Shootout: Honda Civic vs Skoda Octavia
Shootout No. 214
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 20.82 - 26.83 lakhs (Honda Civic), Rs. 18.91 - 31.56 lakhs (Skoda Octavia)
The Honda Civic is completely new, looks dope and is the better handler but the Skoda Octavia does so many things better!
D-Segment sedans were all the rage before the advent of SUVs. They were stylish, had powerful engines, feature-rich interiors and there was that sense of prestige that came with owning one. The two sedans that stood out in this race were the Skoda Octavia and Honda Civic. The first-gen Octavia was immensely popular for its fast performance, good handling and sheer value for money. In the first few years of the Civic's launch, the sales were through the roof. In its best year, Honda was selling a staggering 2500 cars a month! Buyers were taken over by Civic's futuristic exterior and interior, smooth and effortless engine, fluid handling and the Honda badge.
Now, the segment is shrinking with the average sells below the 1000 mark. There is so little demand for the D-segment sedans that most brands have put an end to their production. Volkswagen announced that there will not be a new Jetta for the Indian market and very recently Toyota announced that they won't launch the next Corolla in India. Amidst the low demand, Skoda is soldering on with the refreshed Octavia and Honda has re-entered the segment with the 10th generation Civic. Can the Civic be a worthy rival to the Octavia and how much of the essence can the two cars bring back to the segment? Let's hit the road to find out.
Motor Quest: The Octavia began Skoda's chapter in the Indian market when the car hit our shores in 2002. The car quickly gained popularity, thanks to punchy engines, solid build, luxury-car-like features and good value. the second generation of the Octavia came in 2007 and for the Indian market, it was christened as the ‘Laura'. The Laura stood its ground despite many rival brands competing in the segment. The current Octavia, in its third generation, has had a relatively successful run as it is one of the better-selling cars in the segment. The Civic was less lucky. The increased competition, high price, lack of a diesel engine and growing popularity of SUVs towards the end of the Civic's lifecycle meant that Honda had pulled the plug in 2013. Since then, Honda concentrated on other products. To turn things around, the automaker has decided to give the Civic a second shot and this time the car has a diesel engine along with all the typical Civic characteristics.
Exteriors - Honda impressed the audience with the Civic when they introduced it here in 2007. The car had a futuristic stance which made it look more expensive than what it actually was. The new Civic, as we are happy to report, looks just as striking as we'd hope it would. The front is all aggressive with a giant strip of chrome on the grille, all LED headlamps and attractive bumpers with chrome-lined fog-lamp housings. The bonnet also tapers down giving it a sporty stance. The long bonnet only amplifies the feeling. From the side, the Civic maintains an athletic profile. There are numerous lines on the body but they are all at the right places, meaning it hardly looks overdone. The prominent bulge atop the front wheel arch creates an impression of the Civic being lower than its actual ride height. There is a continuous line that runs from the front door to the tail light and a crease on the doors. We also like how the car ‘comes down' from the rear to the front. This design philosophy makes the Civic looks like its moving even when it's not.
The fastback profile is unique in this segment and it is beautifully executed on the Civic. Some fastback designed cars tend to look awkward but the Civic does not. The sloping roofline adds oodles of sporting character and the boot does not look stubby. In fact with the boomerang tail lights, the rear looks quite attractive. We like small details like the chrome surrounds for the windows and those intricate alloy wheels. To sum it up, the Civic brings a breath of fresh air in this segment with its attractive styling.
The Civic has an imposing and sporty stance as compared to the Octavia's sophisticated and dignified looks
The Octavia ends up looking a bit too conventional in front of the Civic with straight lines and a traditional sedan silhouette. The Octavia does not look bland but it won't be as distinguished as the Civic in a parking lot. The Octavia received a cosmetic update in 2017 and the most noticeable change is the split headlight. We don't know why Skoda decided to do that but it is an interesting touch and reminds you of the previous generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The rest of the design is similar to what you'll find in most Skodas. You get the large black grille with the Skoda logo on the bonnet and straight bumper design with a pair of square fog lights housed into them. The only detail that stands out is the raised area behind the Skoda logo on the bonnet.
The side profile is squarish and nowhere as dramatic looking as the Civic. But for many people, this may be an advantage. Because there is no interplay of lines, the Octavia looks clean from the side. The windows are big making the cabin feel airy and the roofline is more consistent than the Civic meaning the headroom for the backseat passengers won't be an issue. The rear is as plain as the rest but the detailing of the tail lights is interesting. The alloy wheels on our Laurin & Klement model were well designed and there are badges on the fenders to let you know this is the top-spec car.
