Honda Civic First Drive Review

European Civic launch drive in Spain

2017 Honda Civic
The 2017 Honda Civic, arriving in Ireland in March

There’s a new Honda Civic landing in Ireland next month. This is the tenth generation Civic and is the result of one of Honda’s most ambitious new model development plans in the brand’s history. Honda speak about a ‘dynamic rejuvenation’ of the Civic, and are boldly aiming for the best in class.

Part of the Civic’s new character is a sportier design. Even entry models into the range look ready for the track with pronounced wheel arches, an aggressive noise, slim, swept back headlamps and large intakes set in the bumpers front and back. There is no hatchback out there that looks like this, so the Civic really has the capacity to stand out and be noticed.

New Civic has been engineered with a renewed focus on rewarding driving dynamics and sits on a new lightweight platform. 16kg has been shaved off the body weight, while the overall rigidity has been stiffened by 41%. The centre of gravity has been lowered and the driver now sits lower in the car. The suspension set-up has also been tweaked for a better balance between comfort and tight handling. There are MacPherson struts at the front and a new independent multi-link rear suspension at the back.

2017 Honda Civic
The new Honda Civic has been engineered to deliver a more rewarding driving experience

The new Honda Civic is longer, wider and lower than the car it replaces, and the new platform has boosted interior space. Front shoulder room has been increased by 10mm, and space between the front seats has increased by 30mm. There is 95mm more legroom in the back.

The interior design has also been vastly improved with a simple, horizontal design and some more plush cabin material finishes. The second generation Honda Connect infotainment system is standard on all but the base model, and is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

For this new model launch, Honda is debuting two new turbo petrol engines. The new 1.0-litre VTEC Turbo is a three cylinder unit producing 127hp and is likely to be popular for its low entry price into the Civic range, low emissions (110g CO2) and good fuel economy (up to 4.8l/100km). A larger 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo will also be available at launch. This four cylinder unit produces 180hp, with emissions of 133g of CO2 and fuel economy of up to 5.8l/100km. A 1.6-litre diesel will join the Civic range at the end of the year and a high performance Type R is also on the way.

At the European launch in Barcelona we had the opportunity to sample both engines with 6-speed manual and CVT automatic gearboxes.

2017 Honda Civic
The Honda Civic has a new interior with a better design and improved quality

The 1.0-litre (from €23,750) is one of the most powerful 1.0-litres in its class and is responsive to the throttle with reasonable refinement, though it does get noisy under hard acceleration. The four cylinder 1.5-litre engine (from €28,550) feels more even, flexible and refined, though the extra premium for this engine means it’s likely that the 1.0-litre will find more buyers. Yet it is a joy to drive, and transforms this car into something more of a warm hatch. The CVT gearbox has been improved for this generation Civic, but it is more successful when paired with the 1.5-litre engine, becoming noisy and strained at low speeds in the 1.0-litre VTEC. The 6-speed manuals work well and are pleasant to use.

On the road, the Civic feels more than ever like a real driver’s car with more agility in corners and direct steering that makes it good fun to drive. The suspension is well-tuned for comfort yet the car feels utterly composed and balanced through corners. The adaptive dampers on the 1.5-litre model driven at the launch improved things even a little more. Honda has added more sound insulation around the car and refinement at cruising speed is excellent.

When the new Honda Civic goes on sale here next month, Honda will be leading the way in terms of the suite of safety equipment that is standard on the car. Honda Sensing includes sophisticated safety tech that puts the car head and shoulders above rivals including a collision mitigation braking system, a forward collision warning, a lane keep assist, a lane departure warning, a road departure mitigation, intelligent speed limiter, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and low speed following.

For the Irish market, both the 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre engine will be available from launch. The 1.0-litre starts at €23,750 for ‘Smart’ trim but comes well equipped with the Honda Sensing suite of safety tech, Bluetooth, parking sensors, climate control and 16” alloys. For €26,250, buyers can upgrade with a Smart Plus Pack that adds the Honda Connect infotainment system with navigation, rear parking camera, dual zone climate control, 17” alloys and front fog lights.

2017 Honda Civic
The Honda Civic will be available in Ireland from €23,750

The entry price for the 1.5-litre turbo petrol is €28,550 in ‘S Design’ trim and includes the Honda Sensing suite of safety equipment. This car looks sportier with a centrally mounted double exhaust, 17” alloys and extra sills on the front, rear and sides. LED headlights are also included as standard along with Honda Connect, rear parking camera, and dual zone climate control. The GT Pack (€30,750) adds adaptive dampers, a glass roof, keyless entry and start, heated front seats and a blind spot monitor with cross traffic monitor. There is also the option of a Prestige Pack (€32,550) that is a more ‘luxurious’ version and does without the double exhaust.

Honda Ireland are keen to use this new launch as an opportunity to reposition Civic in the market and urge buyers to rethink what they know about Civic, probably Honda’s most synonymous and well-known brand within their product range, but one that has been outshone by rivals of late. But from our time driving the car in Spain, we can say that the Honda Civic has evolved into something very likeable indeed.

Caroline Kidd

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