Honda Civic: Punchier Engines Should Give A Greater Appeal

JAPANESE CAR COMPANIES tend to keep schtum when they’ve screwed up on product, but Honda is taking a much more open approach with its admission that the existing Civic hasn’t quite cut the mustard. In fact, the firm devoted a third of its entire research and development workforce to the project to develop a tenth generation of the bread-and-butter hatchback that could appeal to drivers as well as, well, Honda’s relatively elderly faithful clientele. Continue reading “Honda Civic: Punchier Engines Should Give A Greater Appeal”

The Bright and The Bully – Volkswagen I.D vs Honda Civic Type R

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Volkswagen is planning a squeaky clean future.. luckily Honda still knows how to make them mean

Well, it hardly takes a professor of automotive semiotics to decipher what’s going on here. The signs are clear. There’s something of the night about the Honda. Wearing brushed-black paint, it gesticulates with razor-edged aerodynamic aids and shouts with open-gob air intakes.

Continue reading “The Bright and The Bully – Volkswagen I.D vs Honda Civic Type R”

Honda Civic MK 10 2017 – The Origin of The New Type R

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A clue to how good the new Type R promises to be lies in the surprisingly passionate rhetoric Honda has thrown at the standard 2017 Civic. It has, they claim, undergone dynamic rejuvenation”. They want it to be a proper driver’s car, targeting those elusive younger buyers whose patronage would banish Honda’s hard-to-shake “blue rinse” demographic.

So, they’ve engineered the platform from scratch, subverting traditional construction protocol to produce a lightweight, rigid bodyshell (twice as stiff as before!), and benchmarked premium hatchback rivals to achieve challenging levels of ride, handling, steering and NVH.

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The car has a 10mm lower centre of gravity and a lower, sportier driving position, and the introduction of a game-changing multi-link rear suspension is intended to improve handling and ride comfort at the same time.

The Mk10 Civic is longer, wider and lower than before, and even in cooking spec doesn’t scrimp on body creases, bloated arches and air intakes. “It’s a car for all people, a car for the world,” Honda trumpets. Possibly not for granny though.

And as its flared wheelarches show, the front track has to be wider still, to cope with the Type R’s power. Vents behind the front wheel draw away hot air: the Brembo brakes – with at least four-piston calipers and massive drilled and ventilated discs – will take some cooling. The revised bodywork is all shaped by function, in the pursuit of dynamic performance, promises Tsutamori-san. And this generation Type R has a bonnet scoop, presumably to keep the intercooler operating coolly. That’s right, the new hyper hatch will continue to use forced induction.

Indeed all the petrol Civics – 127bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder and 179bhp 1.5-litre four – employ a turbocharger and VTEC variable valve timing and lift, and the flagship hatch won’t be any different. “For the Type R, it will be a 2.0-litre turbo, the current one,” confirms Mitsuru Kariya. Eminently sensible: it would be more profligate than an Elton John party bag for Honda to junk a new, high-performance engine after just a couple of years’ use.

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Engineer Mitsuru Kariya not a big fan of driven rear wheels

In today’s Type R, the 2.0-litre VTEC unit generates peak power of 306bhp at 6500rpm, with maximum torque of 295lb ft claimed to rush in at 2500rpm. Of course that was double the torque of the FN2 Civic Type R’s naturally aspirated engine, at half the crank speed. But on the road, the FK2 still suffered from a distinct spot of lag before the lunacy launched at around 3000rpm. Could this be filled in by switching from a mono-scroll turbocharger to twin sequential turbos? Kariya-san chuckles at my question, and promisingly responds to his interpreter in detailed-sounding Japanese. Which turns out to be: “All we can say is that we are trying to create a Type R which is easy to drive but still powerful. We need to leave the rest to your imagination.”

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Doubtless power will continue to be transmitted by today’s magical six-speed manual gearbox, with its tightly-packed ratios. There’s no indication of a dual-clutch gearbox for the Civic: the announced automated option is a CVT, although engineer Kariya hastily adds that he’s tried to head-off the typical rev-metal thrash by making the cooking engines tractable at low revs. Fair play, but enthusiasts will always want to wind out a Honda engine, despite the latest units having redlines pegged below the 8400rpm nirvana of Type R yesteryear.

Time for the big question: given Ford’s Focus RS has switched to all-wheel drive to deploy its monstrous 345bhp and 347lb ft, aren’t four driven wheels the baseline for a top hatch these days? Audi and Mercedes-AMG would certainly agree, as they battle in a power war in which only breaking the 400bhp barrier will signal victory.

As I mention the RS, Kariya-san chuckles. “It’s quite… it’s quite… extreme,” he responds, choosing his words carefully.

“Too extreme?” I counter. “Yes, a little.”

I propose the all-wheel drive RS example to Honda Europe chief Katsushi Inoue. “There are so many rivals! But the Type R will be competitive. Our hot hatches haven’t been that bad, have they?” he laughs. “We will be up with them on performance.”

So will Honda be delivering Focus RS power levels? “We are focusing on total driveability,” Inoue-san answers. “I’ve driven a prototype of the next Type R. Do we need more power? It’s attractive as a headline for the showroom, but proper drivers like you know it’s about driveability. And we’re proud of how the Type R feels.”

So don’t expect the next Type R to generate too much more power than today’s car, and its grunt is sufficient for a 5.7sec 0-62mph sprint anyhow. All-wheel drive would help it get off the line faster, but engineer Mitsuru Kariya is emphatic about that possibility. “All-wheel drive was never an option and was also not considered within the platform design. Even in the American market, there is no big demand for all-wheel drive.” So it looks like a limited-slip differential will be the device metering out the power up front, helping manage traction.

Also working to keep the tyres in contact with the tarmac will be a host of aerodynamic aids. The outrageous pram handle rear wing is retained, and Honda has strived to make the underbody as flat as possible on the regular cars, let alone the Type R, to generate downforce. Principal designer Tsutamori confirms the aero kit’s focus is to boost cornering speed, at the expense of terminal velocity. “We’ve paid more attention to downforce, reducing lift, than to the coefficient of drag.” The three central exhausts – reminiscent of the triple bores at the back of the Ferrari F40 and 458 – reduce back pressure, boost flow and sound as thunderous as a four-cylinder turbo can. The 2.0-litre engine is shipped from the States to the Civic production facility in Swindon, where the hot hatch will go down the same line as its hatch, saloon and coupe siblings.

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While the concept’s carbonfrbre exterior is just a wrap, expect composite inserts to make an appearance inside, though the cockpit remains under wraps for now. The driver’s seat in today’s Type R is more high chair than lowered bucket, but the new-generation Civic will makes amends. You can crank it lower than Chris Froome’s resting heart rate, looking out over the dropped dashboard and wings pinched upwards to help you place the car precisely on the road. The Civic’s fuel tank used to be under the front seat, so that the rear seat squabs could fold up giving you extra stowage: the driving position might have been useless, but it was the only hot hatch in which you could carry an upright pot plant around the Nurburgring. For one corner anyway. Regardless, relocating the tank to under the rear seats creates a virtuous circle, topped off by the roofline sitting 20mm lower.

Some of the old Civic’s other cockpit quirks have been ironed out. The dislocated digital speedo has been repatriated in a TFT instrument panel, where you can scroll through functions using wheel-mounted controls. There’s also a central touchscreen, a sliding armrest and cupholders atop generous hidden stowage, and a wireless mobile charging cubbyhole. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

Show me the speed

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New TFT instruments replace previous analogue clocks. Type R repatriates digital speedo from its exile in old car’s ‘floating’ upper binnacle, and plonks it back in the driver’s face. Type R steering wheel destined for lurid two-tone leather.

Hie hero returns

Gearshift has been slowly making its way down the centre stack since the last-but-one Civic had it placed so high Matt Neal would think it natural, and has now arrived to a hero’s welcome back in the traditional spot. While it was away, the handbrake has become electronic.

Fully connected

Central colour touchscreen features new-age ‘Honda Connect’ infotainment, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Phone, maps, messages, music – there’s not much you can’t do through here, including checking your reversing camera (which you’ll need with Type R’s be-winged tail).

Low-slung in suede

Standard Civic seats do the job but Type R will get suede buckets, the bottoms of which will sit 35mm closer to the road than previously. One-piece, soft-touch instrument panel will have moulded stitching, for that “a bit like an Audi” premium feel.

To further hamper the weight distribution for a ’Ring attack, you could stick a beer fridge in a 478-litre boot claimed to be biggest in class. And while this might be an odd feature to flag up on a ballistic hot hatch, the boot’s parcel shelf is a stroke of genius: it’s turned through 90 degrees and side-mounted, so it’s half the usual size and can be easily removed and stowed elsewhere.

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But enough of such practicalities – the 2017 Type R is all about excitement, thrills, and attracting new blood. “With the tenth generation, we want to get hold of younger customers again,” says Europe chief Inoue-san. “Generally, car buyers are getting older globally. The sporty look will hit young people.” Civic sales have been dwindling in the UK – from 44,681 in 2007 to 16,266 last year – with the Type R accounting for about 1500 units a year. Honda admits it dropped the ball with generation nine Civic, but it’s bullish that Kariya’s r&d team have turned it around.

One indicator will be if peak Civic can establish itself with another blistering performance statement at the Nurburgring. The FK2 Type R posted 7 min 50.63sec, before current champ, the Golf Clubsport S, went 1.42sec faster this summer. “Oh yeah!” enthuses Inoue-san, before checking himself. “I can’t tell you about it. The current Type R got the fastest lap record, but now it’s the Golf. I’m not happy about that, I’m not happy with second position. That’s all I can say.”

