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post #1 of (permalink) Old 14th July 2017, 14:14 Thread Starter
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1.5 Sport Manual in SGP - Early Ownership...

...Part 1: The Contenders?

Having opened this can of worms in the above post I thought I'd probably best make some effort to put the lid back on so I’ll attempt to do that here...

Coming from a 14MY 1.6 SE i-dtec; economy is obviously a big concern, but its not the only one. During my time running the 9th gen Diesel I decided to let go of my fully loaded Boxster 3.2 S.

The SGP 1.5 Sport has now got a good few miles on the clock and even though I don't consider it to be fully loosened up yet. I've already gathered some reasonably seasoned impressions along with a moderately well qualified set of thoughts to share with you all. But before that…


Part 2: Seconds Away

I've written fairly extensively about the 9th 1.6 i-dtec elsewhere on this forum but I'll summarise by saying; brilliant engine and exceptional drivetrain but poorly conceived suspension and inadequate soundproofing. Genuinely good but honestly; not actually as great as it should have been. Pleasingly innovative but annoyingly flawed. Astonishingly economical but frustratingly cheapened in some crucial areas.

On balance my overall measure of satisfaction with that car was definitely around the upper quartile. This being held back more by what I would characterise as typical accountancy based decision making rather than any shortfall in Honda's engineering prowess. Shame about the poor rear suspension and excessively noisy cabin. But top marks for bulletproof reliability and at least halfway to decent servicing and repair costs.

As for the Boxster this is not the place to go on about it. But taking into account that almost every trip to the dealership was hugely expensive this eventually took the shine off it. It was a great shame about all the very many electrical and mechanical failures. And if you're of average height or above; the badly compromised seating position ruined journeys any longer than an hour or so.

So not much good to say about either then; in fact, quite the contrary!

On a dry day with the hood down just going out for a short run in the countryside and enjoying the odd quick but expensive blast - great job Porsche.

In the wet just going economically about your daily doings in warmth and security while managing to maintain at least some sense of fun - good work Honda.

Try to swap duties for the two and while either should have been able to get at least a jolly good part of the way. Neither really could but together or apart they each ought to have done so much better.

Perhaps the one consistent theme here is that some arbitrary corporate definition of good enough really just isn't; because only a little bit better would be all the more equitable and ultimately, I suggest, more profitable.

Part 3: The Last Leg

Worldwide I think the basic message to Honda from their 9th generation customers was - please do try harder. Well obviously they listened and it does indeed seem they have. But did they try hard enough?

Time moves on for all of us. For my own part, despite any overt disparities, I'll happily lump the 10g CTR and a Boxster S into the same cost performance ballpark i.e. no longer particularly of relevance. Equally; I'll also risk a grouping by the same criteria for the 10g 1.0 and the 9th 1.6 i-dtec. This on the basis that I've done the extreme economy thing and hypermiling out to 77 mpg; whilst still amusing, challenging and occasionally satisfying; has kind of lost its appeal.

Given my car history and present day perspective it quite naturally leaves the new 1.5 Sport sat somewhere in the middle of all that and as such; very interestingly placed indeed.

So in the case of the 10g which we may agree to define as an affordable drivers car i.e. one usable over and above the purposes of utilitarian transport but also one being less than a piece of excessively expensive, status advertising, vehicular badge jewellery. For most buyers; what makes such a car great and what makes a great car an excellent all-round proposition?

There are, of course, no objective criteria but it's surely not extreme outright performance and neither is it economy, comfort, bling or the over emphasis of any single unidimensional parameter. No, the answer is to be found in the total driving experience which is mediated by how well a manufacturer has succeeded in making those crucial qualities, consciously or otherwise, preferred by the driver readily apprehensible.

This, of course, applies even if the prospective owner/driver is unaware of same. Undoubtedly several of these qualities are generic and as such can be grouped to form some kind of loosely weighted multiple constraints satisfaction matrix. For quite a while now, in no particularly firm ordering, mine has been something like this:

Great fun but never actually scary to drive; with solidly competent but still natural feeling handling which is predictable in the limits and safe in extremis, good traction with stable body control and smoothly progressive road holding, precisely ratioed well weighted steering, reasonably quick off the line but even faster to stop, moderately quiet, realistically comfortable, sensibly practical, responsibly economical, of attractive and interesting appearance and reliable in service with affordable purchase, maintenance and repair costs.

I'll happily settle for all of the above just as long as it comes with critically well matched proportions of two often mutually exclusive characteristics. Firstly that accompanying the inevitably larger fun factor arising from any no-nonsense increases in performance there is also a clear sense of improved substance and sophistication that is thoroughly well integrated into each of the preceding categories. Secondly that any additional weight necessary to produce this extra performance does not detract from front end dexterity nor allows the rear to get unduly pendular. But instead somehow very cleverly gives rise to an impression of neutrality, maturity and even greater ability to safely exploit said performance on the road.

