Honda Civic 170i VTEC

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Keywords: Honda Civic 170i VTEC

Description: Included in the present Honda stable are two models, both of which share the name Civic. Already familiar is the saloon version as tested by CAR in June 2001. Newly arrived is the brand new five

Included in the present Honda stable are two models, both of which share the name Civic. Already familiar is the saloon version as tested by CAR in June 2001. Newly arrived is the brand new five door (hatchback) version featured here. A 1 688 cm3 VTEC engine, tagged 170i, is offered in both derivatives, with a 150i version also available in the saloon.

Styling follows the trend towards “crossover” designs, which, in this case, means a hatch with a mini-MPV-like higher roofline. This is only of practical benefit if, for example, the floor is raised for ground clearance, the seats are raised for comfort, visibility is improved and/or interior space increased. A drawback of such a design is that, whereas a hatchback is usually sporty, a MPV is often bulbous and top-heavy in appearance.

departments. Although not as sporty as one has come to expect from a Honda, it is attractive from most angles. The exception is the front end, which looks like a clone of numerous other new cars: large expanse of bumper, a “smiley” grille and oversized headlamps. Size-wise, the five-door is shorter than the saloon by 153 mm, but has a 60 mm longer wheelbase, and gains 55 mm in height.

The first impression on taking your seat, whether in front or at the rear, is one of roominess. All around there is ample space: for your feet and legs, for your head and your elbows. The completely flat floor allows for additional leg and foot movement.

Adding to this spaciousness is the clever gearlever, which protrudes from the centre hang-down section of the facia rather than being mounted on the floor in the usual manner. Many found this amusing at first, but the position of the lever is perfect. Set close to the steering wheel, it allows one’s hand to move swiftly from wheel to gearlever and back. The shift is also up to Honda’s usual high standard and lightning-fast changes are there for the taking, should you like playing the hot hatch role.

The flat floor, coupled with the absence of a storage bin or armrest between the front seats, enables one to walk through from front to back without much trouble, which may be handy on long trips. It is a pity that Honda did not go one further by moving the handbrake to the right-hand side of the driver’s seat to fully free up the space. Another possibility would be to offer a removable storage bin or cool box for installing between the seats. A further wasted opportunity for storage space is the large facia top, whose sweeping curves seem to serve no useful purpose.

Controls are generally sensibly laid out and simple in operation, especially the ventilation and heating switches, which consist of three rotary knobs mounted close to the left hand. Not so effective are the air-conditioning switches, which are obscured by the gearshift, and the aftermarket radio/CD player with an array of tiny buttons whose positions have to be memorised by the driver to avoid lengthy periods with eyes off the road. The windscreen wiper stalk is hidden by the steering wheel and could have been positioned two centimetres higher.

Part of the MPV experience is storage bins, pockets and trays all over the place, so one would expect some measure of the same in a vehicle such as this. Perhaps to accentuate the airy feel of the car, storage space is limited to some small, shallow bins suitable for pens and, perhaps, a pair of sunglasses. Under the gearlever would be a good place for a pull-out bin, but only an ashtray is provided. There are decent door pockets with integral drink holders, however, and a cup holder for the driver to the right of the steering wheel.

The seats are comfortable, the driver’s being adjustable for height. But the best is reserved for rear seat occupants, whose legroom is nothing short of excellent. Although fitting a third person onto a rear seat is often a squeeze, a bonus with the Civic is the ability to stretch the legs out between the front seats, marred only by the intrusion of the handbrake. Seat trim is a dull grey, and the quality of the cloth, as well as the carpeting, does not appear to be up to the standard of the rest of the materials.

Luggage capacity is on par with the competition. The hatch opens 2 000 mm high and rear seats split 60:40 to provide a nearly flat load area. The space saver spare wheel is located in the usual under-floor well.

If one unlocks the car and a door is not opened within 30 seconds, the car will automatically re-lock itself as a protection against accidental pushing of the remote button.

Other standard features include alloy wheels, electric mirrors and windows (no one-touch facility though), rear window wash/wipe, remote central locking incorporating an immobiliser, tilt adjustable steering wheel, dual airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners and ABS with EBD.

An aspect of the central locking is the absence of any beeps or squeaks to confirm locked status. Instead, the indicators flash three times. If any doors are not properly closed, the car will refuse to lock.

Developing 96 kW of power at 6 300 r/min and 155 N.m of torque at 4 800 r/min, the engine uses VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Electronic Lift Control) technology to optimise the valve timing, with the emphasis on drivability, low-down torque and economy. It pulls cleanly from very low revs, without vibration or jerking. Thanks to the good torque characteristics, this car can be driven lazily, by skipping gearchanges, with relative ease.

Acceleration through the gears is brisk; we managed to beat our 0 to 100 figures recorded with the saloon, but top speed was a full 11 km/h slower. This may have been due to a combination of a low-km tight engine (1 030 on the odo) and a small increase in frontal area over that of the saloon.

The slick gearbox and willing engine are complemented by a light steering, using electrical power assistance – light but positive and possibly the best of its kind that we have tested. Ride and handling are well suited to this type of vehicle. Not sporty in the usual Honda style, it is comfortable and compliant, with good cornering ability and only mild body roll that was not disconcerting.

We were unable to connect our Pierberg flowmeter to the Honda’s fuel injection system. However, our tank-to-tank figures produced a worst consumption of 9,5 litres/100 km and a best of 7,55. The overall figure was 8,9 litres/100 km, which is quite satisfactory for a high-powered 1,7-litre vehicle. The only problem is a limited range of some 562 km from the 50-litre tank.



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