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
First DriveHonda is ready to play the downsizing card against Ford Focus Ecoboost and the latest Vauxhall Astra with a 1.0-litre Civic
First DriveHonda's quirky hatchback gets styling and equipment tweaks for 2015, as well as this new Sport trim
What is it?
It's what has been missing from the Honda Civic line up for much too long, but the good news is that the new 118bhp, 221lb ft 1.6-litre turbodiesel will arrive in the UK at the end of 2012.
The all-new alloy unit is the lightest diesel plant in the world according to Honda, weighing roughly the same or less as an equivalent petrol motor. Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, the new Civic will sit beneath the 2.2-litre diesel model and will compete with the likes of the VW Golf Bluemotion, offering sub-100g/km CO2.
What's it like?
Extremely competitive and recommendable, if not outstanding. Power delivery is a little uneven, with the majority of the grunt arriving in a short burst, but there’s enough of a spread elsewhere that it will run at sub-1500rpm in a high gear around town comfortably, even if you’ll need to change down for any worthwhile acceleration.
At higher speeds it copes well, with the slick gearbox and tall ratios keeping the revs low even at higher cruising pace, though the Japanese-spec car that we tested wasn’t as refined at any speed as the best rivals, with a noticeable if subdued low-end dirge from the motor entering the cabin even when the engine wasn’t under much load.
Work it harder and it responds well, revving more freely than the 1.6 TDI unit regularly used across the Volkswagen group and generally feeling a little less strained under hard acceleration. The slick six-speed ‘box is a noticeable step-up, too.
Should I buy one?
We’d like to try a proper UK-spec car and see confirmed figures before giving it a definite thumbs up, but given that we know the Civic is now a more rounded and better-riding package it’s likely that this engine will finally make it really competitive across the board.
The refinement is our biggest concern, but it’s a niggling one that may improve by the time this model gets to our shores. If the prices are competitive this could easily be the pick of the range.
Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC
Price: £19,000 (est); Top speed: 120mph (est); 0-62mph: 10.5sec (est); Economy: 75mpg (est); Co2: 99gkm (est); Kerb weight: 1300kg (est); Engine type: 4cyl, 1600cc, turbodiesel; Power: 118bhp; Torque: 221lb ft; Gearbox: 6spd manual.