Honda Civic 2.2 i-CTDi EX

Space-age styling and practical cabin are a tough combination to beat

  • Funky, unique styling, user-friendly cabin, low loading lip, first-class engine
  • Tight rear access, curved back screen collects dirt, less supple ride than Ford

Unlike the Focus, the latest Civic is completely different to the model it replaced. Honda was keen to attract younger buyers and brush off the previous car’s dull image, so the designers started with a blank sheet of paper and some brave ideas. The result is a unique design that’s a break from the mould – even the fresh looks of the new Ford appear pretty pedestrian alongside the Civic.

There’s plenty to catch the eye, but it’s the small details, such as the hidden rear door handles and neatly sculpted front ones, which are most pleasing. We’re certainly big fans of the styling. It’s not to all tastes, but there’s no denying that it has visual impact.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the previous-generation Civic

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The same can be said of the interior, which is equally as futuristic. The dash features something that Honda calls the Dual Link Concept, which places the most important driver information up high, while secondary controls are below. This means you’ll find the ventilation and stereo controls at the same level as the steering wheel, so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.

The blue-lit digital dash creates a 3D effect, and along with the central speedo, is a well executed piece of modern design. The three-spoke multifunction steering wheel looks and feels great, and so does the gearlever. Overall, the quality of materials, including the sports upholstery, and robust build really impress.

But there’s more to the Civic than simply style – it’s practical, too. As with the Jazz supermini, the fuel tank sits under the front chairs, so not only is the rear very spacious, there is extra storage under the back seats.

Cleverly, they fold flat in one go, or alternatively the bases can be lifted up. This is an area where the Focus seems old-fashioned in comparison. There are gripes, such as the poor rear visibility, while the A-pillars hamper the view at junctions, but overall the Civic has one of the best interiors around.

We think Honda’s 2.2-litre i-CTDi engine is first-class, too. The all-aluminium unit is quieter and more refined than the Ford powerplant, and its power delivery is smoother, with less turbo lag and a free-revving nature. This makes it relaxing to drive in traffic and very hushed on the motorway. A torque advantage gives it stronger in-gear performance and helps the Civic to feel more responsive than the Ford.

When it comes to handling, the Honda is closely matched with its rival. Agile and surefooted, it corners with confidence, and the precise steering provides good feedback. On twisting roads, both cars feel stable, but the Civic has a slight advantage in terms of body control, although the brakes could do with more bite.

The ride on the motorway is impressively composed, yet the damping often transmits shocks from potholes into the cabin, so overall the Honda doesn’t come across as being quite as supple as the Ford.

We used a Civic ES in our pictures, but the EX model comes with sat-nav, Bluetooth phone connectivity, cruise and climate control all as standard – to equip the Focus to the same level would push the cost up by around £2,000.

So although the Civic appears slightly more expensive on paper, it actually represents good value for money, especially considering its all-round quality and Honda’s reputation for reliability. Better fuel economy and stronger residuals can’t be ignored either.

Details

Price: £18,467Model tested: Honda Civic i-CTDi EXChart position: 1WHY: The Civic is unique inside and out, while its diesel is one of the most impressive engines around

Economy

The Civic comes out on top for fuel economy. In its time with us, it averaged 44.2mpg. The range isn’t as long though; the i-CTDi goes 486 miles between fill-ups.

Residuals

Unique styling and strong reliability make the Civic sought after used. As a result, it holds on to an impressive 47.8 per cent – or £8,827 – of its price when new.

Servicing

Over three years, the Civic will set you back £710 to maintain, but the quality of Honda’s dealers is superb. The firm finished a commendable second in Driver Power 2007.

Tax

As with the Focus, the Civic qualifies in the lowest tax bracket for diesels. But as it costs £172 more to buy, business users on the lower rate will pay £731 a year to the Treasury.

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