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Space Cadet
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Two weeks ago I took delivery of a shiny new 09MY Type S GT Sat Nav with Ishift transmission. These are my impressions on the car as a newcomer to the Honda Civic.

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Changes for 09MY
The main exterior changes are very welcome. The car is being pitched closer to the Type R and now has the same skirts all round fully colour coded, and the same front grill. The rear light cluster has a minor styling difference being narrower than before. According to Honda, some of the external plastics are now made from an uprated material giving a classier appearance, shame they didn't include the fuel filler flap for the much classier item fitted to the CW Type R. All told though I think it looks lovely in the new Deep Sapphire Blue painwork.

The engine has been reworked to reduce friction with various changes such as stronger, lighter conrods, roller tipped rocker arms, drive by wire throttle control, plateau honed bores, improved combustion chamber shape and coated pistons. The results are claimed to be improved low and mid-range and improved efficiency, but by how much I don't know.

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The interior uses plastics from the Type R around the centre console and instruments with a new brushed metal finish. The GT is also fitted with IPOD USB connection lead and aux power supplys in the centre console arm rest bin, and rear parking sensors as standard (according to press pack but check with dealer). The IPOD interface is also compatible with the IPHONE according to the manual.

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The Ishift has been reprogrammed for quicker, smoother gearchanges and a Sport button changes the mapping to change up later, and down sooner. All I shift models now have Hill Start Assist to hold the brakes on for a few moments and stop the car rolling back when starting on a hill. Tyre pressure monitoring is also fitted and works by monitoring and comparing tyre revolutions per distance travelled, to identify if the tyre/wheel diameter has reduced due to low air pressure.

There is a rumour that the Sat Nav screen is a little larger but I have nothing to compare it with. The two navigation discs are now V3.31 with firmware version
There doesn't seem to be any major changes to the operating interface though. Still 2D mapping and no speed cameras.

So that lists the changes, now onto the whole driving experience.

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Interior
The ignition key is the same 2 button type as before, which is a shame they didn't take the opportunity of upgrading to a flip key as is the current fashion. The rocket ship door handles always bring a smile and have a good strong positive feel about them. Inside there is a long reach back to grab the seat belt which is slightly irritating. Key in, check neutral and push the start button and its like the bridge of the starship enterprise as all sorts of information is presented to you by the dual layer electronic dash and Sat Nav system. Seats are comfortable and sporty with their Alcantara trim and feature stitchwork, adjustable for height but no lumbar adjustment. The front seats fold down and slide forward to let in rear passengers, but when returning them upright they sometimes stay in the fully forward position requiring you to have to bend down to the release bar and slide them back again, very irritating, but perhaps I need to learn the technique. The glove box has a vent from the air conditioning system allowing you to use it as a refrigerator in hot weather, which is a nice touch, however don't forget to close the vent when not required or you may turn it into an oven in colder weather. The glass panoramic roof lets light flood into the cabin which would otherwise be rather dark and gloomy were it not for the brilliant display of lights and buttons. The glass roof has a power blind that smoothly closes at the touch of a button if required. Overall, I'm impressed with the solid build and quality plastics used in the interior. It really feels like a special place to be.

Driving
First, a note about the Ishift. This is NOT a DSG type gearbox as per latest VW/Audi/Ford. The DSG gearbox is a completely new design with two automated clutches that pre-selects the next available gear allowing lightning gearchanges under full power. The I-shift is a conventional manual gearbox with automatically actuated gear selection and clutch control, that can operate in full automatic or manual via steering wheel paddle switches or moving the gear lever back and forth. It can never operate at the speeds of a DSG box or maintain acceleration while changing gear.

The engine spins into life instantly and feels quiet and refined. The gears engage silently and I'm impressed as to how smooth the I-shift clutch engages as we move off. In automatic, the gearchanges are smooth and almost unoticeable when pootling gently around town, sometimes changing up/down 2 gears at a time as it feels fit. When driving more aggressively the changes are not so fluent, the choice of gear is not always what you would choose often changing down 3 gears and redlining even though you only intended to accelerate past a car on the motorway. I tend to switch to manual if wanting to overtake and then flick back to auto afterwards. Changes can be made smoother in auto by pre-empting the next change up and lifting as it shifts.

