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.