2006 Civic vs. 2009 Civic
I recently spent a week with a 2009 model 5 door diesel Civic. I felt it would be useful and interesting to compare it with my 2006 diesel Civic. Furthermore, I then decided to compare it to the new Golf 6, just for fun.
- 2006 Civic 2.2 EX. 17" wheels with Touranza tyres (all 6mm). 49,000 miles. Cosmic Grey. Rear dampers very recently replaced and front struts replaced about a year ago.
- 2009 Civic 2.2 EX. 17" wheels with Touranza tyres (all 6mm). 4,400 miles. Leather interior, glass roof, dimming rear mirror. Crystal Black.
The obvious changes are the painted grey plastic trim pieces, the controversial grill, the smooth trim at the rear and the slightly modified rear lights. In practice, they look very similar at first glance with the new style of wheel being the most obvious change. The painted plastics are no more or less offensive than the unpainted ones, and the grill is far less obvious than photographs suggest. Though I'm sure that many will opt to spend a few quid and go for the Type S grill instead.
Rear light cluster:
Painted grey trim:
Mock-up of the 09 car with a Type S grill:
The rear lights have moved around a little too. The sidelights are smaller, and the fog light has shifted inboard. The reversing lights are a little wider and the indicators have gone from orange to clear.
With fog light on:
Moving inside brings a feeling that the quality of the build has improved very slightly, all over. The centre console feels more solid with smaller gaps, the cig lighter is now secure, the sliding lid on the central bin doesn't screech when you move it and the glove box lid now fits the aperture.
The brushed silver parts are now dark brushed silver, and there are new buttons on the central dash for headlight wash and parking sensors.
Moving into the centre bin finds the USB connector (it actually has a flying lead to prevent damage to the socket), the extra 12V outlet and the 3.5mm jack input.
Plugging in a USB drive with folders containing mp3 files gives you instant access to your music. The display is clear, and the steering wheel controls work well (a short push on the + button to go to the next track, and a long push to go to the next folder). Sadly, the sound quality of the whole system has not changed, and whilst it is quite acceptable when stationary, it struggles to overcome the road noise when on the move.
The satnav now uses new hardware (although the screen is unchanged and it has not got the new high quality one found on the 09 Accord), which allows you to download the contents of your mobile phone contact list into the car:
You can now search and dial a number from the phonebook shown on the satnav screen (or indeed any POI):
You also get a useful display in the centre of the instrument panel. When you push the HFT talk button, you get a display of battery charge and signal strength. Incoming call phone numbers (but not names) are shown, as are outbound call numbers:
Total HFT visual feedback in the 06 car:
And in the 09 car:
My 09 car had the optional leather interior and panoramic roof fitted. The leather seats felt no different to the cloth ones, and the roof worked well (though it's not my cup of tea so I left it closed most of the time). It's a shame that the heated seats are only available with leather (in the UK) - they were a nice addition.
There are a couple of changes around the speedometer area too. Firstly the inclusion of a shift Up/Down pair of lights. These will just encourage you to drive economically, if you're not sure how to do that. I tried following them for a bit, but they just encourage an early up-change at all times, which if you're reading the road is possibly not what's needed. Also the massive over-read in the 06 speedo has gone - at 70 mph it was +4.5 mph, and it is now just +1.8 mph (the Accord is +1.5 mph).
The car also had the auto-dimming mirror - a very worthwhile option if you do plenty of miles at night. It was quick to respond and dimmed just the right amount.
On the road:
Initially, it appeared that nothing much had changed. I was doing long night time trips and the only obvious change was the two extra, and quite disctracting, green lights. The one on the rear mirror was fairly easy to ignore, but the non-dimming one on the parking sensors button was bright and straight into your face. The only solution was to turn the parking sensors off, which is not ideal.
The engine felt a bit rougher than mine, it had a little more of a dieselly noise (mine has none), but I am certain that this is down to it's low mileage. It just goes to reinforce the fact that these cars need a good 10,000 miles to really smooth out.
The headlights have not improved either - still the same patchwork of light and dark areas, with a poorly defined and slightly wonky cutoff.
Oddly, the ride and noise seemed identical. If I leaned back, the noise at the rear has been reduced slightly, but the road, engine and wind noise in the front seemed unchanged. And the ride quality again seemed unchanged - the same banging and crashing over slight bumps, roar from the tyres and constant high frequency bouncing on any road that was less than perfect. Not what I was expecting.
I decided to investigate this further, because this was the real promise of this car - a suspension system tuned for a little more comfort.
Luckily both cars had identical tyres (Bridgestone Turanzas, all eight tyres having 6mm of tread) on identically sized wheels. So I picked a bit of motorway with two surface types (smooth and normal) and drove up and down it measuring the noise with a noise meter.
