Test Drives

2019 Honda Civic 1.6 Review: Solid State

Mild updates only in this facelift but the entry-level Honda Civic remains on the level despite the competition closing the gap in Singapore

SINGAPORE – The current Honda Civic is a great car.

That much we said in our first review of the least-expensive, entry-level 1.6-litre model back at its introduction in 2016: “Good cars lead their segment, but the best cars transcend them, and the new, tenth-gen Civic is one of the latter. Not only has it postponed its own apocalypse, it’s revived a whole new civic era.”

Same same but different but you know the mild facelift drill…

Three years on, the Honda mainstay has received a mild facelift. Just as we saw with the Honda Jazz compact hatchback, Honda’s still sticking to the conventional strategy of mild mid-cycle updates. 

…and here’s the pre-facelift model in blue to compare with 

So at a glance there are hardly any differences between the new and old models, though there’s a new front-lower bumper section, which has two chrome strips and loses the upswept ‘wings’ from before. A totally new addition are the LED fog lamps. The rear bumper also has an extra chrome strip, and the 1.6 has new wheels in the same 16-inch size as before. 

The thing is, if we said ‘a whole new sedan era’ that would also have been correct. Things haven’t been standing still in the mainstream sedan segment, instead it’s been the opposite. 

There’s also the resurgent Koreans in the form of the uber-stylish Kia Cerato and uber-angular Hyundai Avante bringing their keenest edges to the knife fight. There’s even a new entrant to the melee (or returner rather) in the Skoda Octavia 1.0. Toyota’s longtime Civic rival, the Corolla Altis, was facelifted in 2017, and still remains the  default choice if deciding between all of them is too much.  

Perhaps most importantly, Mazda’s new 3 is due to land in Singapore anytime now, and our first drive of it proved it has the same segment-stretching capability the current Civic showed in 2016. 

Right off the bat we can tell you that yes, the Civic is still a solid choice even after experiencing all those cars in the past few months.

Ironically the 2019 Mazda 3’s cabin has given us more appreciation of the Civic’s own interior, everything placed with considerable thought and utmost utility in mind, thoughts like ‘For which species of alien pervert was this designed for?’ or ‘What does this do?’ never cross your mind.

Design changes on the interior are similar game of find Waldo’s location, but are clearly for the better once spotted.

The previous model had a flat touchscreen, with tricky-to-use menu touch buttons, but the latter have been replaced by real buttons (hallelujah!).

Just below those is our favourite addition to the cabin: A proper volume knob/power switch, so reducing the media player’s volume no longer necessitates frantic jabbing of the touch panel. On that note, the climate control section has new fan speed buttons too.

The dashboard trim is now a golf-ball like dimpled fascia, replacing the old faux semi-carbon weave, the steering wheel volume button is now just a simple up-down button rather than the sliding touch switch previously, which would deafen you if you slipped up accidentally.  

Honda’s still stuck with its touchscreen display, with integrated media options as well as Apple CarPlay, and while we personally prefer rotary dials over poke-n-stroke, it works since you can do everything except control the climate with the steering-wheel control pad and easy-to-read digital display. 

Everywhere else, the Civic never feels built to a cost, and it still feels like it has the largest passenger space in its class, plus excellent practicality with a 428-litre boot and folding rear seats. 

On the move it’s civic business as usual. The 1.6-litre engine is not particularly distinguished in any one way, but neither are the Koreans which it matches in power output. Obviously with a mainstream sedan like this, one prioritises smoothness and economy, there’s no privilege of turbo torque here (leave that to the excellent Civic 1.5 Turbo). 

Make-believe it’s a Type R and you’ll have to supply your own VTEC scream, total lack of body roll and so forth, but behave like a normal human being and you’ll be very pleased.

The ride feels sportier than what we remember (or more likely Singapore’s roads have just become crappier) but it’s still well-damped and comfy, with a slight tip towards the sporty side of things in the form of excellent steering and livelier handling than its rivals. In spite of that, wringing excellent mileage is also very easy – press the ‘Econ’ mode button and drive gently, and you’ll easily best the quoted fuel efficiency.

In other words, it’s still a Civic, after all, so it comes down to which model to choose. If it was our imaginary money, the S$29k stretch to the S$118,999 with COE 1.5 Turbo model is worth it not just for the power, but also the extra safety equipment.

Back in humble 1.6 land there’s the LX model, which has leather upholstery, solar film, and three years’ free servicing for a S$2k premium, so it’s a no brainer cost saver. 

In three years, the pack has closed in on the Civic, but the gap was large enough that even with a mild facelift, right now we think it still retains the narrow lead in the mainstream sedan pack though with five-plus months left in the year, there’s still time for a shakeup. It may not have moved forward that much with this facelift, but it seems it didn’t need to.

Honda Civic 1.6

Engine 1,597cc, inline 4
Power 125bhp at 6500rpm
Torque 152Nm at 4300rpm
Gearbox Continuously Variable Transmission 
0-100km/h 200km/h 
Top Speed 11.7 seconds
Fuel Efficiency 6.7L/100km
VES Band / CO2 B / 153g/km
Agent Kah Motor
Price S$90,900 with COE
Availability Now



about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong