Test Drives

Honda Civic 1.5 Turbo 2016 Review

No fireworks for the 173hp Civic but this is entirely a good thing


Wah, turbo Civic ah, whack!
Not so fast master Bruce, and leave that enormous GT-wing on the floor the Civic Turbo already has a spoiler. It might sound like an Ah Beng racer’s wet dream come true, a Honda Civic with Turbo VTEC technology and 173bhp, but in real life it’s far more than that.

So no, adding turbo to a Civic doesn’t make it a sort of crazy wonder ricer machine. In fact the ironic thing about the Civic Turbo is that it drives just like a car that doesn’t have a turbo at all.

Sure or not….more power than BMW leh…
It’s not so much about how much power there is, but how it’s delivered. Nobody buys a Rolls-Royce for peak horsepower, for example. Start the Civic up and the idle is smooth, nearly imperceptible, get moving and the power builds in a gentle swell, there’s no obvious turbo lag because there’s no obvious torque kick-in, a big contrast to the peppy directness of a typical sub-1.6 European turbo. In fact if you didn’t read the spec sheet, it hardly feels like a car with 173bhp on tap.

Like that where got fun…
Got, but must find. Under regular conditions, one clue to the engine’s potential is that it seems untroubled by a full-load of five-adults going up a hill. Non-turbo engines would be wheezing and whining, in contrast. Shifting to ‘S’ mode and toggling the ‘Eco’ button off wakes everything up and then the Civic Turbo easily gets a move on, even sounding a bit throatier than your usually NA Japanese engine vacuum-cleaner note.

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Can make the tyre screech?
Can, but must try hard. Like the 1.6 model, the handling is excellent, with a responsive nose and good feel from the steering and front end as a whole. The Turbo has larger 17-inch wheels which accentuate some bumpiness on rough surfaces though, but the inherent refinement of the car remains, as there’s only some tyre noise perceptible in the cabin. The only minor complaint we had was that the bulging bonnet makes the car feel large sometimes, and of course the new Civic is actually pretty big (bigger than the last gen Accord) though the tidy handling helps disguise that.

Ah..uh..the back can put baby or not…
Confirm can. Can put your grandmother grandfather also. Practicality is the same as the 1.6 (see our review here) so there’s huge legroom in the back and a massive boot. The Turbo is more expensive, so gets more stuff over the 1.6 like LED headlights, a sunroof, different front bumper and wing plus Honda’s extremely useful Lanewatch system as found on the Odyssey and Jade. It’s a great safety feature that makes use of a camera mounted on the left-side mirror and shows what’s hiding on your left flank via the display screen in the cabin, very useful when turning left and filtering left on the highway.

Taking all that on board, the Civic is extremely well-appointed and has excellent performance for a car costing roughly $130k – at that price point and given the amount of ability, space and features on board, the Civic should trouble anything within 20 percent of its price, regardless of brand. Yes, that means even if you are considering something like a BMW 1 Series or a Volkswagen Jetta, not just a Toyota Corolla Altis or Nissan Sylphy. It’s that good.

Honda Civic 1.5 Turbo
Engine 1,498cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 173bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 220Nm at 1700-5500rpm
Gearbox CVT
Top Speed 200km/h
0-100kmh 8.6 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.9L/100km
CO2 135g/km
Price $133,800 with COE
Availability Now
Also Consider: Toyota Corolla Altis, Nissan Sylphy SSS


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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