Review and photos by
Greg Wilson, CanadianDriver.com
Almost five years after its introduction, the eighth generation Honda Civic is still at or near the top of the passenger car sales charts in Canada. This is surprising when you consider that it’s not available as a hatchback – it’s offered only in sedan and coupe bodystyles – whereas its arch-rival, the Mazda3, is offered as a sedan and hatchback. (The Corolla is also offered as a hatchback, but it’s called the Matrix).
I often wonder how many Civics Honda Canada would have sold had they imported the sharp-looking Civic hatch from Europe.
Even after five years, the Civic’s aerodynamic styling still looks quite stylish when compared to its competitor’s recent redesigns, such as the Mazda3 sedan and Corolla sedans’. Inside, the Civic’s unconventional two-tier instrument layout, with digital speedometer on top of the dash and a traditional tachometer behind the steering wheel, was a bold design move in 2005 that could have derailed Civic sales – but to the surprise of critics, including me, it didn’t – although it’s worth noting that no other vehicle manufacturer has rushed to copy Honda’s dash design.
It will be interesting to see what Honda will do with the next generation Civic which is supposed to arrive in 2011 as a 2012 model. I’ll be rooting for an additional hatchback model and a new instrument panel.
Changes for 2010
For 2010, there are no major changes to the Civic sedan, except for the addition of a centre armrest and auxiliary port on base DX models. The Civic sedan is still offered with the basic 140-hp 1.8-litre SOHC 16 valve i-VTEC four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. As before, the Civic Si sedan gets the high-revving 197-hp 2.0-litre DOHC 16-valve i-VTEC engine and a six-speed manual transmission, while the fuel-efficient Civic Hybrid develops 110 combined horsepower out of its 1.3-litre SOHC 8-valve i-VTEC four-cylinder engine and Integrated Motor Assist electric motor and generator. The two-door Civic Coupe also uses the 1.8-litre motor while the Civic Si Coupe uses the 2.0-litre powerplant.
The Civic sedan Sport ($21,780), which was introduced last year, is sandwiched between the DX-G sedan ($19,580) and the well-equipped EX-L model ($23,680). Over and above the standard equipment in the DX-G sedan, the Sport adds 16-inch tires and alloy wheels (up from 15-inch), four-wheel disc brakes (from front disc/rear drum), body-colour mirrors and door handles, chrome exhaust tip, power heated mirrors, power tilt/slide glass moonroof with sunshade, variable intermittent wipers, unique black cloth seats with contrasting silver stitching, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, leather-wrapped steering wheel, outside temperature display, map lights, rear centre armrest, and USB device connector.
Our test car was an Alabaster Silver Sport sedan with the optional five-speed automatic transmission ($1,200), a Freight charge of $1,395, and air conditioning levy of $100 for an as-tested price of $24,475.
Though it’s called the Sport, this Civic has the same 140-hp 1.8-litre engine as the base DX and premium EX-L Civic sedans – it doesn’t get the 197-horse 2.0-litre engine of the Civic Si sedan, or its six-speed manual transmission. But it does get rear disc brakes, an upgrade over the DX’s rear drums, and 205/55R16-inch all-season tires, an upgrade over the DX’s 195/65R15-inch all-seasons.
The Sport designation refers mostly to its appearance: sporty 16-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, chrome exhaust tip, body-coloured door handles, sunroof, and rear lip spoiler spruce up the outside while a unique velour/cloth black and white seat covering is unique to the inside.
As far as performance goes, the Civic Sport is on par with the other non-Si models: according to the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, 0 to 100 km/h comes up in about 8.6 seconds (with manual transmission) and you can probably add about a second with the automatic transmission. AJAC also recorded a 100 km/h to 0 braking distance of 42.8 metres.
Those values are slightly better than the recently redesigned 148-hp Mazda3 which has a 0 to 100 time of 9.9 seconds (automatic) and a 100 to 0 braking distance 45.7 metres. The 132-hp Toyota Corolla’s numbers are 10.1 seconds and 43.6 metres. The Civic’s lighter curb weight (1256 kg/2769 lbs with automatic transmission) is a big factor in its superior performance.
Cruising on the freeway, the Civic’s engine does only 2,000 rpm at 100 km/h in fifth gear, which is quite low for a 1.8-litre engine. Even so, there’s a surprising amount of torque (max 128 lb-ft @ 4,300 rpm) and the five-speed automatic transmission responds quickly to throttle input. This transmission includes Honda’s grade-logic programming which automatically downshifts from fifth to fourth when descending steeper grades. While engine braking prevents the car from picking up too much speed going downhill, I often wonder how much fuel is sacrificed.
Still, along with the Toyota Corolla, the Civic sedan is consistently one of the most fuel efficient compact cars on the road. Its official Canadian Energuide numbers (L/100 km) are 7.4/5.4, City/Hwy (manual transmission) and 8.2/5.7, City/Hwy (automatic transmission) but more realistic figures come from the U.S. EPA whose calculations include faster highway speeds and acceleration, air conditioner use and colder outside temperatures. With the automatic transmission, the EPA rates the Civic sedan at 9.4/6.5 City/Hwy (30/43 mpg Imperial).
