Richard Hammond met Evel Knievel before he passed away, and had his boyhood fantasies of his hero shattered. The same can be said of my experience with the latest Honda Civic.
I never expected to be saying this as early on in my career as I am, but back in my day things were different. In the late nineties Honda was like God in Japanese form, it had brilliant cars like the Integra and the S2000, and for us impoverished folk, the Civic. A late model Civic was good to go with a set of wheels, a loud exhaust, and a dodgy stereo system - instant street cred. But the Civic was leaner back then and Honda was a more youthful outfit, nowadays it's more whale than tuner.
Honda's sense of fun has evaporated along with it's F1 aspirations, and while I was hopeful the Civic VTi sedan that I drove would reaffirm my belief in Honda cool (despite the Aussie de-tuned Type R failing to do so already), I would've felt cooler going to one of John Farnham's latest round of final shows, with my parents.
The problem is this - the sedan feels infinitely longer than its predecessors and has the turning circle of a wheelbarrow. While there are design cues to the Civics of old, it's still not great-looking. Inside is a bit like Logan's Run, the Casio-spec digital dash clashes with dreary public-servant style trim and hard plastics. This, coupled with lardo's wheezy performance had me bawling into my Mugen Power pillowcase.
On paper, the 103kW of the Civic's 1.8-litre sounds like plenty, but it labours under the weight and in automatic you'd be forgiven for thinking you were ringing its neck through every gear. To be fair it is a competent city driver, with a nice soft feel on the road and good, responsive brakes, but you won't find fun here.
I can't blame Honda for softening the Civic. It's more economical, safer, and better optioned than the variants I worshipped as a young hoon, but I can't help feeling nostalgic, and for me, the memory is better than the reality. Honda, you can, and have done, better.