Last month, Aspi made me an offer I could not resist. The FIM Asian Road Racing Championship was arriving in Chennai and being a hardcore motorsports fan, I did not want to miss it. Our Editor asked me to drive the facelifted Civic from Pune to Chennai and back. Unfortunately though, the car was going to be provided to us in Bengaluru. Nonetheless, we picked up the Civic from there and decided to drive it down to Chennai and later get it to Pune.
Aspi and I flew down to Bengaluru where Navaroze was waiting for us at the airport with the revamped Civic right next to him. With the first look at the Honda, I could figure out that the midlife facelift had installed a few cosmetic upgrades on the car. The headlamps get a smoky treatment now and a new mesh grille sits behind the bold, chrome Honda badge. The front bumper has been re-profiled a bit, which of course is not recognizable to the layman’s eyes. Moving to the rear, I spotted the new octagonal tail lamps that have replaced the circular ones found on the previous version. The headlamps and the front grille looked good to me but not the tail. The classy circular lamps at the rear are still my preferred choice. Apart from these bits, there are new alloy wheels for the top end automatic version. This one, being the manual transmission variant, had the same old set of alloys. Leaving these changes aside, there is not much else that can distinguish the facelifted Civic from its predecessor.
The first leg of our trip from Bengaluru to Chennai was roughly 320km. With Aspi deciding to drive during the first leg and Navaroze taking the passenger seat, I decided to take this opportunity to gauge the Civic’s rear seat comfort. The car offers plush seating at the rear with adequate legroom. The rear seats get audio controls on the centre armrest. Though there aren’t AC vents at the rear, I didn’t miss them thanks to the powerful AC of the car that takes care of the rear passengers pretty well. Taking the NH7, we crossed Hosur to enter Tamil Nadu from where the roads improved drastically and allowed Aspi to fly the Civic at 150km/h on the brilliant highways. With open roads ahead and absolutely no crossroads for kilometers at a stretch, it was no doubt one of the best terrains to drive on.
The trip from Bengaluru to Chennai took around four and a half hours including a lunch break. Highly comfortable at the rear, the Civic indeed gave the feeling of being a very luxurious car. After spending Friday and Saturday at the racetrack, it was time for Aspi to take his flight back home and it was my duty to drop him to the city airport. That night I returned to my hotel, located 40km from the city, driving peacefully in the darkness and enjoying the comforts of the cozy leather upholstery offered in the Civic.
The next day, I left Chennai right after the races were over. My target was to spend the night at Bengaluru which meant that I had to reach there before the restaurants shut, have dinner and hunt for a suitable stay for the night with a secure car park. Three of my friends from Pune, joined me on my return journey as I set out for Bengaluru at 4:30 pm. The drive was fantastic till almost 6:30 pm when it suddenly started pouring cats and dogs thus slowing us down to 50km/h. Driving through the darkness and the heavy rain, I noticed two very important things about the Civic – the vipers and the headlamps. The innovative vipers offered by Honda which open from the centre and clean the windscreen in opposite directions are incredibly good. The brilliant set of headlamps illuminates every bit on the road.
The next day was a big one. I had to pick up Ajay, my new colleague who was returning from his hometown in Kerala, at the bus station and proceed straight to Pune. As the clock struck 6:30 in the morning, we set out for the 850km drive of the day. Unlike the previous day, the drive didn’t start off very well. With five people on board and a lot of luggage in the boot, the soft suspension of the Civic takes a strong hit and the low ground clearance adds more trouble. Plus, the diversions on the roads due to the reconstruction work on the highway were in a really sad state. Getting across these bad patches was an immensely tough task. I strongly feel that the Honda guys should have beefed up the rear suspension of the car in the facelifted version.
As we got out of Bengaluru, the NH4 improved to a great extent. However, this brilliant road lasted for not more than 150km. From Ranibenur to Hubli, the highway is still under construction, which leads you to thousands of diversions taking you through the worst roads. For a change, I was longing for the toll booths to arrive and better roads to commence. Once close to Hubli, it was a dream for me as I saw a long stretch of road with no diversions to disturb the Civic and me anymore. Someone had told me that cruise control is a complete waste in a country like India where you have to brake more often than you accelerate. I hadn’t quite agreed with him and this was the moment I had to pat my back for disagreeing. Setting the car on cruise mode at 120km/h helped me free up my legs, stretch them and get refreshed for the drive ahead.
Reaching Kolhapur in time for lunch after tackling the horrendous roads on the way was indeed a commendable feat. We refueled after lunch and our calculations showed us that the Civic had delivered an efficiency of close to an unbelievable 14.5kmpl. That day, a total of 870km were covered in hardly 10 hours of driving. The difficult driving done through the bad patches had been compensated by the good state of highways later on. All’s well that ends well, as they say. I have always loved and fancied the Civic for its sheer aggression and the elegance it carries. But does it qualify as a luxury saloon? Hundred percent! It has driving appeal, comfort, stability, handling and power – almost everything you would crave for. Tweak up the suspension Honda and this car will be the class leader by all means.