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, an alternative to the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, has proved to be a popular choice in the UK with 650,000 models being sold since it arrived back in 1973. Although it may not be as exciting to drive as it rivals, the Civic does 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
Arguably one of the best looking hatchbacks, the previous Honda Civic was so far removed from anything we’d previously seen from the Japanese manufacturer. The updated mode retains its space age looks but adds black accents on the front and rear, while white interior stitching has been added inside, too.
LED lights are now standard and the distinctive rear split screen remains in this model, but this time a windscreen wiper has been added. 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.
We’ve already seen the extreme Honda Civic Type R but we are yet to drive it. It’s marked out by its huge rear wing, bulging wheelarches and large alloy wheels.
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 2014 update saw some improvements to the car's front and rear dampers to make it better to drive and more comfortable on the move, but the changes are very small and some buyers may struggle to notice any difference. The new electric power steering system is smooth but it doesn’t have much feel at higher speeds. The Ford Focus offers a more engaging 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 is the best option in terms of performance and efficiency - it has plenty of pulling power on the road and Honda claims you’ll be able to return over 78mpg. We’d advise avoiding 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.
Honda has a very good reputation for reliability, with the manufacturer finishing sixth out of 32 brands in the 2013 Driver Power satisfaction survey. Results for the 2014 Driver Power survey aren’t too far away and we’d expect Honda to score as well as ever.
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 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 and bigger than the 380-litre offering from the VW Golf.
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.
The Honda Civic's dimensions are 4,300mm long, 2,065mm wide and 1,590mm tall so it's quite a size, but the huge boot does eat into passenger space slightly. The gradually sloping roofline limits headroom for those in the rear and the rear bench is a little narrow, making it difficult to carry three adults in comfort.
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 78.5mpg and emits only 94g/km of CO2. It’s definitely the engine to go for if you look to keep an eye on running costs.
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.