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Onto my second Civic
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Thought I’d offer up an initial review.

It's only been three days since I adjusted the wing mirrors and eased my Civic into the Leeds rush hour but I've still managed to clock up over 100 miles along motorways, city streets and back lanes, as well as spending a good hour or three in the cockpit making sure I press every button and sit in every seat. It may be a little early to write a full review but I'd like to offer my initial thoughts.

A little about myself first, I’m 30 and live north of Wakefield in West Yorkshire, about 7 miles south of central Leeds, where I work as an IT bore.

I made a speculative visit to my local Honda dealer earlier in the year to enquire about the availability of a Civic 1.8 i-VTEC SE, preferably in my favoured silver. I knew precisely nothing about the new Civic until one appeared in the office car park in February, instantly I was captivated and decided almost on the spot that it looked a better package than the Audi A3 I’d all but decided to buy. After arranging an inspection the only reservation I had was with the upholstery: I thought it was terrible and looked like a magnet for clothing fibres and other assorted crud. Why car manufacturers insist on using such fabric is beyond me. "A full leather interior is an option on this model," was the response when I made my point to the dealer; black leather it would be.

Having traded in a 1.2 Fiat Stilo (lesson learnt) I've found the power of the 1.8 i-VTEC almost off the scale, and must admit to having felt like a teenager in a go-kart at times. Though sedate at lower revs, push the engine into its higher reaches and the car surges forward intently, making the leap to 70 in no time. The purring 1.8 seems to have so much in reserve at this speed that I find myself glancing repeatedly at the eye level speedometer, almost disbelieving that I can’t push any more. What I've been finding difficult though are the pedals: the organ-type gas pedal in particular. In short I can’t decide whether to place my heel at the base and operate it in what I'm sure is the textbook manner; or continue using the ball of my foot as I've done through my 8 years of driving. The car does seem to throttle back with a jolt on some gear changes, the gas pedal making an audible thud as it springs up. Added to that have been a few embarrassing ‘kangaroo’ gear changes, reminiscent of my days in a 1 litre BSM Corsa. I'm guessing I’ll get used to it though, and car pedals have rarely been kind to my size twelves anyway. What I do like though are the appearance of the drilled aluminium pedals: for the first time a part of the car in which I'm used to seeing nothing out of the ordinary has something that marks it apart, adding to that feeling of being in a cockpit rather than a driver’s seat. I can't fault the gearbox or handbrake, and do like the central armrest which allows gear changes with a relaxed arm. As with all the cars I've driven with a six speed gearbox, I find myself not bothering with top gear until I'm around the 70 mark; still, "6 speed" does have more of a ring to it; though it doesn’t help my bad habit of skipping gears. The ride and handling are firm, which seems wise given the beef of the 1.8. A little more body roll than I was hoping for but nothing major.

The only part of the car I'm just not sure about is the dashboard: it's too shiny and attracts dust as eagerly as my outside light attracts moths. It also seems to amplify the slightest of touches, turning each into a shocking greasy fingerprint that looks reluctant to be expunged. I've already resolved not to touch the surface myself but it seems several hands at the factory or dealership wanted to point and prod. As advised by the dealer I used Pledge wipes to clean the dash area and, though the fingerprints have gone the residue from the wipe dried on the plastic and took some getting off with a tissue and static duster. Whoever specified the material for the dash owes us an explanation. The layout of the console is a gem though: attractive yet practical all round. Honda should be congratulated for introducing unique features too: most dashboards have an all too generic look to them, this one does not. The controls are in easy reach and, after a brief learning curve, the electronic fan and airflow controls, and the push button ignition make perfect sense. Don’t think you won’t try and drive off immediately after the turning the key though, I’ve already done so twice, “oh yeah, the button.” The leather steering wheel feels willing in my hands and twists effortlessly at any speed; the black and silver trim is attractive and glistens beautifully after dark. I was a little disappointed in how little of the dash lights up but the deep blue and sharp white is easy on the eyes and can be adjusted for brightness. Sloped slightly toward the passenger seat, the standard CD player is functional but nothing to get excited about; I hoped for a little more from the speakers and must admit to a slight frown at the tinny sound, then again, having been around loud music for 15 years, I struggle to hear anything that isn't saturated with bass these days. The controls on the wheel make skipping tracks and adjusting the volume all too easy. I was impressed, though not surprised, when my home made CDR containing 100 mp3 files was picked up instantly; the display picked up the artist and track names and arranged the parent folders in alphabetical order. I would have preferred a means of connecting my mp3 player though, and consider the lack of such an oversight; doesn’t every second person seem to have one these days?

