I woke up groggy-eyed because I made a mistake. Sort of. I jokingly asked Honda to send me their new Civic early in the morning. You know, avoid the traffic, breathe in the fresh air, go for some tea all the way to the outskirts of Dhaka far beyond Uttara.
"How about 6AM," I asked?. They said 'Sure!". And there I was picking up a cup of Americano, driving my old Accord to the meet-up point, cursing the fact that there is absolutely no cup holder in my car. What was the Bangladeshi Honda dealership doing back in 97 speccing the Accord with zero cup holder?
Turns out, things are a lot different now. For one, the dealership does a fantastic job of getting the specs right. I wanted a blue Civic. I got a blue Civic. My photographer wanted to take photos. Who wants to waste time doing that?
This Civic is a thing of understated beauty minus that slightly protruding beak-like nose. Yeah, I don't know what to make of that. But the rest of the car, in fact, ALL of the car, is undeniably cool. It has grown up considerably.
Civics have always been a platform of choice for pre-pubescent kids who want multiple wings and holes and mesh grill all over. The last one, the 10th, was very busy looking. There were curves and slashes and fake vents everywhere. It looked cool. I loved it. But it was also a little too in-your-face. And then suddenly the 11th gen pops up, all grown up. The lines are more muted, creases subtler and the budget department went easy on the vents. They took the wildness of the previous model and turned the knob down one notch. It is now a grown-up's car. You now have a choice: stay understated cool or go wild by adding all the go-faster bits and pieces.
Things are a grown up affair on the inside as well. Our test unit was all black which I like. Being a dad of two, lighter interiors gives me a headache from the regular stain removal of chocolate ice cream and other food items left as a reminder in the form of grubby hand prints. It's a joy to grab on to the thick, meaty small steering wheel.
They use mostly standard materials. But how they use it is the real magic. The first thing you will notice is the honeycomb mesh spanning the full width of the dashboard. It hides the air vents managed by metallic knobs. Kind of steampunk while creating instant upmarket vibes.
Next you notice everything seems a bit tucked in so to say. Knobs and buttons are just where they need to be but not glowing and in your face. You sit in the car and everything directs your view out the windows. Most modern cars have that claustrophobic, thickly pillared surround but this manages to create a far more open layout without compromising structural safety. I could sit in here all day. The designers and accountants at Honda have managed to form the perfect marriage of bargain materials and brilliant ergonomics. It does offer the space age gimmicks of customizable display and colours.
But enough of that. I woke up at dawn because I wanted to go for a drive. And drive I did. The car comes with a standard 1.5 turbo charged engine pumping out 180bhp. There is an another 2.0 option but that seems pointless in Bangladesh simply because of our absurd tax structure. Not to mention the 2.0 has 22 fewer 'horsepurrs'. And 'horsepurrs' it is because that 1.5 engine purrs smooth just like the previous one. It is also connected to a CVT. CVTs are great at delivering linear power and maintaining fuel efficiency. But I hate CVTs because they have an indecisive drone. They work despite sounding like the most confused whiney South Park character. Except, Honda does Honda magic and manages the CVT surprisingly well.
I pushed, the car responded. The car just wants to go. No unnecessary whining unlike all its contemporaries: the Subaru Impreza, Hyundai Elantra and the Corolla. Boring.
The 1.5 is a very responsive unit. People who have driven the previous turbo Civic will find familiarity here. It is a bit trashy when you push it but it responds fluidly. It wants to be your best friend. I went back to another unit later to check out 0-100kmph times. You know how important that is to the Fast And Furious crowd. I averaged 7.5 seconds. For FNF fans, Hector may not be impressed as he brings in his 3 Civics with Spoon engines, but this 2022 Civic it is plenty fast for Dhaka streets.
And if you've driven the previous one, then another familiarity is the handling in corners. It comes alive with tight and predictable body control. It is a stiff chassis giving you very controlled movements keeping the Honda DNA of fun handling very much alive. You can hear a bit more of the thumps though over broken roads due to the 17 inch wheels and the tin walled 215-50 profile tires. But you forget all that as you press on. 177 lb/ft of torque is available low down from 1700 RPM. So basically, you cruise and then you floor it and you go like Superman needing to go to the toilet in a hurry. It comes with paddle shifters which frankly are useless on a CVT. It is a marketing gimmick if nothing else. Trust me, the CVT can shift better than you can any day. Let the car decide on the gearing while you navigate.
As for the smart stuff, the car has all kinds of braking assists going on including collision mitigating braking when you're about to hit a Pathao biker who just runs out of an alley. Safety includes front, side and curtain airbags as well as lane assist, if we had lanes that is.
The only rival to this could have been the new Mazda 3 because that thing looks like a work of art. Aside from its looks, it doesn't have a chance in hell to beat the Civic. There is no official dealership, parts are never available and the 1.5 version has no turbo juice.
Did I enjoy it? I loved it. I drove back and forth selfishly refusing to hand over the keys to my fellow automotive journo. My last drive before this was a 285bhp German tourer. Except this Civic got me a bit more excited. This car offers everyday, usable power combined with comfort and grace. And it looks like a proper car: long hood, short butt and the right amount of space in between. You can sit in traffic aging slowly or really enjoy yourself on the weekend as you try to escape the city. Or like me, wake up at dawn for a quick run. I think this is the best daily you can buy in our market right now. And unlike my Accord, it has cup holders.
This review was originally published in the March issue of Wheels magazine. Click here to order yours.