Honda Civic Hatchback review (2005-2011)
The superb Honda Civic makes all its rivals feel mundane.
Driving The Civic is available with two petrol engines, but it's the 2.2-litre i-CTDi diesel that's our favourite. This fantastic engine is free-revving, impressively refined and punchy, too. It remains our favourite diesel in the family hatchback class, and is preferable to the 1.8-litre petrol which is vocal in its mid-range and lacks torque which leads to downchanges on the motorway – but the slick, fast shift means changing gears is no chore. It is also economical and sprightly against the clock. The steering is sharp and, although it's not as much fun as a Ford Focus, it's neat, nimble and good to drive. Only on rougher tarmac does it become slightly nervous. The three-door takes on a sportier edge, and proves composed and agile in corners. Stability control is standard as well, and the system is unobtrusive.
Marketplace With a band of lights and reflectors running across the front and back, plus a cab-forward side profile, the Civic looks positively futuristic. Nothing comes close for visual impact. What’s more, Honda hasn't followed the trend for ever-bigger cars, as the Civic is 30mm shorter and 37mm lower than its predecessor, making it one of the smallest cars in the family hatch sector - although it does have a relatively long wheelbase. Three-door models take on an even sportier appearance than the five-door, and all models are built at Honda's Swindon plant. Three engines are mated to five trim levels (with a larger but less sporty range of trims offered in five-door guise), and rivals include the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf and Toyota Auris.
Owning The Civic's long wheelbase, plus the Jazz's trick of locating the fuel tank under the front seats, means heads and legs have plenty of room despite compact exterior dimensions. However, tiny rear doors - a direct consequence of the design - mean access to the back is really poor. But the seat folding mechanism can't be beaten, and at 485 litres with them up, no rival has a bigger boot. The loading lip is also low, even if the tailgate is heavy to operate. Rakish A-pillars block visibility at the front and rear vision is even worse due to a tiny rear window. And while Honda claims special water-repellent glass removes the need for a wiper, the lower screen still collects road dirt. As for the cabin, while it can initially be intimidating, you realise after a while how clever it is. There’s plenty of stowage, comfortable seats and comprehensive controls. However, you do sit a little high, the digital speedo is poorly placed and the stereo is a stretch. Equipment levels are good, complementing keen pricing, and fuel economy is praiseworthy, particularly with the diesel. This complements retained values that are excellent by family hatch standards.