Motor Mouth Pick of the Month 2017 Honda Civic 1.5T Sport CVT
Tenth Dan: 2017 Honda Civic 1.5T Sport CVT by Gordon Hall
We admit to being pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t just the tenth-generation Civic’s new look and features on a brand new platform, nor was it the hotter version of a familiar engine. It was simply that the CVT transmission worked so much better than previous units we’ve tried. We’ll get back to it later.
Utilising higher grade steel, its body is stronger and 22 kg lighter than before. Further, its centre of gravity was lowered by 15 mm. (If we might chip in here, the car’s ground clearance was reduced from 150 mm to 133. That’s 17 mm, so don’t be too impressed.)
The wheelbase is now 23 mm longer and its body was stretched by 109. It is also 49 millimetres wider. External features include standard LED daytime running lamps and C-shaped taillights, with LED headlamps standard on turbocharged models. The front end is more aggressive with reshaped grille and lower air intake, new headlamp styling, revised fog lamps and bolder bonnet shaping.
The rear end is radically different with remodelled boot lid, new tail lights and number plate panel, and fog lamps introduced on the lower corners. Civic Sport (our test car) has an eye-catching wing, with built-in brake lamp, attached to the boot. We can’t be sure, but the rear screen looks larger too.
Highlights inside include a completely restyled dash that’s now single-level and digital, with a seven-inch LCD display forming the centrepiece of its audio system. The old parking brake made way for an electrically powered tab that can be either lifted to engage or programmed to do so as you walk away with the key fob. Steering wheel, dash layout, gearshift console and vents are all new.
Redesigned seats have a broader range of adjustments and 20 mm lower hip points. The rear passenger area offers 55 mm more knee room, making it positively luxurious and headspace is sufficient for most. Honda also notes 20 percent more boot volume. It unlocks remotely by means of the key fob or an inside button, but you still have to lift and close it yourself. Such a trial, hey?
As before, the spare is a full-size alloy wheel and the seatbacks split 2/3:1/3 to fold almost flat. Release tabs in the boot, but none on the seats, are either useful or awkward depending on where one stands when wanting to lay them down.
The local Civic range consists of 1800 cc Comfort and Elegance cars with 1.5-litre turbocharged Sport and Executive models making up the higher end. Highlights of the Sport version include the abovementioned spoiler, a black grille, LED front fog lights, sports pedals and model-specific black and silver 17” wheels.
Common across the range is a CVT gearbox with seven virtual ratios, a Sport setting and shift paddles; six airbags; four- or eight-speaker music centre with Bluetooth; cruise control; automatic air conditioning (dual zone on upper models); electric windows; ABS brakes with EBD; automatic door locking; vehicle stability assist and hill holder.
Adaptive cruise control with low speed following function, collision mitigation braking, lane keeping assist and forward collision warning are available on the 1.5T Executive priced R30 000 higher.
The “hotter but familiar” engine is Honda’s 1486 cc, L15B7 version we haven’t seen here before. Its claims to fame are a twin-cam head and a single-scroll turbocharger. This combo develops a useful 127 kilowatts of power at 5500 rpm that’s teamed with 220 Nm of torque, between 1700 and 5500, to make sweet symphonies.
This is the kind of broad-based empowerment one needs in order to make a CVT sing. It finally does what’s been promised all along; providing the most efficient gear ratio for the job at hand at any given moment – never howling, whining or slipping. It still takes getting used to because engine revs remain almost constant, around 2000, no matter what. The only time this behaviour changes noticeably is when you floor the gas to deal with emergencies. Then, instead of downshifting as a “normal” box would, the revs just climb and the car goes faster. Nice.
Finally, despite the “Sport” handle, this car isn’t particularly fast. One-hundred km/h from standstill comes up in 8.2 seconds and it tops out at 200. It’s a Civic, a family car, after all but it’s big and comfy, hauls luggage, looks cool and gets perky when it needs to – without whining if pressed to perform.
Test unit from Honda SA press fleet
Base price: R430 000
Engine: 1486 cc, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder turbopetrol
Power: 127 kW at 5500 rpm
Torque: 220 Nm between 1700 and 5500 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 8.2 seconds
Maximum speed: 200 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 7.4 l/100 km
Tank: 47 litres
Luggage: 424 litres
Warranty: 5 years / 120 000 km with 3 years’ roadside assistance
Service plan: 5 years / 90 000 km at 10 000 km intervals
To contact our guy on the road, Gordon Hall: firstname.lastname@example.org