Review: 2016 Honda Civic VTi-LX

A modern look for a classic car, packed with technology

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The Honda Civic has a long history that dates back to 1972. In the 44 years since then, car technology has changed dramatically and the 2016 Civic VTi-LX is the latest top model expression of that, from Honda. After spending a week in the car, it does an amazing job at delivering a seriously long list of technology services that make driving easier and safer at an affordable price point. Better yet, this car that is focused on getting families from A to B, look great while doing it.

Design & Styling

The Civic now supports grown up, modern, aerodynamically efficient body styling that looks great. There’s a lower, wider stance to the car than we’re typically used to and plenty of angles that’ll grab your attention.

The designers and engineers worked tougher to create a car that cuts through the air to assist in delivering fuel economy while having the added benefit of keeping the cabin noise down.

While the Civic comes in a number of variants, our top model review unit features LED lights everywhere. The headlights on this car not only look great, but perform brilliantly and the first time I drove it at night, I couldn’t believe how much of the road is illuminated. At the rear, you can’t miss the unique C-shaped tail lights that run from the rear, wrapping around the side and up over the bootlid. Its distinctive and those behind you will definitely they’re following a Civic.

If the Civic’s looks aren’t aggressive enough for you, you may consider the Black Pack. This optional pack adds black alloy wheels, black sports grille, black front under spoiler, black side skirts, black ducktail spoiler and black mirror covers. On a white car, the black pack looks fantastic, taking an already visually interesting exterior and toughens it further.

Technology

When you jump behind the wheel of the Civic, you’ll set off on a journey and the familiar challenge of being entertained safely arrives. Personally I had a long trip up the Hume Hwy and being in an unfamiliar part of Melbourne, I needed the assistance of navigation to get me out of the city. I’d also pre-downloaded plenty of podcasts in PocketCasts for the journey home to Wodonga. While Honda offer a basic infotainment options on the 7″ touchscreen display, but thankfully they’ve added support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Android Auto
After connecting my phone to the car with a USB cable, Android Auto took over the in-dash display. Powered by the contents of my phone, the interface is beautiful, great job Google, its years ahead of any standard in-car OS. The lower nav bar provides access to Navigation, Phone, Audio and the ability to exit Android Auto if you need to.

I found everything I needed to do, so much easier using Android Auto. Pressing the voice button on the steering wheel and simply feeding it a command ‘Navigation home’ then fired up my home address (remember this is my phone driving the experience) and a second later I had the route on the display and voice navigation prompts coming at me. That was an awesome experience. A one shot experience that simply just works.

As I headed through the city, I needed some music or podcasts to keep me entertained for the 3-4 hour drive. The audio menu item provides access to any audio apps you have loaded on your phone. For me this included Spotify, TuneIn Radio and PocketCasts. Each of these provided a simple experience to access playlists and seriously within 2-3 taps, I had what I needed.

After living with the car for a week, I love Android Auto and Honda, like other auto manufacturers should be applauded for handing over the keys to the mobile software vendors as the user experience in the car is fundamentally better off. I do wish there was a wireless option as connecting and disconnecting the cable does become clumsy when running errands.

Driver Information Interface
When it comes to modern dashes, it doesn’t get more modern than the very digital coloured LCD screen positioned right behind the steering wheel. The most important information is your current speed which is displayed prominently, but there’s a bunch of peripherial information a driver needs access to while driving.

The bottom of the display is customisable in that you can view the currently playing audio, complete with album art, who’s calling, navigation instructions or vehicle telemetry like average fuel consumption, trip meter and distance to empty. Remember you still have access to other audio options from here as well including FM radio, DAB and standard Bluetooth audio.

Steering wheel controls
To navigate and select the options above, you bounce your way through the plethora of options with the plus controller and central button to accept. There’s a volume controller that’s a little far away from an optimal position, but does its job of letting your eyes stay on the road.
Taking a call while driving is something we all need to deal with. Thankfully the call controls to pickup and hangup calls are just a touch away and are resolved nicely in the cluster of steering wheel controls.

Safety
One of the key differentiating factors in the buying decisions of a vehicle can be its safety credentials. Safety in 2016 means much more than the now expected airbag inclusions, instead we expect cars to assist us in emergency situations that inevitably happen when other humans are on the road.

Standard on the VTi-LX, is a suite of driver-assist technologies which will intervene to help avoid a collision or lessen its severity.

Collision warnings
A number of sensors around the car measure your proximity to objects around you. This is handy when you’re pulling into a garage, but more importantly is the front-facing collision sensors that can engage the brakes if you don’t. There’s also a visual display that warns you if there’s a risk of collision.

Lane keep assist system (LKAS)
When we drive, much of our mental energy is spent continually refining the position of the vehicle between the two white lines. There are times where you may get distracted for a couple of seconds and its quite easy to find yourself dangerously drifting over lines. The best case you correct the steering and there’s no harm done, but worst case you’ll cause a collision or even leave the road.

