HONDA CARS Philippines Inc. sees things differently. When you show them high numbers, they show you happy customers. Show them sales sheets, they show you glowing reviews and customer surveys (such as the JD Powers Customer Satisfaction Survey). Show them the competition, they?ll show you loyal, long-time Honda owners who stick to the brand like Super Glue.
It?s not that Honda Philippines got displaced from its number 3 ranking by the surging Hyundai brand early this year. In fact, HCPI did experience huge sales growth in 2009, surpassing by about 21 percent its 2008 sales. The other brand simply crashed into the sales charts on a bigger wave.
This is the context that the 8th Generation Civic finds itself in. The ?silent superstar? of Honda?s roster is locked in a quiet but intense competition with its fiercest rival the Toyota Corolla Altis for the number 1 spot in the sedan category.
The Altis may have the upperhand now as the best-selling sedan, as it leads the Civic in the recent sales reports. Cumulatively, however, Honda has sold more Civic units since April 2006 (when it introduced the 8th generation Civic) than Toyota has with the Altis.
This writer, herself a proud owner of a 1997 Civic LXi, has always admired this particular model?s durability, prestige and incredible fuel efficiency. When it is well-maintained, the old LXi, with its pre-V-Tec 1.5-liter engine, could wring out as much as 16 km on a liter of fuel on combined highway and city runs.
So, when HCPI handed her the keys to a white Civic 1.8 S for a weekend drive, she wondered if these qualities were handed down to the newest generation of Civics.
The 13-year age gap makes a big difference as far as technology and amenities are concerned, obviously. The Civic 1.8 S did present the driver with more buttons, and paddle shifters even, to manage the 5-speed automatic transmission on a more ?hands-on? level. Add to that the ?S? gear just below the ?D? in the gear shift to amplify the driver-vehicle interface. Such transmission options are designed to bring out the ?oohs? and ?aahs? that young drivers nowadays seem to not get enough of. The ?Playstation Generation? will find the paddle shifters just right up their alley. As for this writer, who has been used to having her speed fixes fulfilled by the joystick of manual shifters, found the paddles quite unnecessary.
Now, the 45-peso question: Is the Civic 1.8 S fuel efficient? Well, if you stay put at D and keep your hands off the paddles, you might get a reading of 14 km to a liter, maybe more. But a word of caution: If you plan to stick to the D shift, take lots of coffee, or energy drinks ? anything to keep you awake. Because, as future owners will find out with the Civic 1.8 S, the S or Sporty shift is absolutely necessary with this model. It is the antidote to the sleep-inducing Drive shift.
Even without resorting to the paddle shifters, the Sporty shift will jolt you awake, and keep you on the edge of your driving seat. And surprisingly, using the S gear doesn?t seem to affect fuel efficiency as adversely as one would expect. Credit that to its i-VTEC engine, which Honda?s engineers have mastered to adjust the valve timing to pump in fuel only as needed, drop by drop.
The dashboard gauges are big and bold, which this bespectacled driver considers a welcome touch. Compared to the Civic of yore, the new 1.8 S?s stove type switches and buttons are bigger (even bigger than P5 coins, we tell you).
The digital speedometer is placed strategically at the side of the driver, within the line of sight, and uses big enough numbers that it?s not an excuse anymore to tell the apprehending officer you didn?t notice how fast you were going.
The only downside of the Civic 1.8 S, as far as this writer is considered, seems to be in the driver?s seat height adjustments. Despite offering multiple adjustments, the seat couldn?t be configured to her most comfortable seating position where her knees are nearly on the same level with her waist. Probably the seat is too deep, while the front edge can?t be lowered enough (although in good humor she is tempted to say she found the solution by driving on the edge-of-your-seat Sporty shift.).
Consider some serious matters before you sign that check: The estimated preventive maintenance costs and schedules, which HCPI claims already factors in parts and labor costs. It?s advisable to compare these costs with those of competing brands.
History on your drive
If you do decide to buy the Civic 1.8 S, you may also be driving a significant piece of automotive history. Honda was listed as one of the greatest automobiles ever made in the A to Z of Cars by automotive journalists Hilton Holloway and Martin Buckley. Honda?s breakthrough came in 1972 with the Civic, a neat front-wheel drive hatchback (and saloon) that brought new levels of comfort and quietness to the shopping car. Honda might not have known it at the time but the Civic was the building block of its mass market position in both Europe and the US. The Civic was also destined to set benchmarks that other cars in its class would have to look to beat.
The Civic was first introduced in the Philippines in 1991, and there are now 109,647. The Civic breached the 100,000 unit sales mark in November 2009, prompting HCPI to declare the Philippines a ?Civic Republic.?
Internationally, the Civic has been named Japan Car of the Year four times, Ajac (Auto Journalists Association of Canada) Car of the Year and North America?s Motortrend Car of the Year, to name a few.
In the Philippines, the Civic won recognition from the Car Awards Group Inc by being Car of the Year in 2006, and in 2007 was the Auto Focus People?s Choice Automobile of the Year. The Civic has also been the Auto Focus People?s Choice Compact Sedan of the Year for three years in a row (2007 to 2009).
The Civic?s crowning achievements, it seems, is not set on paper. It?s etched in stone, or metal, or glass.
Spec sheet highlights
1.8 li S Civic Model
* 140 ps @6300 rpm maximum power output
* 17.7 kgm @ 4200 rpm maximum torque
* 5-speed automatic
* Paddle shifter
* Independent McPherson Strut with stabilizer (front suspension)
* Double wishbone with stabilizer (rear suspension)
* 16? alloy wheels
* Dual SRS airbags (except 1.8V variant)
* 4-wheel disc brakes
* Electronic brake force distribution with brake assist (EBD with BA)
* Anti-lock brake system (ABS)
* Euro 4 level emission standard
Preventive Maintenance Cost Guide
(for estimation purposes only; does not yet include parts prices which vary from dealer to dealer)
Honda Civic 1.8MT 1.8AT
Period km Maintenance cost
6 mos 10,000 P2,131.18 P2,131.18
1 year 20,000 P5,560.55 P5,560.55
1.5 years 30,000 P2,131.18 P2,131.18
2 years 40,000 P9,603 P11,253
2.5 years 50,000 P2,131.18 P2,131.18
3 years 60,000 P12,885.45 P12,326.15
3.5 years 70,000 P2,131.18 P2,131.18
4 years 80,000 P9,603 P11,353
4.5 years 90,000 P2,131.18 P2,131.18
5 years 100,000 P5,560.55 P5,560.55
Total cost P53,868.45 P56,609.15
Cost per km P0.54 P0.57
1.8 V MT P873,000
1.8 V AT P913,000
1.8 S MT P928,000
1.8 S AT P978,000
2.0 S AT P1,115,000