Honda Civic review - Engines, performance and drive
The Honda Civic’s hybrid engine prioritises efficiency, but performance is still strong compared with rivals
While you won’t be setting any lap records like the Honda Civic Type R hot hatch, the standard Civic is still very satisfying to drive.
Find yourself on a more challenging A or B-road, and the Civic is pleasingly rewarding to drive. The front end feels pointy, with plenty of grip, and the weighty steering and good body control only add to the sense of agility.
The suspension tuning feels similar to what we’ve experienced in the Ford Focus (particularly ST-Line models), being just the right side of firm. Yes, it can feel a little fidgety on broken or uneven roads at low speeds, but when you get out of town, its excellent tuning takes the edge off sharp bumps or deep potholes well. At motorway speeds, the Civic feels supremely stable and avoids feeling floaty. The only true downside to the driving experience is the significant road noise generated by the large 18-inch wheels and wide tyres.
Like many electric cars, you can increase or decrease the strength of the regenerative braking system using paddles behind the steering wheel. You’ll notice the system working because it varies how quickly the vehicle slows when lifting the accelerator. The system isn’t strong enough for one-pedal driving, like you’ll find in a Nissan equipped with an e-Pedal system, but you’ll still get some satisfaction from using the regen to slow you down for a roundabout or help you filter in traffic without needing the brakes. We found this setting particularly handy around town and will probably save you money on replacement brake discs and pads in the long run. When you need them, the brakes feel strong and have a reassuring pedal feel.
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The e-CVT transmission is smooth and works well, particularly during in-town driving, where the electric motor provides drive to the wheels.
0-62mph acceleration and top speed
Called e:HEV, this hybrid set-up is similar to what you’ll find in the Honda ZR-V and Honda CR-V. It includes a small lithium-ion battery pack, two electric motors and a 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle petrol engine. The hybrid system shifts between electric, engine power, or a combination of the two for maximum efficiency.
The e:HEV hybrid is straightforward to use, but a lot is happening behind the scenes. That 2.0-litre engine mostly works as a generator for the electricity that powers the electric motor driving the wheels. The upshot is you get an electric car's smooth, jerk-free progress, and the instant power of the electric motor makes the Civic feel sprightly at low speeds. Any electricity left over when the engine is on charges a modest 1.06kWh battery. That battery can allow you to drive for short distances at low speeds around town without using the engine if it has enough charge.
At higher speeds, the engine kicks in to generate more power, and the battery will provide a power boost when you need to accelerate quickly. The system always feels alert when you’re nipping into gaps in the traffic. Throttle response is strong, with none of the hesitancy we’ve experienced in the Dacia Jogger with its E-Tech hybrid system when asking for more power. Accelerating up to the national speed limit, the Civic feels quick; 0-62mph takes 7.9 seconds.
At motorway speeds, the engine is connected to the wheels in a fixed gear ratio. Think of it like putting a regular petrol or diesel car into top gear, with the benefit of this being that unlike a Toyota Corolla with its e-CVT system, which sends the revs soaring when you need to accelerate, the Honda system doesn’t, and behaves much like a normal automatic gearbox.
In this review
- 1Honda Civic reviewThe hybrid-powered Honda Civic is a frugal, well-equipped family hatchback that really impresses
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingThe Honda Civic’s hybrid engine prioritises efficiency, but performance is still strong compared with rivals
- 3MPG, CO2 and running costsGreat real-world fuel economy and solid residual values for the Honda Civic, although insurance costs are a little high
- 4Interior, design and technologyA simpler exterior design, a quality interior, plus generous standard kit help the Honda Civic stand out in a competitive hatchback market
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceMore practical than some of its hybrid rivals, the Honda Civic is an appealing family choice
- 6Reliability and safetyThe Honda Civic features excellent levels of standard safety kit, while Driver Power customer feedback is positive