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Honda Civic Type R FK2 on Nurburgring circuit

 

Curious about a TOP 5 Nurburgring Front-Wheel Drive Records? Click here

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Civic Puts Its Superohero Costume Again – Honda Civic Type R MK 5

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The last Civic Type R made the best of a flawed package. The next one, built around the tech-laden tenth-generation Civic, is Honda making amends. And on this evidence it’s really very sorry

Peak Civic. Honda has thrown everything it’s got at the tenth-generation of its family car, pooling the three global bodystyles under one team, and empowering it to deploy one-third of the company’s entire r&d resource in the largest single development programme in Honda history. And before the regular petrol and diesel models have gone anywhere near showrooms – sales don’t begin until spring 2017 – Honda is readying us for peak, peak Civic, the Type R.

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First, the performance prototype was tested on the Nurburgring Nordschleife, where today’s FK2 Type R claimed the hot hatch lap record in 2014. It then re-emerged in Spain for hot weather durability testing. And just 13 days ago, executives unveiled a concept at the Paris motor show. Enigmatically, the company gave away scant information.

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Honda Europe’s Katsushi Inoue

Next year will mark 25 years of Honda’s Type R performance brand, and the fifth-generation hot Civic will be unleashed in that anniversary year. Not that Honda Europe’s chief operating officer Katsushi Inoue confirmed the precise timing, when I asked him about a flagship hatch at the unveiling of the standard Civic. “You mean Type R?” he exclaimed, hooting with laughter. “We are thinking about it. In the lifecycle it comes.” “But we’ve seen a prototype,” I proffered. More chuckling. “It won’t be long…” Revealing the Paris concept, Honda did admit it would be on sale in the second half of 2017: reassuring news, given its slothfulness in launching the recent NSX and the five-year Type R hiatus for UK buyers from 2010.

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Honda’s principal designer Daisuke Tsutamori

The concept, and the prototypes, give a clear indication of the Type R. Principal designer Daisuke Tsutamori says the aggressive look of the ‘ultimate’ Civic is shaped by function. “I call it the war machine,” he says. “Inspiration comes from jet fighters.” But the special sauce for this car – the technical advances that make us very, very excited about the next-gen Type R – come under the skin. It starts with the engineering philosophy: everything is geared to making the new Civic brilliant to drive. “The highlight is, always will be, the dynamic performance, the feeling of how the car drives,” Mitsuru Kariya, chief engineer for the entire project, told me.

So the tenth-generation Civic bloods a new architecture, which is lighter, stiffer and has a 10mm lower centre of gravity. Resistance to bending is increased by 52% thanks to encircling bulkheads, extensive cross-bracing, more concentrated welding points and by assembling the body’s outer frame first, then adding its inner frame and joints, which Honda claims defies industry convention. Despite this robust structure, the bodyshell is said to be 16kg lighter, in a car that’s significantly longer than the outgoing model.

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This rigid platform provides a solid base to mount the suspension, essential for tuning precise dynamic responses. The Civic uses MacPherson struts up front, and hydraulic compliance bushings at both ends to quell noise and vibration, an Achilles heel of the ninth-generation Civic. And there’s a significant development at the rear: the Civic finally switches to multi-link independent suspension, like higher performance versions of its engineering yardsticks, the Audi A3 and VW Golf. “The A3 is really dynamic: you can drive very fast with great confidence. That driving performance was the main point we wanted to benchmark,” reveals Kariya-san.

“We’d really hit the limit of the torsion bar,” he adds. “With independent suspension the ride comfort increases, and the handling of course. With the highly responsive rear suspension, you have much more stability and much higher cornering speeds are achievable.”

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All of which sounds promising for the new Type R. The regular Sport can be specified with adaptive damping; the Type R is sure to employ this, hopefully providing a broader spread of ride settings than the ‘rock’ and a hard place’ of today’s car. The flagship hatch’s body will naturally be lowered, confirms Tsutamori.

The 30mm broader platform also provides an increased footprint to boost balance, enhanced by sticky Continental Sport Contact 6 rubber on the concept’s 20-inch rims.

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The Civic finally switches to multi-link independent rear suspension

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Power and a lever

Type R will retain current car’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder VTEC unit, which today produces 306bhp and 295lb ft of torque. No sign of a dual-clutch ‘box, so a six-speed manual is nailed on. Frantic shifting a Type R rite of passage.

Subaru-esque scoop

Turbocharging key to meet Type R’s goals (and towering specific output), hence the intercooler scoop. But could previous monoscroll turbocharger make way for twin sequential blowers?

Great Japanese brake off

Huge vents lurk in the flared arches behind the 20in front wheels, to help scavenge hot air from the wheel wells and cool the big Brembo brakes – with their four-piston calipers and drilled and ventilated discs.

No all-wheel drive

After Focus RS it’s the question everyone’s asking, but a four-wheel-drive Civic Type R isn’t happening. Yet. “It was never an option – even in America there’s no big demand for it,” says the chief engineer. Clearly, we didn’t demand it loudly enough.

Beams out, links in

Previous Type R’s torsion beam junked for multi-link independent suspension, just like Audi’s A3. Engineering makes for “more stability and higher cornering speeds”.

For the full story, continue reading this post

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Fast Q&A For Ford Focus RS and Honda Civic Type R GT

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Time to trade in the family wagon?

Ford Focus RS: Greeted with more enthusiasm than the much-delayed Second Coming, the Focus RS goes four- wheel drive for better traction with rally fantasists. First RS with Ecoboost power, but don’t tell anyone.

Honda Civic Type R GT: Soon to die a glorious death but going out fighting. First Type R turbocharged VTEC wrapped in a Boeing factory’s annual output, with underlying sensible Civic core intact. Sort of.

Cheap as chips or sell the kids?

Ford Focus RS: Expensive for a Ford but cheap for a 165mph hot hatch. £31k will get your bum on the standard seats but £1145 delivers Recaro chairs that acquaint your head with the ceiling.

Honda Civic Type R GT: Strong on bang for buck in GT form with only mildly-tarting options available. You can’t buy four-wheel drive or an auto ‘box at any price, but yoof respect comes free of charge.

Everything in its place or waste of space?

Ford Focus RS: You can fit a family in here without recourse to a shoehorn. Adults won’t enjoy sitting behind the mighty shelled buckets unless they’re big into Ninja Turtle fantasies.

Honda Civic Type R GT: Big front seats suck up space but Type R will still swallow hard. Weirdly, rear seat only has two belts so place least-favourite child in the middle.

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Luxury palace or Crystal Palace?

Ford Focus RS: Mid-table for the RS. A decent haul of kit but it smacks of S-Max in here, with sturdy rather than lovely materials. Handy if you’re planning on Loebing it around.

Honda Civic Type R GT: Plastics now feeling a bit London rather than Rio although no shortage of tech. Sat-nav one to hide from your mates. Red seats very much a matter of taste, or lack thereof.

Nuclear powerstation or lacking motivation?

Ford Focus RS: Mustang-derived 2.3 Ecoboost gets Cosworth intervention to give a strong and vocal 345bhp, forum bragging rights and 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds. Expect to have your sexuality challenged at every red light.

Honda Civic Type R GT: Turbo and VTEC like a match made on Blind Date; you wouldn’t naturally put them together but somehow it works out a week later. Grunty, spikey, likely to live on.

Handles on rails or railing on the handles?

Ford Focus RS: No Ed Balls mode but the Focus RS can tango as well as rhumba. Hates understeer, grips like a rejected adoptee in Track mode and will even engage Drift. Serious.

Honda Civic Type R GT: Front wheels rarely short of something to do while rears always keen to get involved. R+ mode needs the right conditions. Never dull, not for the soft of behind.

SPECIFICATIONS

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Ford Focus RS

Price: £31,250
Engine: 2261cc turbo 4-cyl
Power: 345bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque: 347lb ft @ 2000rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic with manual, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 4.7sec
Top speed: 165mph
CO2: 175g/km
Weight: 1547kg
On sale: Now

Honda Civic Type R GT

Price: £32,300
Engine: 1996cc turbo 4-cyl
Power: 306bhp @ 6500rpm
Torque: 295lb ft @ 2500rpm
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
0-62mph: 5.7sec
Top speed: 168mph
CO2: 170g/km
Weight: 1382kg
On sale: Now

VERDICT

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Ford Focus RS:
Carries doughnuts, does doughnuts. Expect nodding respect from baseball caps everywhere.  5/5

Honda Civic Type R GT:
Hard and fast, if you like that sort of thing. Still vaguely sensible and good value, soon to be reborn.  4/5

Honda Civic MK 10 2017

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The Mk10 Civic is the biggest single-model development in Honda’s history. Bigger, cleverer and as sharp to drive as a Focus? We’ll let them have two out of three…

New is potentially the most overused adjective in the automotive lexicon, used to put a gloss on something that’s merely refreshed, tweaked or preened. But the tenth-generation Honda Civic has earned the right to play the new card repeatedly; the exterior, platform, cabin and engines are all box-fresh, and what little remains is updated too.

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The amount of new in this Civic is a reflection on the current state of the mid-sized hatchback market. Ford facelifted the Focus last year while Golf and Leon have emerged from their mid-life scrub-up too, but all three offer varying combinations of quality and driving pleasure that eclipsed Civic Mk9. To sort that out, Honda has devoted additional resources to the project – the Civic is the largest single model development in company history – and right from the off they are talking big about this car being a great drive, not always something you’d associate with the big H.

Before you get there though you’ll find it hard to miss the exterior. It is significantly bigger than the old car, with an extra 30mm in the wheelbase, 130mm of length while also being lower and wider too. If the tape didn’t tell a different story you’d swear it was almost Accord-sized.

There’s a step-change in style too, abandoning the aero look of the old car for something a little more conventional. In Sport trim it’s heavy on the aggressive detailing too, even going as far as a centre-exit exhaust that cuts a little from the rear load space. The CR-V-like nose ties it in to the family while its lines are more sharply defined; it’s a face you’ll remember if not necessarily dream about.

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Central exhausts rob some boot space. A likeable blow against sensibleness

Inside there’s a mixture of non-threatening looks mixed with some clever design. In a show of commitment to the sporty theme the hip point has been lowered by 35mm, which in turn means the much-loved Magic Seats are magic no more, but you’re sat in a much better position as a result. Under-bonnet rejigging results in a lower bonnet, and slimmed A-pillars improve the view out too.