When in Manual, if you accelerate hard and shift without lifting then the ECU will cut the throttle as the clutch disengages and changes gear. This leads to a lurching sensation as the car suddenly stops accelerating during the shift and then goes back to full throttle. This is probably no different to the sensation in a manual gearbox but appears more pronounced as its the car and not you in control. However, after an hour or so of driving you will become skilled at lifting the throttle slightly as you shift up which results in a much smoother and more fluid change with far less 'lurching' sensation. Changing down aggressively, the car will wait till then next gear down can be engaged safely and then blip the throttle for you to ensure a smooth downshift with minimal clutch wear. If you forget to change down when slowing then the car does it for you all the way down to first. At standstill you can change up to 2nd for pulling away in case of slippery conditions. The only criticism I have is that if you slow down to walking pace approaching a junction, see its clear and accelerate the gearbox may be in process of changing to 1st causing a moments lack of progress followed by a sudden lurch forward. I suppose its a limitation of this type of gearbox and something you will learn to try and avoid.

The engine is smooth and revs freely to the redline without any pronounced power band. I was not so impressed with the mid-range in-gear acceleration (Manual), unlike a Diesel, there is little torque and the only option is to change down a couple of gears to get it spinning and get some real urge going.

Suspension is quite firm with little body roll when cornering and does a reasonable job of soaking up the bumps. Somewhere between the softer 5 door and the harsh ride of the Type R. The car also felt well planted and gave no cause for concern in the harsh winter conditions its been subjected to since rolling out of the showroom.
Rear visibility is a bit of a pain. The rear spoiler does a great job of obscuring the lights and indicators of cars following you on the motorway, and the portion of rear window below the spoiler is unheated making it next to useless on cold mornings. Reversing is not so easy due to the thick C pillars. A reversing camera is probably a sensible option on SatNav cars albeit rather expensive. Now then, the Honda press packs for Paris Motor Show 2008 state clearly that higher level Type S cars (GT?) are fitted with reversing sensors as standard, but mine did not have them fitted. After pointing this out to the dealer, Honda UK have agreed to fit them free of charge. Well done Newton Honda and Honda UK, a wise decision! I would consider them a 'must have' considering the very limited rear vision.

Electronics & Gadgets
One of the main reasons for buying this car, is the generous and very modern equipment levels and driver aids. Its a shame they haven't got it quite as integrated as it should be, but more on that later.

SatNav
The SatNav screen is a good size and needs to be, as its placed quite a way back from the driver. Many of todays SatNav systems use touch screens, but the Honda one uses a rotary joystick interface similar to BMWs I-Drive. This is a good thing as the screen is too far from the driver to be able to touch easily and safely when driving. The SatNav screen is also used to display climate control, audio, IPOD and telephone lists, which looks very neat. The user interface is quite intuitive and the cars voice tells you what option you're on so you don't have to take your eyes off the road. When navigating to a destination, the left side of the screen shows the map, while the right contains a list of the next required turns and service stations with the distances to them. When approaching a junction the right side zooms in to show a clear diagram of the road layout and your intended route through. The timing of the voice prompts is impressive as she will tell you when to take the next exit from a roundabout just as you've passed the previous one.
The system has Traffic alerts showing you possible delays on your route in red, and delays in the general area in grey. The system will alert you and offer to redirect you around it. I never quite trust it and usually head for the jam just to see if its right. These systems are only as accurate as the data they receive and the infrastructure is probably better on motorways than around town. Its too early for me to tell quite how useful this feature is.
One of the unexpected delights of the system is the ability to easily and quickly transfer all your telephone contacts into the SatNav system via bluetooth (assuming your phone is compatible like my Sony Ericsson). You can then search for a contact by entering the first couple of letters and a drop down list of names will appear, select the name and choose which number (mobile, work or home) and the SatNav passes the number to the bluetooth HFT (hands free telephone) for automatic dialling. Another feature solves the problem of children constantly asking 'Are we nearly there yet?' on a long drive. Simply get then to ask the car 'How long to the destination' and the car tells them for you.
As good as the SatNav is, it has some disappointing drawbacks. The mapping is only available in 2D and not 3D as is the fashion with modern TomTom and Garmin systems. I've heard a rumour on the forum that this may change with the next major software upgrade to V4.0 scheduled in 18 months. Next major drawback is that there are no safety cameras in the POI database, and no way of adding them although there are people on the forum who have been striving to 'crack the code' for some time, but have not yet succeeded as far as I know. The DVD database is upgraded every 12-18 months but costs hundreds of pounds from Honda, a rip-off when you consider the premium the customer has already paid for the system in the first place, and only likely to encourage piracy. The resolution of the screen could be improved, and there are few road names displayed when zoomed in. Finally, the SatNav is aware of the congestion zone, and will warn you if the route passes through it, but not the M6 Toll road. This cost me £3.75 for 1 mile of 'privelidge' on a recent trip.