All readings are dBA, the speed was corrected for speedo error, (1) is a slightly rough surface, meter by left ear and (2) is the same slightly rough surface, meter by right ear.
[table="head;width=45em"]Car|50mph|70 mph smooth|70 mph (1)|70 mph (2)
In reality, the 2 Civics are inseparable "by ear" - with each quite noisy and the noise increasing and decreasing significantly with road surface quality. I can only guess the slightly higher reading on the 09 car was down to the reflective acoustic properties of the leather interior.
Ride and comfort:
Again, both cars appeared to drive identically. I just couldn't feel the expected softer ride. At all.
On perfectly smooth roads all is good. On concrete roads (or a slightly uneven surface) the nose does a high frequency jiggle. On small bumps the bump is harshly transferred to the shell - but it tends to be just around the front. So the bump noise appears as a crackling from the dash, windscreen and footwell. On larger bumps the crashing noise seems to come from all around, as if every component in the car from front to back is banged into it's neighbour.
Round corners on a smooth road, again the quickly geared steering is good, albeit with little feedback. On a slightly bumpy road the car will require constant steering with small corrections, and with a large bump the car will change direction quite significantly, requiring a positive steering input.
Coming into my driveway (over a very small raised kerb and over some uneven gravel) both cars rattled as if all suspension linkages had an inch of play in.
So both cars feel the same. Convinced I must have made some kind of assessment error, I decide to measure the spring rates by noting front and rear suspension deflection, using two large people on the boot sill or sitting in the engine bay. Measurements are in mm, from the ground to the top of the wheel arch:
[table="head;width=45em"]Car|Front loaded|Front empty|Difference|Rear loaded|Rear empty|Difference
So, the suspension is identical and unchanged.
The Civic is a fine car, and the new model has benefited from the constant improvements in manufacture - the most obvious being the fit and finish of the interior. It has a couple of new features, which are nice to have (especially the USB connection). The cosmetic changes are only small, and the ride, noise, steering and comfort are unchanged.
2009 Civic vs. 2009 Golf 6
While I was at it, I thought it would be fun to do a back to back with the new Golf 6. I drove around the area near to the local VW dealer and came up with a test route that included a fast dual carriageway and a bumpy twisty back road. At the dealer, I managed to get a drive in exactly what I felt was a good comparison - a 5 door 140 diesel manual GT spec car.
Prodding and poking:
Looking round the Golf, you can't help but notice how bland and almost ugly the car is from the outside. The elegance of the Golf 4 has gone, and even the togetherness of the Golf 5 has been replaced by the very awkward nose of the Golf 6. There are some strange features - most notably the droopy door handles that look like a fat bloke has leant on them and they had lost the battle.
Inside is more familiar. The cabin is about the same size, but the close and high dash (carried over from the Golf 1) makes it feel a little less airy. There are some nice touches in there (like the individual reading lights for the rear passengers) and the seats feel supportive and comfortable. But you can see and feel the cost cutting - the aircon controls felt wobbly and the standard radio display looked like something from the late 80's.
On the road:
As I set off I had one of those mouth open moments. Two very fundamental things that you get totally accustomed to, had nearly gone. Road noise: nearly silent. Engine noise: nearly silent, and totally vibration free. It's not a miracle - it's what you get in a large Lexus or S-class Merc. But it throws you totally off guard when you find it in a hatch.
Working the engine was a pleasure - totally smooth, linear and quiet. Brilliant, unlike the rattly old unit in the Golf 5.
Cruising was a pleasure - it just wafted along, requiring no steering corrections, and was soothing and, er, quiet.
Having done the back lane in the Civic, I was quite looking forward to a good thrash in the Golf. The Civic made this road quite exciting; you needed to work hard to get a good result, but there were a couple of potholes that made the Civic sound like I'd had a minor accident. The Golf could not have been more different - the suspension silently and precisely absorbed all the irregularities and bumps, without noise and drama. The effort of driving reduced dramatically, you just pointed the car and that's where it went in a fluid and relaxed fashion. And all the bumping and banging was now just a distant memory as the Golf gave nothing more than a muted rumble - and with it the beautifully weighted steering just took you where you wanted to go. All memories of the bitsy exterior, the smaller boot and the '70s dash were gone.
Over the two major potholes, the Golf just did a rubbery thump. The Golf really has achieved the nirvana, sharp handling with rapid turn-in from precise steering, but a ride that is quiet and absorbs the road like a Lexus. I'm not sure how to say this, but it's better in every respect than my Accord. And the 09 Accord.
For completeness, after handing back the Golf I did the trip again in the Civic and the difference was startling. Back came the engine noise, the road noise and the bouncy ride.
If you care about style and need maximum practicality, then the Civic is better. If driving quality and comfort are your primary consideration, then the Golf is a decade ahead. How the role has reversed!