Honda Civic review
The Honda Civic offers lots of equipment and some efficient engines to rival the Ford Focus and VW Golf
The Honda Civic has proved very popular in the UK, selling over 650,000 models since it was introduced in 1973. It rivals two of the top-selling models in the country, the Ford Focus and VW Golf, and unfortunately it can't quite match the Focus for driving enjoyment or the Golf for sheer quality. It does, however, have an incredible reputation for reliability. There are four engines to choose from, kicking off with a frugal 1.6 diesel offering 78.5mpg and extending up to the strong 1.8 i-VTEC petrol.
Stop-start comes fitted as standard on all Civic models, shutting down the engine when you stop to save fuel. An ECON button is also standard, which adjusts throttle response and the car's air-con usage to improve fuel economy.
There's no three-door model, so the Honda Civic is five-door only. There's another option for those who want more practicality, too - the Honda Civic Tourer is actually an excellent estate and has a huge 624-litre boot.
A new Honda Civic Type R powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is also in the works for those after hot hatchback thrills, but it's not due on sale until 2015.
Our choice: Civic 1.6-litre i-DTEC ES
The previous Honda Civic looked radically different to anything we'd seen from the company before, but this new version looks very similar - it's evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
Improving the aerodynamics of the car has been a focus, so changes include a smoother, sleeker shape with curvy wheelarches and longer front and rear overhangs. LED lights are standard, too.
The distinctive split screen remains in this model, but this time a windscreen wiper has been added. A 2013 update to the car added a gloss black insert in the grille, improved cabin materials and switchgear and a simplified digital dashboard.
It's better quality overall than the Ford Focus or Kia Cee'd, but it doesn't feel as upmarket as a Golf and the layout is odd. Depending on your seating position the steering wheel blocks the speedometer and the various screens still reflect in the windscreen at night, which can be distracting.
All models (spec levels include SE, ES, EX and flagship EX GT) come equipped with automatic air-con, USB connectivity and 16-inch alloy wheels. ES adds accessories such as cruise control, a parking camera, front fog lights, dual-zone climate control and Bluetooth, while top-of-the-range EX GT cars get a panoramic sunroof, privacy glass and 17-inch alloys.
The new Honda Civic Type R is expected to look pretty extreme compared to the normal car, with a huge rear wing, quad exhausts and big wheelarches giving it a very aggressive appearance.
The Honda Civic's fluid-filled rear suspension bushes mean the ride is nice and smooth, and it's almost as comfortable on UK roads as the Volkswagen Golf. Thanks to its slippery aerodynamics the Civic doesn’t suffer from wind noise, so it’s pretty quiet on the motorway.
A 2013 update saw some improvements to the car's suspension to make it better to drive, but the changes are very small and most buyers won't notice any difference. The new electric power steering system is smooth but it doesn’t have much feedback, and the weighting is very inconsistent. That means a Focus is much more involving to drive.
As for engines, the choices are 99bhp 1.4-litre i-VTEC and 140bhp 1.8-litre i-VTEC petrols, as well as 118bhp 1.6-litre i-DTEC and 148bhp 2.2-litre i-DTEC diesels. All models come with a smooth-shifting six-speed manual as standard, but a five-speed automatic is available as an option on 1.8-litre i-VTEC models. Do be aware that opting for the automatic box means you have to go without the fuel-saving stop-start system, though.
The 1.6 i-DTEC diesel engine’s 300Nm of torque means we think it's the best engine to go for - it has plenty of pulling power on the road and good economy, too. Avoid the 1.8-litre V-TEC petrol, as it needs to be revved quite hard to perform well, which gets noisy.
The new Honda Civic Type R will bring more power to the range in 2015, and will likely be a fan favourite with hot hatch enthusiasts - just like previous Type Rs.
The Honda Civic has a great reputation for reliability, and this new model won't disappoint hopeful owners, either. Honda finished in sixth out of 32 manufactures in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, and we expect the Civic to score highly in the next survey - it's based heavily on the very reliable previous model.
As for safety, the Civic has a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating. That's partly because all Civics are fitted with a LED daytime running lights, ESP and ABS as standard. EX and EX GT models also get adaptive cruise control and a Collision Mitigation Braking System, which uses radar to detect imminent collisions at low speeds.
The Honda Civic's dimensions are 4,300mm long, 2,065mm wide and 1,590mm tall so it's quite a size, but even without its generous bulk, Honda knows how to make the most of the space inside its cars. A centrally mounted fuel tank that frees up room for rear seat passengers means legroom is good, but headroom will still be a problem for taller passengers and the narrow door openings make access more difficult than it should be.
The clever ‘Magic Seat’ rear bench means that you can fold the seats flat when you want to carry longer items, or flip the seats up cinema-style when you want to transport taller loads. The boot offers 477 litres of space (including 76 litres within an under-floor compartment), which is a massive 161 litres more than the Ford Focus but 113 litres less than the larger Skoda Octavia.
The low loading lip makes it easy to load big items into the car, but there's no spare wheel. And while thin A-pillars make forward visibility good, chunky rear pillars mean reversing is awkward. Plus, although the split rear screen has been lowered, it still interferes with your view out of the back.
There's no hybrid model of the Civic, but the diesel engines do a good job of keeping running costs as low as possible. The petrol engines are decent as well - the 1.4-litre i-VTEC petrol will return 52.3mpg and emits 129g/km of CO2, while the 1.8 i-VTEC gets 48.7mpg and 137g/km.
The 2.2-litre i-DTEC diesel returns 67.3mpg and emits just 110g/km. However, it’s the 1.6-litre diesel that is the cheapest Civic to run as it can return a Golf BlueMotion-rivalling mpg figure of 78.5 and emits only 94g/km of CO2.
The most recent Honda Civic is cheaper to insure than the previous model thanks to lower insurance groups, and with strong residual values across the range, you’ll get a lot of your money back come resale time despite the lack of an extended warranty.