Honda aims to set a new benchmark for compact sedans with its new Civic range, loading the 10th-generation models with technology and safety features usually found only in much more expensive vehicles.
The new Civic is one of those cars that looks better in the flesh than in photographs – it is larger, sleeker and lower than its predecessor.
The fastback-style of the new models, and their size, are in stark contrast to the first Civics to hit roads here in the early 1970s.
That iconic model was among the first Japanese cars to become commonplace on our roads, and introduced New Zealanders to the concept of a compact but practical hatchback.
Although the 1972 model now looks basic and somewhat boxy, it set new standards for practicality and reliability, which at the time were not then strengths of European models.
So the new models have a happy backstory to celebrate, and a fine record to uphold – this is, after all, Honda’s most important model, on which the Japanese firm’s reputation rests.
A drive at Hampton Downs last week suggests the legacy is in safe hands.
The driving position is lower than in previous Civics and four runs through a temporary slalom course revealed agile handling.
There are four Civic models in the range, starting with the Civic S, which is powered by a 1.8 litre i-VTEC engine, producing 104 kW and 174 Nm of torque.
Although the base model sits on 16-inch wheels, it comes equipped with LED daytime running lights, and a 7-inch touch screen system inside the car that can operate Apple Car Play and Android Auto systems.
All the models have a three-angle reversing camera with dynamic parking aid and the base model also has cruise control with straight-drive assist, hill-start assist, and vehicle-stability assist.
All of this for $29,900 plus on-road costs, which makes the Model S not only a compelling proposition from a comfort and equipment point of view, but also damned good value.
The Civics are larger, sleeker and lower than their predecessors.
The second-tier Civic Turbo is powered by a 1.5 litre double overhead cam VTEC engine with direct-injection technology. Honda says the unit delivers significantly more power across the revs than competitor engines.
The engine delivers 127kW and 220 Nm of torque, and the Civic Turbo is fitted with a seven-speed automatic CVT transmission.
The model sits on 17-inch alloy wheels, has automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors, and a shark-fin antenna.
It also has a walk-away automatic locking system, dual-zone climate air control, and a lanewatch camera system, in a model that costs $35,500 plus orc.
The third model in the line-up is the Civic RS Turbo, which has a distinctive black grille, 17-inch RS alloy wheels, a tailgate spoiler and an electric sunroof.
The RS has sports leather interior trim, heated eight-way power adjusted seats, and alloy sports pedals.
There is also a premium audio 10-speaker 452W sound system on this model, which sells for just under $40,000 plus orc.
The top-of-the-range model is the NT Turbo, which has LED intelligent automatic headlights, auto levelling, sports leather interior trim, an inbuilt Garmin navigation APP with SUNA Live traffic updates, and the premium sound system.
Among the raft of safety features on the NT model is adaptive cruise control, with a system that can brake automatically if the car is about to run into a vehicle ahead, a collision-mitigation braking system, a forward-collision warning function, and lane-departure warning feature.
The NT Turbo retails for $42,900 plus orc, with a more customised appearance on the road.
Honda NZ marketing general manager Nadine Bell told journalists at last week’s launch the company would be emphasising the new model’s stand-out design, and simple-to-use connectivity features.
Each of the four models would appeal to buyers with different requirements.
She said the aim would be to entice buyers back to sedan models rather than SUVs, with the Civic having 20 per cent more boot space than the previous models.
Honda NZ will continue selling the Honda Civic Euro hatch model but there will be hatchback version of the new models available here next year.