For a handful of car manufacturers, the combination of letters RS means the pinnacle of their product portfolio, the best of the best. For Honda however, it is a step towards that direction, but not quite the destination. With the new Honda Civic RS, the Japanese company that has been in business since 1937, they have created a sweet in-betweener that sits perfectly well above the entry-level models (no longer available in Mzansi) and the fire-breathing Civic Type R.

While the new-shape Civic takes on a more coupe-like shape instead of the traditional hatch look, it keeps its hatch practicalities and quirks. Honda has always kept a provocative design philosophy, with sharp lines appearing on certain surfaces. The Civic RS stays true to this.

Up front we see a double grille with LED lights and daytime running lights, a red & silver RS moniker to the left of the Honda badge as well as the usual air vents. The side profile on our unit in Brilliant Sporty Blue metallic was peppered with clear black accents adorning the 18-inch light alloy wheels, side mirrors, door handles and window frames and pillars. A sharp crease goes all the way from the front fender to the rear light. Our unit came fitted with a sunroof. At the rear sits the large lights cluster, a black boot spoiler and two oval tailpipes on either side of the lower bumper. All this give the Civic RS a very sporty appearance.

Inside we see an even sportier character. A combination of leather and suede forms the seat coverings, which hug front passengers comfortably. Not tight, not loose. Just right. Surfaces are solid and easy on the touch, reinforcing the long-living reputation of high quality that Honda enjoys globally. Black piano, leather, metal alloys and plastic compounds are the main interior materials used. Red stitching appears on certain items, like the inner steering wheel rim, seats, and centre console.

With the new 22.8cm infotainment touch screen, Honda has fitted the Advanced HMI system to include Apple Carplay and Android Auto in the package. Device connectivity and charging are enhanced through several, easy-to-reach USB ports. That is another feather in this car’s cap; all amenities are within reach, especially for the all-important driver. The premium 12-speaker BOSE sound system is powerful but crisp, giving some soul-inspiring feedback to the occupants. We especially appreciated the alloy-clad volume controller on the screen, which nowadays has often been relegated into only the steering wheel or the screen.

Up front, under the bonnet, lies a turbocharged 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder petrol motor. It develops some 131kW of thrust and 240Nm of torque, mated to a CVT transmission that drives the front wheels. A 0 – 100km/h sprint time of around 8 seconds is possible under ideal conditions, while average fuel consumption is around 6.2 litres per 100km.

CVT transmissions have not enjoyed a good reputation amongst motoring media over the past years. The newer ones are good though, and Honda makes some of the best, including the one fitted to the Civic RS. Smooth and responsive, we were able to drive it pleasantly under different conditions, including semi-performance circumstances. No droney sound. Handling is also one of the car’s best attributes, with serious grip levels assured through the standard Michelin tyres. One can really get entertained around curves, with ample access to power at the right foot and very communicative steering.

Being a modern Honda, the car comes with a plethora of safety features, including ABS brakes with EBD, six airbags, Vehicle Stability Assist, parking sensors, a rear view camera, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure Mitigation among others.

Having made the Finals of the 2023 Old Mutual Insure South African Guild of Mobility Journalists Car of the Year, the Civic RS has proven itself as a formidable family hatch with a strong pedigree, interior comfort, premium quality and robust performance.

To find one more about the Honda Civic RS and other Honda models on offer, you can visit your nearest Honda dealership or go to www.honda.co.za

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