Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC

Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC front tracking
31 Jan, 2013 12:30pm Shane O’Donoghue

Suspension and steering changes make the 1.6 diesel the best handling Honda Civic in the range


This new 1.6-litre diesel model is the best Honda Civic you can buy right now. It makes the 2.2-litre i-DTEC all but superfluous thanks to its punchy power delivery and excellent fuel economy. Yet while it’s more powerful and more efficient than the new Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI, that car still sets the family hatchback class benchmarks when it comes to quality and refinement.

Honda has at last added a more economical version of the Civic diesel to its line-up, so how does it stack up against capable rivals on UK roads?

This 1.6-litre i-DTEC model is designed to tempt buyers away from the VW Golf 1.6 TDI and Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi, and it looks like a strong challenger. It’s taken Honda a long time to launch a diesel smaller than 2.2 litres, but the new engine’s figures suggest it’s been worth the wait.

CO2 emissions are 94g/km, meaning free road tax and low 13 per cent company car tax. The new diesel also promises 78.5mpg fuel economy, while producing a useful 118bhp and 300Nm of torque.

In comparison, the most efficient 1.6 TDI version of the new Golf will return 74.3mpg and emits 99g/km of CO2, while making do with just over 100bhp and 250Nm of torque. This power advantage is clear on the road, as the Civic is a stronger performer throughout the rev range.

In fact, it’s so impressive that buyers will probably think twice about going for the 2.2-litre. The 1.6 is a lot quieter than the larger engine, but it’s still nowhere near as refined as the Golf’s 1.6-litre.

To accommodate the lighter diesel (which is built in Swindon, Wilts), Honda’s engineers have tweaked the Civic’s suspension and steering settings, so this is now the sweetest model to drive.

The nose-heavy feel of the larger-engined i-DTEC car is replaced by sharp turn-in. The throttle is highly responsive and the steering pleasingly direct.

Until Honda releases its forthcoming dual-clutch automatic transmission, the only gearbox available is a six-speed manual. It’s 7kg lighter than the one used with the 2.2-litre engine and has reduced internal friction, which also helps the Civic to be more efficient.

Prices range from £19,400 for the basic SE model to £23,175 for the top-spec EX. That has all the bells and whistles, but even the entry-level SE version gets alloy wheels, climate control, electric windows and mirrors plus LED daytime running lights. There’s also enough safety kit to ensure a five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating for the Civic. The problem is that even the entry-level version of the five-door Golf 1.6 TDI is a whole lot more desirable – and it only costs £165 extra.

The Civic is considerably more spacious than the Volkswagen, however – especially its rear seats and boot, which swallows up to 477 litres of luggage. And the Honda also features unique and very practical ‘Magic Seats’, which flip up out of the way so you can carry large objects in place of rear passengers.

But small touches like that may not be enough to tempt the majority of buyers away from the class benchmark – particularly as Volkswagen is planning to launch an even more efficient BlueMotion diesel version of the new Golf later this year.

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Auto Express is turning into a sophisticated version of "101 Reason why you should always buy a Golf". Yes, I know that you are talking about a competitor here, but the shameless plugging of the Golf over and over again is getting tedious. When discussing other niches of the car market, AE is far, far better, so why the blind spot?

Leaves very little to be desired from the vw golf, the so called "benchmark" as per AE. from what I read, this car is a killer. I do not see refinement and quality as seriously lagging the vw golf. The civic is bigger, more efficient and looks much more modern than the super boring and conservative German? Finally, reliability should also come into play, and these Honda cars are rock solid.. I would like to read a proper comparison test.

Finally Honda brings the diesel that should've been here five years ago. The wheels turn very slowly in Japan. Stranage for a country that leads the world on so many technical fronts including hybrid and electric cars.

I've test driven the new Civic (though with the petrol 1.8) and was thoroughly disappointed with the car. The engine and gearbox was good as expected, but with the fuel tank under the front seats the driving position is set far too high. Visibility front and back is poor. The digital/analogue split instrumentation looks cheap and tacky, and I never got used to the exterior pyramid styling. As much as I wanted to like the Honda the new Civic is badly designed and can't stand comparison with the Golf except on reliability. If you don't want to chance a VAG car look at the Toyota Auris 1.6 petrol (their diesel isn't up to much) which seems good value in comparison.


