OFTEN when car companies release a new generation of an existing model, it’s a rebuild of a previous version, an upgrade to a more modern look and feel, but on the same underbelly from the previous model.
Not so Honda’s outstanding new 2017 Honda Civic RS. It’s a brand new model from the ground up, replacing the underwhelming Civic Sports from the previous generation Civic. Now in its tenth incarnation, the new Civic is, well, new.
It’s longer, and let’s face it, it looks a thousand times better with its new sleeker more coupe styled sedan body shape, with an exterior body kit that includes a rear spoiler and side skirts, to increase the overall sporty look and feel, along with RS badging everywhere.
On that RS note, if you think of other models carrying the RS monicker, those things are weapons (we’re thinking a certain Porsche and a certain Ford Focus here). This is not, it’s a Sport model, that’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. The Civic Type R is Honda’s RS, if you like, and Honda should think long and hard about its naming conventions.
We say this because any uneducated buyer who rocks up expecting a hot hatch/coupe style sedan will be sorely disappointed, unless they’re looking for a kitted up mildly warm mode of transport. Maybe we’re just being a little picky because of the connotation of what RS should and in most cases, does mean.
It is a very good car though, and the new look also features LED headlights and taillights, some very nice looking 17-inch alloy wheels and beefier bumper ware. Honda has also kicked the naturally aspirated motor to the kerb (where it possibly belonged) and jumped on the turbo bandwagon, introducing an all-new 1.5-litre direct injection turbo 4 cylinder that pushes out 127kW of power and 220Nm of torque.
It’s fitted with a ‘simulated seven-speed’ CVT gearbox (with no manual option), and overall the power range is good but not great (its main rivals – the Mazda3 SP25 and the Holden Astra RS-V both have more kW overall though, as does the much hotter 2017 Elantra SR). Up high, when it’s revving hard, it’s overly noisy for want of a better description. Rugged we described it as the first time we heard it, and after seven days of testing, we still found it very noisy when pushed hard.
The ride and handling though are exceptional, thanks to improved rear suspension and a significantly stiffer chassis. It feels great on the road, it handles corners exceptionally well. It handles rough roads amazingly well for a smaller car and out in the country, where we drove it for a couple of days, it didn’t bat an eyelid at being driven up hill and down dale.
Honda claims 6-L/100km in fuel economy and we’d say it was right on the money. We managed a low of 5.9l/100km on a very long very flat road on a trip through the NSW countryside, but sat mostly round the 6.4-6.9l/100km range. Still very good numbers that make it almost a class leader for economy. At 47 litres, it could use a bigger fuel tank too.
Inside the RS features a 7-inch infotainment system, reversing camera and the uber-cool blind spot camera system – the cameras are mounted on the outside of the mirrors and switch on automatically when you indicate left or right, showing you what’s happening in the left or right lane before you move over. This alone could save a motorcyclist or cyclist who finds themselves in your blind spot.
The instrument cluster is good too, including a digital speedo and a range of updates available to make focusing on the road much easier. There’s plenty of adjustment in the front drivers seat to get your comfort levels just right, and you’ll need these, because you can’t adjust the position of the steering wheel, the seating system and how you sit will have to get that right for you.
It’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, as well as having a fully featured Bluetooth system. There’s a 452-watt 10 speaker sound system, key less entry and start, dual zone climate control and leather everywhere; seats, gear knob and steering wheel. There’s no SatNav (why not Honda?), but it does come with DAB digital radio.
The boot, for a small car, is outstanding at 517 litres. It’s very family friendly, with plenty of leg room front and rear, and very comfortable space for the easy-to-fit child seats should you have little people. It does struggle for rear head room a little thanks to the sloping roof line but it still feels roomy throughout.
Safety wise, aside from the blind-spot camera we mentioned earlier (which is officially called Lane Watch), there’s six airbags, emergency stop signalling, hill start assist, vehicle stability assist, traction control, a tyre deflation warning system, ABS, emergency braking assist, parking sensors, walk away door locking, and even a good old fashioned car alarm.
It will cost you $31,790 (plus on-roads) to get into a 2017 Honda Civic RS. It comes in Brilliant Sporty Blue (the test car colour), Rally Red, Modern Steel, Lunar Silver, Cosmic Blue, White Orchid and Crystal Black (these last two are pearl paint). The warranty is three years or 100,000km.
Our test vehicle was provided by Honda Australia. To find out more about the 2017 Honda Civic RS, contact your local Honda dealer.