Sport trim brings with it flashes of carbonfibre across the dashboard, but broadly speaking it’s sensible shoes in here. There’s a TFT screen in place of the speedometer and rev counter which is crisp and clear, flanked by two conventional gauges that riff splendidly on 1980s games consoles.

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There’s plenty of typical clever Honda thinking in here too; the centre cubby is massive, the rear load cover unfurls from the side rather than behind the seats and there’s a neat little cable tidy for the connectivity ports. All small details but indicative of considered thought. The quality is up at the right end of the spectrum; Golf still rules here but Civic is jostling with the other key players.

That bigger body justifies itself on the space front. The boot might be a solitary litre bigger than the old one at 478 litres but it’s still comfortably bigger than anything bar the outsized Octavia, and a wider aperture makes it easier to use too. When it comes to inserting passengers, only rear headroom is a minor quibble; legroom in the back is impressive and up front all shapes will fit even with a sunroof fitted.

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Fresh, if not exactly revolutionary. Enough tech to scare off elderly customers? That’s got to be the plan

Beneath it all lies a brand-new body structure, which as well as being 16kg lighter than the old one is also more than 50% stiffer in torsional rigidity, impressive for a bigger shell. The suspension is a brand-new multi-link set-up at the rear with updated MacPherson struts up front, while motion comes from two fresh powerplants; a 1.0-litre three-cylinder and the 1.5-litre four-cylinder tested here, both employing VTEC and turbocharging – but don’t get any Type R ideas just yet.

Until next summer the 1.5-litre is the quickest Civic you can buy, with the VTEC and turbo combining to offer up 180bhp and 1771b ft.

We were reminded several times that these were pre-production cars but that bodes very well for the real thing; the four-cylinder is quiet and smooth on startup, revs cleanly and happily round to 6500rpm (with a delightful turbo whine past 6000rpm which sadly may be engineered out). Best of all though is that like any good example the Civic’s motor is pleasingly linear, the torque coming in smoothly above 1500rpm but still offering a good reason to rev it out if you’re in the mood. The six-speed manual is textbook Honda-slick, and overall refinement is already of a high order, pre-production or not.

Which leaves only the big question: is the tenth Civic really a great drive? With a few caveats thrown in – chiefly that our drive was brief and not on UK roads – the answer is certainly yes. If you’ve stepped out of a Focus you might think you’ve forgotten to take your winter gloves off, but aside from the steering lacking the last degree of feedback the Civic is genuinely good fun.

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The keen engine makes it easy to string bends together while the suspension, in standard mode, is taut without becoming fidgety – if anything it’s best left like that on anything other than flawless asphalt. Small road imperfections register on the inner ear but don’t disturb and, when you start to press on, the Civic is clearly at home; there’s little pitch or roll, turn-in is positive and the whole thing feels composed. Ultimately there are one or two slightly sharper rivals, but the Civic can now be considered a car that is worth being driven with vigour rather than patience.

The Civic has changed tack to satisfy a broader audience, and there’s no doubt that being a global car has shaped the end result. Gen-ten continues the Civic’s position as one of the most space-efficient cars in the class, added to the welcome boost in refinement, quality and driving appeal. It might not have enough about it to knock out the biggest hitters in the segment, but with the right pricing the Civic will convert a few non-believers to the Honda way of thinking.

SPECIFICATIONS


Honda Civic 1.5 Sport

honda-civic-mk10-6Price: £21,000 (est)
Engine: 1498cc turbocharged petrol 4-cyl
Power: 180bhp @ 5500rpm
Torque: 177lb ft @ 1900rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
0-62mph: 8.5sec (est)
Top speed: 135mph (est),
CO2: 137g/km
On sale: Now (deliveries March)

VERDICT 3/5

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Different, better, but not the best

Honda CR-V 2017 in Brief

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SUV has been given evolutionary redesign, and we drive it in US, where it’s a big hit

Honda CR-V has never been as big in the UK market as it is in the US, where it’s the best-selling SUV; Americans buy nearly twice as many CR-Vs each month as Brits do in a year. So while UK buyers will have to wait at least 12 months to get behind the wheel of the new fifth-generation CR-V, it’s already on sale in the US.

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Given its success in the States, it’s no surprise the formula hasn’t changed. The underlying platform is new (and shared with the Civic), with increases of 40mm and 30mm in wheelbase and length respectively. But the styling is very similar to the previous-generation CR-V’s; the visual updates are most pronounced at the back, with tail-lights that extend into the tailgate and the sides of the body, and in profile, with reshaped lower-body creases.

PRACTICALITY

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As before, passenger space is very good, while headroom has increased by 50mm. Load area can be boosted by folding split rear seats.

More substantial changes come inside. The dash is made of soft-touch materials, and the old analogue gauge pod has been replaced by a digital display with a ribbon-style rev counter and a digital speedo. Climate controls and the touchscreen stereo stand apart from the dash on a handsome glossy panel, and Honda has finally fitted a proper volume knob.

It has also switched to Garmin navigation – a big improvement, although the system is still slower and less intuitive than you’ll find in the likes of the S koda Kodiaq.

There’s plenty of storage space, too, and aside from the awkward- looking wood-effect plastic in our top-spec test car the overall design is cohesive and attractive.

The CR-V now has an extra 50mm of headroom. European boot measurements have not been released, but there is a small increase over the current car’s 589-litre load bay. Our model had a power tailgate and a removable boot floor that can be set in two positions: low to maximise space or high to provide a flat floor when the rear seats are folded. As before, door-pull handles let you drop the 60:40 split seats with one hand.

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Boot is bigger than before, but increase in headroom makes biggest difference to practicality

Our C R-V was powered by a new 190 bhp 1.5-litre turbo petrol. That engine has also been confirmed for European-bound Civics, so it’s likely we’ll see it in UK-spec CR-Vs as well; a 1.6-litre diesel is expected to join it.

The CVT transmission (the only choice for US buyers) solves the sluggish-shifting problem of the current CR-V’s nine-speed auto, although the way this keeps the engine at near-constant revs under gentle acceleration can be disconcerting. UK buyers are likely to get the option of a six-speed manual gearbox, however.

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Turbo lag from the new engine is all but undetectable, and overtaking ability is decent, even though this unit doesn’t have as much in-gear shove as a punchy diesel engine. We covered just over 1,000 miles through California and Arizona, and while official fuel economy figures have yet to be announced, our all-wheel-drive test car averaged 34.6mpg. It’s safe to say a that diesel model will be the one to go for if running costs are a concern.

Out on the open road, the CR-V impressed us with its high-speed stability and refinement: it feels as calm at the motorway limit as it does at 40 mph. The adaptive cruise control system does an excellent job of matching the speed of cars ahead with no surging or hard braking.

ON THE ROAD

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CR-V handles rough surfaces well, but steering lacks feedback

The newcomer rides comfortably over rough surfaces, although it wallows on bigger bumps. One of the biggest gripes with the current C R-V centres a round the handling, and steering that is accurate but lacking in feedback indicates that Honda has done little to improve it on this early drive in a US-spec model, at least.

EQUIPMENT

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Specs yet to be announced, but our US-spec car offered lots of USB connections for passengers. New digital instrument cluster should come as standard

However, major changes to UK versions are likely to focus on suspension revisions, so there is hope for a more complete package when the C R-V arrives over here.

Overall, the new C R-V isn’t such a huge step forward over the current model. It’s a big improvement inside, silly fake wood not with standing, and the passenger space and practicality are hard to beat.

But the interior lacks the posh feel of the Kodiaq and Kia Sportage, while the driving dynamics of this US car are miles behind those of the Mazda CX-5.

SPECIFICATIONS


honda-crv-8Honda CR-V

Price: From £24,000 (est)
Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl turbo
Power/torque: 190bhp/243Nm
Transmission: CVT automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: n/a
Top speed: n/a
Economy: n/a
CO2: n/a
On sale: Late 2017

 VERDICT

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Honda’s new CR-V follows the path set by its predecessor, with minor changes to the styling and space and significant updates to the cabin and powertrains. We like the new 1.5-litre turbo, but the driving experience still leaves a bit to be desired. We’ll have to wait to get our hands on a UK car and pricing and specs to see how competitive it will be here.

Honda Accord Hybrid

This is the ultimate, most refined and technologically sophisticated Accord to date”, that’s the all-new, ninth-gen Accord Hybrid in Honda’s own words. And it isn’t at all claim by any means. The tech-laden Accord has the Toyota Camry Hybrid in its sights and considering the Camry’s popularity, Honda has burnt the mid-night oil to make sure it’s got the upper hand in almost every department. And for that, Honda has put in a lot of segmehonda-accord-new-modelnt-first tech and features into this next-gen Accord Hybrid. So let’s begin with the most important aspect of this Accord, the hybrid tech.

Just like in the Camry, there are three key components here; a petrol engine, a generator motor and a drive motor.

But Honda has a different take on this whole hybrid business; the Accord gets a two-motor hybrid powertrain – Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive or Sport Hybrid in Honda speak- and that offers three drive modes: EV, Hybrid and Engine. Here’s how the system works – the petrol motor is a2.0-litrei-VTEC unit with 143bhp and 175Nm of torque that, in most driving conditions, provides power to the generator motor, which in turn feeds juice into the 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery pack. This electric power is then sent to the 182bhp, 315Nm propulsion motor that eventually drives the front axle.

And when these components come together, a class-leading 212bhp of power is sent to the front wheels via an electric CVT. Take a moment to let that sink in. As you may have realised by now, the petrol engine doesn’t power the wheels directly, hence there’s no need for a conventional CVT. Instead, there’s an E-CVT with two motors; one for generating power and the other for driving. Wondering how this system works in the real world? Rather well. Like most hybrids, the Accord too kicks off in pure electric mode, and as the batteries dry up or you pick up speed, the system switches to Hybrid.

