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(Go Flat Out Review) 2018 Honda Civic RS Turbo: RS Is For Really Satisfying (With Video)

The Civic RS Turbo is closer to European than Japanese in the driving experience.

I have already driven the 10th generation Honda Civic, specifically the base 1.8 E variant, and I was left very impressed. I am a huge fan of Hondas, even our family. My father has an AWD 2.4 SX CR-V, and I even own the 9th generation Civic 1.8 EXI, which while is a good car, lacked the cool factor, the soul, and the sensation of the Civic being a special car that’s usually a cut above the rest of the compact class. Back in 2012, there weren’t really a lot of great choices in the compact sedan segment, and the Civic was what I already considered the best back then. The recession has hit many carmakers in particular, so the choices in that year weren’t as special as they are now. These days, thanks to the global economy doing good, compact sedans have actually become so nice, so upmarket, it’s giving buyers less reasons for them to purchase a premium luxury compact sedan. This 2017 Honda Civic RS Turbo is one of them.

Exterior

The exterior needs no introduction. It’s a design we’ve seen for a year now, and yet, the Civic still draws plenty of attention from passer-bys, attention that the nameplate hasn’t received for a very long time. It’s not a subtle design, with a bold, black Solid Wing Face grille, 5-spoke two-tone alloy wheels, and rear spoiler, denoting that this is the RS Turbo variant. Automatic Full-LED headlights cast a very white glow at night, with LED daytime running lights, LED fog lights, and let’s not even begin to talk about those C-shaped rear lights. Those LED rear lights leave an unmistakable light signature at night, casting a sleek C-shape to people behind it. The sloping roofline gives the Civic a coupe-like profile that’s akin to cars like the Audi A5 Sportback, BMW 4 Series GranCoupe, and Mercedes-Benz CLS. It’s very European in its execution, stylish, but not over the top. If there was one minor gripe, we think the Civic could use a set of 18-inch alloy wheels to further spice up the look, but we’re already nitpicking at this point. The Modulo bodykit meanwhile, is an option I think is better left unchecked, as it makes the car look ricey and somewhat spoils the European inspired look.

Interior

The interior is a huge departure from the previous generation like we’ve seen in the 1.8 E we’ve driven a year ago. Only this time, the RS spices it up with red graphics in the TFT LCD instrument cluster and Display Audio infotainment system, highlighting that this is the more potent RS variant. Apart from that, it’s still the same nice and premium interior we’ve been accustomed to. This RS variant gains features like a dual zone climate control (single zone in the 1.8 E), power adjustable driver’s seat, and leather interior. My minor gripe still remains, and that the lower parts of the cabin still feel less upmarket than the rest of the interior, but other than that, the Civic is a very nice place to be in. My favorite interior feature perhaps is its ginormous center console. A 12-inch iPad Pro will fit there no problem I presume.

Space and Practicality

Despite the cool factor in the styling, no sacrifices have been made in terms of practicality. As a matter of fact, the Civic is the most spacious compact sedan in its class. The Civic will fit 6 footers on all 5 seats no problem, though I might be too optimistic in that regard. As a matter of fact, when this Civic came out, most people who were planning to purchase the bigger Accord opted instead for the Civic RS. Thanks to that electronic parking brake, eliminating the need for a mechanical parking brake that eats up center console space, Honda engineers were able to provide the aforementioned huge center console bin, and sneaky enough for Honda, there’s a neat storage space behind the gear lever, and are also arranged in two levels. The one below it is where you can cleanly hide your smartphone as it is connected to a USB port, or the HDMI port for smartphone mirroring. Additionally, there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. More on these features later.

Features, Safety, and Infotainment

The Honda Civic RS Turbo is packed with plenty of features that make the drive more enjoyable. Standout features include the aforementioned Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Remote Engine Start, which is a godsend in this country. You can start your car before you even get in, which turns on the climate control automatically, blasting cool air so that your poor, fragile self won’t suffer from the heat caused by man-made global warming as you enter your Civic. For this 2017 model year, power folding mirros and speed sensing door locks have been added. There’s also a multi-angle reverse camera, electronic parking brake with brake hold function, and a host of other safety features such as 7 airbags, Hill Start Assist, ABS with EBD, and Emergency Stop Signal (a feature which flashes the signal lights when the Civic brakes really hard).

