The Honda Civic’s local introduction was one of the most anticipated launches of 2016, and the launch report was one of our top ten most popular stories last year. Half a year has passed, and the Civic FC is now a common sight on our roads.

So far, this observer has seen a much greater proportion of the Civic 1.5L Turbo compared to the entry-level, naturally-aspirated Civic 1.8S. A quick check with Honda Malaysia (HM) has confirmed that – the company has sold over 10,000 units of tenth-gen Civic so far (from its June 2016 launch till January 8) and of that total, 67% were Turbos. That’s a staggering amount of buyers opting for the top powertrain, which has surprised even HM.

The Civic has breathed new life in a once core segment that has seen buyers shift to SUVs and crossovers, and much of the hype was generated by the “VTEC Turbo” variant. Understandably so, as it’s the first mainstream Asian brand to go the downsized turbo route made popular by Continental makes. A forward-looking (and very evocative sounding) engine to go with the radical design might have been a killer combo for many. But two out of every three Civics sold? That’s unprecedented.

What about that overlooked Civic 1.8? As seen here, it gets that same eye-catching body, but without the Turbo’s 17-inch five-spoke rims. Instead, the 1.8 rolls on 16-inch wheels with 215/55 rubber. Only the rims differentiate it with the entry turbo variant, the 1.5TC – both use the same automatic halogen projector headlamps with LED daytime running lights. The top-spec 1.5TC-P shines bright with LED headlamps, LED fog lamps and chrome door handles.

The R-series SOHC NA engine is a carryover with improvements. It makes 141 PS at 6,500 rpm and 174 Nm of torque at 4,300 rpm. Retuned to match the more efficient CVT (over the old five-speed auto), fuel consumption and emissions have been improved over the previous Civic 1.8 FB.

Honda claims combined FC of 6.3 litres per 100 km (15.9 km/l). 0-100 km/h is done in 10.4 seconds. To compare, the 173 PS/ 220 Nm Turbo’s official FC rating is 17.2 km/l and it does the century sprint in 8.2 seconds.

Our base Civic is actually very well-stocked with kit, compared to the Thai-spec 1.8 we tried in early 2016. Some of the more prominent USPs are standard: remote engine start and walk away auto lock, a full colour digital LCD meter panel, steering audio buttons with electrostatic switch and electronic parking brake with auto brake hold – they’re all included.

Other goodies include keyless entry and push start, cruise control, a seven-inch touchscreen head unit with reverse camera and an eight-way powered driver’s seat. The only things it lacks compared to the top Turbo are leather seats, dual-zone air con and navigation. The 1.8S is priced at RM110,426, which is RM13,650 cheaper than the base Turbo and a massive RM21,457 less than the Turbo Premium.

Even before knowing the Malaysian 1.8S specs (much better than expected) and price advantage (large), this writer stuck his head out to prefer the NA-powered Civic. The Turbo, while fast and powerful enough, lacked a bit of sharpness for me.

“It’s better at ‘rolling starts’ than traffic light GPs and cut-and-thrust racing, a smooth operator that works best with a smooth driver. Of course, this isn’t at all an issue if you’re not expecting GTI-like sharpness from this family car,” I said of the Civic Turbo in May.

“For this reason, the 1.8L is my pick. Paired with the package-improving CVT and an all-round better car, the starter engine serves up more than adequate performance for a daily driver, and its basic amenities (Thai-spec car) serve this tech-averse writer well. If I were to have more power and speed, I’d like to feel the rush as well, and not just arrive there,” this writer argued.

That’s just me, of course. The lure and promise of “VTEC Turbo” has proven too strong for 67% of Civic buyers so far, and that’s completely understandable. Don’t dismiss the 1.8S without trying it out first, though – it’s quietly competent.