The transition from EV to Hybrid is seamless and apart from a humming sound from the motor, it’s difficult to know what the system is doing. However, like its competitors, this one too isn’t going to last for long on battery mode alone – a kilometre or two at most. Driving the car for over 200km had us convinced that it’s best to leave the system in default Hybrid mode and let it decide what’s best as per driving needs. And for times when you feel the urge to pick up the pace, there are Boost and Sport modes too, that do spice things up.

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Lane Watch feature uses camera to detect blind spot on the left

Then, there’s also an Engine Drive mode, wherein the petrol motor powers the wheels (with some amount of electric assistance) once you’ve attained a cruising speed of 100kph. Now, if we were to whinge about something, it would be the whine from the petrol motor when you push it hard. Once you prod the throttle, the engine wakes up entirely, rushes to its red line and sits there while you have the pedal pressed. And it’s here that it sounds extremely loud and stressed.

The amusing bit is that even then, the engine isn’t driving the wheels directly, it’s still the propulsion motor doing the pulling duties and hence there’s a disconnect between the engine roar and performance. However, its overall performance is quite impressive for a car in this class. Also, unlike the older Accord, this one doesn’t float like a boat. It isn’t as softly sprung as before, neither does it feel as enormous. It’s shorter overall by a tiny margin and that’s helped agility immensely. It’s not outright sporty, but the ride is sorted on most occasions. There are times when around fast bends, the body tends to roll considerably but considering the bulk, it’s acceptable.

The Accord also scores high on seat comfort, overall space and cabin quality. The front seats are well bolstered and offer good support. And the place where most owners are going to spend all their time – the rear seat – is well designed too. The seat squab, the backrest angle, the firmness of the cushion – it’s near perfect. Even space for rear passengers is more than what you can ask for. Overall, it’s a good place to be in. Plus, the good-looking cabin is complemented by an even better looking exterior. Although the silhouette is that of the older Accord, it’s still quite attractive.

Extensive LED package adds to the Accord's overall smart looks
Extensive LED package adds to the Accord’s overall smart looks

It’s been tastefully designed, has a solid stance and those stylish 18-inch alloy wheels add a lot of sportiness to the design. As expected, Honda has also packed the Accord Hybrid to the gill s with creature comforts and safety features. Now, all this tech and features have pushed the Accord Hybrid’s price up.

And owing to the fact that it’s a CBU, it doesn’t qualify for the FAME scheme benefit, further hurting its pricing. So, at 37 lakh, ex-Delhi, the Accord may not seem like a very attractive proposition. But, for what the hybrid system offers, its drive ability, ride and comfort, and features, the new Accord may have done enough to catch the fancy of Honda loyalists.

The New Honda Civic Is Now Sportier

HONDA is readying an all-new version of its Civic hatch bade to take on the Vauxhall Astra and VW Golf-and ahead of its launch in spring 2017, we have been to Germany to have a quick drive in a production-ready prototype. The Japanese manufacturer has given the 10th-generation Civic an all-new platform and turbocharged VTEC engines in a bid to regain what it calls the Civic’s “distinctive sporty driving character”. The underpinnings make greater use of high-tensile steel, tighter weld2016 Honda Civic Sedaning and tweaks to the manufacturing process to offer 41 percent more torsional rigidity than the chassis of the outgoing model.

Yet the new-generation’s structure is 16kg lighter- a feat that ought to improve both performance and fuel efficiency. Perhaps the biggest sign of Honda’s sporting intent with the new Civic is the suspension set-up. The old car made do with a relatively simple and cheap-to-make torsion beam at its rear end, but the new model mixes MacPheison struts at the front with a new multi-linkset-up at the back. Honda says it will also offer adaptive dampers on high-end Civics – a tech feature that’s a first for the model, and still a relative rarity in the class. At the heart of the new Civic are Honda’s first mainstream turbocharged VTEC engines.

There’s a 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit that produces 127bhp at 5,500rpm and, unusually fora VTEC, its maximum torque of 200Nm at a modest 2,250rpm. Honda has yet to finalise fuel economy, but it’s predicting figures of around 60mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 104g/ km. There’s also a more potent 1.5-litre four-cylinder un it that produces a hefty 180bhp at 5,500rpm and 240mm of torque between 1,900 rpm and 5,000rpm. It’s a fair bit heavier on fuel consumption and emissions, though, claiming 47.1 mpg and 137g/km. The standard gearbox across both engines is a six-speed manual, although Honda says it will also offer a re-engineered CVT transmission to give the Civic a two-pedal option.

In autumn 2017, a 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel will join the range. It’ll also get the six-speed manual as standard, but its automatic option will be a conventional nine-speed torque converter. The new car’s platform is longer and wider than the chassis of the existing Civic, and the wheelbase grows by 3 0 mm -a move that’s designed to improve space for passengers, particularly those in the rear seats. The new car is 4,497mm long and 1,800mm wide, so about 12 centimetres longer than a Vauxhall Astra, but slightly narrower.

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Overall effect of adaptive dampers is that you can lean on Civic in corners with confidence

Our very early drive is in what Honda calls a “late pre-production car”. It’s one of the final examples made to check build quality at the factory in Swindon, WiIts, where all of the world’s five-door Civics will be churned out. We try the 1.5-litre turbo manual in Sport trim – perhaps not the most mainstream model in the range, but one that gives us a good idea of how Honda has moved the car on dynamically. And it really has.

Our German test route is over broadly smooth roads, but there are enough potholes to show that the new Civic will cope with b umps much better than the previous car. This is particularly true when you traverse patched-up road that only affects one side of the vehicle. Before, this would have unsettled the rear end into a shimmy; now there is a clearly noticeable level of sophistication to how the car deals with it.

Handling – Our car had the adjustable dampers which can flick between ‘regular’ and ‘dynamic’ settings. In truth, the difference between the two modes feels pretty subtle, but the overall effect, regardless of the setting you choose, is that you can lean on the Civic in corners with some confidence. Body roll is well contained and while more rapid changes of direction aren’t helped by the longer wheelbase, it feels composed enough. We’re told the adaptive set-up will be offered on 1.5 Sport models only; there will be a conventional system on regular trims and all 1.0- litre cars.

Back seats provide plenty of leg space, although low roofline limits headroom
Back seats provide plenty of leg space, although low roofline limits headroom

The 1.5 is a sea change from any mainstream VTEC engine we’ve experienced before. It revs to beyond 6,000rpm, but in truth, you won’t need to go anywhere near that figure. Instead you can drive it almost lice a diesel, using the decent spread of torque and admirably linear delivery to maintain smooth progress. The gearbox is slick and doesn’t require much effort — a typically pleasing Honda arrangement, in fact – and the modulation on the brake pedal is easy to acclimatise to. It is an easy car to drive, and in the case of this spec, an easy one to drive swiftly.

The refinement on our late prototype needs a little work; there are a couple of dodgy seals around the B-pillars and the sunroof. But even so, it’s clear that the Civic’s engine will be a polite companion when cruising; it pulls about 3,000rpm at 80 mph and while it’s not silent, it is smooth – plus it’s barely audible at all at 50 mph. We rode in a three-cylinder Civic earlier this year (Issue 1,440) and it appeared pretty refined. It’ll be interesting to drive the two back to back in due course. The Civic’s boot capacity remains impressive, at 478 litres; that’s over 100 litres more than you’ll get in an Astra.

And on most versions of the Civic, there’s further storage below the boot floor. Only Sport editions do without it, because they get a central exhaust system instead of a design that runs down the side of the car. The gain in size doesn’t exactly transform the Civic into a limousine; six-footers in the rear will find the sloping roof line does them no favours on headroom, although they’re unlikely to complain about cramped knees or legs.

The boot is both large and well-shaped, with not too much of a lip to worry about and a wide loading aperture. And while the much-loved ‘Magic Seats’ and their ultra-practical, foldable bases have gone, this still feels like a car that could cope with family life pretty comfortably.

Honda is using the Civic to introduce its next-generation CONNECT infotainment system, which is based around a seven-inch display and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. It feels much more integrated into the vehicle than Honda’s previous systems, because CONNECT hooks up with the TFT display in the centre of the instrument panel, allowing you to use the steering wheel controls to flick between screens showing everything from navigation instructions and turbo boost pressure to text messages and E-mails. The whole dashboard is a much tidier affair than those found in recent Civics, too.

New Honda Civic
New Honda Civic

The ‘two-tier’ display layout has been binned, replaced by a conventional instrument binnacle that mixes analogue dials with the large TFT display showing your speed and revs. It’s neat, clear and easy to use, with crisp graphics. Euro NCAP has yet to put the new model through its crash tests, but Honda is confident of achieving a maximum five-star rating.

Every Civic gets Honda’s SENSING safety line-up, including blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keep assist. The new Civic is due on sale from next month, with deliveries starting in March 2017. Honda hasn’t announced specs or prices yet, but given the extra technology and the increase in size, we would expect a small increase over the existing car, with a starting figure of around £17,500.

Honda Civic 1.5 VTEC Turbo Sport

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All-new hatch has grown, gained a downsized 180bhp petrol engine and chosen convention over interion. All good moves?

For the past 10 years, the Honda Civic has provided a handy reference point for anyone shopping for a new hatchback. Family five-doors simply haven’t come any more wonderfully weird.

When the eighth-generation Civic was unveiled in 2006, it challenged accepted norms on mechanical layout, as well as what constituted appealing styling and a tolerably comfortable ride and handling compromise. And when the ninth-generation car followed, the daring styling and innovative packaging (fuel tank located under the front seats, making room for the cleverest and most versatile rear seats of any hatchback) were carried over, and the jostlingly firm ride and rapier steering toned down.

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Nowit’s all change. Civic generation 10 trades ‘alternative’ for ‘competitive’ in so many ways. In a switch that bears witness to how difficult it has become to launch a truly outstanding car in this very crowded market segment, Honda is moving away from the original thinking that made the British-built Civic an exemplar of quirky innovation. Instead, it has apparently accepted the need to play by the same rules as the Volkswagen Group, the PSA Group, the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Toyota and everyone else.

