Text and Photos by Eric Tipan
By now you may have already read our glowing review of the Civic RS Turbo CVT or even experienced it yourself during a testdrive. It is undeniably the aspirational trim, but from the outside, it doesn’t really differ from the Civic 1.8E CVT.
Sure it is turbocharged, giving it an extra 31.5 more horsepower and 46 Nm of torque, and it comes with LED taillights, but the other additional features can be acquired as an aftermarket part.
For someone terribly keen on getting an all-new Civic but are as ardent on sticking to the budget, considering the entry-level model is a smart thing to do. I do the legwork and drive the 1.8E CVT around to see if it lives up to the Civic’s heritage.
Identical in every way
Save for the badge, rear spoiler and the tire size, the 1.8E and the RS are practically identical in every way. This fact alone is big enough to give the E trim major consideration. The overall profile is the same, along with ride height and exterior dimensions. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a difference unless you weigh both models; the E comes in lighter by 69 kilos.
In fact, a guy recently came up to me saying that the rear looks “too designed.” When I pressed on for the meaning of his vague assessment he said that the E trim’s rear is deceiving because its rear design makes it look as good as the RS even though it doesn’t have the same powerplant under the hood. Aha! ‘Sherlock’ has a point and it is somewhat valid (I use ‘somewhat’ very loosely) but it all the more reinforces mine as well.
Not about the numbers
Even with a bigger displacement — a 1.8L iVTEC engine — the E trim pumps out only 141 PS and 174 Nm of torque, quite less than its more ‘blessed’ sibling. It is at par with what competitors in the segment offer but obviously falls way short compared to the RS. But this is one of those cases where it is not even about the numbers.
What good is a gas-guzzling 5.0 V8 under the hood of your sedan if it handles like a cement mixer and turns a corner like a truck?
The real magic of the 10th-gen Civic isn’t its 1.5L Earth Dreams turbo engine; it’s the way it handles. To give the Civic best-in-class handling, Honda lowered its center of gravity by 14 mm and used MacPherson Strut front suspension with stabilizer, Civic-first front fluid-filled suspension bushings, independent multi-link rear suspension mounted on a rigid subframe, and Honda-first variable ratio electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering.
The sum of its parts
Dropping the center of gravity and throwing all of the above together doesn’t exactly guarantee a fun, sporty drive. With performance-calibrated geometry, the MacPherson Strut front suspension with stabilizer allowed for quick and precise response to my steering input and with fluid-filled bushings, a huge amount of road harshness was eliminated. A lower center of gravity and the rigid subframe also gave better mechanical grip, especially during cornering at higher speeds. The effect was spectacular; making the wheels feel like talons locked on the tarmac every second of the turn.
Contrary to the light feel of the steering of Japanese cars, the Civic’s feels a little weighted — more ‘true-to-life’ — giving you that rare connection to the size and maneuverability of the Civic most models only wish they had.
Enhanced handling agility and rollover resistance aside, the lower seating position — due to the lower center of gravity — did not fail to give me and my passengers an exhilarating ride, especially on twisty roads.
The smart choice
If I didn’t mind forking the extra P310,000, sure, getting the turbocharged RS would be a no-brainer. Alas, just like Donna Summer, I too “work hard for the money” and since the objective is to get the most bang for my buck, the E actually ticks more boxes than the RS. This includes getting better mileage at 8.5 kilometers per liter in my combined drive.
Returning to the basics of driving to make mobility more than just getting from Point A to Point B got Honda an A+, not just for effort but also for a product that delivers customer satisfaction across the board.
If you’ve always dreamed about owning a turbocharged vehicle and the RS was on top of your list, save for the extra HP and torque, for real, you’re not losing much.
Better pricing, the same driving dynamics and higher fuel efficiency actually makes this entry-level trim the smarter choice for the savvy motorist. No turbo? No problem, just get yourself the Honda Civic 1.8E CVT.