Voice Control and HFT
The voice control system is surprisingly accurate, with nearly all the mistakes due to me not using the correct words. However, I have a reasonably posh southern accent (I did get a GCE in Spoken English!) and how it would react to a drunken Glaswegian or an exitable scouser I don't know (not that I'm insinuating that Glaswegians are all drunk or that ...oh never mind). It seems that nearly everything thats not directly related to actually driving can be turned on/off up/down via talking to the car. You can even ask it to navigate to the nearest Korean restaurant should you fancy dog for dinner. The main criticism of the voice control is that its a little too slow. There is always a pregnant pause between what you say and the eventual response, that reminds me of being on a date with a girl I had nothing in common with. Also, I can't help but think that the ability to ask the car what time it is when its clearly displayed on the dashboard as a bit of a gimmick, but then I suppose the whole voice control thing is.

I love the bluetooth HFT. I had no problems pairing the phone to the car and the microphone worked well on voice calls even when travelling over 80 mph (on a private road obviously, officer). The ability of the car to automatically connect with the phone when its in your pocket, without having to connect any leads, push any buttons or install cradles is one of the great technical achievements of the 21st century. The Honda HFT has a major drawback though. The HFT and SatNav are separate systems and not as well integrated as they should be (for example there are seperate buttons on the steering wheel for talking to either the SatNav or the HFT, why?). The HFT can store 50 names and numbers seperately to the hundreds downloaded to the SatNav system. The HFT phone list has to be entered and stored verbally, by saying the name and then the telephone number, all fine so far although a little tedious. I was then expecting to be able to say something like 'Dial Pottsy' and have the HFT compare the verbal 'Pottsy' to the 'Pottsy' voice file previously stored, match them up and dial the number. Not so! You have to say 'Phonebook List' and wait for the HFT to list back all the names in the list until it says the one you want, when you then push the button and say 'Dial'. Hmmmm. Not very good, in fact very disappointing for a car thats supposed to be so modern and advanced.

Cruise Control
There was a rumour caused by a mistake on the Honda press fleet specifications that the 09MY cars have adaptive cruise control. I can confirm by nearly going 'up the chuff' of a young lady on the M40 that this is not the case. The cruise control is pretty standard stuff with buttons on the steering wheel, works well though, and maintains 80 mph easily.

Multi-Function computer etc
The centre of the rev-counter has a status display that can be cycled through various screens by pressing the I button on the steering wheel. All the usual stuff like ave speed, fuel consumption, range, outside temp etc, but also a graphic showing if your darling children have their seat belts on in the back. The upper dash has a series of 'good boy/bad boy' orange and green leds on either side. The orange set come on when you're revving the nuts off the car and should be sent to the naughty step, while the green lights show how economical you're driving and should be rewarded with a sweetie. A bit of a waste of time, but adds to the overall futuristic ambience I suppose.
This car is fitted with automatic windscreen wipers and headlights. The wipers were surprisingly responsive, rapidly moving from intermittant to high speed as I passed a truck throwing up plenty of spray. The headlights seem to switch on all the time though when in auto, maybe its these dark winter days.

Conclusions
This is without doubt a very accomplished car that is so easy to live with, and with so much equipment as standard it is great value for money compared to the opposition. Its modern, pretty, practical with the fold flat seats, unusual, economical and cheap on company car tax. The quality of materials looks superb for a car of this class, and with the Honda reputation for great reliability. According to Autocar, the residuals on the Type S are better than the 5 door and among the best in class.