So the new Civic hatchback has switched to an all-new global platform shared with its US-market saloon and coupe derivatives. It is significantly larger than before and is now a whisker under 4.5 metres in length, with a 2.7-metre wheelbase that becomes the longest in the European C-segment.

Two-thirds of the engine line-up is new. There are two downsized turbocharged VTEC petrols ranging from 1.0 to 1.5 litres and 127bhp to 180bhp. The 118bhp 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel, due to join the Civic range six months after launch, is the only carry-over.

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The Civic is wider and lower than its predecessor, too. Its body-in-white is 16kg lighter than that of the last Civic and 52% more torsionally rigid, and the car’s centre of gravity is 10mm lower. Most of which sounds like good news.

And yet, to lower the floor, roofline and centre of gravity sufficiently, to better locate its driver at the centre of its driving experience spatially and to create the necessary cabin room to rival the leading European hatchback set, Honda has reverted to siting the fuel tank in the conventional place, just ahead of the rear axle, and jettisoned those ingenious ‘magic’ rear seats.

The gains offered up as payback for the Civic’s relocation towards the notional five-door mainstream are a more upmarket cabin ambience and a more engaging drive, which is facilitated by independent rear suspension on all versions of the car and new four-stage adaptive dampers fitted to upper-level Sport-badged models, such as our I80bhp 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo Sport test car.

In the metal, the new Civic is unmistakably big. Given tacit permission to grow, in European showrooms at least, by the void where the Honda Accord used to be, the car has what designers call ‘good stance’: it looks wide, with its wheels dragged out towards the corners, and has a gently curving roofline. There’s little of the visual compactness that the Civic has traded on so effectively over the past four decades. The oversized grille, air intakes and lights, meanwhile, are fairly transparent attempts to disguise the car’s bulk and decorate a relatively unimaginative shape compared with what Civic customers will be used to.

The biggest change inside is the driving position. Moving the fuel tank has allowed Honda to lower the driver’s hip point by 35mm, so you feel much less perched up at the wheel than in the outgoing Civic and you have more head room.

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Driver now sits lower in front of a somewhat more conventional-looking fascia

But the layout of the dashboard has significantly altered, too.

Gone are the old car’s split-level instruments and driver-focused asymmetrical fascia, and in comes an architecture that’s a little more expensive to the touch and space- efficient, albeit much more ordinary on the eye. The rev counter and speedo are on a colour TFT screen, which is flanked by stylised digital temperature and fuel gauges. But counted together, they lend the interior only a superficial air of technical sophistication that Honda’s new 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system attempts, but ultimately struggles, to build on.

Material quality is high almost everywhere, but the cabin’s sense of perceived quality isn’t so cleverly conjured as it is in an Audi A3 or Volkswagen Golf. The Civic has a soft-touch roll-top dashboard pad, but its plastics are otherwise mostly hard. Although its switchgear feels very solid and robust, the button consoles aren’t as skilfully arranged as they could be and don’t look or feel as designed or expensive as an A3’s.

Plenty of existing Civic owners will be more interested, you’d imagine, in usability than in premium feel, though, and the better news is that making the Civic grow has compensated for the abandonment of what made the previous car so cleverly packaged. Passenger space in the second row is good, with plenty of leg and head room for all but the tallest adults, and boot space is close to class-leading, at 478 litres with the backseats in place.

But here’s the bad news for all those new owners whom Honda has been hoping to conquest.

Making the Civic that much bigger hasn’t, unsurprisingly, made it much more engaging to drive. Not, at any rate, to the extent that you’d notice on the 30min test route that Honda permitted us. The 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine offers significantly better real-world performance and drivability than the current Civic’s normally aspirated lumps, and there’s refinement and roundedness to the dynamic character. But even in Sport trim (which buys those adaptive dampers, sporty styling and a centrally mounted sports exhaust), the Civic isn’t a shining reason for a keen driver not to buy a Seat Leon, Ford Focus, Mazda 3 or any other hatch at the sportier end of this class.

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Twin exhaust, sporty styling and adaptive dampers are standard-fit Sport items

The Civic steers with well-judged pace and weight and it corners precisely, with strong grip levels and more than adequate body control. That it doesn’t exactly feel agile or brilliantly balanced underneath you has more to do with the long wheelbase than anything, but the re’s no mistaking the fact that it doesn’t.

There’s also no mistaking what the Civic does best: ride. With those adaptive dampers set to Normal mode, there’s pleasing compliance and decent isolation about the way that the car interacts with the road surface, and the new rear axle deals with mid-corner bumps very effectively indeed. Select Dynamic and the ride becomes tauter but retains a sense of pragmatism and decent bump absorption.

“Honda’s new 1.5 litre turbo engine seems a worthwhile step forward for the Civic”

Honda’s new 1.5-litre turbo engine, meanwhile, seems like a worthwhile step forwards for the Civic – without quite seeming like the best motor of its kind. It has good throttle response and a mid-range delivery that’s strong but not so strong as to feel abrupt or non-linear. It’s quiet and smooth at low and medium revs but gets slightly noisy and breathless above 5000rpm.

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Received wisdom suggests that hatchbackbuyers want their cars to be good at everything, and if that notion is to be trusted – if cars don’t get on the honda-civic-turbo-sport-2company fleet lists these days unless they’re all so similar that they’re damn near equally quick, economical and practical and generally of a type – then moving the Civic into the centre ground could be a sales masterstroke.

This tester is sad to see a car that stood out for being genuinely different replaced by one so conservative. Nevertheless, the new Civic is still a long way from dull or insipid, and if its change of character gives you permission to consider one, chances are you’ll still find it a refreshing break from the norm.

SPECIFICATIONS

All-new Civic is broadly more competitive than its predecessor but it also a lot more oridinary


 honda-civic-turbo-sport-7HONDA CIVIC 1.5 VTEC TURBO SPORT

Price: £ 21,500 (est)
Engine: 4cyls, 1498cc, turbo, petrol
Power: 180bhp at 5500rpm
Torque: 177lb ft at 1900rpm
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: na
0-62mph: na
Top speed: na
Economy: 47.1mpg
CO2/tax band: 137g/km, 24%
Rivals: Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI, Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 TSI

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From Naturally Aspired to Turbocharged Engines: BMW, Honda and Porsche Show Off Their Muscles

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BMW, Honda, and Porsche have built some of the finest naturally aspired engines in the world. In the last two years, they have all turned their backs on tradition in favor of turbocharged engines for their most iconic models. So what have the M3, Civic Type R and 911 gained? And perhaps more important, what have they lost?

The BMW M3s

It’s hard for turbocharged engines to feel special, to have charisma, when by their very nature they can’t offer the same noise, response and high-rev drama. And that’s what we like about engines — the combination of our sense s being spiked matched to drivability both pulling in the same direction. Conversely, it’s when turbos have holes in their drivability that they tend to be exciting.

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I drove a 1995 Audi RS2 recently. If you wanted to come out of the corner quickly, you had to accelerate before you turned in, then hold on tight and pray you got the timing right. It made me plan and concentrate, whereas the latest crop is designed to be as easy to use as possible. Maybe that’s where we’re going wrong — we ought to enjoy turbos for what they are, not hope they can impersonate an atmospheric engine so closely that we won’t be able to tell the difference.

Either way,we want to press the pedal and go, not sit around for a few seconds twiddling our thumbs and watching the overtaking gap narrow. Select Sport Plus in the BMW M3 and, provided you’ve been driving fairly sportily, it’ll notice this and use the engine airflow, even off-throttle, to keep the turbo spin ning at over 120,000rpm. So when you press go, youre ally do go. Fit the M Performance exhaust, and you counter almost all the noise criticisms, too.

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The new M3 makes a fine fist of turbo-charging, almost too fine, because one of the things we‘ve criticized it for was making the performance too accessible. Picky, us? Now this is close to being a no-win situation, but it is true that we want an engine to have a sense of crescendo, to build and build as the revs climb, and as with most turbo cars, the M3’s torque curve is more convex, bulging lowdown and tailing off at the top, rather than developing through a concave arc into a screaming peak. In this instance, I’m not saying it tails off with a whimper rather than a bang, more that you’re already traveling so fast that holding on for the last 2,000rpm is not only unnecessary but might well invite the wrong sort of attention.

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And in the case of the M3, it’s following on from twoofthe all-time greats—the E46M3’s 3.2-liter 343hp straight-six and the E92’s 414hp 4.0-liter V8. Of the two it was the older one that was my favorite — the six was a masterpiece: crisp, responsive, stunning to listen to. It took six cylinders as far as they could go, meaning BMW had to turn to eight for its re placement. BMW got that one pretty much bang on, too. It was always a relatively heavy drinker, but the way it revs through to 8,400rpm is pure magnificence, especially the arc over the last 2,000rpm.

It’s also a smoother, more consistent driving experience than the new one. I’ve touched on this before, but I believe BMW, concerned about how a turbo M3 would be perceived, deliberately made it challenging to drive quickly so it wouldn’t be se en as a cop out. Does that make it better?

No — by a slim margin, the old one gets my vote.

The Honda Civic Type Rs

In away, it’s surprising Honda held out for so long. When the red Civic Type R you see here was launched back in 2007, most of its rivals were already turbocharged. Take the MkV Volkswagen Golf GTI. It had the same power as the 198hp Civic, but over 80Nm more than the 192Nm the Honda could muster, delivered almost 4,000rpm further down the rev range.

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Unsurprisingly the Civic, with its engine largely carried over from the 2001 EP3 TypeR, was criticized for being off the pace. But Honda held out, trusting in VTEC and high revs to do the business. And to a certain extent it did — and still does today. This naturally aspirated 2.0-liter is sharp and tingly. With intake and outflow of gases un impeded, response is immediate and it’ll happily so arround to 8,500rpm — thats’ easily l,500rpm beyond the upper reaches of the turbo’s range. It sounds eager and determined, with the engine building to a climax.

