I had just parked the Honda Civic on a city street and was getting out to admire my handy work when a passer-by nodded in the car’s direction while speaking on his mobile phone and said “gorgeous car”. That doesn’t happen very often, not least when driving a sub-€25,000 mass market hatchback.
But the Honda Civic had more surprises in store for me aside from avant-garde looks. Read on.
The Honda Civic is a little bit of a Marmite car – you will love the way it looks or you will seriously dislike it (see more photos here). It’s sharp and angular and looks like nothing else in its class, bringing a futuristic and original look to the hatchback segment. The current model is lower and wider than the previous model and has been designed with aerodynamic efficiency in mind – the result is a sporty, athletic profile. LED daytime running lights and 16” inch alloys fitted as standard add to the dynamism. The downside of the Civic’s unusual exterior design is that the rear spoiler splits your view out the rear window and visibility is poor towards the rear corners of the car.
Inspiration for the Civic’s interior came from cockpits of jet fighter planes and race cars and it shows – the instruments feel like they wrap around the driver’s seat and the futuristic look continues inside with attractive indigo illuminated dials and digital displays to inform you of vehicle information. While there are a lot of hard plastics about, the quality of the cabin is very good and the build quality is what you would expect from a Japanese hatchback. But it can’t match the Volkswagen Golf for classy feel and straightforward, functional layout. Again if you like “different”, then you will probably adore the interior of the Civic.
It is very comfortable inside and spacious with useful storage spaces dotted throughout. The boot is big and deep – 401 litres in addition to a 76 litre under floor compartment that brings the total volume to 477 litres. However, there is no spare wheel – the Civic instead comes with a tyre repair kit as standard. The rear doors open at 90⁰, handy for accessing the rear seats, and the rear seats can be folded down or rearranged in a variety of ways thanks to Honda’s innovative “Magic Seats”. You can even flip up the rear seat cushions to carry tall objects. The practicality puts some other hatchs to shame.
The new 1.6 litre i-DTEC diesel engine has transformed the Honda Civic and the low emissions make it ideal for the Irish market. It’s an excellent engine, both exceptionally frugal (78mpg) and powerful (120bhp). It never feels under pressure and it’s easy to keep the car in its power band. And it’s quiet!
There is an enjoyable lightness to the steering and the Civic is as easy to drive on the motorway as it is in town. The Civic has a new suspension that soaks up the bumps in the road well while it still feels sporty and agile if you want to throw it around corners at the weekends. It stayed settled for me over some seriously rough roads and while it may lack some of the steering feel and preciseness that makes a rival Ford Focus sparkle in this department, it is still a lot of fun to drive when you match it to that powerful, smooth 1.6 litre diesel engine and a snappy six speed manual gearbox.
The official economy figure is an amazing 78mpg and the 1.6 i-DTEC engine comes fitted with fuel saving start stop technology as standard. The Honda Civic has been designed with fuel efficiency in mind and the diesel model even gets little gills on the rear wings to enhance air flow over the sleek body. The addition of an econometer in the driver’s line of vision that advises you on how your driving style is impacting fuel economy by changing blue to green when the car is being driven economically is further evidence that fuel efficiency was at the forefront of the engineer’s minds when building this car.
There are three trim levels available on the 1.6 litre i-DTEC Civic: Comfort, Sport and Executive. Comfort models get Bluetooth, six airbags, alarm, remote central locking, air conditioning, LED daytime running lights, 16″ alloy wheels, Hill Start Assist, electric front and rear windows and steering wheel mounted audio controls.
Sport trim adds dual zone air conditioning, auto lights/wipers, front and rear parking sensors, rear parking camera, cruise control and speed limiter, front fog lamps, leather steering wheel and gear knob and alloy pedals.
Executive trim adds leather interior, heated front seats, glass roof, and satellite navigation and colour touchscreen.
The Honda Civic is a cool hatchback that deserves your attention. It’s very practical but don’t confuse that with boring. You can have a bit of fun with this and it’s as enjoyable to drive as it is to look at. And the new diesel engine is real triumph, combining great performance with refinement and economy.
Model tested: Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC Comfort
Price: €24,195 (Range starts at €21,895)
Engine: 1.6 litre, turbocharged four cylinder diesel
0-100km/h: 10.5 seconds
Economy: 78.5mpg (3.6l/100km)
CO2 emissions: 94g/km
Tax band: A2 (€180 per year)