From £15,760
Quieter and smoother than the diesel version and drives better. It’s thirsty when pushed, though.

Our Verdict

Honda Civic
The ninth generation of Honda’s venerable hatch has moved upmarket, although the styling is divisive

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

YOU MAY NOT think 1.8-litre petrol four-cylinder engines are very important any more, what with the rise and rise of diesel power as the default choice.However, Honda reckons they are – it says this new 1799cc engine is going to be the big seller in the Civic, while new company car tax rules could take the tax advantage away from the black stuff. And this 1.8 is our first taste of the new Civic in the UK, the country where it’s built.Under a wintry British sky it looks extraordinary, in the same way the original Focus did when it first appeared, with its glittering nose and unexpected geometric detailing. People double take when they see it.Honda makes some brave claims for this 1.8-litre engine, ‘the economy of a 1.6 with the performance of a 2.0-litre’ being one of them.There isn’t a 1.6 Civic, so this is the direct rival for the big-selling 1.6 Golf and Ford Focus models. It’s considerably more lively than either of those two, if not as quiet at idle as the VW’s engine.At low revs, it’s pretty much what you would expect from a small-capacity petrol engine – adequate, but nothing special. But where it works is when you fully open the throttle. It pulls and pulls and pulls – sixth at 45mph, third at 85mph, whatever.And this makes it very good on motorways, with masses of flexibility and overtaking ability – as much as a 2.0-litre, in fact. It’s quieter than Honda’s rather noisy diesel, too. But at high motorway speeds, economy plummets into the mid-20s.It also dispenses with the diesel’s overstrong self-centring steering, for a smoother, more progressive helm. But it suffers from the same fragile, jiggly and noisy ride at anything below 40mph. This trait marked the diesel down in our group test last week, and was made even more noticeable by poor quality British roads.As an overall package, though, the 1.8-litre petrol car is very good – more refined and a smoother drive than the diesel, with significantly more shove than its 1.6-litre-engined rivals. It looks as though petrol could be the way forward after all.Dan Stevens

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka