Ryan Bubear has his second helping of the Honda Civic Sedan... this time the 1.6 Comfort in manual.
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More often than not, the vehicles we test every week are range-toppers. And while we're certainly not complaining — there's nothing quite like heated seats on a chilly morning or radar-guided cruise control on a lazy drive home, after all — the fact remains that in the vast majority of cases, these flagship models aren't the bulk-sellers. Far from it.
No, that's the job of the no-frills, bare-bones, entry-level model.
Earlier this year, we spent a week with the new Honda Civic sedan. Our test vehicle sported Executive trim, a 1.8-litre engine and an automatic gearbox. At a smidgen over R283k, it was the most expensive, best-equipped model in the range (read the full review here).
Now we've had the chance to sample something from the opposite end of the eight-model spectrum: the entry-level 1.6-litre Comfort in manual.
The 1598cc i-VTEC powerplant is new to the range and pumps out a credible 92kW at a lofty 6500rpm and 151Nm at 4300rpm. As is customary with Honda engines, it needs to be worked hard to achieve these peak figures, but is just as happy pottering along in traffic at lower rpms.
Honda says it's good for a 0-100km/h time of 9.6 seconds (1.1 seconds quicker than our 1.8 automatic) and a top speed of 200km/h. It's hardly the sort of car that'd encourage you to chase these figures — and you'll often find yourself dropping a gear or two for steep hills or swift overtaking manoeuvres — but it somehow never feels hugely underpowered.
What it is missing, however, is a sixth forward gear. The five-speed manual gearbox is a smooth-shifter and great to use around town, but out on the open road we often found ourselves searching for an extra "overdrive" cog. The addition of a sixth would, of course, help lower the fuel bill too.
Honda reckons the 1.6 will use just 6.7 litres per 100km on the combined cycle (compared to the 6.6 quoted for our 1.8 automatic). We weren't too far off either, returning a final fuel economy figure of 7.3 litres per 100 (we did 7.6 in the 1.8 auto, for the record).
So, besides the drivetrain, what are the key differences between the two models? Well, our entry-level model gets smaller, 15-inch rims, and is missing the front fog lights and chrome door handles found on the Executive variant. The range-topper also benefits from automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, vehicle stability assist and a tyre deflation warning system. And the basic model makes do without leather trim, cruise control/speed limiter, USB, and Bluetooth.
The 1.6 Comfort does, however, boast electric windows, manual air-con, multifunctional steering wheel, single-CD WMA/MP3-compatible tuner, and the ECON mode system. So it's not as "no-frills" as first thought.
Our advice? Go for the entry-level manual over the top-trim automatic. Not only is it some R73k cheaper, it's quite a bit better to drive, and doesn't give up much in terms of power or efficiency either. The only thing we really missed was the cruise control and Bluetooth.
There's a reason bare-bones models tend to be better sellers, after all.
For more details on the Civic sedan, read our full review of the 1.8 Executive.
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Click through to page 2 for specs and pricing.