX hybrid supercar. With the aforementioned long and low stance, the Civic definitely has a sportier profile than its predecessor which needed aero and body kits to pull the look off.
The wheels could be upgraded to bigger 18- or even 19-inch ones to fill out the space in the wheel well though some degree of comfort might be sacrificed since you’ll have to cut down the sidewall height to width aspect ratio, which means less air for the tires.
Black is the major color scheme inside the Civic as the color adorns most of the materials inside, the exception being the faux aluminum accents on the dashboard and the center console between the front seats. The RS Turbo gets an eight-way power driver’s seat and leather seats all around, though the cowhide material looks like it’s seen better days. Then again, the test unit we had had already seen over 6,000 kilometers so it could be just regular wear-and-tear.
The infotainment system is accessed through a seven-inch touchscreen display, which is also equipped with GPS navigation for the RS Turbo, while connectivity is through Bluetooth, two USB ports, an Auxiliary port, and an HDMI port which allows it to mirror your smartphone onto the system.
Music is reproduced through a six-speaker system while cabin temperature is controlled through a dual-zone automatic air-conditioning system. A full-color TFT instrument cluster with different display options lets the driver know what’s happening with the car, including when the turbo kicks in. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters on the RS allow the driver to exert some control over when to shift gears. Trunk space is generous at 428 liters which can be increased further by folding the 60:40 rear seat backs down to accommodate longer cargo.
Worth noting though is that the transmission tunnel protrudes noticeably from the floor of the rear seats, unlike in the past two generations which were nearly flat.
ENGINE & PERFORMANCE – 9/10
The turbocharged 1.5-liter, four-cylinder Earth Dreams Technology engine of the Civic RS Turbo is supposedly derived from the L15 mill which first appeared in the 2002-model Honda Fit Aria, or the second-gen City as it is known locally, and is good for 171 hp and 220 Nm of torque. The engine in the Civic though has been fitted with a single scroll, low-pressure turbo which means it’s primarily used during low revs to assist the car’s fuel efficiency profile. At higher rpms though and it’s still the VTEC engine that does most of the work.
From a standing start, the Civic RS Turbo has a noticeable throttle lag though once it gets going, the acceleration is progressively linear with no hint of shift shock through the seven forward gears thanks to its CVT system. If you’d like to wring a little more power out of the car though, all you need to do is either deactivate the Eco mode so that the Civic RS Turbo will behave a little more “normally,” and/or pull the transmission lever all the way down to ‘S’ and manually shift gears through the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
FUEL ECONOMY– 8/10
When you step inside the RS Turbo, one of the first things you’ll notice in the cabin is the Eco button to the right of the transmission lever. When activated, it supposedly adjusts the necessary systems that are vital to fuel economy like the throttle, shift mapping, and even the air-conditioning system so that the car saves fuel as much as possible. With the Eco button activated, the average fuel economy with Metro Manila traffic and a daytrip jaunt through rural roads is at 9.4 km/l though when kept strictly inside the metro, the figure goes down to around 7.7 km/l.
The things is, with the low-pressure turbo, you might get addicted to the boost in acceleration it provides when the rpm hits at around 2,000 so no amount of Eco-saving measure will really make your commute more fuel efficient except self-restraint–and lots of it.
FEATURES – 9/10
Like most of today’s cars, the Civic eschews the old-fashioned hand brake or manual parking brake for an electronic one. What’s different about the system on the Civic though is that it also has an Auto Brake Hold feature. Step on the accelerator and the system disengages the parking brake temporarily; step on the brake to stop, lift your foot up and it automatically engages the brake. The system’s perfect if you’re driving in traffic on a hilly terrain or if you’re going up and down a bridge. On level surface though and it feels like the accelerator is being held back by a rubber band as power delivery feels slightly constrained.
Another feature of the Civic is the electrostatic steering wheel control, specifically for the audio system and the smartphone if one is paired to the system. Instead of pressing on the up and down buttons to adjust volume, you only need to swipe the pad with your finger. It’s actually very useful if you need to lower the volume instantly, negating the need for a mute button. Care must be taken though when swiping up to increase the volume since a quick swipe up could turn the sound in the cabin from a deafening silence to a deafening racket.
The Civic also has a Remote Engine Start feature which turns on the engine and the air conditioning system with a push of the button on the key fob even before you enter the car so that you can just sit down, put on the seatbelt and drive off once you’re inside. Lastly, the particular RS Turbo here is a 2016 version and lacks a couple of features that other models in its class have like power-folding side mirrors and speed-sensing door locks. The 2017 model though which Honda Cars Philippines introduced in April now has both, allowing the Civic to keep up with the Joneses.
DRIVING IMPRESSIONS – 8/10
The current-gen Civic uses a MacPherson Strut with Stabilizer front and Independent Multi-Link rear suspensions, and while it’s no sports car, it does feels like one. It’s no Civic Type R but it certainly feels close, or at least we imagine it to be. The RS Turbo feels planted on the road, with a surefootedness that belies its size, which says a lot since it’s the largest in its class and casts a shadow that’s nearly as large as the first-gen (locally, fifth-gen globally) Honda Accord. The electric power steering system though lacks feedback; good thing it’s a point-and-shoot affair so you only need to point the nose in the right direction and it’ll follow through.
VERDICT – 9/10
There’s a reason why the Honda Civic RS Turbo was named as the 2016 Car of the Year-Philippines and that’s because it really deserves it. Trying to find fault in it is bordering on nitpicking, really. It would have been easy to note this particular unit’s lack of power-folding side mirrors and speed-sensing door locks but with the 2017 update including these features, then there’s really nothing more to complain about it. Hard-pressed to find fault in the car, it would have to be its P1.413 million price tag as it costs nearly P100,00 more than the Toyota Corolla Altis or over P150,000 more than the Mazda 3. Still, Honda purists will find it hard to resist a Civic that harks back to the performance-oriented models of old thanks to its low-pressure turbo and VTEC engine. Now, if only Honda Cars Philippines would offer the Civic RS Turbo in its nimbler hatchback form as well…
PROS & CONS
- The way it drives makes it punch way above its class.
- It’s the largest in its class which means it has lots of interior space.
- It’s the priciest model in its class, with its closest competitor costing nearly P100,000 less.
- Its size is bordering on midsize territory, a problem when parking slots are on the diminutive size.