Article and photos by
James Bergeron, CanadianDriver.com
Miami Beach, Florida – You may be asking yourself why CanadianDriver is doing a piece on a five-year-old design. Or perhaps, you’re asking yourself that other burning question: where is the new Honda Civic? You wouldn’t be the only one to ask these questions. The first person to ask me was a U.S. Customs official at the border, after ensuring I wasn’t carrying any fresh fruit with me.
Journalists who attended a Civic ride-and-drive event in Florida asked Honda representatives the same question: “Why are we here?” Their answer: Honda wants to keep the Civic front and centre in the minds of Canadians. They feel that despite it being a five-year-old design, it still is one of the best compact cars on the market. The Civic was Canada’s best selling car in February, and has been so for 12 consecutive years, so I’m not sure they have much to worry about.
Honda also wanted to remind us that they have three manufacturing plants in Canada and that 53 per cent of Honda vehicles sold in Canada are built here; this is the highest percentage of any manufacturer. Ninety-one per cent of all Hondas sold in Canada were built in Canada or the United States.
As automotive journalists tend to drive only the newest-generation models when they first arrive and rarely again unless the car is “refreshed,” many of the attendees at this event, including myself, had not driven the Civic for a few years.
First, let’s recap the Civic’s model range: it is available in four flavours – sedan, coupe, Si and hybrid. The coupe and sedan are powered by a 1.8-litre four cylinder engine producing 140 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque and delivers class-leading fuel efficiency at a combined 6.5 L/100 km. The Si has a more potent 2.0-litre engine that produces an impressive 197 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque, while the Hybrid uses a gas and electric combination with a 1.3-litre gas engine with electric assist producing a combined 110 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque and Energuide ratings of 4.7 L/100 km city and 4.3 L/100 km highway.
For our drive to a closed test facility, we strapped ourselves into tuner Civics decked out with custom exhausts, rims, spoilers and carbon fibre hoods and trunk lids. Not having driven a Civic in a while, I was quickly reminded of a few things.
The interior, although not as soft touch as some of the newer competitors, is still a pleasant place to be. Some dislike the high mounted digital speedometer but it works extremely well and allows you to keep your eyes on the road ahead. Everything is perfectly laid out, ergonomically friendly and easy to use. There are plenty of little cubbyholes for coins, and the cup holders have a sliding cover that is not seen in all vehicles in this class.
Padding is provided where padding is required, such as the door panel elbow rests, but the vanity mirrors are not illuminated and interior lighting is minimal – a pet peeve of mine.
On the road, the Civic is easy to drive, quite maneuvrable and the five-speed manual transmission is a joy to use (no automatics were available to test). Road noise is a little harsh compared to some of its competitors but our testers were equipped with more sporting tires mounted on 18-inch wheels rather than the OEM all-seasons, which created a firmer and stiffer ride than one would expect on the standard 16-inch alloys on the EX-L model or the 15-inch wheels on the DX, DX-G and Hybrid models.
Although horsepower is competitive in the class, torque is low, which means as a driver you must be more alert and willing to use the transmission to its full potential. For example, on our short trip I shifted into fifth gear at 70 km/h when I encountered a small hill and even though I had the throttle wide open, the car was losing speed. You really do have to wind out the engine if you expect much performance from the standard 1.8-litre powerplant.
The Civic Si, though sharing the same DNA as the standard Civic, comes with that extra little punch that is needed to really have some fun – especially on a closed road course where we spent the day thrashing our testers.
The Si feels light on its feet and that translates to a vehicle that is fun to drive. Honda’s goal was to remind us of how fun the Civic can be and remind us they did! With an afternoon of lapping followed by hot laps with professional drivers Patrick Carpentier and Scott Goodyear I feel confident in saying that everyone attending was thoroughly impressed with the capabilities of the Civic Si.
Priced at $25,880, the 2010 Civic Si Coupe and Sedan offer fun and value in an excellent package. Standard features include vehicle stability assist, 17-inch alloy wheels; sport tuned suspension, and a six-speed close-ratio manual transmission and a limited-slip differential.
A 2010 Civic DX sedan starts at just $16,990 with a five-speed manual transmission and a wide variety of standard features such as: ABS and six airbags (some competitors offer only two) and a five-star crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Rated as a top pick by the Automotive Leasing Guide and Canadian Black Book for top residual values the Honda Civic must not be forgotten when shopping for a compact car.
James Bergeron is an Ottawa-based automotive journalist, and CanadianDriver’s social-media editor. He is also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).