But the overriding impression is of a car that delivers much noise and drama for little progress. That’s not a criticism that can be leveled at the new one. The step-up in performance between the two generations is easily the biggest here — over 50% more power, over 100% more torque. Put your foot down at 50kph in fourth gear, and 10.7sec later you’ll have passed 160kph. The old Civic won’t be alongfor another 8sec.

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But the initial lunge, that moment when you go for an overtake, there’s a lot less between the two. The new Civic suffers from considerable turbo lag. Side by side at 40kph on Dunsfold’s runway, old kept new honest for a four count before the turbo hooked up and thrust the monstrously winged Civic into the distance. At higher revs the issue is smaller,but it’s clear Honda still has to perfect turbocharging.

There is noise, but it’s flat and bland, lacks tonal definition or the sense that it’s working hard. The Civic’s blower is monoscroll, which means the impeller blades are fixed rather than having the variable geometry that allows carmakers to tune engine response and torque delivery via the turbos as well as the motor. Since the turbo behaves the same across the rev range, it allows you to feel some of the four-cylinder’s power characteristics, not least the step in performance when the VTEC kicks in. T urbos, especially variable-geometry ones, have a tendency to smother not just noise,but character — it’s one of our chief blower bugbears.

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But because you don’t have to rev the knickers out of the new one to get places, economy is pleasingly strong — we had along-term car and it averaged 14km/L,where the old one returns around 11km/L. In saved cost and gained range that’s a difference worth having. As is the power and speed. This is relatively simple first generation turbocharging,and there’s a certain charm to its lag and heavy punch— the turbo Civic feels raw but rewarding. Yes, it’s missing the top-end snap and snarl, the aural pleasure, but of the two, old and new, it’s the one to have.

The Porsche 911s

The common beliefis that firms have been forced to adopt turbocharging due to emissions and wanting to improve economy. By and large that’s true. Only with the proviso that the benefits seen on the EU fuel cycle, which tests cars so gently that the turbo almost never wakes up, aren’t then matched by the reality.

However, there’s another reason: power.

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When I went on the launch of the new, turbo Porsche 911,one of the engineers openly told me that if they didn’t turn to turbos, they wouldn’t be able to match the power figures of their rivals. Forget noise, lag and all the rest, it’s the headline figures of speed and economy th at sell cars and at least until the official tests get a makeover, turbo cars fare better on a spec sheet.

Theeveryone-else-is-doing-it-so-we-must-too mantra is a powerful one — no one wants to be left behind on technological development,so we all follow each other down the same paths (or cul-de-sacs, depending on your perspective). But what does that matter when it comes to actual driving? Do you actually notice that the new car runs from 50kph to 160kph in fourth gear in 10.6sec, where the old one took 14sec?

You can see the difference in the figures alright,but in reality it’s the old one that feels faster at the top end. And more special. The old 3.8-liter flat-six is mesmerizing. It’s guttural at low speed, chuntering around, then as the revs rise it clears its throat and starts to howl, the noise developing with every single revgained. It’s multifaceted magnificence.

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To a certain extent, Honda and BMW have managed to alleviate the concerns about the move away from natural aspiration with, in Honda’s case, a massive power increase, and in BMWs, by focusing on noise and minimizing turbo lag. Porsche has followed BMW’s example and in isolation the new twin-turbo 911 is a responsive, noisy thing.

And yet, compared to its predecessor, it’s now not an engine you feel particularly inclined to play with. It feels more professional, smooth and hushed, where the old one was so charismatic and enthusiastic about getting places you couldn’t help but join in. It made the whole driving experience come to life. The counter-argument is that turbocharging improves everyday drivability. Overtaking becomes more effortless, you can run longer gearing and still have plenty of mid-range urge, noise levels are lower. For 90% ofthe driving you do, it makes more sense. But these are sports cars, and the 10% matters. And that’s why I’d have the original: the engine, the car’s heart, was a classic.

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We haven’t learned anything new here,but the comparison has allowed both turbos and natural breathers to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each other. Put most people in a naturally aspirated car and they’d miss the torque, update them to the turbo and they’d protest about the noise and delay. Legislation and the very real need to lower emissions ensures turbocharging is here to stay, but it’s incumbent on the car firms to make it the best it can be, so that turbo can not only imitate natural aspiration, but actually move the game on.

Honda Comes Up With A New Wagon For The Orient: Meet Honda BR-V

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The BR-V aims to fix that and more, because in the grand scheme of economies of scale, it makes perfect sense to max out the Brio-Amaze-Mobilio platform with an upscale version of its compact family wago- oops, MPV. Thus, the BR-V looks less like the homely Mobilio and more like its swanky HR-V cousin. So, while the BR-V shares most of its essentials with its humbler siblings, you will probably forget about them the moment you get inside. Or even just look at it to appreciate the details.

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honda-br-v-6The BR-V’s squared off shoulders look a lot better paired with its chrome grille, avoiding the fish face look of the Mobilio. The flanks sport a little bit of cladding around the fenders, and you get the subtle creases to give this erstwhile mom-mobile some visual testosterone. And of course it has to have roof rails, #becausesporty. With the adequately sized wheels and tires (not too big, not too small), trademark Honda expanse of glass, it’s a healthy combo of City-HR-V-Pilot aesthetic cues, and if one of the design objectives was to make it easily look several hundred thou’more expensive than the Mobilio, then Honda nailed it.

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This garnish is finding its way to all sorts of models nowdays

The interior is similarly impressive, not because it sets any new design goalposts like the HR-V, but because it marries practicality with aesthetics. You get the big instrument panel with the beautifully lit gauges, a touch panel stereo/navigation system up top, and physical buttons for the A/C below.

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It’s not the full-on touch panel system of the high-end City/Jazz or HR-V variants, but it all works well enough and you likely won’t pine for an HR-V just because of that. In any case, the conventional dashboard design yields a fair amount of space on the center console for coins, wallets, and cupholders; something in short supply in the HR-V.

The BR-V is definitely family-oriented with its generous assortment of cupholders, pockets and cubby holders spread throughout the cabin. Once again, Honda’s seating magic proves they’re worth their weight in gold when it’s time to transport large items.

With all seven seats in use, passengers under 6-ft in height will be reasonably comfortable. The third row seat is deceptively comfortable. Despite not having much more legroom than in an Innova, the bench’s raised seating makes it bearable for perhaps an hour or two. And you still get a few liters of cargo space behind the third row. Fold and tumble all the seats, or mix-and-match to your needs, and you can fit giant flat TVs, bikes, potted plants, and other bulky cargo with minimal fuss.

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If there’s really one thing I wish the BR-V had, it’s a bigger engine. Like the Mobilio, it gets by with a SOHC 1.5-liter mill. It’s fine for city driving where you rarely ever reach 50kph, but load up the BR-V and the lack of grunt quickly makes itself apparent. You floor the accelerator, the revs climb, but the scenery doesn’t go by much quicker than you’d hope for.

The engine is breathing pretty hard just to maintain 120kph, and maintaining speed with afull load at the legal l00kph speed limit may also be a challenge.

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Modern cars don’t require you to look under here anymore

Honda Philippines is only bringing in the petrol engine for this market, so we’ll just have to keep wondering why the diesel in other markets doesn’t make it here. At least the BR-V can be had with paddle shifters, a marked upgrade over the simpler setup of the Mobilio. Paddle shifters or manual mode shifting is rarely ever used in an automatic-equipped car, but it’s very much appreciated when it finally comes into play. The ability to hold a”gear” is essential to keeping the car in its sweet spot, especially on a technical section or along climb.

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It is technically a wagon, so you must apreciate that rear-biased

As underwhelming as the BR-V’s engine is, it’s hard to fault the overall driving character. The steering is precise, the brakes have a lot of bite and are very linear and responsive, and the suspension is nicely balanced between firmness and comfort.

It seems to have less floatiness at speed than the Mobilio, which could be down to firmer shocks and the lower profile tires.

Our prototype unit, which should be very close to final production Navi CVT-spec, came fairly loaded with all the modcons and safety kit you’d expect these days: dual front airbags, ABS, Hill Start and Vehicle Stability Assist. You can turn off the latter if you ever want to play Tito Drifter on loose soil, but really, there’s only so much action you can get even in a BR-V. The BR-V rides on 60-series, 16-inch tires and independent front and rear beam-axle suspension; fairly standard stuff these days. Ground clearance of just 201mm is fairly modest, so don’t go playing Das Boot with this Honda, or even rolling up and over a pesky curb unless you want to damage the underside.

In does come with a snazzy front skid plate for some protection, but let’s not kid ourselves. If you want to play Off-Road Hero, go getyourself a pickup truck and spend another half million on aftermarket mods. The BR-V is all about moving people in comfort and style for not too much money. You get more nice stuff, too, like a Smart Key with push-button Engine Start, and snazzy LED position bulbs in the modern halogen headlamps.

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You can tell a lot about a car from headlight design

Whereas driving the Mobilio is all about practicality and functionality, the BR-V injects a dose of sophistication in to the otherwise mundane role of a family car in everyday driving. Few manufacturers can get the tactile sensations and visual treats right the way Honda does.

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Honda control and feel is consistent throughout the range

The three-spoke steering wheel with its alloy spokes and mesh panels evoke its motorsports heritage, while the angular cockpit with the huge window areas can make you imagine you’re piloting a starship. See, sometimes you don’t really need to go nosebleed-fast to have a bit of fun on the open road.

High grade materials are used for the plastics, fabrics and leather, all justifying the premium over Mobilio. It’s not quite Business Class yet like the Odyssey, but close.

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There’s no escaping leather. It’s there to lure you into buying

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With the MPV market feeling tight these days with choices like the Toyota Avanza and Honda Mobilio at the “budget” end of the spectrum, and the Innova and Kia Carens in the midrange, tossing a BR-V in between those two makes sense for Honda and is bound to further confuse buyers still undecided what MPV to drive home.

