Honda Civic RS a

It costs: $38,302.

It has: A 127 kilowatt turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder with a continuously variable auto.

We got: 9.7 litres per 100 km in the city, 6.0 in the country. The official combined figure is 6.1.

Consensus: Good drive, disappointing experience.

First impressions are important and that’s why it’s vital to take the Civic for a test drive before you start signing contracts. You’ll love this car in the showroom, but when you start setting it up to drive you discover its biggest weakness. The electronics are dated, the controls are odd.

Honda Civic RS cI have a routine I go through with every car I get into; seat, steering wheel, mirrors, ventilation, radio, trip computer. It usually takes a few minutes but with this one it took a quarter-hour. The seat adjustment was simple enough, then I tried to find the wheel adjustment. I was on the point of giving up when I found it a lo-ong way down the column and well into the footwell, a real reach. And trying to hold it steady while locking it into place is difficult bordering on impossible. Why have they made it so hard?

Ventilation? Well to adjust that I had to find the ventilation controls and they’re not on the menu displayed on the centre screen. Okay, it’s a button below the screen that brings them up, but that’s not intuitive because you’re not looking below the screen, you’re looking at the screen and wondering where the hell it is on the menu.

But it was while trying to set a radio preset or two that I started to get really annoyed. The controls, when eventually found, are unintuitive and finicky and the process takes time and patience. Then the trip computer didn’t want to reset. After swearing at it for a few minutes I went to the owner’s manual and discovered the reset is by the stalk controlling the trip meter. I’ve struck more difficult electronic systems, but only in cars costing less than half this. Were I a tyre kicker at the dealership I would have handed the keys back by now.

It would be cute at this point to say that all of this was forgiven when I drove the car, but even after a week in it I was still so intensely annoyed about the penny pinching that is obvious every time you try to adjust something that it coloured my whole experience in this car. Whenever you indicate left the centre screen shows you the view back down the left side, maybe Honda’s idea of blind spot warning. I thought it was dumb and it’s certainly distracting. And despite its premium price the RS doesn’t even get integrated navigation. I guess you can hook your phone in but so many interesting places in Australia are out of mobile range. The audio quality is pretty average too.

Honda Civic RS bOkay, the RS drives very nicely indeed. Don’t be misled by the size of the engine, this thing goes hard and has good and relatively seamless power always on tap. It handles beautifully too with great finesse and security, although the ride certainly gets sharp over second-rate surfaces, of which we have lots in this wide, brown land.

Rear seat room is more limited that in many of the Civic’s competitors and the cargo room is also pretty tight. There’s a spare wheel under the floor back there but it’s only a space saver.

The RS looks tough, the twin exhausts especially, and it goes hard. But seriously, I wouldn’t buy one if it cost half as much.

Published October 2017


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