Hilton Holloway
12 November 2012

What is it?

This is the European Civic powered by the Honda’s long-awaited 1.6-litre, 94g/km, diesel engine. Both the car and the new engine will be made at Honda’s Swindon factory for export to mainland Europe.

Work on the new engine started around five years ago and it is a very big investment for the company, because it will sell primarily in Europe (although a lower powered version may also be sent to India), where Honda’s sales have collapsed to just 170,000 units per year. For the rest of the world, Honda is investing heavily in petrol-electric hybrids. It’s easy to forget, but the rest of the automotive world - especially Japan and the US - don’t care for diesel engines.

Honda says the engine is the lightest in class and has internal friction levels comparable with the best petrol engine. It gets 1800 bar injection (on the lower side by the latest standards), uses a small single turbo and gets a catalyst and DPF filter.

It is built around a new aluminium block which uses an open deck block (where the cylinder is surrounded by a continuous water jacket) and it also gets a radically smaller and lighter crankshaft. Compared to the 15.9kg crankshaft in the 2.2-litre Honda diesel, the unit in the new engine weighs 10.1kg - a 36 per cent reduction. The pistons have shorter skirts and are said to be 10 per cent lighter than other best-in-class pistons, both of which should make the engine quick and smoother revving.

Having separate crankshaft bearing caps in the lower block (they are integrated in the 2.2-litre engine) has also massively reduced radiated noise, according to the engineers. They also claim that, at 1500rpm, the engine has 40 per cent lower internal friction than a typical rival diesel engine. Impressively, it does without a balancer shaft. The Civic diesel also gets a new, 7kg lighter, six-speed manual gearbox which sits in a stiffer casing. This, and the 47kg saved over the heavier 2.2-litre engine, takes a noticeable 54kg out of the car’s nose.

What is it like?

Based on this limited first impression, pretty impressive. We were restricted to a few laps of Honda’s high speed oval at its Tochigi test facility, which is super-smooth after its re-build in the wake of the recent earthquake.

Pulling away from a standing start, the engine is clearly a diesel. Once we settled into a 70mph cruise around the bowl, however, the Civic proved to be pretty refined. And any noise that is produced is much less like the typical low-frequency diesel grumbles that are as much felt as heard.

At 60mph on the A419 near Swindon, Honda’s engineers say the front seats of the Civic are the least disturbed in the Golf class and on a par with some Mondeo-class diesels. Indeed, it’s not just down to the new engine. This model also has an active noise cancellation system, which uses a microphone in the roof lining and pumps out anti-noise via the sound-system.

The Civic feels very well-planted and stable and rode very well, although the track was exceptionally well-surfaced. The ‘box’s shift action is very slick, although it is pulling just over 2000rpm at 70mph in sixth. Luckily, the Civic is quiet enough for this not to be a problem and it underlines that the character of the engine is much more petrol-like and much less of a typical slogging diesel. The reduced weight in the car’s nose is also noticeable, making the front end keener to change direction. The whole car feels very well and tightly engineered.

Should I buy one?

Quite possibly. The Civic i-DTEC is light on its feet, potentially very economical and – as befits a company that is supreme in petrol engine technology – one of the least ‘diesel’ four cylinder diesel engines on sale. However, our short drive on a super-smooth test track means that that a definitive, real-world, judgment will have to wait until early December.

The upcoming Civic estate – which makes even better use of the Civic’s superb multi-folding rear seats – will be ideally suited to this engine. The Civic is something of an underrated car. This engine should allow it a much better showing in diesel-centric Europe.

Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC

Price: £19,400 0-62mph: 10sec Top speed: 124mph Economy: 83mpg (combined) CO2: 94g/km Kerb weight: 1346kg Engine type: turbocharged diesel, 1597cc Power: 118bhp at 4000rpm Torque: 221lb ft at 2000rpm Gearbox: Six-speed manual

Join the debate


What an interesting article

2 years 2 weeks ago

What an interesting article about the latest Honda diesel engine. Any word about the feel of the plastics on the dashboard. No seriously I've only seen one new Civic on the road. Maybe this diesel version will appeal to fleet sales now.



This engine appears to be

2 years 2 weeks ago

This engine appears to be very impressive. It ought to make the Civic far more competitive in the UK. Well done, Honda.

Obvious facelift treatment

2 years 2 weeks ago

Not a patch styling wise on the prev gen, which is a masterpiece externally at least.

I would have one (Type R) but the illusion of quality was instantly shattered when pulling the door handle. Not an oiled Smeg fridge experience as design would lead you to believe but squeezing a creaky plastic door handle hidden behind. Ruined it.

This model will be face lifted by changing the black panel under the front grille to body colour. If you've seen the touring car versions it makes a massive difference to the front end appeal.

The rest of it will still be a mess though, especially that rear end.



You're not stuck in traffic - you are traffic!!

This might be competitive but

2 years 2 weeks ago

This might be competitive but Honda have lost their restrained style.Honda,and indeed Ford should evolve their style like VW do with the Golf.It is little wonder the latest Civic and Focus models are not as popular.They do not drive with the same verve either,sadly.


2 years 2 weeks ago

I'm 6'3" and couldn''t get the drivers seat low enough in the showroom to be able to look below the windscreen header rail with sun visors up, view out the back equally dreadful.


No point in my trying to actually drive one!!

Cracking artical. Part of

2 years 2 weeks ago

Cracking artical.

Part of this will be down to Hilton's writing but part of this will be down to Honda who will have given a decent presentation of the tech spec, something a lot of manufacturers don't appear to do any more.

Interesting little engine but I can't help thinking when the wider press get hold of it they won't like it because of it's lack of diesel like power delivery. 



It's all about the twisties........

New Civic Diesel

2 years 2 weeks ago

Sounds like a good engine for mainstream diesel buyers, but my guess would be that poor sales is probably alot to do with the styling - the rear just looks awful.

Hope that is a typo on the tyre size - this power unit surely does not need 255/55 X15 tyres!

Although its trendy to kick

2 years 2 weeks ago

Although its trendy to kick Honda they are actually starting to box clever in some ways. Why 94g/km CO2 I hear you say? well  the threshold for 100% first year writing down allowance shifts from 110g/km to 95g/km in April next year, meaning the Civic still ducks under whilst the (also less powerful!) new Golf and Focus 1.6 diesels won't. This is powerful voodoo for fleet sales to big organisations and lease companies looking to kit out staff with decent cars cost effectively. Especially with these super low fuel consumption rates too.

I am wondering if they will squeeze a bit more out when they drop this in the CR-V, even in the lighter 2 wheel drive version I don't fancy 120bhp in something CR-V size much.


Intriguing car

2 years 2 weeks ago

I like Hondas. I'd like to try the diesel Accord too, having heard good things about it. And the Yanks get a pretty impressive new Accord now with decent V6's that we don't buy, so we won't get. Shame.

Only problem for me is the OTT interior which seems to rival the Focus for confusion and button count. Maybe the next version will be a little more minimal, but this one's far too Bobby Dazzler to be able to relax in.

Teg - am I missing something with your ironic spellin of artical!? I know what you mean though - Subaru gets similar flack for having a petrol-like diesel..

Excellent ...

2 years 2 weeks ago

Now that Honda has sorted out the engine, perhaps it can now put some decent clothes around it ... The exterior and interior is a complete mess ...

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Our Verdict

Honda Civic

The Honda Civic is an impressive achievement and a worthy rival to the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, but it isn't quite up to class-leading standards

Driven this week