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The Innova has a bulletproof reputation and hasgone upscale to justify its price increase, while the Kia is a solid acquisition for the buyer who wants a low key wagon with European feel. The BR-V is the quintessential Honda for the family-oriented buyer who’s outgrown the City/Jazz but wants something that feels more special than the workman-like Mobilio. Like the difference between Uber X and Liber Black, the BR-V delivers an upscale look and feel to its line of MPVs that can only bring more customers into Honda showrooms.

SPECIFICATIONS

Honda BR-V


Engine: 1.5-liter I4 gasoline
Power: 120hp @ 6,600rpm
Torque: 145Nm @ 4,600rpm
Transmission: CVT
Price: $20,000-23,000

Honda HR-V vs Subaru XV

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Honda HR-V

The HR-V has a broad repertoire of skills to charm even the most jaded commuter

he HR-V is a nameplate we first encountered way back in the late’90s as the shoe of Voltes V. Today’s HR-V is a slick piece of work, and arguably the best-looking Honda of the lot.

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The Japanese carmaker knows how to humanize its cars, and this model is one of the most charismatic products it has rolled out since the first Jazz came out. Sharing its platform with the Jazz, the HR-V has much of the practicality of that little econobox,but it amps up the style factor. The raffish curves, the sweeping roofline, the futuristic cockpit—it’s hard not to like this crossover. Especially when you remember how chunky and nerdy its predecessor was. You don’t remember it? Good. It really was a sad sack compared to the CR-V.

This time around, the HR-V boasts heaps of style to go with the trademark driving fun that Honda is known for.

While it’s only available with front-wheel drive, this won’t hinder drivers too much as the only off-road this will ever likely encounter might be grassy parking areas.

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Thel.8-liter SOHC doesn’thave the verve of the XV’s flat-four given that it’s down by 9hp vs. The Subaru powerplant, so you won’t really want to go racing in this Honda even if it has paddle shifters and sharp handling chops. The Eco mode encourages thrifty driving, and netted us8-8.5km/L in urban madness.

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Feeling rebellious? You can turn off the Eco setting if you wish

The engine is whisper-quiet and silky-smooth, paired with a CVT that minimizes the oozing sensation during hard runs. The steering is laser-precise, and the suspension is up to the task of frisky driving if you’re so inclined.

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This 1.8-liter is tuned for efficiency. But it has a fun side to it.

The seats here are firmer than the Subaru’s, though, and while both are comfortable for long drives, it will come down to what your buttocks prefer: hard or cushy. The HR-V cedes some utility to the XV in the cargo department as the roofline curves toward the back, reducing usable space if you retain the rear seat bottoms.

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Not as big as the XVs, but fold the seats down, it’s more than decent.

LIFE ON THE INSIDE

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  • The wheel looks high-tech and is a perfect frame for the high-contrast instrument gauges.
  • Touchscreen panels for multi-media, navigation and A/C raise the HR-Vs elitist appeal.
  • Cool-looking vents. Your shotgun rider might ask to turnup the temp in the cooler months.
  • The dashboard’s curves and textures are a pleasure to behold and touch.
  • The over/under style of the center console provides a wrap-around effect for the cockpit.

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That said, the HR-Vhas the famous ULT seats we first fell in love with in the Jazz. Fold the seat bottoms forward and fold the seatbacks down—and voila, now you have a big box behind the front seats. Total rated cargo volume thus configured is 1,665L.

Other little touches conspire to make you fall in love with the HR-V, like the touchscreen displays for the multimedia and climate controls; the over/under design of the center console that raises the height of the shifter so your hand is perfectly placed on it when your arm is on the armrest; the seeming bazillion of A/G vents up front; and even those little moodlights around the instrument bezels and front speakers. You don’t really need them for the everyday commute, but if your daily drive tends to suck the life out of you, well, a little entertainment and whimsy is much appreciated.

SPECIFICATIONS

Honda HR-V 1.8 EL


honda-subaru-honda-3Price: $26,900
Engine: 1.8 liter SOHC I4
Type: petrol
Capacity (cc): 1,799
Maximum output: 139hp @ 6,500rpm
Maximum torque: 172Nm @ 4,300rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Brakes (front/rear): vented disc/disc
Front suspension: Mac Pherson strut
Rear suspension: Axle type
Wheels: 18in alloy (Mugen)
Tires(front/rear): 225/45 R18
Dimensions L/W/H (mm): 4,294/1,772/1,605
Wheelbase (mm): 2,610
Curb weight (kg): 1,256
Power to weight ratio (hp/ton): 110.668
Fuel-tank capacity (liters): 50

Honda Civic 1.8E

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This isn’t the civic of yesteryear. That’s a good thing because change is good

“Hindi, mahal ‘yan! Imported ‘yan!” A friendly argument arises between two enterprising street urchins — unofficial watch-your-car boys collecting spare change at an outdoor parking lot — about the burgundy whip that pulls in. The statement is both right and wrong: The brand is Japanese, thus making the car imported. But priced at a very conservative $21,900, the Civic 1.8 E is anything but expensive.

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That amount isn’t exactly chump change, but the new Civic looks more expensive than it really is. Channeling European luxury-brand sensibilities makes it the most premium-looking Civic to date. It seems to have shed the whole‘sport-tuner’vibe and switched to a more distinguished disposition.

This newfound refinement is apparent in the driving dynamics, too, the car having very little in common with the boy-racer Civics of the past. The only thing that still feels sort of sporty is the driving position— something Honda has, amazingly, kept consistent with all Civics over the years. Otherwise, it’s a completely different experience. It has the hardware to go fast, that’s apparent when you ease in the gas, but it just doesn’t feel like it wants to go fast.

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Cabin space can be appreciated by pro basketball players

While it isn’t as sharp as its predecessors around corners, it’s still surefooted enough to stay grippy in a yank-and-turn situation. Maybe it’s because the car has put on some weight after all these years – metabolism isn’t what it once was, can we get an amen?

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This latest generation doesn’t pay homage to its lineage, except in still being great value for money. That said, it would be healthy to look at things from a different perspective. Back then, the EG or the SIR was a favorite among younger drivers because it went fast and had cheap parts aplenty. Fast-forward to today and priorities have changed. Finding the time to set up a car is hard. Going at breakneck speeds outside the track is stupid. Comfort, class, and a premium feel matter more.

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The new Civic, aging with the audience that has grown up idolizing it, now offers these things. T hat’s evolution on a whole new level.

SPECIFICATIONS

Honda Civic 1.8E


honda-civic-e-3Price: $21,900
Engine: 1.8-liter SOHC I4
Power: 139hp @ 6,500rpm
Torque: 174Nm @ 4,300rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Layout/seating: FWD/5
Rival: Toyota Corolla Altis

Honda Civic Sport Vs Mazda 3

Honda Civic Sport

Model tested: Honda Civic 1.4 Sport
Price: £18,360 Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 98bhp

The new Honda Civic Sport aims to inject some much-needed showroom appeal into the soon-to-be-replaced family hatchback. It’s essentially an entry-level model, bur thanks to a host of cosmetic upgrades and some additional equipment, it looks and feels anything but. There’s also a new engine option in the form of the brand’s tried-and-tested 1.4-litre, and it’s this unit that we test here.

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Styling 3.9/5

Its been around for five years now, but the ninth-generation Civic has lost none of its visual presence. The British-built hatch stands out from the crowd with its aggressive nose treatment, double-decked tailgate and hidden rear door handles. It’s not as handsome or well proportioned as the sleek Mazda but there’s no denying it makes an impact.

The Sport model is given an extra dose of visual appeal courtesy of some design flourishes that are influenced by the Type R hot hatch. At the front is a racy mesh grille, while there’s a subtle tailgate spoiler at the rear. The makeover is completed by a set of black-painted 17-inch alloy wheels.

Honda has attempted to be equally bold with the Civic’s interior, although the results are something of a mixed bag. The wraparound dashboard has a futuristic look, but there’s a bit of a scatter-gun approach to the layout.

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Warparound dash feels modern, but isn’t the easiest layout to get on with. Materials have a high-quality finish, though, and cabin feels solid

For instance, the rev counter sits ahead of the driver and is flanked by temperature and fuel gauges, while the digital speedo sits in a deeply recessed binnacle above these dials. To the left of this is a large trip computer screen. It’s packed with information, but it’s fiddly to use and hobbled by low-resolution graphics. The same criticism can be levelled at the centrally mounted infotainment system, which also suffers from an aftermarket look and feel.

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Still, the interior appears solidly screwed together from decent-quality materials, including the soft leather thats used for the steering wheel. There are some hard plastics used lower down in the cabin, but it doesn’t detract from the overall feeling of quality. There’s loads of standard kit, too.

It lacks the Mazda’s sat-nav, but in all other respects, the Civic is much more lavishly appointed. Climate and cruise control are included, as are a reversing camera and parking sensors. You can also specify some neat personalisation options, such as a racy £495 Rally Red Pack that adds red accents to the door mirrors, front grille and rear bumper.

Driving 3.6/5

The sporty upgrades mean the Honda looks the part, but at the track, the newcomer struggles to impress.

While its 98bhp l.4-litre four-cylinder engine matches the Mazda’s slightly larger unit for power, its 127Nm torque figure is 23Nm down on its rival’s. Plus, the Honda’s maximum muscle is delivered at 4,800rpm, which is 800rpm higher up the rev range.

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As a result, the Civic trailed the 3 in almost all of our performance assessments. It completed the 060 mph sprint in a time of 11.4 seconds, which was a full second slower than the Mazda.

Only in sixth was the Civic able to turn the tables, thanks largely to a much shorter top gear that sees the engine spinning at 3,20orpm at 70mph. Yet away from the track, the Honda doesn’t feel quite as sluggish as the figures suggest. It revs willingly and relatively smoothly, only sounding a little strained as it closes in on the 6,500rpm red line.