Let’s talk about Apple CarPlay for a minute, because this Civic is one of the first in the Philippines to have this feature as standard alongside Android Auto. Smartphone integration into the car has never been so important, because we are so hooked with our smartphones in our everyday lives. Since I use an iPhone 7 Plus, the Smartphone Integration lights up as Apple CarPlay in the Honda Display Audio system. The 1.5 RS is equipped with navigation, but with Apple CarPlay, your iPhone’s Apple Maps app can be used and becomes integrated into the infotainment system. As for Spotify, my songs appear in the display, complete with the title and the album artwork, which can also be seen in the instrument cluster. This system also integrates Siri into the car’s voice command, and makes the whole operation of the infotainment system as easy as your smartphone. This is why the release of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto has become widespread, because these Smartphone Integration features utilize a similar user interface as your smartphone, making the system as easy to use as your smartphone.

Powertrain

The Honda Civic RS Turbo is powered by Honda’s 1.5 liter turbocharged and direct injected Earth Dreams VTEC Turbo engine, producing 172 hp @ 5,500 rpm, and 220 Nm of torque @ 1,700-5,500 rpm. It is mated exclusively to an Earth Dream CVT.

How It Drives

Setting off from Alabang, we then head on to a scenic 2-hour drive to Ternate, and this is when I realize that in my opinion, the Civic RS Turbo offers the best driving experience in the compact sedan segment. Due to the Honda Civic’s clean sheet design, from the platform, suspension, structure, and other components, almost nothing is shared from past Civics. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t be a strange move for Honda to even rename the Civic because of this. The engineers at Honda have benchmarked the Audi A3 for its ride and handling characteristics, and while it does feel anything but an Audi A3, it does come close.

The Mazda 3 is still the sportiest among compact sedans, but the Civic can keep up well with the Mazda 3 through the corners. What the Mazda 3 lacks from the Civic is its amazing stability and rigidity that it is almost on par with premium European luxury sedans. When cornering at high speeds, the car does not feel nervous and twitchy, and it stays planted through the bends, thanks in part due to its longer wheelbase, too. Part of the reason why the Mazda 3 is still more fun to drive is its steering provides more feedback than the Civic’s, and a ride that’s choppier due to its stiffer but sportier suspension, though in terms of steering responsiveness, there’s almost no difference between the two. Yet, I’d pick the Civic over the Mazda 3 in a heartbeat due to its high levels of refinement and stability that it doesn’t feel like a Japanese car in the way it feels to drive. Instead, it feels like an entry-level German luxury sedan in terms of refinement and road manners.

The Civic RS Turbo’s 1.5 liter VTEC Turbo engine is the first of its kind for Honda to be put to mainstream use around the world, and it’s an engine that’s unlike any VTEC I’ve ever experienced. It’s a far cry from the VTECs of old, with its high-revving nature and that “VTEC kicked in ‘yo” sensation. Instead, the engine hits you with gobs of torque from the revs down low, uncharacteristic for any Honda engine ever, since VTEC engines were known for their free revving nature with all their torque and power located in the highest of rev ranges. There’s a slight turbo lag when you mash the throttle when launching from a standstill, but once the turbo spools, you’re pushed back to your seat unlike anything we’ve ever seen in this category. Its gobs of torque mean the sprint from 0-100 kph is done in 7.4 seconds, and overtakes are literally effortless, whatever the situation. Power is there when you need it the most, and when you want it as much. The Ford Focus with its 1.5 liter EcoBoost engine that produces almost the same power, and is mated to a 6-speed automatic, achieves the 0-100 kph sprint a full second slower than the Civic RS Turbo, and we’re quite not sure why.