The interesting takeaway with both the designs is that, whereas the Civic has a fastback design, the boot opens like in a conventional sedan and in the Octavia, which has a traditional design, the boot opens as a hatch. Since we are on the topic of the boot, at 590-litres, the trunk space in the Octavia is simply massive and the boot very well shaped. The loading lip is not high and the opening is very large (the hatch) resulting in convenient access. The Civic's boot, at 430-litres is big enough to carry luggage and it is well shaped but obviously it is the Skoda's boot in which it is easier to load luggage.
Interiors - The Octavia greets you with a warm and luxurious cabin which wouldn't look out of place in an Audi. The top of the line L&K variant gives you better-looking leather seats which are comfortable and supportive. The dash is plain but it is quite well built. The cabin oozes quality. From the way the doors shut to the way the buttons click, everything has that typical European sturdiness. This variant also gets the Virtual Instrument Cluster and it is brilliant. The graphics are crisp with easy to use menus and submenus. The equipment list is quite long in the Octavia. Standard equipment on the L&K includes a navigation system, 12-way electrically adjustable driver's seat with memory function, premium Canton audio system, panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting, hands-free park assist, driver fatigue monitoring system amongst others. We love the responsive infotainment screen and the myriad of stuff that you can control from it.
The equipment level in the Octavia heightens the car's premium image. Most of the features can be found only in luxury cars. Couple that with the high-quality interior, the Octavia feels twice as expensive. The front seat space is decent and the seats score high on support. The backseats are super comfortable too but the intruding AC vents limit the leg space of the middle passenger. But it is hard to fault the overall backseat experience and the chauffeur driven clientele will be happy.
The Octavia's outstanding build-quality and long feature-list makes it feel superior
Skodas are known for their clever details and there are many in the Octavia. You get hooks in the very large boot where you can hang your bags, a waste bin, numerous storage compartments and a very nifty ticket holder. Small details like these go a long way in making the interior a special place to be.
Step inside the Civic and the first thing you notice is the lower seating position. You sink in more than settle in. The low profile along with the driver-centric dash, rakish windscreen and high console assures you that this is designed keeping the enthusiast in mind. The design of the dashboard is not as radical as the old Civic but neither is it as plain as the one in the Octavia. The aircon vents merge into the speedometer and that creates an illusion of it being a driver-focused dashboard. The wood finish looks premium. The design is clean and minimalistic and everything is ergonomically laid out. The quality lacks the last degree of quality of the Octavia but there are plenty of soft-touch plastics and the switchgear is of acceptable durability.
The instrument cluster is part-digital but looks a tad basic in front of Skoda's virtual display. Yet, the digits are well laid out and easy to read on the move. The infotainment screen is lazy to respond and is nowhere as close as the Skoda's when it comes to clarity and polish. Equipment levels are not as generous as in the Skoda but you still get a lot. 8-way electrically adjustable driver's seat, dual-zone climate control, Honda's Lane Watch system (a rear-facing camera in the left wing mirror shows you if it's clear to move once you turn on the left indicator), voice recognition, keyless entry and go, auto headlamps and wipers are all the part of the equipment on the range-topping ZX variant. However, it misses out on cooled seats, front parking sensors, park assist and a few other features which some cars in the segment offer.
Civic's interior is more driver-focused and sporty as compared to the Octavia
The front seats are spacious and supportive. The rear seats are less appealing. The low profile does not make ingress and egress easy, particularly for the elderly and the sense of space is not in abundance. The sloping roofline intrudes the headroom and the legroom is not exceptional. Space is best suited for two rather than three. The back seats don't feel as airy thanks to smaller windows. You will be comfortable for the most part but the Civic is not an ideal chauffeur driven car like the Octavia.
Both the cars are closely contested in the interior department. The Civic is definitely the sportier of the two but the Octavia's interior comes across as better rounded with a premium feel, lots of space and long equipment list.
