DTW reader, Dave Fisher matches wits with a recently purchased (previous generation) Honda Civic and finds himself coming a distant second.
The question one asks on entering a car such as this – a 2016 Honda Civic Tourer – is whether it is more intelligent than its owner. The car can certainly do many things its owner cannot, but if that means it’s more intelligent is a moot point. Many a dog would agree with the car, especially because, with its rear seats down, the car could easily swallow three or four Great Danes. And if you want to give Mr. Honda another three hundred pounds for a wee gadget, you can mount two bicycles (front wheel off) inside. Very clever.
The entering is the tricky bit, you are forced to more or less crawl into it, as one would a cave, and then wriggle around a bit to get comfortable, as if it’s a wellington boot. The driver’s seat is adjustable in every dimension except unfortunately, through time, and features a handy inflatable lumbar cushion.
Once inside the overall impression is one of cluttered spaceship, of slight claustrophobia, it feels a little as if you’re sitting in a jacuzzi, up to your chest in leather and plastic and clever cubby-holes and dials and switches. You are somehow restricted at every turn, by the poor visibility to the rear, by the massive front camera unit hidden behind the rear view mirror, itself over large and able to change colour in response to headlights behind at night.
One feels slightly disadvantaged, doomed even by this large blank spot at 10 o’clock when looking forward, if a meteor shower were to descend you wouldn’t see it coming. The driver really has become a part of a car like this, he’s not operating the machine, he has become it.
The car does assume it’s owner is too stupid to drive it. Sensors and cameras everywhere tell you where it sits in space, your speed (a number on a display because there is no conventional speedo), when an object is nearby, when something is overtaking, when you are leaving the lane, when the tyres are flat, when the oil is low, even when you are approaching a cyclist (an alarm goes off and the cabin gives a strange shudder). Still, at least I was able to proclaim to my wife that I can’t be going senile because I saw the cyclists up ahead before the car did!
So what does it look like? When clean, like a tray of jewels with seventeen inch alloys. It gleams seductively at you. From the side, it resembles a chisel with a rake on the windscreen that says it can’t wait for anything. From the front it’s identical to the Civic saloon – aggressive with headlights like a gunslingers eyes. But it drives like a soft, old slipper.
It was born to make long, relaxed, thousand mile journeys to Nice or Sicily with nineteen children and camping gear in the back, just don’t have a puncture because Mr Honda doesn’t give you a spare, just a pump and a bottle of goo. If you want a boot the size of the Albert Hall, and I do, then something has to go.
At five hundred pounds for a wing mirror (all those motors, heaters, sensors, LED’s and cameras inside), please don’t break down, or touch anything sharp with this car. And hopefully none of the motors/sensors/cameras/software/switches will ever fail, which of course the car encourages you to believe.
If they did, how on earth would you be able to adjust your seat? Indeed, it encourages one to rely on the information all the tech offers the driver, thus deskilling him. Does that make the car more intelligent than the driver? It would like to be, future incarnations by Mr. Honda probably will be and while it’s clear that soon the driving bit of driving will be done by the car as well, this car is probably much safer, if a ton and a half of steel moving at speed controlled only by a semi-intelligent human can ever be described as safe.