Honda Civic 1.4 i-VTEC SE

Base hatch has lots to offer those on a budget.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The entry-level model in a range can often feel like the poor relation – that’s not the case with this 1.4-litre Civic. It may not be very fast but it’s smooth, likes to be revved and is a lot of fun to drive. Add in low running costs and you’ve got a fine family car on a budget.

Owners love their Honda Civics! The compact family hatchback has scored highly for reliability and driver satisfaction in our Driver Power survey – it came 15th overall in 2008. And now there’s a new entry-level model to enjoy, too.

This is the cheapest five-door in the line-up – the 1.4 i-VTEC SE – and it weighs in at £14,225. Producing 99bhp and 127Nm of torque, it’s no hot hatch, but still impresses with its refinement.

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

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The benchmark sprint from 0-62mph is completed in 13seconds, and with peak power and torque arriving high in the rev range, the engine needs to be worked hard to get the best performance – although this is a task it relishes.

The latest i-VTEC unit - new for this year - stays smooth all the way to the red line. It’s mated to a snappy six-speed manual transmission which provides quick changes. As a result, extracting all the performance available from this Civic is great fun.

If you’re doing a lot of motorway miles, the torquey 2.2-litre diesel model is likely to be a better bet. But the 1.4-litre is still remarkably economical, returning nearly 50mpg on the combined cycle. It also delivers precise, responsive steering, as well as a firm but compliant ride and plenty of grip – the Honda very nearly matches Ford’s class-leading Focus for great dynamics.

The 1.4 gets the new 2009 Civic’s redesigned front end, which incorporates a fresh grille. Inside it’s business as usual, though, with that striking split dashboard.

Material quality is excellent, as is the amount of equipment included as standard. Even though this is a base model, it still comes with climate control and alloy wheels.

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