After what seemed like just a short period after its global debut, the 11th generation Honda Civic FE has officially been launched for the Malaysian market and is offered in three variants, including E, V, and the Civic lineup's newest member, RS.
But do you really know the advantages of the 11th generation Civic over its predecessor? Yes, on the surface, The Civic FE might just look like an exterior, interior overhaul with a little bit of tweaking of the powertrain, but that is not the case as many small yet important things have changed, giving the Civic a whole new personality and class.
There are a few things that Honda has changed in the Civic to give it a breath of fresh air. To discuss further the new model's changes, we were given the opportunity by Honda Malaysia to virtually interview the 11th Generation Honda Civic Project Leader, Tomoyuki Yamagami.
The looks - Even the stance was considered
There's no denying it, a car's looks are a subjective matter. Some will like it, and some won't. Our personal opinion is that the Civic FE is a handsome little sedan as we feel like it looks more "flowy", more grown-up, more premium, very European.
Tomoyuki Yamagami said that Honda wanted the FE Civic to be more neutral and more premium. So the way they decided to go about it is to minimise unnecessary lines so that the whole look would flow better. They even used new welding technology such as roof braising to give the car a cleaner look where previously they might have had to cover up the roof gaps with rubber body trim.
Even the vehicle's stance was considered heavily. Using a HEM process, they gave the car a better stance and allowed the tyre placement to move outwards by 6mm, giving the Civic FE a fuller look at the wheel arches.
Responsiveness - Better handling, better powertrain
While the 10th generation Civic's powertrain and driving dynamics can be considered to be relatively responsive, Honda wanted to improve the car's overall responsiveness. Yamagami-san said that they first worked on improving its body rigidity through greater use of structural adhesive and swapping out the front sub-frame and other components for lighter, more rigid items. As a result, the body is now 9.5 times more rigid than its predecessor, giving the car better comfort, but more importantly, better handling.
They then worked on the car's powertrain, improving some hardware and software. Despite re-cycling the 10th generations turbocharged 1.5-litre engine, the Civic FE gets new turbocharger hardware, giving it more performance and responsiveness. Its output has been increased by 9PS, making it 182PS, while the maximum torque is now 240Nm between 1,700 - 4,500 rpm, which is an increase of 20Nm over the previous model.
They also worked on the CVT, which helped increase the transmissions' feel and power transfer. According to the project leader, the CVT in the Civic FE has also been upgraded to make you feel like you are operating a conventional automatic transmission.
NVH - That premium feel
As we mentioned before, comfort has been improved due to body rigidity, but Honda didn't stop there as some additional hardware changes at the engine bay have also helped improve the Civic's NVH. When asked what some of those changes were, Tomoyuki Yamagami said they changed the crankshaft and oil pan to reduce the NVH rate.
They did this by equipping the 11th-Gen Civic with a more rigid crankshaft and a denser oil pan, which minimised vibrations. It might seem trivial, but Honda did try their best to improve the quality of the Civic, and it shows as they have considered all possible avenues without breaking the bank.
Upmarket - Better benchmarks, better car
While Honda had obviously not discounted its natural competitors like the Toyota Corolla Altis and Mazda 3 when creating the 11th Gen Civic, Honda actually looked up to more premium cars when it came time to benchmark the new sedan.
Mr. Yamagami said that they looked towards the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and A4 when setting a benchmark for the Civic. This gave them a higher set of achievements to work towards, which improved the Civic for the best.
Increase in length not done for the obvious reasons
It's pretty well known that the 11th-Gen Civic has grown in size. It is wider by 3mm (1,802mm), longer by 35mm (4,678mm) and lower by 1mm (1,415mm).
This usually translates into a much roomier interior, improving the sedan's overall interior space. However, while the extended wheelbase has improved rear passenger comfort, the Civic FE has mainly benefited from this wheelbase stretch with its driving performance.
According to the Large Project Leader, the elongation of the wheelbase was done to give the Civic a more stable feel during fast highway driving. Since it's a global model, we had to ensure that the Civic would be comfortable and stable at high speeds on highways. So we tested the car in Europe and the Americas to ensure that it could cruise at high speeds all day long.
The car can recognise when the driver is on a spirited drive
Yamagami also informed us that many changes had been made to the CVT system by changing the software to provide better responses for driving. This includes the character of the transmission, as it will change according to what it feels like the driver needs.
Like the media test drive at the Sepang International Circuit recently, the vehicle's system can detect that it is being driven hard and will change the CVT setting to give the car a more optimal driving characteristic relative to what it is being put through.
The change in CVT setting is detected through the ABS sensor and brake usage, where it can recognise that the car is being driven hard.
As we've mentioned before, although the Civic FE might seem like a straightforward upgrade in looks and features, Honda actually went beyond skin deep in their mission to make the Civic a much better car. Even without driving it, you will instantly recognise these significant changes manifesting through its cabin, but the driving experience will really give you a better impression of how these changes have improved the sedan.