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2012 Honda Civic VTi-S Hatch review (video)

After being consistently more expensive than the rivals for the last three generations, Honda Australia has finally cut down the price of the Civic hatch with the new 2012 Honda Civic VTi-S. Prices start at $21,490 drive away.

2012 HONDA CIVIC VTI-S HATCH – PROS AND CONS

PROS:

  • Sweet-shifting and precise gearbox
  • Fit and finish is superb
  • Very good ride quality and comfort
  • Great fuel economy

CONS:

  • Driving position can get uncomfortable
  • Engine could use more torque
  • Overall, not as engaging to drive as its sedan counterpart
  • Equipment list

2012 HONDA CIVIC VTI-S HATCH – OVERVIEW

The new Honda Civic Hatch comes in two variant levels; the base model VTi-S and the VTi-L, the latter of which is only available with an automatic transmission.

Straight from the get-go you can spot the new model with its concept-like design cues, showcasing more curves, more heavily pronounced contours, and a sharp new face compared with the previous model. It’s all in tune with Honda’s latest design language.

Underneath, the 2012 Hatch features a tweaked platform that is wider than the one used on the previous model, but with a shorter wheelbase. Unfortunately, a similar torsion-beam rear suspension layout resides, despite most of the competition coming equipped with more complex independent setups. As you can read below though, this doesn’t seem to have a negative effect on ride or handling.

Both the VTi-S and VTi-L come with a 1.8-litre single overhead-cam engine equipped with a three stage i-VTEC system. Making 104kW at 6500rpm and 174Nm at a relatively high 4300rpm, it needs to be kept spinning to maintain momentum through traffic, or you may find yourself bogged down. Our test car features the six-speed manual transmission, which is as slick and precise as they come.

Prices for the VTi-S manual start at $21,490 drive away (as of November 1, 2012). In terms of a smart-looking affordable hatch, the VTi-S is a bargain.

(The flagship VTi-L automatic starts at $29,990 drive away).

2012 HONDA CIVIC VTI-S HATCH – ENGINE SOUND AND ACCELERATION VIDEO

Video coming soon. We apologise for any inconvenience.

2012 HONDA CIVIC VTI-S HATCH – ACCOMMODATION AND EQUIPMENT

While the VTi-S comes with automatic climate control, keyless entry, steering wheel mounted audio controls, tilt and telescopic steering, auxiliary jack and USB connection for the audio system, it is missing the cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity found on its sedan counterpart.

Strangely, it has heated door mirrors, which we would gladly trade for the handsfree and cruise control option. The i-MID display is also short of the toys that the VTi-L has, losing the rear view camera and Bluetooth audio streaming functions.

The VTi-S also comes with the nifty Magic Seats, similar to the ones you find in the back of its smaller sibling, the Honda Jazz. The bottom of the rear seats can be folded up so you can carry tall objects like plants, bikes, or your favourite IKEA flat packed furniture.

The top bit of the bench can also be folded down flat for extra space, expanding the standard 400-litre boot capacity to a whopping 1130 litres.

Another handy feature about the Magic Seats is that under the seats isn’t taken up by bench supports, so you can store bags or items under the rear bench and still have legroom for passengers.

2012 HONDA CIVIC VTI-S HATCH – DESIGN AND SAFETY

This third-gen Honda hatchback is designed by the engineering team at Swindon, UK. The European styling and flair makes the VTi-S stand out from its sedan brethren.

The previous model went for a futuristic look, but this time around Honda has opted for a squat, fat, bulldog stance, with hints of modernity thrown in as well.

While the front isn’t classically handsome, the mean-looking headlights and grill do eventually grow on you. The rear split window is retained from the previous generation, and it looks the goods in our opinion. While rear view visibility is much better than the last model, there is still a big blind spot due to the thick C-pillars.

Despite the shorter wheelbase (down 30mm), the interior space is as generous as ever due to the longer and wider body, which is up nearly 50mm from its predecessor.

The interior is clothed entirely in black, and the trim is in brushed silver. While some aspects look a bit cheap, overall the inside is a comfortable place to be. The fit and finish of fixtures and fittings is also pure Honda quality; no rattles from the trim, and all of the buttons and knobs feel tactile and even the doors close with a very European ‘thunk’.

However, the steering wheel gets in the way of the digital speedometer, and adjusting the wheel reveals some uncomfortable seating positions.

The Honda Civic hatchback’s ANCAP crash rating has been certified five stars. It comes with six airbags and progressive crumple zones front and back, along with a host of electronic handling aids like ABS, traction control, vehicle stability assist, electronic brake distribution and brake assist.

