On a sunny Saturday afternoon, 21 Malaysian influencers gathered for a fun, exciting day out with Honda Malaysia, involving the all-new 2013 Honda Civic. I’m of course no stranger to blogger drives and car reviews, as I usually do those as part of TheCarGuysMY, however, this had a slightly different twist. Honda says, “Let Your Intuition Take Over.” And so we did.
The 21 excited bloggers were divided into seven 2013 Honda Civic sedans of different variants – the Honda Civic 1.8S i-VTEC, Honda Civic 2.0S i-VTEC (and a Mugen/Modulo-kitted one thrown in) and Honda Civic 1.5L Hybrid. The event involved a drive through a twisty route to Rawang, then some gymkhana-style action at Desa Park City. Plus, the teams of bloggers had to document the entire day’s event ala video log (“vlog”) style, which were later compiled into short 2-minute videos.
Say hello to Team CVT
I was put into a team with popular lifestyle bloggers Tengku Ahmad Hafiz aka Que Achmad and Tengku Nur Raihan (“Anne”) aka Pen Merah and we named ourselves “Team CVT” – “C” for “Civic”, “V” for Vernon and “T” for the first letters in both Hafiz’s and Anne’s names. How apt.
The meeting point was Paradiso Cine-Lounge, Publika, where I met up with some familiar faces in the Honda team as well as bloggers Rebecca Saw (www.rebeccasaw.com), Kelly Chin (www.sunshinekelly.com), Budiey (www.budiey.com) Ben Ashaari (www.benashaari.com), Bryan Lim (www.bryanlyt.com), Isaac Tan (www.isaactan.net) and more.
Honda’s Head of Marketing, Akhbar Danial presented his opening speech to kick-off the event, followed by a summary of the Civic’s features, and safety/route briefing by Driven Communications’ Harvinder Singh (‘Harv’), a familiar figure in the automotive industry. To ensure we didn’t faint from hunger during the test drive and day’s activities, we were fed with refreshments and food before the flag off. Each team was also supplied with an in-car GPS, and an iPad to document the day’s events.
Perhaps my heavy right foot, gas-guzzling reputation had preceded me, so Honda decided to designate the hybrid version to my team. This was going to be challenging, I thought. A souped-up Mugen version would’ve been perfect. Honda, I guess, had other ideas for me. Damned if I let the 40 horsepower deficit ruin my day, though.
Nine spells performance and style
Here’s a primer of the 9th generation Honda Civic. The first Civic rolled out of Honda’s factory some 41 years ago, and since then, the Civic family has grown from strength to strength – with each iteration improving in quality, style, safety and driving performance. The latest generation Civic offers the latest smart technology with a clean and energetic design.
The Civic is powered by the renowned i-VTEC (Intelligent Variable Valve Timing and Electronic Lift Control) that was designed to deliver the perfect balance of performance and fuel efficiency. The 1.8L SOHC i-VTEC pushes out 141PS @ 6,500rpm and maximum torque of 174Nm @ 4,300rpm. The 2.0L SOHC i-VTEC variant delivers 155PS @ 6,500rpm and 190Nm @ 4,300rpm maximum torque.
The Civic Hybrid 1.5L SOHC i-VTEC + IMA on the other hand, pushes out 110PS @ 5,500rpm (engine and electric motor) and an impressive maximum torque of 172Nm @ 1,000 – 3,500rpm (engine and electric motor). As you know, the Civic Hybrid is the pioneer of hybrid vehicles in Malaysia. And to make it an even more attractive as a buy, Honda has a newly extended 8-year warranty on the IMA battery. Peace of mind, while you keep the planet green.
In terms of transmission types, the 1.8L gets a conventional 5-speed Automatic Transmission combined with Drive-by-Wire (DBW). The 2.0L variant comes with a 5-speed AT with Paddle Shift Control. The Civic Hybrid on the other had gets a Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) which provides a smoother drive with step-less shifts, better engine braking and a quieter ride overall.
Rawang here we go
After some preliminary photo-taking, the seven cars were officially flagged off by Akhbar Danial from Publika. I volunteered to be the first driver for the route and got myself strapped in. The cockpit felt familiar, perhaps memories from the Honda CR-V media drive in Langkawi recently (and previous test drives of the CR-Z and Jazz Hybrid). From the two-tier dashboard to the Push Start and ECON button, it felt every bit of a new-gen Honda. One thing I’ve always liked about Honda cars is the steering wheel. Ergonomic with quality finish. I also like the fact that it has height and telescopic adjustment as it’s always tricky to get the proper steering height and distance due to my 6.1-foot frame.
