Driving the new Honda Civic RS hatch

The Civic nameplate is one that has endured in the automotive landscape – it’s Honda’s longest running model name.

Some 44 years after the first Civic hatch arrived in Australia, the latest Civic hatch has now hit the streets. It’s built on the same platform as the 10th generation sedan released nearly a year ago.

The RS version tested here is the second dearest model in the five-tier hatch range, and it’s $500 dearer than its RS sedan sibling. To complement the hatch’s angular and aggressive looks, the sportier RS gets dark chrome door handles, plus side skirts, front and rear under spoiler, both in piano black finish, and a central twin-outlet exhaust.

Safety features on the RS and all other models include what might these days be considered the ‘basics’: stability control, anti-lock brakes with EBD and brake assist, along with six airbags (including curtain airbags). Unfortunately, Honda have reserved the more advanced safety and driver assistance features (forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, road departure mitigation) for the ‘full-Monty’ variant, the VTi-LX.

Lane Watch is standard on all bar the base model. It uses a camera integrated into the passenger-side mirror head to provide an 80-degree view of the left lane, when triggered by the left turn indicator coming on, or when the driver presses a separate switch in the end of the stalk. The image is displayed on the centre display screen. A handy multi-angle reversing camera is also standard.

Inside the Honda Civic

RS owners will need to rely on chewing up some of their smartphone’s data and the standard Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for navigation purposes, as only the VTi-LX scores an integrated navigation system.

While the two lowest specifications soldier on with the old 1.8-litre SOHC engine, the remaining specs including the RS, feature a peppy1.5-litre, direct-injection DOHC turbo-petrol engine driving the front wheels through a CVT auto.

It delivers agreeably solid and responsive performance, despite its relatively small displacement. The CVT does a reasonable job, though it’s not the best that we have experienced. A manual box isn’t offered, but would be more fun given the RS’s sportier intent and dynamic skills.

Steering is light and crisp, while handling is endearingly responsive and nimble through the corners. Honda has tuned the suspension for a smooth and civilised ride under most conditions.

Fast facts

  • ENGINE: 1.5-litre, VTEC, turbo-petrol 4-cyl.
  • ANCAP CRASH RATING: 5 star
  • TAILPIPE CO2 (g/km): 142
  • FOR: Road manners, peppy engine, boot space, fit and finish.
  • AGAINST: Spacesaver spare, CVT could be better, no navigation or advanced driver assistance features.