The much documented rear view (lack of) really hasn’t been a problem for me; though I found myself taking great care when reverse parking due to the disrupted view through the back of the car. The large wing mirrors offer good vision and compensate well for what the rear view lacks. Personally, I’d prefer a rear wiper but, given how the restricted visibility through the rear window is likely to push me towards using the wing mirrors more, I doubt I’ll miss it for long. The omission of a rear wiper almost certainly owes more to design than practicality and I do find the way in which rain lingers on the window irritating. The rear spoiler I like, it has a habit of blotting out the headlights from the car behind, plus the haggard face of anyone who might be tailgating you in a 30 zone. Don’t be in any doubt though: the rear view is likely to be very different to what you’re used to. As for the treated rear window that supposedly repels rain…yeah, right.

Having booted the car up and down the local bypass a dozen times, I'm not paying much attention to the fuel economy yet, though it's of interest that, despite putting over 100 miles on the clock thus far, the fuel gauge remains well over the three quarter mark.

The only optional extra on my SE is the leather trim and to say I'm besotted with it would be an understatement. As well as all seats, the matt black leather, beautifully finished with white stitching, extends to the door handles and even into the driver’s foot well. A thick smell of new leather permeates every inch of the car and the seats are blissfully soft. I consider the heated front seats to be a bonus but after sending heat through my lower back for half an hour, I was able to spring out of the car as I might have done ten years ago; for the first time in my life I'm actually looking forward to winter. Though not a great user of the boot it's capacious for a car of this class, and the space under the boot mat, where a space saver spare might normally be found, is useful for hiding a laptop bag or placing objects that you'd rather didn't move about. The lack of a spare tyre doesn't overly concern me: I haven't had a flat in eight years of motoring, a liquid repair kit is to hand, and the three-year warranty includes AA cover. Boot not large enough? Well, the rear 'magic seats' give way at the flick a switch, be careful though as the rear fabric looks as fragile as that lining the ceiling. The cabin space has barely crossed my mind thus far: I’m six feet two and broad across the shoulders, so if I can fit, I’m sure most others will.

As for the exterior styling, well, do you really need me to? Isn't it first and foremost why we've all bought one? I felt sorry for the Toyota Yaris and Citroen Saxo bracketing my car today, they looked like something from the early nineties. And yes, I have noted people snapping their heads in my direction these last few days!

Apparently Honda need this car to be a success, from my early experiences I can’t see it being anything but.
 

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Good review JB,

I don't think the car can be anything other than a success.

When it comes to cleaning the dash board, the guys that valet the cars for us use the oldest chamois leathers they can lay their hands on.

As they are so well used, and washed, they become super soft.

From what I have seen, they use a sort of rolling motion, so any dust is lifted, and cannot cause scratches.

They are kept damp, which lifts the dirt aswell.

Keep enjoying it
 

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That's what I do too. I wipe it very, very gently with a mildly soapy wet dishcloth and then shammy it with a soft rolling motion. Works a treat, even on the clear visor over the speedo
 

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A dry microfibre cloth does a great job, too :)

Good review.

Try resting the right side of your foot on the wheel arch bulk to the right and using that to lever off and press the gas pedal.

The car also adapts to how you drive due to the DBW, and added to you getting used to the way it works, y ou'll be fine.
 

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Very good review ---- particularly the rear view. But we don't go backwards very often.
 

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Great review JB - apart from the leather option you've got, this is the model of Civic that I am waiting to arrive! Can't wait and your review has made me want it right NOW! :D
 
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