The C-segment is one of the most important for mainstream carmakers, with models in this category almost always featuring among their bestsellers. But this popularity also means that many manufacturers become complacent and take customers for granted. Until recently, almost every car in the class was offered with just one powertrain and the bare minimum of features. This disquieting trend of shortchanging customers is what Honda has bucked with its announcement of an all-new 1.6-litre engine for its new Civic early this month.
The 123bhp, 151Nm naturally aspirated four-pot is the third powertrain option being offered to Civic customers. Available in two trims, DX and LX, this new version sits at the lower end of the range, as a more cost-effective option than the LXi and the EXi with their 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engines, and the range-topping RS powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged engine. With this addition, Honda covers a much wider spectrum of budgets starting from Dh67,900 all the way up to Dh95,900. It also lets the Civic cater to varying tastes, as opposed to the previous model, which was available only with a 1.8-litre naturally aspirated engine across three grades.
Looking at the Civic LX from outside, you’d be hard pressed to tell it apart from the EXi, as it sports the same chrome grille, headlights with daytime running lights and C-shaped LED taillights as the 2.0-litre model. However, the base DX can be distinguished from the rest of the line-up by the absence of fog lights and differently styled wheels. With its oblique, coupé-like roofline, and low-slung, sporty profile, the new Civic is arguably the best-looking saloon you can buy for less than Dh70,000. Even in the cabin, there isn’t anything much that betrays this as a cheaper variant, except the lack of a 7.0in touchscreen display on the centre console, which has been replaced here by a 5.0in screen with very basic functions. The rest of the interior is as well-built and as nicely appointed as other more expensive models.
One grouse I had about the top-spec Civic RS was the lack of dedicated buttons for volume control and the air conditioner’s fan on the dashboard. This base Civic has brought both these knobs back on to the control panel, making it easier to access and control these functions. And for a cut-price car, the Civic LX boasts many features as standard including auto air-conditioning, a multi-function steering wheel, AC vents for rear passengers, hands-free phone connectivity, USB ports for charging your devices, keyless entry and start, rear parking sensors, cruise control and electric parking brake.
While it’s understandable that Honda had to take away features like the camera-based Lane Watch system from the higher grades and the steering-mounted paddle shifters from the RS, I wish it hadn’t skimped on safety features. As we have said in many features earlier, we would rather carmakers cut back on comfort and convenience features rather than the number of airbags, especially in family cars. But unfortunately, Honda has decided to take away side and side curtain airbags from the lower grade Civic. Thankfully, other safety tech including vehicle stability assist with traction control, anti-lock braking, electronic brake distributor, and tyre pressure monitoring have been retained here.
Although less powerful than the other two engines in the Civic range, the 1.6-litre has enough life in it to lug this compact saloon around with ease. In fact, for an average buyer in this class, who hasn’t driven the 2.0-litre or the 1.5-litre turbo variants, this engine would seem adequate for almost every situation he or she would encounter on the road.
With the expansion of its Civic range, Honda has thrown the gauntlet down in the C-segment family saloon class. Now, it’s for rivals like Toyota, Kia, Hyundai, and Nissan to take that gauntlet up. If they don’t, they’ll likely be left watching the ninth-generation Civic pull the rug from under their feet.