Weekly Performance

Friday, August 12, 2016

HONDA: Honda Civic 10th Gen Hatchback

If the 10th Generation CIVIC is getting you excited and ready to put your name on the dotted line, hold your horses for the sexy hot-hatch version. Not Type-R but sexy hatch!

Monday, August 08, 2016

HONDA: 10th Generation Honda Civic 1.6 & 1.5T

Honda Civic
10th Generation
The 10th generation Honda Civic is finally hitting our roads. The 10th Civic is a complete makeover succeeding the shortlived 9th generation. The 9th Civic was so much a failure that Honda almost lost their foothold in the segment. Civic does have a legacy of supporters who love it stock or Mugen-powered. However, the remainder Japanese warriors left plying our tarmac are facing end-of-life or a new lease of life, in the context of COE. The 10th Civic should appease owners of retiring Civic and woo back those JDM-diehards. So what is so great about the new Civic?

The 10th Civic welcomes a new 1.5 turbocharged VTEC power plant, while keeping its natural-aspirated 1.6 i-VTEC as a variant. Kah Motor (Singapore authorized Honda agent) brings the Civic onto our shores with 2 variants: 1.6 NA variant being the entry level, 1.5T variant as the premium. Both variants comes with a less-exciting CVT gearbox. Honda has equipped the Civic with its own safety feature (not suite), lane change warning system. However, this feature is only available on the 1.5T variant. Interestingly, its sensor can only be spotted on the passenger wing mirror. Yes, only on one side. This is outrageous and blatantly cost-saving gimmick.

The 10th Civic is a departure from the already boring Civic appearance, with more angular sculpt and straight creases. It inherits the family face with a big chrome trim slapped across the front extending into the "eyelids".


The rear makes a more bold statement with"< >" bracket-shaped tail lights that will be an instant icon of the new Civic. You are bound to be chasing after these soon on our roads. The 1.5T variant sports a rear spoiler which interesting is an optional upgrade for the 1.6. While the spoiler may more aesthetic than functional, this kit may not necessary appeal to the older drivers who prefers a cleaner look.

The 1.5T burns the tracks on a 17-inch combination alloy rim with stock Yokohama rubber, while the 1.6 is equipped with 16-inches. Indicator lamps on the fender is a small aesthetic feature that deviates from the norm.

As expected cabin space is spacious with plenty of room for all sizes, both front and rear. The 10th Civic dash see major facelift moving in the right direction, similar to that of the highly successful Honda Vezel, A significant difference from the previous generations is losing the information cluster that sits right on the center of the dashboard. The new infortainment system utilizes a touchscreen LCD display, which is a lack-lustre compared to the German marquees. Despite both being furnished with leather seats, the 1.5T comes with more comfortable leather compared to the 1.6 variant. The rear passengers in both variants are also treated with a air-conditioning vents.

The most welcoming upgrade for the 10th Civic is the incorporation of a digital instrument cluster that resembles one that is pulled off from the movie TRON. The digital meters zoom in action upon  ignition with blue lights illuminating the pilot's view. All the vital information have been moved from the center console into the new digital cluster behind the wheel. The dual strokes of light on the top of the main dial changes color from blue to green, nothing to do you mood but green suggesting that your drive is in fuel economical mode. There is no special formula to that, except translating your current fuel economy reading into visual lights. You can only keep praises for it.

The Drive
At the point of the post, the test drive unit was only for the 1.6 naturally-aspirated. Those hoping to step into the turbo-charged variant will have to wait till September or October. The 1.6 Civic stays firm to its core values of being sturdy, quiet and dependable. If you are worried that having moved to CVT will dampen the driving experience, no it hasn't. You no longer feel gear shifts, but that is because you are automatically absorbed into the smooth linear acceleration in a very stable ride. The 1.6 Civic is less than eager to take-off at the lights or when turning out of the filter lane. However, I believe the 1.5T should perform better in this aspect. The steering is rather soft with many occasions of under-steering, but probably requires more getting used to. The throttle pedal is not that responsive to light-footed taps but brakes are. In the Honda City, junior has a ridiculously cheap sound system, with weak bass and narrow range. You don't need to be an audiophile to get sick of it and have the intention to upgrade it in 3rd party workshops. Not for the Civic, may not please the fickle-eared but decent enough to playback your FM radio. Do not expect to immerse yourself in a concerto within your ride. However, when you switch off everything including the A/C, you should be satisfied with the noise control. The cabin noise starts to get louder if you decide to step the gas pedal to sprint a pass, imagine dragging in 1st gear beyond 5K RPM. All in all, the 1.6 naturally-aspirated 10th generation Civic is a comfortable and dependable ride, which once again rekindles the love that every driver used to have with its legacy. But with other Korean and Japanese cars, improving their rides in leaps and bounds over the years, the 10th Civic will have to convince Singapore buyers to sign on the dotted line. This is especially so the Civic is usually priced slightly above other equivalents in the segment. Both 1.6 and 1.5T are available for order, with expected first delivery in September onwards. The 1.6 is currently at 110K, while 1.5T is at 124K, with loans at 2.14%, at time of writing. The 10th Civic is currently rolling out of the Honda Thai factory.