The VTi-S also comes with a tyre deflation warning system that cautions the driver if a flat is spotted or air pressure is low.

2012 HONDA CIVIC VTI-S HATCH – ON THE ROAD

As we had extensively tested the Honda Civic sedans, we thought the hatchback would be just the same cake, repackaged into a smaller and more convenient unit.

We are happy to report that we couldn’t be more wrong. It is a fundamentally different car. The handling has been engineered on European roads. This means it rides extremely well on our pothole-ridden streets, with most bumps ironed out by the well-tuned suspension.

While not usually a recipe for fun, the VTi-S rear torsion beam suspension obliges despite being somewhat old fashioned. It’s also surprisingly quiet on the inside, with only tyre noise intruding the cabin at highway speeds.

The VTi-S gets electrical power steering and while that detracts from steering feel, it is still accurate and varies its assistance according to speed. We found that helpful in parking lots and during highway cruising, as high speeds the helm feels secure and solid.

The VTi-S and the VTi-L are equipped with Honda’s latest version of the R18 engine. It makes 104kW and 174Nm at 6500rpm and 4300rpm respectively, which means the engine needs to be spun hard to keep the Civic zippy. This is a problem you might enjoy solving thanks to the slick shifting six speed it is paired with. Going uphill or overtaking will require shifting two cogs down and some planning ahead.

There is an ECON mode for the VTi-S, which you can turn off or on by a green button marked with a tree symbol on the dash. This remaps the ECU and makes the engine extremely lean on fuel, and power. The throttle sensitivity is reduced too, making the engine feel doughy and soft.

When we tested this mode in the Civic sedans it didn’t alter the cruisey nature due to the fact they were equipped with automatic transmissions. However, the ECON mode can prove to be frustrating as you have to deal with the change of power delivery yourself using the manual gearbox.

2012 HONDA CIVIC VTI-S HATCH – VERDICT

The Civic VTi-S hatchback is another quality Honda offering and a definite contender for those who are in the market for a quality hatch. The trademark Honda quality is infused with European character, enough to give the Japanese hatchback an espresso twist.

The interior will age gracefully and while the exterior is not everyone’s cup of coffee, it grew on us enough to appreciate its uniqueness.

The Magic Seats are also highly useful and worthy of commendation, and the boot is big enough to swallow anything a young family could chuck at it.

While the VTi-S is a bit lean on equipment, the bargain price tag more than makes up for it.

2012 HONDA CIVIC VTI-S HATCH – THE COMPETITORS

Toyota Corolla Ascent – 1.8-litre four-cylinder, 103kW/173Nm
The new Corolla hatchback does away with its humdrum image this time around and offers similar refinement and an optional seven-speed CVT gearbox.

Mazda3 NEO – 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 108kW/188Nm
One of the best selling cars in Australia at the moment, and the best-selling car in this segment. It isn’t hard to see why. With good looks and a ton of options, the VTi-S has its work cut out for it.

Hyundai i30 – 1.8-litre four cylinder, 110kW/178Nm
The i30 comes loaded with standard kit, and it is arguably the most stylish/affordable small car on the market today.

Ford Focus Ambient – 1.6-litre four-cylinder, 92kW/159Nm
Packed with gadgets and fantastic handling, the new Ford Focus is one to keep an eye out for.

2012 HONDA CIVIC VTI-S HATCH – SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL
2012 Honda Civic  VTi-S Hatch five-door

ENGINE
1.8-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder SOHC with i-VTEC

ENGINE SIZE / COMPRESSION RATIO
1798cc / 10.6:1

BORE X STROKE
81mm X 87.3mm

POWER
104kW@6500rpm, 174Nm@4300rpm

POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO
12.19 : 1 (kg:kW)

KERB WEIGHT
1268kg

HEIGHT / WIDTH / LENGTH
1475mm / 1770mm / 4300mm

DRIVETRAIN
Six speed manual transmission with Hill Start Assist

BRAKES
F: Ventilated discs
R: Solid discs

WHEELS / TYRES
F and R: 16 x 6.5-inch alloy, 205/55 R16

FUEL TANK CAPACITY
50 litres

FUEL CONSUMPTION
Tested average: 6.9L/km
Official average: 6.1L/km

PERFORMANCE
0-100km/h: Not tested

PRICED FROM
$21,490

WARRANTY
Three-years/100,000km

 

Jerry Yam is a contributing writer and road test journalist at PerformanceDrive. He is not only a genuine motoring enthusiast, he's also a keen driver and enjoys the modified car scene. His stories have appeared in titles such as Hot4's and Street Commodores magazines.