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Car group tests

Honda Civic vs Skoda Octavia

Has the Type R’s arrival given the updated standard Civic a new lease of life? Here it faces the Skoda Octavia

The Honda Civic has been a staple of the company’s line-up for more than 40 years, but while the name has remained the same over that period, the model has evolved beyond all recognition. 

Best hatchbacks

Although it started out as a small city car, the latest version – now in its ninth generation – is one of the most spacious compact hatchbacks you can buy.

However, with so many tough rivals to take on in the class, Honda hasn’t rested on its laurels, so as well as launching a new Type R, the whole range has received some updates.

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Best family cars

Chief among these is the introduction of Sport trim, which combines some of the Type R’s drama with the low running costs of a less powerful engine. Here we try it with the advanced 1.6 i-DTEC diesel.

Honda isn’t the only brand to give its hatch an upgrade, because Skoda has made tweaks to the Octavia, too. It’s also powered by a 1.6-litre diesel, while SE Business spec should appeal to company car users – although it’s equally attractive to private buyers, too.

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Has Honda done enough to keep the Civic in the hunt for class honours, or will the Octavia keep it at bay? We put the pair head to head to find out...

Honda Civic review

Skoda Octavia review

Read individual reviews by clicking the links above, and scroll down to find out which sensible hatch wins this test...

Head-to-head

Access

The Octavia is nearly 30cm longer than the Civic, but most of the extra length is added behind the rear axle, as there’s only 5cm difference in wheelbase between the two. However, it’s clear that Honda has sacrificed the size of the back doors in pursuit of sporty styling, as they make access to the rear seats harder.

Eco modes

Both cars feature fuel-efficient driving modes. The Skoda can be switched between Eco, Comfort and Sport modes, while the Honda has a dedicated green button. It alters throttle response and illuminates the dash with blue light when you’re easy on the throttle.

Boot space

The Honda’s 477-litre boot has extra space under the false floor, which you can remove to load taller items under the parcel shelf. In the Octavia, the seatbacks are a long reach away, so Skoda’s added folding levers near the boot opening.

Verdict

1st place: Skoda Octavia

The Octavia is still one of the best compact family hatchbacks on the market. It has a breadth of talent that’s hard to beat, thanks to its spacious cabin, vast boot, engaging driving dynamics and low running costs. The 1.6 TDI isn’t going to set the world on fire with its performance, but in everyday driving it’s more than capable and only really struggles at high speeds.

2nd place: Honda Civic

While the Civic is a decent compact hatch, there are too many compromises to be made for it to secure victory here. Back-seat space isn’t great, while the driving experience is a bit of a letdown when compared to the sharp and agile Skoda’s. But the biggest stumbling block is price. If Honda could knock £1,000 off and throw in sat-nav for free, the car would be a lot more tempting.

Other options in this category…

SEAT Leon 1.6 TDI SE Technology Pack

Price: £20,485 Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 108bhp

If the Octavia doesn’t look sporty enough for you, then the Leon is a great alternative. It uses the same TDI diesel, and while it’s not as roomy, the Technology Pack adds sat-nav, DAB radio and excellent LED headlights.

Hyundai i30 1.6 CRDi SE Nav

Price: £19,495 Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 108bhp

The i30 has just been given a fresher look and cleaner engines. Emissions of 94g/km place it in the 16 per cent Benefit in Kind bracket, while a lower price and longer kit list make it more attractive than the Civic. Plus, Hyundai’s five-year warranty backs it up.

Key specs:

 Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI SE BusinessHonda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC Sport
On the road price/total as tested£19,650/£23,500£20,820/£21,955
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£9,019/45.9%£9,015/43.3%
Depreciation£10,631£11,805
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£666/£1,333£706/£1,412
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,192/£1,986£1,334/£2,224
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost14/£327/A/£015/£300/A/£0
Servicing costs£479 (3yrs)£500 (5yrs)
   
Length/wheelbase4,659/2,686mm4,370/2,595mm
Height/width1,461/1,814mm1,470/1,770mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,598cc4cyl in-line/1,597cc
Peak power/revs104/3,200 bhp/rpm118/4,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs250/1,500 Nm/rpm300/2,000 Nm/rpm
Transmission5-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel50 litres/£10050 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down)590/1,580 litres477/1,378 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,230/625/1,500kg1,307/445/1,400kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient10.4 metres/0.29Cd11.0 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (90,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable miles/135Variable miles/196
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos3rd/5th*18th/2nd*
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars93/86/66/5 (2013)94/83/69/5 (2012)
   
0-60/30-70mph10.5/10.3 seconds9.2/8.9 seconds
30-50mph in 3rd/4th4.5/7.5 seconds4.0/5.9 seconds
50-70mph in 5th/6th9.7 seconds/N/A7.4/9.4 seconds
Top speed/rpm at 70mph122mph/2,200rpm129mph/2,000rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph51.6/36.6/10.2m50.5/32.4/9.4m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph66/47/61/67dB67/48/63/69dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range55.2/12.1/607 miles49.3/10.8/542 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined64.2/83.1/74.3mpg68.9/80.7/76.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined14.1/18.3/16.3mpl15.2/17.8/16.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket137/99g/km/17%154/98g/km/17%
   
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSeven/yes/rear/£300Six/yes/yes/yes
Auto/stability/cruise control£1,250/yes/yesNo/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/no/£250Yes/no/no
Met paint/xenon lights/keyless go£535/£970/£400£525/no/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yes£610/yes/yes/yes
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