GOLF, GOLF, GOLF! YAWN! Yes it's good but sooooo boring. The Civic doesn't get everything right but at least it has character. The Germans have aimed for perfection where as the Japanese have brought engineering excellence with a bit of soul.

Incredible boring VW golf mark 5 mark 6 mark 7 (people want more than this box you keep plugging ), The new 1.6 diesel civic drives great . Smooth plenty of power ,loads of style . These economy figures are just a bonus on top.

In fact, it’s so impressive that buyers will probably think twice about going for the 2.2-litre. The 1.6 is a lot quieter than the larger engine, but it’s still nowhere near as refined as the Golf’s 1.6-litre.
The VAG 1.6 TDI is renowned for being very unrefined and not as good as the Ford/PSA 1.6 TDCI/HDI, so I think they really are taking the love affair with the Golf a step too far. The Honda will also invariably a hell of a lot more reliable as well.

Test drove this and loved it, great to drive. Just one problem and that is Honda Finance - every other model is available on 0% finance. So, 2.2ex is thus £1000 cheaper over a 3 year deal. Call me cynical but the only reason for this can be to milk what they see as a cash cow. Deal breaker for me and anyone else with the sense to do check the sums.

On top of the fact that the civic is less boring than the golf, more practical and performs is a UK built car, employing the British public to put them together.....yet still many fall for ze German propaganda or feel they have to compete with the Jones'
A sturdier less cluttered dashboard, and an extra ton of sound deadening is not a reason for spending a premium on a VW/Audi/Seat/Skoda.

In today's congested roads, low end torque is key and Honda have at last realised that rowing the car along with the gear lever went out of fashion a decade ago. Let's hope their petrolengine derivatives soon catch up. Then their sales might revive.
Unfortunately the Civic is also flawed by the rear window styling and poor visibility.

The new Seat leon 1.6tdi is £17,300 or £16,300 on a PCP and the run out lean can be had for under £15k so the deals are out there the public just need to look, but prices are creeping up and quickly

People may moan about the Golf being boring and all the mags always going on about the great golf, but lets face it, the golf is the big seller and where all the other manufactures want to be.

When will Honda produce a car with style.
Even Gerry Anderson was designing better cars back in the 60s.

i hate it when a review points you back to a golf, which is problematic

Not so sure about "sophisticated".

It's all down to individual taste, surely? Did you buy a pile of Euro junk?

I've owned Volkswagens and Fords and I can say this. They are the most unreliable cars ever made. Until I switched to Toyota and Honda (wife has the Honda) I thought it was normal to have a car in at the mechanics on a monthly basis! Nothing ever goes wrong with the Jap cars. (sorry once the battery went flat but that was my fault). Drive around in the bush in Australia or Africa and see how many VWs or Fords you see. None. (unless it's a tourist from Europe broken down LOL)

VW popularity is proof that 80% of the world population are morons. Saying VW is great is like saying MacDonalds food is healthy because it's so popular...huh? I mean when do they ever work properly other than on the first test drive. And Ford. Geezez H Kreist don't get me started. I get in my Honda and I know with 99.999% probability I will get from A to B. No VW owners. Getting your car fixed 10 times a year is not normal!!

Well check out real life consumptions and youll see the civic with a 4.8 average vs 5.4 for the VW group variants. Honda has done it again but fails in the transmissions department by not offering still an automatic!

Too many niggles - wipers cross over at line of sight and leave a triangular smear, windows steam up easily, claimed mpg figures are nonsense, rear legroom restricted. Nice car spoilt by minor faults and overpriced. Bought new and changed after 1yr, now driving Hyundai ix35 with no complaints so far

Key specs

  • Price: £19,400
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
  • Power: 118bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
  • Top speed: 129mph
  • Economy: 78.5mpg
  • CO2: 94g/km
  • Equipment: Climate control, Magic Seats, alloy wheels, USB socket
  • On sale: Now