I think you may be able to guess just how well the 2017 1.5 Civic Sport measures up against the above criteria? In short; by and large, in all the ways that matter most it aces nearly all of them. And even after that; it remains clearly apparent why not and where the main money was spent.

One curious phenomenon which emerges early on in a first drive is that despite external appearances of being much larger in size and contrary to the far roomier impression of increased internal space of the new cabin layout. Counter even to the larger physical dimensions clearly specified as it being bigger than the 9g. Once underway the 10g car quite literally seems to shrink down to a size that's very well suited to UK roads.

However, the 10g Sport is, as you may reasonably anticipate; in truth, a little less than perfect .

Partly because not everything is actually better than on the 9g. For instance, the gear-shift is markedly less precise. It is still a Honda but its looser, longer and noisier. In the forward region of the center console under the dash there is no buffer pad. So the outside of a taller drivers left knee frequently and most uncomfortably finds the sharp outward angled joining edges of two hard plastic trims. This is only slightly painful when wearing trousers but intolerable in shorts.

The seat fabric is a serious step down from the plush velour of the 9th gen and for some the squab will be too short and is oddly angled slightly too far downwards towards the front. The seat cushioning is, to say the least, somewhat reduced. Even to the point of being positively bum numbingly over-firm. And unless you are a person of very large proportions the bolstering is too far removed from being properly positioned to do its job. In the upper reach of the driver's seat back there is a mid-line forward hump that is seriously incompatible with any seat-back angle and lumbar support settings that I can find.

It seems pointless to go on about the missing volume knob, the absent subwoofer or the significantly reduced quality audio system. Another thing to keep an eye out for is the genuinely suspect fabric quality on the center console and door armrests. In the summer when wearing a T-shirt under even a small amount of elbow weight it can actually remove skin and is astoundingly difficult to keep looking clean.

The clever sliding cargo area parcel cover is novel and convenient but conspicuously lacks the soundproofing capabilities of the conventional type of shelf that we are all so used to.

It seems Honda has not fitted the compressed composite felt soundproof linings which were present in the 9g front wheel-arch voids. Maybe these are still be there in the 10g higher trims? But in any event the Sport has only an undamped rattly piece of plastic to sound off in multi-modal anharmonic resonances with the various wet and dry forces of nature that are routinely tortured under there.

So where is the line to be drawn? And given the foregoing why would anyone ever buy such?

The only useful answer is that; on aggregate, it’s a much much better car and very enjoyable to drive. As testament to this I can in all conscience say with total sincerity that I simply no longer miss the Boxster. Staying within the law; the Sport does almost every bit as well in all the places and in all the ways that I ever drove it.

Over the 9th the 10th Sport’s ride is massively improved and the way it sits going along any decently surfaced carriageway is near flawless. On poor roadstone tyre noise is still apparent but definitely reduced. The rear suspension is genuinely world class and the car rides over anything except the very worst of potholes without any serious upset at all.

The steering is entirely fit for purpose, body roll is negligible. Handling is wholly on par with what once would have been a really proper sports car. But without the obligatory chiropractor’s bill.
Road holding is frankly phenomenal, levels of grip truly remarkable, the brakes are extremely capable and for road use, more than amply sufficient.

After dark; c
ompared with the adequate Halogen's on the 9th, the excellent HID's on the Boxster or indeed the headlights on any other car I've ever driven these Honda LED units are quite superior. If you drive at night and are considering the 10g do yourself a big favour and make sure that on this point, if no other, any purchasing decision is properly informed.

The car is great fun to drive, trustworthy, confidence inspiring and to many; even good looking. On balance some of the shortfalls listed above may be remedied by moving up a trim level but be aware that the due to the almost drum-skin tightness of the leather; whilst some aspects may improve, others will not.

For those who may be wondering; I’d be more inclined to place the sport that bit closer to the Boxster than to the 9th Civic and that’s why I bought it. But like all things it’s not without its compromises.

Could Honda have made this car just right for the money? There’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that were it not for their larger markets having a premium brand product differential to protect then yes.

Worldwide, the cost to them for doing so would have been minimal and well below the noise levels of their internal accounting margins. That they will, due to competition, have to remedy some of these issues during this model's lifetime is, I believe, inevitable. I just wish they could have shown their first round of loyal customers, at least in some part, a slightly higher measure of kind consideration and genuine goodwill.

So, what’s not to like about all that then?

I’ll leave the final call up to you…

Last edited by logician; 14th July 2017 at 21:46.
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