The Civic’s five-speed automatic transmission includes a shift gate that defaults to ‘D3’ rather than ‘D’, so the driver has to be careful not to slip it into D3 by mistake. Since the transmission has five speeds, it should default to ‘D4’. In fact, I would prefer it to default to ‘D’ and move to D4 with a button release. But the transmission has been this way since 2005, and nobody seems to mind.
As Civic owners know, the Civic sedan is a sporty handler. It steers and handles with the composure and nimbleness of a sports sedan without the punishing ride common to sports cars. All Civics have a four-wheel independent suspension, MacPherson struts in front and multi-links at the rear and the Sport model comes with standard Goodyear Eagle RS-A 205/50R-16-inch all-season tires which offered satisfactory traction and grip in the dry and wet conditions I experienced over a week of driving.
Unlike the Civic Si Sedan, the Sport doesn’t get the limited slip front differential, or electronic stability control which would enhance traction and handling. Stability control will become mandatory next year so all Civics will have to have it.
Even with a steeply raked windscreen and a long dashtop, the Civic sedan offers the driver good visibility ahead. Two extra front quarter windows help when making sharp turns, and the rear view is relatively unobstructed by the head restraints and roof pillars.
One unusual Civic feature is the front wipers which sweep outwards from the centre. This allows greater coverage to the side pillars but leaves an unwiped area at the top centre of the windscreen. However, I didn’t find this to be a problem as the rearview mirror blocked this area of the windscreen anyway.
The sleek profile of the Civic Sedan makes it look low and sporty, and you might think there isn’t much headroom, but the Civic’s roof is taller than it looks (1435 mm/56.4 in.) and four adults will fit comfortably in the Civic sedan, even though the moonroof eats up some headroom. The Civic’s raised centre rear seat makes it uncomfortable for a fifth occupant, though. As well, while rear legroom is sufficient, footroom under the front seats is shallow.
The seats in the Sport model are covered in a unique and attractive black velour/black-and-white cloth combination with white stitching, and the same soft velour covers the head restraints and armrests. It looks great, but this kind of velour attracts lint and dust, so regular vacuuming will be required.
The front seats are comfortable but there’s a bulge in the lower lumbar area of the seatback which presses into the lower back – this may be an attempt to make up for the lack of a lumbar adjustment, but not everybody needs that much lower back support. The driver’s seat is height adjustable, and with the leather-wrapped tilting and telescoping steering wheel, most drivers will find a comfortable position. Unfortunately, heated front seats are not available in the Sport model.
The Civic’s split instrument design is odd, but the large white-on-blue speedometer display just below the base of the windscreen is easy to read, and the illuminated speedometer behind the steering wheel is also in clear view. Beside the tachometer is a transmission gear indicator and odometer, but there’s no average fuel consumption readout. Unlike other vehicles in its class, the Civic doesn’t offer a Bluetooth hands-free phone system.
The centre instrument panel protrudes rudely into the cabin so that the radio and heater are easy to reach, but I find the dash a tad imposing. I still hanker for the last generation Civic’s vertical heater dial arrangement next to the steering wheel.
The standard 160-watt stereo with AM/FM/CD/MP3 with four speakers is the same stereo in the DX model and it proved adequate in sound quality for this small sedan. It includes an auxiliary input and USB connector for music devices.
The shift lever for the automatic transmission has a big, grippy shift knob and is easy to reach but it would have made more sense to put the shift lever to the left of the handbrake lever instead of on the right, in my opinion.
For cabin storage there are two small open bins to the left of the steering wheel, and two centre bins ahead of the shift lever with a 12 volt power outlet and auxiliary jack. Directly behind that are an open coin bin, the shift lever, and two cupholders with spring-loaded cup grippers and a sliding cover. Under the padded armrest between the front seats is a storage bin with a USB connector inside. Additional storage can be found in the front and rear door pockets, and front passenger seatback map pocket.
As our test car had the automatic transmission, placing full coffee cups behind the shift lever wasn’t a problem, but it would have been if the car had a manual transmission. Two more cupholders are found in the folding rear armrest.
The Civic Sport includes split folding seatbacks released from inside the trunk which can be opened remotely with the keyless entry device. The trunk is roomy for a compact car (340 litres/12.0 cu. ft.) and fully lined, but its U-shaped hinges intrude on trunk space.
Like all Civic sedans, the Sport has two front airbags, two seat-mounted side airbags, and roof-mounted curtain airbags for both rows of seats, five three point seatbelts with pretensioners, front active head restraints, rear child door locks, and rear upper tethers and lower anchors for child seats.
Positioned between the base Civic DX and uplevel EX-L trims, the Civic Sport sedan is better equipped than the DX and looks sportier, but it has the same powertrain and suspension, so performance is comparable.
Pricing: 2010 Honda Civic Sedan Sport
Base price: $21,780
Options: $1,200 (five-speed automatic transmission)
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $24,475
Crash test results
Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and editor of CanadianDriver. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).