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Manul box’s shorter top ratio helped the Civic win back some points here, as torque shortfall means it trailed its rival

Accessing the Sport’s limited performance potential is made easier by the slick and precise six-speed gearbox, which is matched to a light and progressive clutch. Yet head down a back road and it’s immediately obvious that the Honda isn’t as much fun to drive as its rival here. There’s decent grip and body movements are well controlled, but the steering is slower and lacks feedback. Overall, it’s safe and composed; it’s just missing the involvement of the 3.

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On the plus side, according to our noise meter figures, the Civic is quieter than the Mazda, while the suspension is reasonably supple. Potholes send a shudder through the car, but in most other respects the ride is well cushioned.

Ownership 3.9/5

You can be reasonably confident of a good customer service experience as a Civic owner, with the firm’s garages finishing eighth out of 31 in a dealer poll.

The Honda scores well for safety, with all models getting six airbags, stability control and autonomous emergency braking. Also included are a speed limiter and emergency stop signalling, which automatically flashes the hazard lights under heavy braking.

Running costs 4.1/5

It’s clear that Honda is sending the Civic out on a value-for-money high. At £18.360, our 1.4 Sport costs £700 more than the Mazda, but you get a lot more standard equipment. In fact, to match the Honda’s impressive kit tally you’ll have to trade up to an SE-L Nav-spec 3, which means a larger 2.0-litre engine and a heftier £19,495 price tag.

Private buyers will be heartened by the Civic’s strong residuals, too, with our experts calculating 47.0 per cent residuals after three years. We also recorded a decent 36.8mpg return at the pumps.

It’s not all good news, though. The Honda’s relatively high C02 emissions of 131g/km mean annual tax will set you back £130, which is £100 more than Mazda owners will spend. Business users will also be out of pocket, with lower-rate earners paying around £150 more in Benefit in Kind over a year.

Practicality 4.4/5

This generation of Civic has always scored strongly in the practicality stakes, and our Sport model is no exception. Like all examples, it gets a vast and well shaped 477-litre boot, which benefits from a wide opening and low load lip. There’s also a deep underfloor storage compartment, while folding the rear seats flat liberates 1378 litres of capacity.

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The Civic features the brand’s Magic Seat arrangement, too. This set-up allows you to fold the seatbases up, leaving a large load through space that’s perfect for items such as bicycles. Elsewhere, the Honda serves up generous head and legroom in the rear, while there’s loads of handy storage, including a large glovebox and decent door bins.

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The Truck You Really Want VS. The Truck You Need

AMERICA LOVES pickup trucks; they’re as macho as cowboy boots. But just like wearing snakeskins and spurs to the coffee shop, driving a full-size truck that you never use for truck stuff makes you look like a poseur. Honda’s answer is the 2017 Ridgeline. It’s built like a car-lighter and lower than a truck, and it has a luxury sedan’s quiet ride and smooth handling. And this roomy five-seater gets an untrucklike 26 mpg. Plus, the $29,475 pickup is replete with unconventional innovations, such as the optional waterproof speakers in die bed, perfect for your next tailgate.

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor
2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

While you can haul 1,500 pounds and tow a 5,000-pound trailer, it’s all the truck the average suburban family will ever need, with none of the drawbacks of a thirsty full-size pickup. Then again, what’s wrong with some testosterone in your truck? The 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor is so rad that it should come with a background check. Inspired by desert-race trucks, it packs a 450-lip twin-turbo V-6, gnarly tires, and suspension designed for high-speed off-roading. Starting at $50,000, this thing was built to blast through sand dunes or scramble up mountainsides. It would be a shame to confine all this off-road capability to the carpool lane—but even then, you’d look pretty badass.

Honda NSX Machine

There are ghosts in the machine – among many other things. Fans of Ayrton Senna will know that he played a significant role in developing the original Honda NSX, the lightweight, mid-engined supercar from Japan’s most dependably left-field automotive (and motorbike and lawnmower) company. A car that landed just when Porsche and Ferrari had both badly fumbled the ball. The Japanese engineers, whose V6 propelled Senna to three Formula One world championships, adored the mercurial McLaren driver. The NSX was their gift to the rest of us. Twenty-six years later, I’m thundering down the main straight of the Estoril racing circuit in the Algarve, in an all-new NSX. Senna fans will definitely remember this as the venue for his debut Formula One win, after a rain-lashed 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix, but if the Brazilian genius was still around it’s unlikely he’d recognise Honda’s “New Sportscar experimental” (you can see why they abbreviated it).

The car has four driving modes, including the unobtrusively souped-up Sport+ and Track
The car has four driving modes, including the unobtrusively souped-up Sport+ and Track

Sure, it’s still mid-engined, the shape is broadly evolutionary and it has four wheels; nuclear fission has also yet to displace internal combustion as the primary means of propulsion. But the original’s elegant engineering ethos is now an extraordinarily complex 21st-century manifesto. Honda has been piloting the hybrid bandwagon for years now, so there was no way its new flagship was going to arrive without electric motors and the associated Wired-era buzz. Like BMW’s brilliant i8 and Porsche’s epic 918, this isn’t really about efficiency – though it certainly helps – or being able to offset your selfish supercar egotism by wafting smugly through town on regenerated electric power alone, though you can do that, too. No, the NSX is a clean sheet of paper, a fully integrated masterpiece of ambition, coursing with software algorithms that alternate between making you smile and stopping you disappearing into the scenery before the thought has even crossed your mind.

Most of the power comes from an all-new 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6, which produces 500bhp between 6,500 and 7,500rpm and lies longitudinally behind the cabin. It sits low in the chassis, it’s a dry sump and the turbos are either side of the main bank rather than on top, all of which gives the NSX a class-leading low centre of gravity (this is crucial, especially for a mid-engined car, and impressive given that the new NSX is up against Audi, Ferrari and Porsche). The carbon-shrouded V6 also looks stunning, in an HR Giger creepy-cool xenomorph kind of way. Next up is the electric motor, which ponies up another 47bhp and acts as the starter motor and a flywheel; a nine-speed (nine!) dual-clutch transmission sits behind that. How they found the room for all this stuff is beyond me. There’s a decent boot, too, because the NSX was largely developed by Honda’s US Acura arm, and Americans like playing golf. (It’s always golf clubs, never rifles.) There’s more.

Japanese engineers propelled Ayrton Senna to three Formula One world championships and the NSX was their gift to the rest of us
Japanese engineers propelled Ayrton Senna to three Formula One world championships and the NSX was their gift to the rest of us

A twin motor unit lives on the front axle and throws an additional 36bhp into the equation, though their primary function is to deliver “torque vectoring” – to sharpen turn-in and increase stability in high-speed cornering. There’s also a mechanical limited slip differential on the rear axle, which should keep things planted and predictable at that end, and the whole lot is suspended using two-stage magnetic dampers. It’s a deeply impressive armoury of tech, although the pay-off is a chunky 1,725kg kerb weight. Plus, there’s no escaping the nagging doubt that this sort of technology overload would have Senna-style purists checking into a Buddhist retreat in Bhutan.

So the big question is, does it actually work? Hell, yeah! This digitally remastered Aphex Twin opus turns into a Bessie Smith 78 when you drop the hammer. There are four driving modes – Quiet, Sport, Sport+ and Track – the first two of which turn out to be rather annoying, if only because those algorithms are a bit too cotton-woolly for my liking, even in everyday use. Everything gets more interesting and more organic in Sport+ and beyond; the immense pull of that engine, overlaid with some sonic fireworks, is only slightly undermined by the whoosh from the turbo’s wastegate.

For a car this fast, you need to be able to stop brilliantly and the NSX is fitted with a fly-by-wire braking system with Brembo carbon discs.
For a car this fast, you need to be able to stop brilliantly and the NSX is fitted with a fly-by-wire braking system with Brembo carbon discs.

The NSX joins that elite band of nutters that can accelerate to 60mph in less than three seconds, and with a total of 573bhp to play with, its performance thereafter is similarly electrifying. Around Estoril, it’s majestically good, all of its high-tech onboard firepower coming together like ingredients in a giant NutriBullet. The trick here is to make the science entertain as well as protect and to be honest the NSX lets you get away with murder. Its chassis, braking, steering and powertrain are all right at the top of what’s currently possible, while remembering to titillate in the manner of, say, the latest Porsche 911 GT3 RS.

That’s some feat. Sure, some of the interior plastics are a bit rum, but this is such a peerless driving tool you’ll get over that pretty fast. It’s easy to live with, too. This is the work of some very clever people indeed. Turns out that three time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti had a hand in ensuring and preserving the NSX’s soul. Unlike plenty of racing drivers I know, Franchitti genuinely loves well-engineered and rapid road cars and had tipped me the wink that the NSX was the real deal. He should know, I guess. What’s more, he was right.

Honda Civic Type R Spreads Its Big Wings At 340bhp

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Honda drew the crowds at Paris last week with its all-new Civic Type R concept, giving a close-to-production preview of the next hot hatch, due at the end of 2017. The car Is based on the new Mk10 Civic that also appeared at the show.

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SUBTLE: New Type R gets a softer front bumper as part of more mature look, but smoked lenses and red detailing remain

A more subtle, mature design replaces the current extreme look as Honda bids to broaden the Type R’s appeal. The large rear wing remains and there are smoked lenses, but a softer front bumper and back diffuser mean it’s less wild. The trademark red bumper detailing and oversized air intakes remain, but overall it’s more restrained.

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“Type R will get tuned version of current turbo with 340bhp”

Principal designer Daisuke Tsutamori told: “You can expect that the car you see on the stand will be close to the car we will see on the road.” We understand the new Type R will be powered by a tuned version of the current 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine, delivering around 340bhp and 450Nm of torque – up from 306bhp and 400Nm.

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Honda will stick with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual box. moving the Type R clear of VWs limited-run, two-seater Golf GTI Clubsport S to become the world’s most powerful front-drive hot hatch. Honda is also looking to reclaim the front-wheel-drive lap record at the Nürburgring.

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