Honda has suffered the sharp end of recession and natural disaster and is now pinning its hopes on new arrivals.

It opened the year with the CRZ, now the stylish Civic to fill a hatch slot vacated five years ago, with CRV just landing.

What's new
Unfavourable exchange rates prevented the Civic hatch's earlier entry to New Zealand, so this body is new to Kiwis and it's a sharp-looker.

The design quirks are as functional as they are eyecatching: assertive tail lights that bridge the rear window double as a spoiler to improve air flow, further smoothed by a flat underbody that prevents underside plumbing from creating drag.


The car's 104kW/14Nm 1.8-lire petrol engine is similar to that in the Civic sedan, but with alterations to reduce friction within the engine and improve fuel economy to 6.1l/100km for the manual and 6.5 for the auto.

The company line
Honda imports two variants: the L, with 16-inch wheels, and the S, with larger alloys and a premium sound system, a reverse camera and heated leather seats.

Honda aims to pitch Civic hatch as the driver's choice when it goes on sale on July 27 from $32,900, with the Insight hybrid electric for those more eco-minded.

What we say
Honda research and development chief Katsushi Watanabe may employ dynamic and energetic watchwords, but our launch drive suggested Civic is anything but. However, it is very well designed for everydayliving, my favourite feature being the clever back seats. You can fold up the bases to liberate space for low-loading heavy items or to accommodate your big dog. Or fold the seatbacks in one easy movement, the bases sinking to deliver a flat load floor and expanding the boot's standard 400 litres to a capacious 1210.

Fuel-frugal is a favoured Honda catchcry. This car even trains you to drive more economically, with an eco button altering engine and cruise control response, plus climate control. It also changes the instrument lights to signal green or blue, according to your throttle action.

On the road
Performance didn't quite match the sharp looks, The engine is competent rather than lively, and sometimes feels it needs another open-road cruising gear, while the steering felt as light and lifeless as a cheap arcade game. That will bother a keen driver, but not the everyday punter seeking a sensible runabout in a sharp suit.

However, the suspension seemed efficient enough, as a result of tweaks to improve the sport-comfort ride compromise and cornering stability.

Why you'll buy one
Sharp looks inside and out that reference attack planes; super-flexible rear seats/boot; and it's quiet.


Why you won't?
It doesn't drive as energetically as it looks.