Buy or not?
If you expect a completely different experience from earlier Civic, the answer is Yes. But not for a more engaging drive, since it adopted a CVT. The significant upgrades are largely aesthetics, than performance. You will upgrade to the 10th Civic simply because of the Civic inherent core values with a sexy tail light to turn heads. The bold front appearance may have been a clear winner, but its delayed launch in Singapore, allowed drivers to get used to the family's look. It will still appeal to you, if you are a Honda die-hard. The 10th Civic is bound to swing potential buyers of the Toyota Altis. If you have looked beyond both Toyota or Honda, you will likely not be convinced by the 10th Civic. At the end of the day, choosing a ride for the next decade is a result of many considerations at that point of time. You may want to have some Earl Grey instead of Matcha instead. Or maybe pray for the Civic Coupe to come in soon.

Monday, July 18, 2016

MAZDA : Mazda 3 AXELA 2017 Facelift

Mazda 3 
2017 Facelift 
Since 2014, Mazda 3 aka "Axela" in Japan, had seen a major facelift with the adoption of the "Spirit of KODO ~ Soul of Motion" design cues and the dawn of "SkyActiv Technology". The facelift saw significant changes to the body form, with the cabin pushed back towards the rear, while extending the hood length, resulting in a silhouette resembling a running cheetah. The front sports a V-shaped ventilation grille flanked by sleek chrome lines, which seemingly allow the 3 to swallow in more air in this natually-aspirated ride. The headlight configuration comes with ocular "eyeballs" with a frowning upper "eyelids" which makes up the DRL. (This DRL design was adopted in other Mazda models, but lately dropped and replaced by a ring around the "eyeball" which is quite a disappointment and outright copy of the Bimmer's "angel eyes".) The cabin also see significant upgrades in terms design, with the utilization of soft touch materials, faux carbon panels and piano-black trims. However, aesthetics were not the highlight of the facelift. The 3 came with a commander-style control unit which works seamlessly with a dash-mounted touchscreen powered by a proprietary Mazda application. The complete package is termed "MZDConnect". If you have tried many stock infotainment systems from other makes, you will find the MZDConnect is closest to Bimmer's, and Mercs' does not even come close. Another significant upgrade is the Heads-Up Display (HUD) which are also typically seen in Bimmers. The HUD projects vital information such as speed and navigation directions on a flip-up panel, in the line of view of the driver.
So what is in the new 2017 facelift?

The front grille has been slightly re-shaped to be wider and more "U" rather than "V". Thicker chrome trims flanking the grille also abruptly stop short before the headlights. The new design is adopted from the Mazda 2 (aka "Demio"). The bumper sports a redesigned fog lamp and indicator lights that are likely powered by LED. 

The rear sees slight touch-up with the addition of a spoiler lip for the sedan.

A V-shaped brake light at the base of the rear bumper is a nice addition to give the 3 a more sporty appearance.

The interior sees minor upgrade with changes to the centre console, which resembles that in Mazda 6 (aka "Atenza"). The cup holders have been upgraded with a retractable cover, flanked by leather sides. The conventional handbrake lever has been dropped and replaced with electronic parking brake. The 3 steering wheel also borrowed some design cues from that of the MX-5 (aka "Miata").

The rest of the dash hasn't really changed much aesthetically. However, with the facelift model, Mazda has implemented the new G-Vectoring Control (GVC) which forms up the SkyActiv Technology. Essentially, the clever engineers behind Mazda had tweaked the handling to reduce the internal inertia, and hence lesser of being thrown side to side within the cabin. This enhances the already engaging "Jinba Ittai" experience, where the vehicle becomes extensions of the driver's body. It is like piloting a Gundam mecha, if you happen to be a fan of the Japanese anime.

The HUD also welcome more graphics and colors, bringing it closer to the Bimmer's offering.

With the 2017 facelift of the Mazda 3, there are subtle aesthetic changes both outside and inside. However, the implementation of G-Vectoring Control is a significant upgrade for the new version.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the 2014 pre-facelift and 2017 facelift of the 3.

My thoughts
The pre-facelift look is sharper and more mean looking, like a fearsome cougar. I prefer the slanted curve above the indicator lights of the pre-facelift rather than a horizontal flat line. Fog lights ought to be huge and bright, hence the former suits my taste. The facelift gives an overall more refined appearance suited for the executive, something like the Mazda 6. I prefer more bad boy look. But the GVC and internal upgrades are welcoming, but will that enhance the Jinbai-Ittai or kill it? I loved the 3 because of its perky and spirited ride, always ready to sprint, throwing me (and the passengers) when cornering with speed and making sharp movements. That puts the "omph" into the driving experience. I am not too certain if the GVC will take that fun away, despite its benefits for a family car. Nevertheless, trusting the Mazda engineers can't be wrong. If you are still concerned about fuel-consumption of a Mazda, you are so out-dated. Mazda SkyActiv Technology has already significantly improved the fuel-consumption to one of the best, in terms of fuel economy. 

What should you buy?
If you are still comparing this to an Altis, you are comparing a Thai-made (for Singapore market) to that rolling out of the fine craftsmanship of the Japanese. Furthermore, Toyota has signed a pact with Mazda in 2015, where Mazda will supply SkyActiv engines to Toyota. That should debunk myths of fuel-consumption woes. However, Honda's Civic facelift may be a game changer.