Reaching new heights

Boy it’s nice to be sitting in a sporty hatch back. It’s the first time for a wee while after a tour around some of the SUV’s and compact cars on offer.

The humble hatchback seems to have taken a bit of a back seat these days but, for many, it is still the best option that offers the best of both worlds.

So I was looking forward to my encounter with one of the most recognisable and enduring brands in this class – the Honda Civic and the RS Sport model in particular.

Most of the improvements in this model revolve around the introduction of Honda’s Sensing suite of safety features, but we’ll get into that once we hit the road.

There is also the matter of the very peppy 1.5 litre V-Tech turbo engine.

But first impressions are important and the revamped RS Sport model does include a couple of exterior changes in the form of a sporty twin-exit exhaust, 18” mags and some extra trim.

It is already a great looking car with sharp lines, narrow grille and low shape so I wouldn’t be messing with that design in any major way either.

The inside of the RS features black leather seats with red stitching and a wide, stylish, uncomplicated dash with a generous touchscreen in the centre.

There is plenty of storage around the cabin, including a cavernous central console.

The Civic has always been a car for everybody and that includes the back seats where there is loads of legroom.

The luggage space is big for a car in this class, so that’s a big tick as well.

Entertainment-wise you have Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and this is a simple two-minute job to set up. There is a premium sound system to add to the mix as well as a climate control system that allows you to adjust driver and passenger sides separately.

Once you have synced your phone, your calls also come through the system and can be controlled through the buttons on the steering wheel.

There are a few nice new touches like keyless, push button start and a button operated “hand” brake. Might have to rename this the finger brake I think, although you don’t even need that to release it. Simply touch the accelerator and you’re off.

So, as we mosey out onto the bottom end of Elizabeth St and head for the motorway it’s time to talk about some of the other interesting stuff.

And it doesn’t take long because when you use the indicator a side view of the car comes up on the LED screen.

Cameras strategically mounted in the side mirrors point back down the side of the car, giving you a clear view of any cyclists trying to squeeze through or vehicles in the left or right lane blind spots.

This is a handy feature in the mad scramble of Tauranga’s peak traffic times.

As mentioned, Honda’s best safety technology is the big addition to the RS Sport model.

The list of safety features is impressive and is sure to be a deciding factor for many people looking for the perfect hatch back.

It includes a collision mitigation braking system, lane keep assist system, forward collision warning, road departure mitigation, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control which even works at low speed.

This combination of warnings and active systems to save the day when the driver loses concentration, or simply can’t react fast enough, is a massive addition to modern motoring but not always available in new vehicles and not all manufacturers achieve the same high level of performance.

One thing that I always struggle with, and I’m sure other motorists do too, is the desire for performance, speed and power but not at the expense of the environment.

Fortunately the two are not mutually exclusive if you pick the right vehicle. Basically, the more efficient a vehicle is, the more bang you get for emissions.

In the case of the RS Sport you have a 1.5-litre VTEC turbo engine that is a lot of fun on the windy roads up through the Kaimai Range but uses as little as 6.1 litres per 100km. Emissions, at just 142g/km are very  low, so no guilt there.

It is quick off the mark, powerful up the hills (220Nm of torque) and there is the option of seven-speed paddle shifters or the very capable Earthdreams CVT transmission.

All in all, this is a great vehicle for anything Bay of Plenty roads can throw at you and a massive evolution for the Honda Civic.

To drive one yourself, head down to Bay of Plenty Honda at 158 Elizabeth St.

Model: Honda Civic RS Sport

Engine: 1.5 litre VTEC turbo

Transmission – Earthdreams CVT with paddle shifters

Price: $41,990 + ORC


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