Performance - The Skoda Octavia comes with a multitude of engine and gearbox options, in fact, there is a powerplant option for almost every kind of buyer. In contrast, Honda just offers 2 powertrain options in the Civic. Starting with the petrol, it's only available with a CVT box which although does a good job on part throttle and city driving, just robs away the soul of the engine when you drive enthusiastically. In fact, the base 1.4-litre motor in the Octavia has the Civic beaten for all the engines in the Octavia use forced induction for class-leading output numbers. However, the base 1.4 TSI doesn't get an automatic so the obvious comparison with the Civic petrol is with the 1.8-litre TSI (which isn't available with a manual) which not only is 3.5 seconds faster to the ton but also faster when it comes to in-gear acceleration.
The Octavia has better petrol and diesel engines which are offered with both manual and automatic transmissions
Numbers don't lie as the Octavia TSI AT has an advantage of 40 HP and 76 Nm, that along with a drastically better dual-clutch gearbox means the Civic doesn't even have a chance, even in the fuel efficiency department where the Skoda betters it by a couple of kms per litre. Where the Civic feels slightly better is at low revs as the turbo takes some time to spool in the Octy but once it does, the Octavia is in an entirely different orbit altogether, having an exciting top-end which the Civic completely lacks all thanks to the rubber band effect of the CVT. Honda should have offered either the 2.0-litre petrol engine with 158 HP which gets a manual gearbox or the 1.5-litre Turbo VTEC that pumps out 174 HP and 220 Nm.
When we talk diesels too, the Honda Civic doesn't stand a chance as the Skoda Octavia's 2.0-litre TDI motor is not only more refined than the Civic's 1.6-litre oil burner, the Czech vehicle also produces more power and torque although the advantage isn't as significant like in the case of the petrols. The Octavia is lighter too, in spite of the bigger engine and is faster to the ton by 1.5 seconds. Both cars have a smooth shifting gearbox with a light clutch but we like the transmission better on the Civic which also happens to be the more frugal car here by 3 km/l. The Octavia also comes with the state of the art 6-speed DSG box on the diesel which offers smooth and fast shifts. There are paddles on offer too which the Civic petrol does get but a diesel automatic is sorely missed and should have been offered as the CR-V uses the same diesel mill and gets a diesel auto.
Driving Dynamics - The Skoda Octavia comes with a different suspension system based on the engine option, the 1.8-litre gets the superior multi-link independent rear suspension in lieu of the torsion beam which just doesn't make any sense as the more expensive diesel too should have got the former. The petrol automatic rides better than the Civic and does a superior job of absorbing bad patches in its strides, Honda has opted for a stiffer setup which does give it the better handling here, with a steering that's richer in terms of both feel and feedback, when compared to the Octavia's, unless you get the RS in the picture which handles a world better but the ride is compromised due to the stiffer suspension, bigger lower profile wheels and lower ground clearance. Neither the standard Octavia, nor the Civic have ground clearance issues.
The Civic feels more sporty and has the better driving dynamics of the two
The seating position is sportier in the Honda Civic, you sit lower, the dashboard design makes you feel like you are piloting something exciting while the Skoda Octavia has a higher seat and a less sporty driving position. That said, the Octavia is easily the more fun to drive car here because of the punchy engines on offer which support you when you want to drive spiritedly around the twisties. The brakes on the Octavia are stronger but the tyres on the Civic have better grip and thus inspire more confidence to brake hard.
Safety - The Octavia and the Civic are loaded with safety features. The base variants of the Octavia and the Civic come with 4 airbags along with ABS and ESP. The Laurin & Klement version of the Octavia has a class-leading 8 airbags on offer while the Civic ZX has 6 airbags as standard. Both the cars come with child seat anchorages as well. The Octavia and the Civic get top marks at crash tests and offer almost world-class safety.
The Skoda Octavia is clearly the more understated car here. It lacks the snazzy looks, sporty interiors and the brand image of the Civic. But it does everything that a customer looks for in an executive sedan extremely well. It is posh on the inside, loaded with equipment, has exciting engines and wider set of engine and transmission options. At Rs. 31.5 lakhs for this Laurin & Klement variant, it is undeniably expensive. But the Octavia is so well-equipped throughout the range that you don't have to go for the top-spec variant to enjoy the experience. Yes, trim to trim the Octavia is more expensive but it also offers more. The Civic puts a fitting fight but the Octavia comes across as a more complete sedan and that is why it is our winner. However, there is another vehicle that is slotted in this price bracket which boasts of Euro build quality, good dynamics, punchy diesel engine and can take you places and that is the Jeep Compass which is a very good alternative to the sedans.
Further Reading -