So, whats not to like? Well, Honda are marketting this car as closer to the Type R than the 5 door, however the engine is identical to the 5 door. I really think this car should be fitted with an engine of approx. 165-170 bhp to give it the welly to go along with the looks. People looking for the best fuel economy would probably want a 5 door anyway. But what have Honda done, apparently they are launching a 1.4L Type S. Why??
While looking fantastic, the electronic systems and gadgets fall a little short of where they should be, considering the cost. However, I like them integrated into the dashboard, displaying not only the Satnav, and not having to hide them every time I park up.

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There you have it. Pukka motor, we'll be together for three years by which time the new Civic should on the market. Hopefully the new one will have more power, a DSG type gearbox, and fully inegrated electronic systems. The Power of Dreams.

If you've read this far and found it mildly informative then you could thank me, maybe one day I'll make it from a valve cap to a rocket door handle.

If any one has particular questions I'll do my best to help.
 

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Administrator
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A very nice and balanced review. Thanks for that.

It sounds like Honda are moving in the right direction :)
 

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Premium Member
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12,496 Posts
As good as the SatNav is, it has some disappointing drawbacks. The mapping is only available in 2D and not 3D as is the fashion with modern TomTom and Garmin systems. I've heard a rumour on the forum that this may change with the next major software upgrade to V4.0 scheduled in 18 months....The DVD database is upgraded every 12-18 months but costs hundreds of pounds from Honda, a rip-off when you consider the premium the customer has already paid for the system in the first place,
The nav is just a Honderised version of the Alpine system. New DVDs from Alpine for Alpine users are £180 (RRP £200) and you can actually get the Honda ones for a bit less than the Alpine ones.

I find one of the huge advantages of the Alpine/Honda system is the fact that it is 2D (with stylised 3D for turns) because it looks like a map! I really hope the new one will have a 2D mode.

Alpine have already produced the v4 software for the Alpine units, here are some screenies:

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Registered
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497 Posts
Review is nice!
As a matter of fact I'm really surprised (in a good way — see further) to see the small mismatch in color of interior plastic :). I thought once I'll fit in a Type R center console panels (and gear knob) into a 5D it would look... sorta out of place. Now I'm completely positive since it will look quite a stock modification.
Oh, don't forget to take pictures of your bonnet after doing first 5,000 km! We'll have a look what the new paint quality is...
 

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Premium Member
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429 Posts
Super write up; thanks for producing something different to a car magazine.

The colour looks good in your pictures, and the colour coding looks great too. Shame Honda don't think that the top-of-the-range (3-door) deserves reversing sensors and HID lights. Surely they could do an S-type EX GT, or better still put EX stuff on the GT!
 

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Space Cadet
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32 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Agreed. The head lights are pretty poor. My mate sells Bi Xenon kits for £55.00 each. I can't understand why most of the manufacturers charge such an arm & a leg for them. When properly set up they consume less energy (better mpg) and last 5 times longer than Halogen (less waste), while improving road safety. Come on Honda, you like to be green!;)
 

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Civinfo's Bulb Supplier
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13,427 Posts
Great write up, not that I'd have one, but still great, lovely car too, you must be one of the first :cool:
 

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Arfurs right hand man
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Super write up; thanks for producing something different to a car magazine.

The colour looks good in your pictures, and the colour coding looks great too. Shame Honda don't think that the top-of-the-range (3-door) deserves reversing sensors and HID lights. Surely they could do an S-type EX GT, or better still put EX stuff on the GT!
It isnt. The type R is
 

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Vivid Blue Rocks!!!
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At last, a colour that is almost as good as Vivid Blue. :D

That is one very smart looking Type S, enjoy it
 

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At last, a colour that is almost as good as Vivid Blue. :D
I was curious about that actually, Vivid Blue got cancelled didn't it? What is the difference between the above colour and Vivid Blue - to me it looks a little darker. Vivid Blue was very bright looking.
 

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BJJ IS NOT JUST FOR XMAS
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Nice review , looks great colour coded
 
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