Review: 2023 Honda Civic (FE) e:HEV RS hybrid - Fast, cool fuel-sipper is the last stand against flood of SUVs
Sanjay · May 30, 2023 02:52 PM
Slap it in D, pin the throttle, and off I launched into 100 km/h. From a dead stop it only takes 7 seconds, and there’s your answer on whether or not the 2023 Honda Civic RS e:HEV hybrid is faster than the turbo – with that mustering 8.8 seconds, it's nearly two whole seconds quicker.
Overview: 2022 Honda Civic RS e:HEV (Hybrid)
2.0L NA 4-cyl + electric motor
184 PS motor, 143 PS engine
315 Nm motor, 189 Nm engine
Yet to boil it down to simply being more powerful than its varietals is not dissimilar to saying Steve Carrell can only do comedies; The Office is only one side of his talents, you know.
And just like our best actors, today’s Civic Hybrid is a multi-faceted star, one that’s happy to hold your hands through the backroads, sail you through highways, while stingily sipping on fuel – but there's one award it probably won't win...
Barring this RS e:HEV, today’s Civics are mostly turbocharged affairs, and as a result you’re already looking at 182 PS and 240 Nm in standard E, V, and RS turbo guises. In this hybrid form there’s a bit more peak power and torque, to the tune of 184 PS and 315 Nm, though these numbers are from the electric motor.
Paired to said motor and teeny battery (1.05 kWh) is a 2.0-litre engine, naturally-aspirated at that. It alone makes 143 PS and 189 Nm (since it and the motor peaks at different RPMs, you can't simply add them), and the bigger news is that it's a newly-developed mill.
Not a carryover from the CR-V Honda Malaysia's still selling, the 2.0-litre four-pot in the Civic hybrid adds a high rigidity crankshaft, insulated intake manifold, and a damped engine cover, for better efficiency and smoothness.
That's one big chunk of the RM 15,800 extra you pay over the turbo'd RS. The others go to the features, like the full-digital speedometer, the nifty keycard, dual-zone air-conditioning, and also a wireless charger for smartphones.
Exterior - Smart and clean
Our opinions on the Civic being a terribly handsome car hasn't changed; there's always an air of quiet confidence. Less athletic than its FC predecessor, some would opine...but there's certainly something to appreciate in its upmarket ambitions.
Keeping it simple should also pay dividends over the years – unpretentiousness never goes out of style. Just look at how the BMW E39s have aged.
Buying the hybrid nets you the blue surrounds on the badges, a smattering of chrome trim, a set of dual-tone 18-inch wheels (arguably better than the regular matte black ones), and a single exhaust tip.
There's definitely a sciency reason behind that last choice but hey, it is what it is, and we think the single outlet cheapens the look a bit. The turbo RS' twin-shooters make for a more imposing tush.
For an additional RM 5,320 Honda will sell you their Modulo kit in-house, but between the price and the contrasting colours clashing against the otherwise smooth canvas, it's not an option I'd personally sign on to.
Interior: Simple and functional
Honda's recent simplified interiors may look like they prioritise form over function, but it'll take no less than a minute cocooned within one to see that you'll still be in the thick of all that Man-Maximum, Machine-Minimum philosophy.
That said, the Civic's cabin is what we think, peak Honda. The intersection between design and function meets nicely, something very important to get right but just as easily lost in the pursuit of making showroom stunners that in turn become head-scratchers to use.
Cohesion – that's the word.
Customary for Hondas there's enough spaces to run an entire picnic without needing a seperate basket. Couple of 1.5 litre Pepsi bottles? Slot 'em by the door. Stack of six sandwiches? Throw them in the centre console box.
Bootspace isn't compromised either – at 497 litres (16-inch spare tyre included) it's the same as the non-electrified variants, and if IKEA comes a-calling you can just push the rear 60:40 split-folding bench down.
Upping the Civic's total package are the RS e:HEV-specific add-ons, in particular the full-digital instrument cluster that sets this variant apart from everything else.
Not that there's anything wrong with the other variants' half-analogue, half-LCD affair, but in a car of this stature, having vivid graphics and rich customisation completes the story.
Same case with the dual-zone air-conditioning system. Its presence here lifts the cabin ambience a good touch, a tangible differentiator from the other variants' single-zone. In simpler terms, you'd be more puas hati.
Lots of positives, with only one major dampener to it all: audio quality. It sounds flat and doesn't quite befit the rest of the car's quality. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay off its 9-inch infotainment screen is nice to use though, smooth and easy.
