‘(00) was invited as part of the media by Honda Malaysia last week to drive up north to Penang and back. This included of course the 1.5 Hybrid, 1.8, 2.0 and 2.0 Navi (which, as its name suggests, comes with a built-in navigational system that doubles up as a reverse camera and infotainment system). Despite having only brief moments behind the wheel of each car, we were still able to draw our impressions of the all-new Honda Civic.

Let’s start first with the way the new car looks, because we know there are many (differing) opinions on the styling of the ninth-generation (9G) Civic. In truth, I sort of fall in between both camps, neither liking nor disliking its looks. You might not notice it, but the new car has a 1.2-inch shorter wheelbase. Despite that, it boasts a 1.6-inch increase in rear legroom, whilst maintaining interior height, length, and width. Honda says that shoulder room has also increased – 3.0-inch in front, and 1.0-inch at rear.  Aerodynamics has been improved, thanks in part to the styling revisions – longer bonnet, smaller grille, flat underbody, and sculpted bumpers. Certainly, the new car doesn’t look anywhere near as dramatic, or as sporty, as the eighth-generation (8G) Civic but the exterior really isn’t all that bad – I definitely wouldn’t call it ugly. In fact, I believe it carries design elements that eventually grow onto you over time. Park the ninth and eighth-generation Civic next to each other and you’ll notice a fluid design progression, as opposed to the drastic evolution from before.

Step into the car and you’ll notice the cabin has fared significantly better; it maintains the two-tier dashboard that first appeared on the 8G Civic, except with some minor tweaks; if you’re accustomed to the cabin of the old car, you won’t get lost here. The RPM cluster now dominates the bottom tier, with the upper half housing the speedometer and i-MID (intelligent Multi Information Display). This dashboard concept is very aesthetically appealing, and also works to give the impression of extra in-cabin space. As you might expect, button placement is ergonomic and easy to use, materials quality is decent, with fit and finish up half a notch over its predecessor. The A-pillars have been restyled too, to improve outward visibility.

As we mentioned earlier, there are four variants of the Honda Civic, each with different cabin trim levels. The 1.8 petrol is the most basic with beige fabric seats and an orange hued i-MID display (although USB support is now standard across the range). I won’t hide the fact that I’m a little disappointed with the fabric (ala throwback from the 90s) because it really cheapens the interior; water repellant type material in a darker colour would have been a better choice. Next is the 1.5 hybrid that gains beige leather seats, along with an idle start/stop system (that we occasionally wished could be turned off). The 2.0 petrol’s cabin is a marked improvement over the two, with leather seats in a sportier black shade, keyless entry, engine start/stop button, paddles shifters, and blue i-MID display. Call me shallow, but the ambiance in here is definitely better. This list of equipment grows a little more with the higher spec 2.0 Navi, adding GPS, reverse camera, and Bluetooth connectivity.

It would seem as though the new ethos for this new Civic is (fuel) economy – point driven home with a large, green ECON button found across all the variants. When depressed, ECON mode works to optimize throttle input, the guidance function with colour changing ambient meter assisting driver with achieving better fuel consumption. The spread of engines now come only with single overhead cams but despite that, still sees slight improvements in power figures over its predecessor (1.8 @ 141PS/174Nm, 2.0 @ 155PS/190Nm, 1.5 hybrid @ 110PS/172Nm). These numbers whilst decent are certainly not something to shout about.

Perhaps more important is how the power translates when out on the open roads. There’s no question to which is the quickest car off the line; that accolade remains firmly with the 2.0-litre variants. No official Zerotohundred timings were available, but expect both petrol units to complete the sprint in sub-8.0 seconds, with the hybrid a second (or two) behind. Mash your foot into the throttle and the response isn’t what you might expect – power delivery is incredible linear across the range, acceleration ultra smooth, the engine sounding a little less aural than before. The steering, like before, remains feather light, lacking in both feedback and feel, somewhat disconnected from the driver altogether. Ride and handling however, is perhaps this car’s single, biggest improvement. Higher tensile steel was used in the construction of the new chassis which helped to pare weight down, whilst improving on stiffness and rigidity. The result is a smoother, more well-balanced ride and is truly an impressive step forward from the car it replaces.

Ultimately, the new Honda Civic remains a very competent machine. Economy and efficiency were benchmarks for this car, and we’re happy to report that it has achieved exactly that (an impressive ~14km/litre in the Civic Hybrid, despite a heavy right foot). It seems as though the Civic has grown up; losing its racy appeal in favour of practicality, economy and usability. Whilst this might not sit well with die-hard Honda enthusiasts, I do believe this new direction will appeal to the average Joes. Couple that with a 5 year/unlimited mileage warranty and a 10,000km service interval, and you have a pretty decent package. Numbers don’t lie after-all, and with over 2,600 units sold so far (2,000 petrol, 600 hybrid – almost half of Honda Malaysia’s targeted numbers), its seems as though the all-new Honda Civic remains a popular choice for the masses.