After going through the curves and turns of the Nasugbu-Ternate highway, and we head on to Batangas, I also discover the Civic’s character as a cruiser. As mentioned, it is not a sports sedan, though it is capable to hustle, and as a cruiser, it’s a relaxing car to drive. The ride is great and composed. Again, almost European in how tied down and refined the ride manners are, and with loads of space in the interior, the Honda Civic is the perfect companion for long distance driving. The cabin remains quiet thanks to huge amounts of sound deadening and the thicker glass, plus the CVT does a good job of keeping the revs down low. Because of that, the Civic RS Turbo, despite its power, is very fuel efficient. Keep the turbo from spooling too much by monitoring the turbo boost pressure in the TFT LCD gauges, and fuel economy is actually better than the 1.8 E. With all that spirited driving I’ve done, it was still registering 8 km/l in the LCD, and in highway crusing, 18 km/l is effortless to achieve when you put it in ECON mode. This is why I consider it the best in its class. It’s an all rounder, providing driving thrills when you want it, comfort and relaxation when you need it, and only the Volkswagen Golf is the other car that manages to be both sporty and comfortable at the same time.

On The Downside

While the Earth Dreams CVT does a great job on its own, we still keep on wondering what if Honda instead used a conventional 6-speed automatic, or the 10-speed automatic that’s now found in the upcoming 2018 Honda Accord. While the Earth Dreams CVT is probably the best I’ve experienced among CVTs, having a conventional automatic might make the drive even sportier. The Hiroshima-based manufacturer with its 6-speed Skyactiv Drive automatic transmission provides sportier shifts.

Also, like in the 1.8 E Civic, the climate controls are too complicated to use. A single step process has become a two-step process. There is no dedicated central display for the climate control, plus there’s a lack of climate control buttons as well. Instead, you have to press Climate first, and then whatever is on the Display Audio’s screen is replaced with controls for the fan speed and zones. Therefore, if you want to change the climate control settings while you’re relying on your car’s navigation as you drive along EDSA, you probably have missed your next turn as you changed your fan speed as your climate desires have wiped out the map you’re helplessly being a slave to. Also, while I don’t really care about the loss of a volume knob that people have been so overreacting to, I moan the fact that the touchpad for the volume slider in the steering wheel is too sensitive. In the 1.8 E variant, an accidental swipe of the volume slider was enough for my tunes to blare from 10 to 25 real quick.

And then there’s the price. At P1,413,000, it’s the most expensive in this class, and though it packs enough safety features that are still rare in the class, it misses out on high tech safety gear such as Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) or Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCT), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go (ACC). The Mazda 3 2.0 R Speed, Subaru Impreza, Ford Focus, and Volkswagen Jetta have some or all these advanced safety features.

Verdict

Honda has clearly had some missteps in the past, and this new Civic is a reassurance that Honda is headed in the right direction. Remember that the Honda Civic was not known merely as a mode of transportation. It’s more than that. The Civic always managed to fulfill both, which is why there is a sub-culture of Civic owners around the world who share the same sentiments, and we’d like Honda to keep it that way. This new Civic is not just a mode of transportation. It manages to provide a fun driving experience once again, and in the case of this Civic RS, I realize that RS should stand for (R)eally (S)atisfying. It’s sporty when you want it, comfortable when you need it. It’s essentially your weekend car and workday car in one. Some would argue that the EK generation Honda Civic SiR is still the best Civic in the Philippines, and they’re probably right. It’s hard to replace a tough act, but the Civic RS Turbo is not a sports sedan. That’s what the Civic Type R is supposed to be. The Civic RS Turbo embraces the current times wherein turbocharging is used not just to boost power, but to keep it fuel efficient in the process as well, and as a bonus, provides the blend of refinement and levels of comfort that’s unique to this class. People may complain about the price, but judging on the sales numbers, price doesn’t seem to be an issue at all.

Our Rating

Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Features: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Safety: ★★★★☆
Acceleration: ★★★★★
Handling: ★★★★☆
Comfort: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆

Overall: 4.7 out of 5

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