The i-MID (intelligent Multi Information Display) on the dashboard shows information on fuel economy, audio and user support (startup, ECON On/Off, volume, warnings, clock, customisations).
ECON Assist is Honda’s way to help you drive more efficiently with the Civic. The ambient glow on the instrument panel shows how light- or heavy-footed you are with your accelerator. When you’re driving like a tree-hugger (not something in my vocabulary, no doubt), Mother Nature smiles, and the light turns green. When you’re heavy on the accelerator, the light changes to blue. This gives you real-time feedback on your driving. The Civic is the first petrol engine that comes with ECON Assist function.
ECON mode reduces variability of driving by dampening the effects of the accelerator and re-maps the transmission, as well as optimises the air-conditioning system with the objective of increasing fuel efficiency. We left this mode engaged throughout.
The drive on the highway and in start-stop situations was pleasant. Power delivery of the hybrid lump is smooth, and overtaking prowess is adequate. In terms of ride and handling, the car was always poised and confident, and never complained even on typical pothole-ridden roads and twisty bits.
The fun begins
I was a little envious that team-mate Que Achmad got to drive the car in the more twisty route around Rawang after the first driver change. The car felt ever-planted, and thanks to the generous amount of torque available even at lower revs, the car could always power out of corners without difficulty.
With Anne at the wheel later, the convoy made its way to Desa Park City, where the real fun began. We were led to the township’s car park, where three different courses were laid out. Each course designed to showcase different capabilities and technologies of the Civic. At the course, I met up with a few motorsports pals, both champion autocrossers – Kenneth Chiew and Andy Kow. The duo were responsible for two different courses at the venue.
Course 1: (Not) Going sideways with VSA
The first course reminded me of a drifting circuit, albeit a much smaller one, with a purposefully wet tarmac. This was to showcase the Civic’s VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) technology, a form of Electronic Stability Programme (ESP). The exercise involved negating the car through a corner at 30km/h and then put into an oversteer situation. This is done by the instructor who would induce a rear end skid by pulling the handbrake. Bloggers would do the exercise twice, once with VSA off, and the other with VSA engaged.
The VSA system has various sensors on the car, and when it detects instability in motion, the system intervenes by carrying out selective braking within milliseconds to stabilise the car. The system works alongside ABS and a traction control system. VSA also works together with the car’s Electronic Power Steering System (EPS). EPS will carry out corrective assist in the form of counter steer in an oversteer situation. During understeer, it prevents the steering wheel from over-cutting, thus reducing the turn.
Course 2: Autocross days revisited
The second course was a mini gymkhana, to showcase the handling of the Civic. The Mugen version was tasked for this. The interesting bit for this course was that there was a ‘competition’ involved, where times would be recorded, and a winner declared for the fastest time. For many, this was their first ever time driving a car and negating through a swift succession of cones, attempting to beat the clock (and not kill any cones in the process!).
My last ever autocross/gymkhana was circa 2008 I think. Of course, it was all too familiar once I was in the car, and naturally gunned it like any sane, ex-autocrosser, gas-guzzler would. I relived the fun for that brief 25-seconds. My only qualm was that the course was way too short!
Course 3: Brake and steer with ABS
Next up was a braking course to demonstrate the built-in ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) of the new Civic. With ABS, your vehicle can still steer away from an obstacle while carrying out full braking. ABS enables you to brake fully without locking the brakes, hence, still keeping your car under control. ABS works by engaging the brakes intermittently when you step on the brake pedal. It’s surprising how many people don’t realise what ABS is and how it works.
The three courses certainly helped show bloggers the built-in safety features of the Civic – the best in its class. Aside from its long list of safety equipment including SRS airbags, VSA, ABS, and EPS, it also has the Honda-exclusive Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure for frontal collision energy management. It’s good to know one’s life is in safe hands at all times.
A great day out
Our work wasn’t done yet when we re-congregated at Paradiso. All the footage in the iPad had to be screened, filtered and selected to be downloaded to special professional video-editing stations at the venue. Teams took about an hour to get their videos edited by pro editors, to be later presented to everyone present. Seriously top work by the editors, in such a short span of time.
Catch our final video below:
There was a little surprise for me at the end of the event as results for the autocross challenge was announced. I was declared the winner, and took home a spanking new Sony NEX-3N camera! Certainly didn’t expect to win, and such a generous prize too!
An exhilarating, enjoyable, exciting day out for everyone.
Thank you Honda Malaysia, Ktalyst PR and Rouge Communications! For more info on the Honda Civic, visit http://www.honda.com.my/model/overview/civic/