To tackle this dangerous situation, Honda have added LKAS that is designed to takes the stress out of long drives by subtly reinforcing your steering to help keep your centered in your lane. This does require you to keep at least one hand on the wheel, but does substantially lower your attention requirement and you exit the vehicle feeling much fresher than a vehicle without this technology.
After driving the Model S late last year, it was tempting to imagine LKAS was similar to what was on offer by the much more expensive Tesla. In reality the two systems are very different. With the Model S, it keeps the car rock solid in the middle of the two lines, even around corners. With the Honda, its detecting the nearest white line and keeping you away from it, which can result in the car looking like your a drunk, left then right, then left of the lane.
Adaptive cruise control (ACC)
After driving a number of vehicles with adaptive cruise control, it is absolutely a requirement on my next vehicle and should be on your must have list as well. This is because it fundamentally transforms the Helps you maintain a set speed and following distance, even in stop and start traffic conditions.

Emergency stop signal (ESS)
If an emergency situation forces you to brake heavily, drivers behind you need as much warning as possible. ESS does just that, automatically flashing the hazard lights in the event of hard braking to reduce the chance of a rear-end collision.

Tyre pressure sensors
While you don’t get to call up the actual PSI on the dash, the tyres feature pressure sensors and if things get out of spec, like in the event of a puncture, you’ll receive an alert. This can help you pull off safely, rather than have a tyre explode at 110km down the freeway. This feature is usually reserved for much a more expensive price point, so its great see it included here.

Reverse parking camera
Almost a check box feature at this point, the reversing camera is a necessary safety technology to ensure one of your biggest blind spots doesn’t become an accident vector. This pretty much works as expected, enabled when you select reverse, but does give you a choice of UI overlay preferences. Personally I don’t mind the default bending as you rotate the wheel. There is a neat option to look directly down to the ground, allowing you to spot with almost mm precision any parking obstacles like gutters.

Lane changing camera
Something I really enjoyed while driving the Civic, particularly in traffic, was the left-mirror mounted camera that takes over the in-dash display when you enable the left indicator. This allows for a number of visual checks before performing a manoeuvre.

First off, the visual along the entire left of the vehicle allows for a good check for any cyclist before making a turn. If you’re changing lanes, the camera allows you to see cars beside you and on UI overlay lets you easily detect if you have a 1-2 second gap for a safe merge.

This camera can be enabled at any time by pressing the button at the end of the indicator stalk. After using it for the left, I kind of missed it from the right and I think Honda should consider adding it in future releases. This would can eliminate the need to perform a head check, something important for those with neck issues that still need to drive safely.

Performance

The VTi-LX comes with a 1.5L VTEC Turbocharged engine that’s good for 127kW of power. While the car won’t set any 0-100km records, it has enough kick to get the job done. Generally you’ll drive in D and if you really want to stretch the fuel, you’ll press the Eco button, which changes the profile of power delivery. The turbo feels very laggy in this mode and its possible your count will reach 2 before the power called on is delivered.

If you want to call on the engine for some more sportier driving, dart in and out of traffic or perform a quick overtake, you’ll need to kick the car into S for sports mode. The power comes on faster and everything is just more responsive. If you want, you can choose to use the flappy paddle shifters on the rear of the wheel, but I found it easy to confuse the box and easily land in the wrong RPM range.

Fuel economy
The official fuel numbers for the Civic says you’ll burn through 6.0 litres for every 100km you travel. Of course this is based on ADR81/02 combined driving conditions. During my week with the car, I managed 5.7L/100km on the highway and 6.2L around town while having some fun with it. If you’re someone who prioritises economy over outright power, then you’ll be a happy customer if you part ways with your money for the Civic. With 580km+ on the trip meter, I received the fuel warning and the display told me I had around 48km of range before she was empty.

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Price & Availability

Honda offer the car in a very decent 8 colour choices. This opens the market to a larger client base with cars being such a personal, you want a colour that you love.

The Civic is available in Brilliant Sporty Blue (Metallic), Rally Red, Modern Steel (Metallic), Lunar Silver (Metallic) — Reviewed colour, Cosmic Blue (Metallic), White Orchid (Pearlescent), Crystal Black (Pearlescent) and Midnight Burgundy (Pearlescent).

The VTi-LX starts from From $37,774 and for that price, you get one hell of a car packed with technology. For more information and pricing for your postcode, head to honda.com.au

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Overall

For the amount of money asked for here, the level of technology in infotainment and driver assists, you’d be hard pressed to find a better offering. There’s much to like about the styling of the Civic, its modern and looks great, something 20 somethings, right up to the end of driving ages would be proud to jump behind the wheel of.

Its a shame the same level of focus wasn’t put into the seats in the Civic. While they’re made of leather and the driver side is electrically adjustable, they do nothing to hold you in around a fast corner. I get the Civic isn’t designed to dominate the race track, but the work done on chassis, suspension, steering are all lost if you can’t corner without sliding in the seat. They’re also pretty hard for a long drive.

To see Honda recognise the consumer demand for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is seriously appreciated and along with the colour selections, does a lot to appeal to a wide audience.

If you’re looking for an affordable car to transport your family, while having a large boot and packed full of technology, the Civic should definitely be on your short list. If you’re looking at cost saving and heading towards a cheaper model, just be acutely ware of which pieces of technology you’re leaving behind.

9.2
Honda Civic VTi-LX
The Good
  • Technology assists
  • Design
  • Value
The Bad
  • Seats
  • Design
    9
  • Features
    9.5
  • Value
    9
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