Honda Civic review
The ninth-generation Honda Civic offers a softer look, better efficiency and lots of equipment to rival the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf
The latest Honda Civic is the ninth generation of a car that has sold more than 650,000 models in the UK since its introduction back in 1973. It rivals the Ford Focus and VW Golf, and gets an evolutionary look that rounds off the edges of its predecessor’s radical shape. No matter which of the four engines you choose, all Civics come fitted with a stop-start system – which shuts down the engine in traffic to save fuel – as well as an ECON button that adjusts throttle response and the air conditioning to improve fuel economy. The Civic is currently only available as a five-door hatchback (there is no three-door this time), but a more practical estate version has already been revealed in concept form at the Geneva Motor Show. The production car will look very similar when it appears at the Frankfurt show this September, before going on sale at the beginning of 2014. A Type-R performance hot hatch will begin testing at the Nurburgring in the autumn, but isn’t expected to arrive in showrooms until the end of 2015. It will be powered a 2.0-litre turbo with as much as 300bhp.
Our choice: Civic 1.6-litre i-DTEC ES
The previous-generation Honda Civic had a revolutionary look, but Honda has chosen evolution for this latest model. The focus has been on improving aerodynamics, so changes include a smoother, sleeker shape with curvy wheelarches and longer front and rear overhangs. LED lights run across the front and are standard across the range. The tail retains the split screen of its predecessor – with the lights incorporated into the split – while a windscreen wiper has been added. On the inside, the cabin material and switchgear has been improved and the digital dashboard simplified so that it's easier to read. The overall quality is higher than that of a Ford Focus or Kia Cee'd, but the cloth seats look cheap and the layout is still flawed - 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. There are four trim levels to choose from - SE, ES, EX and flagship EX GT – but even entry-level cars come equipped with automatic air-con, USB connectivity and 16-inch alloy wheels. ES adds luxuries like 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 strikes a good balance between fun and comfort. Thanks to new fluid-filled rear suspension bushes, it soaks up bumps almost as well as a Volkswagen Golf, while the new electric power steering system is smooth. It doesn’t have much feedback, though, and the weighting is very inconsistent, so a Focus is still more involving. Thanks to its slippery aerodynamics the Civic doesn’t suffer from wind noise, so it’s pretty quiet on the motorway. As for engines, the choices are 99bhp 1.4-litre and 140bhp 1.8-litre petrols, as well as 118bhp 1.6-litre and 148bhp 2.2-litre diesels. Every model comes with a smooth-shifting six-speed manual as standard, but a five-speed automatic is available as an option on the 1.8-litre model – but be aware that opting for the automatic ‘box means you have to go without the fuel-saving stop-start system. The 1.6 diesel engine’s useful 300Nm of torque helps clinch its crown as the best all-rounder - it offers smooth acceleration and good economy, too. It’s best to avoid the 1.8-litre petrol, though, as it needs lots of revs to perform at its best, at which point it can become quite noisy. The ride is considerably better than on the previous model, but it does still crash over potholes and rarely settles into a comfortable cruise - even on long motorway journeys.
If you’re looking for a car that won’t see the dealer any more than it has to, buy a Civic. The previous-generation car has always performed well in the Driver Power survey and, as lots of technology has been carried over straight from the old car, we fully expect the new car to do just the same. Plus, Honda finished a very impressive sixth as a brand in the 2012 results, ahead of Hyundai and Mercedes. As for safety, the Civic has a maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating. Every Civic comes fitted with a full compliment of airbags, as well as 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 current Civic is 4,300mm long, 2,065mm wide and 1,590mm tall, but even without these generous dimensions, Honda knows how to make the most of the space inside its cars - just take alook at the excellent Jazz supermini. And the new Civic carries over some Jazz-style technology from its predecessor, with a centrally mounted fuel tank that frees up space for rear seat passengers. Together with compact torsion beam rear suspension, there’s plenty of room for adults in the back, 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 is still there, and 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 luggage space (including 76 litres within an under-floor compartment), which is a massive 161 litres more than the Focus but 113 litres less than the new Skoda Octavia. The low boot lip makes loading easy but, although the twin-height floor is useful for extra storage, it comes at a price – the Civic doesn’t come with a 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.
The Civic has always been cheap to run, and this latest version is no different. Although Honda isn’t offering a hybrid model this time, all of the engines are economical. Honda claims you can get the 1.4-litre petrol to do 52.3mpg and emit 129g/km of CO2, while the 1.8 posts 48.7mpg and 137g/km. The 2.2-litre diesel, meanwhile, returns 67.3mpg and emits just 110g/km. However, it’s the 1.6-litre diesel that is the cheapest to run as it can return a Golf BlueMotion-rivalling mpg figure of 78.5 and emits only 94g/km of CO2, making it exempt from road tax. Also helping the Civic’s cause are insurance groupings that have dropped by up to five bands compared to the old car. 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.