Driving experience: Weekday + weekend warrior in one
There's something to be said about the quality of the drive when it was irresistable to grab the Civic's keycard for one last blat down Kuala Kubu Bharu. Would its talents span into also being the weekend car?
It's proved itself as a considerable tourer on the highways, with its bigger engine showing a marked improvement over the smaller-displacement four-banger. Progress is made in strides; and with hybrid assistance it's almost effortless how the Civic builds power and zips you past slow-moving traffic.
And despite its leanings, the Civic does have an appetite for curves. The same understanding between steering and chassis that's felt in the RS turbo is amplified here – a little more hunkered down because of the weight of the battery and its ancilliaries – but well compensated by the 10 mm lower ride height and slightly stiffer torsional rigidity.
The slight trade-off we can think off is that the steering still isn't the most talkative in the market (it still feels a bit synthetic), though its precise enough to get you threading the Civic sharply through turns, with a rear end that flows along smoothly.
Of course, enhancing the experience is the top-class visibility plus the easy ergonomics. It's a car that makes it easy for you, and that's something we can all appreciate.
One point about the drive modes though: leaving it in 'Normal' is best for 99% of use cases. 'Eco' is good when you've misjudged the distance between you and the next petrol station, and suddenly find yourself facing the realisation of needing to call the towtruck.
I didn't quite like 'Sport' mode despite its sharpening of the throttle response but it was not for performance reasons – the piped-in 'engine noise' sounds a bit too fake and comes across as very tryhard.
Ride comfort: Supple enough, could use softer seats
Ride quality in the Civic FE RS e:HEV is superb. Credit goes to the great tyres too, and the sophistication on how it tackles rotten roads and high-speed undulations is one you'll immediately feel. Trust me, you will end up driving quite fast...
Nary was there a situation where the car felt too harsh and bumpy; nor were there any peeps from my occupants too. It's just well-damped all the time, with a ride character that belies its price tag.
The seats themselves are ace, providing good support for the body, and the rears have a slight recline to them which adds to the comfort. Some, however may find the seats to be all a bit oddly-shaped (there's a recess by the tailbone that feels a bit iffy) and firm.
Here's however the thing about its seats. Opinions in the office about them are divided to say the least; some opine that they're not flat-out uncomfortable and not befitting a car like this, while others, like me, found them to be quite alright. You'll have to try this one out for yourself.
But its in the overall package that the Civic hybrid proves its raison d'etre. Key to the sense of comfort is the powertrain's refinement – it's miles quieter and in return, comfier than the 1.5-litre hybrids that's in the HR-V and City RS e:HEV models.
Fuel consumption: Stellar
Threading the Civic through a 200 km mix of highways and byways, in free-flowing to backed-up traffic, the Honda Civic (Specs | News) e:HEV RS returned a respectable 5.3 litres/100 km (circa 19 km/litre).
With its 40 litre fuel tank (down 7 litres from the turbo models, equal to a Vios) this translates to a theoretical 760 km on a tank.
This time around we managed to play with Honda Connect for a bit. The answer to Toyota's VTS, Connect is an all-in-one app that allows customers to read vehicle telematics, lock/unlock the doors, switch on the lights, and even start the car.
It also displays handy features like your estimated cost of next service, trip history, and the like. Our say is that it does these things well, but in the time it takes you to use an app to unlock the doors and start the car...you're better off sticking with the keyfob.
Verdict: Class champion by a mile
Wrapping it up, the Honda Civic RS e:HEV is a car with a list of talents as long as its name. Looks good, drives well, sips fuel, it's hardly a sinner in any aspect.
Yet, despite its qualities, it's also put in a tough spot. Most of its qualities are accessible in its lower variants, and that's before you get to its RM 167k price tag which is already way beyond the Corolla Altis (RM 134k to RM 146k). It's SUV-baiting at this point.
To the value-concious buyer, that's a bit of a tough cookie to bite through. But there's no taking away that for those looking for the ultimate in a day-to-day sedan at this price point, it's hard to edge the Civic e:HEV RS.
Ultimately, it's up to you to decide on what you want out of a car and what the Civic can do for you. Whether or not you agree or disagree with our take, we'd say take it out for a spin at Honda's Gen H roadshow happening near you all throughout June.
With humble beginnings collecting diecast models and spending hours virtually tuning dream cars on the computer, his love of cars has delightfully transformed into a career. Sanjay enjoys how the same passion for cars transcends boundaries and brings people together.