We added to the number, arriving in early September for what Honda called a media preview drive of the refreshed Civic.
A day earlier, we had visited the company’s Prachinburi plant in eastern Thailand, where the Civic sedan and hatchback are built for the Thai market as well as for regional and international export.
Honda also operates an older plant in Ayutthaya to the north of the Thai capital, where the bulk of Honda models are produced.
The new Civic is due to launch in Malaysia by the last quarter of 2019, with bookings having already opened since Sept 10. It is being assembled at Honda Malaysia’s plant in Malacca.
The Civic, now in its 10th generation, is due for a mid-cycle refresh, having debuted on our side in mid-2016.
The facelifted model has already been selling in Thailand for close to a year. It’s available in four versions — 1.8 E, 1.8 EL, 1.5 Turbo and 1.5 Turbo RS. Pricing starts at RM120K for the base 1.8E to RM168K for the Turbo RS.
In contrast, Honda Malaysia offers the car in three specs with prices from RM109K to RM129K.
So what’s new with the latest Civic sedan? Cosmetic changes for a sportier look and a hefty dose of safety features, that’s what.
It gets newly designed air intakes in the front bumper. And this has been moulded to give the front a wider stance.
The lateral extensions or wings on the grille are painted in black, which complements the sporty fastback profile of the sedan.
There are new wheel designs as well as a chrome trim element on the rear bumper.
Four airbags, Emergency Stop Signal, Vehicle Stability Assist, ABS, EBD and rearview camera are standard across the range.
The 1.8 EL and 1.5 Turbo RS are equipped with two extra airbags and a LaneWatch camera system on the left wing mirror to minimise blind spots.
The interior is largely the same as before except for new controls on the steering wheel for Honda Sensing.
Honda figures there’s no need for a dramatic cabin makeover as it still looks good three years on. Red stitchings predominate on all leathered surfaces to echo the sporty theme of the exterior.
The Thai-spec Civic has a 7-inch infotainment screen design that differs somewhat from the Malaysian version, with the inclusion of physical controls on the side.
The biggest change in the Civic is the addition of the Honda Sensing safety package, but it’s restricted to the top variant – the 1.5 Turbo RS. It would be logical to assume that for the Malaysian market, only the range-topping 1.5 TC-P would get it.
You may recall Honda Sensing is also fitted to the top variants of the Accord and the CR-V as well as the Odyssey, so Honda is unlikely to deviate from this pattern.
To recap, Honda Sensing is a set of driver assistive technologies that improve driving safety. It uses a radar and camera system to spot imminent danger and reduce the risk of a collision.
The driving aids in the Civic’s Honda Sensing includes features like: the steering wheel will vibrate and do course correction if you drift out of your lane, automatically brakes if the car is about to hit another car in front and maintain a safe distance from other cars when cruising adaptively.
Earlier before the drive, Honda engineers were eager to show us two features of Honda Sensing. At a safety course within Honda’s Prachinburi plant, they demonstrated the concept of Collision Mitigation Braking System and Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow. No mishaps happened, so that is telling on the efficacy of the safety suite.
Honda is charging around RM16,000 extra for Honda Sensing in the Thai-spec Civic. So expect a similar price hike when Honda Sensing shows up in the Malaysian-spec Civic.
Typical of facelifts, the 1.5-litre and 1.8-litre engines and CVT are carried over without any updates.
We drove only the Turbo RS.
Seats, front and rear, are comfortable for a long trip.
The 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo engine makes 173hp at 5,500rpm and 220Nm from 1,700rpm to 5,500rpm.
Few will quibble with the smooth performance of the latest Civic that offers day-to-day practicality.
The chassis is well sorted out. A firmer suspension would have been desirable but the Civic manages to deliver adequate fun on demand.
The CVT is calibrated to have “shift” points so it behaves more like a traditional automatic. CVT – once the preserve of econo-boxes – still elicits the typical drone when pushed hard but it’s a matter of getting used to it.
Honda looks set to continue with CVT even though there are rumblings among the motoring fraternity that the sporty looks of the Civic would be better served by a regular six-speed auto or even a dual-clutch gearbox.
Towards evening as we headed for Bangkok from Prachinburi, the skies opened up. Although travelling in a convoy, we had brief occasions to accelerate the car past slower-moving traffic.
The Turbo RS behaved reassuringly with plenty of grip in the wet even in corners, and bodyroll was kept in check.
Overall, the minor facelift helps sharpen up the sleek look of the Civic, which should continue to hold buying interest.
For those able to cough up the extra moolah for Honda Sensing in the range-topper, it means an extra layer of safety that’s much appreciated in the hour of need.
UPDATE: The Malaysian launch of the refreshed Honda Civic has been pushed to early 2020. It was supposed to arrive in December but Honda Malaysia had to delay it due to external factors beyond its control.
READ MORE: A visit to Honda's Prachinburi plant