Mark Tisshaw
1 February 2013

What is it?

Our first steer on UK roads in a Honda Civic you’d consider buying with your head as well as your heart: the 1.6 turbodiesel-powered Civic, with wallet-friendly 78.5mpg and 94g/km headline economy and emissions figures.

Truth is, at present the Civic’s oddball looks would instantly turn off many looking for an economy-minded hatchback, and even if they win you over, only petrol engines and a larger 2.2-litre turbodiesel could be found in the line-up until now.

That’s all changed with the arrival of the new smaller engine, which has been five years in the making.

Honda hopes the new engine’s economy figures and performance will thrust the Civic back into the heartland hatchback arena in the UK and the rest of Europe.

What is it like?

It’s only a couple of weeks since we drove the car on the smoother and better-maintained roads in and around Nice, France. There, the lighter weight of the engine, suspension, steering tweaks and added refinement that the smaller diesel engine brings with it to the Civic, revealed an improved but still far from class-leading Civic.

Thankfully, those improvements still shine through here in the UK, where the Civic and its new engine are built and much of the on-road development has taken place.

It’s the engine that takes a starring role here, though. In no way does it feel like an economy-minded engine under acceleration, such is the low-end grunt and sharpness of the throttle response.

Refinement is excellent, too. There’s an absence of the gruff diesel grunt you’d usually expect to find, and you could almost be fooled into thinking you’re driving a petrol model when it settles down into a motorway cruise.

Real-world economy is also mightily impressive. We returned in excess of 60mpg over a 300-mile test route, most of which was at a fast motorway pace.

The 1.6 diesel Civic has 50kg less over its front wheels than the 2.2, and it’s certainly crisper and keener to drive to an extent. Turn-in is improved, and understeer reduced, traits exploited by the quicker steering.

Still, overall it lacks the balance and poise of the class best, and, like other Civics, the ride can still be choppy over high frequency surfaces.

The smaller diesel also doesn’t do anything to change the fact you sit too high, improve the woeful rear visibility, or make the dashboard functions any less confusing to master control of or read. It took me about 100 miles of driving, for instance, to work out how to master the digital radio channel list.

Should I buy one?

There’s more to recommend about this Civic than any of the others in the range. The new Civic has always been a refined car, and that refinement is taken to an even higher level here, while also being a good deal sharper to drive.

Get over the way it looks and if you’re not put off by other irks — such as the ride quality and driving position — then you’ve got yourself a decent and cheap-to-run (if not buy) alternative to the Ford Focus and VW Golf mainstream.

Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC EX

Price £23,175; 0-62mph 10.5sec; Top speed 129mph; Economy 78.5mpg; CO2 94g/km; Kerb weight 1428kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1597cc, turbodiesel; Power 118bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
15

Diesel power

1 year 24 weeks ago

Its been long since Civic stopped selling in the UK and Europe like Golf, Focus or Astra. Honda have only themselves to blame.

This new unit is winning rave reviews. Let's see how much this long overdue diesel helps Honda drive back up the sales charts.

This is an impressive engine

1 year 24 weeks ago

This is an impressive engine in a deeply unimpressive car.The Civic was once a byword for innovation in Honda' range.Now its old suspension and pitiful styling

this is an impressive car

1 year 24 weeks ago

as a honda owner for a number of years i am no longer allowing this honda bashing without comment. all hondas i have owned have ridden and handled well, had attractive styling and been extremely reliable.

 

this civic has a very economical and powerful engine and to me the styling is very good and is something different. the golf is all things to all people and i am sure from the reviews is a good car but inside and out the styling is totally and utterly devoid of any character whatsoever. not everyone wants a car that looks like every other golf that preceded it especially when the styling of all but the first golf (when it was original looking and very chiselled and sharp and athletic) is so very very similar. vw recognise this themselves and the new golf cc / coupe / 5 dr notch hatch is far more attractive then the ordinary plain vanilla golf.

What is a fast motorway pace?

1 year 24 weeks ago

"Real-world economy is also mightily impressive. We returned in excess of 60mpg over a 300-mile test route, most of which was at a fast motorway pace."

So is that above 70 by any chance?

Having seen the Civic in the flesh, it looks better than the pictures would have you believe.  Colour sensitive, though.

Just had a thought.  Jack up the ride height by 4", stick on some chunky wheels, and there you have an instant Juke rival - but with more space.  You could almost call it a mini-SUV-crossover-coupe.

I am a fan of Honda, but I do find the current Civic style a little challenging.  As it happens, my current preference is a vanilla flavoured Golf, which took over from my much liked blue-rinse Jazz.

 

not all reviews

1 year 24 weeks ago

fadyady wrote:

.

This new unit is winning rave reviews. Let's see how much this long overdue diesel helps Honda drive back up the sales charts.

According to the Top Gear review "The 1.6 diesel is highly efficient but harsh", maybe harsh when compared to a petrol unit?

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

Will this engine appear in

1 year 24 weeks ago

Will this engine appear in the Jazz.....?

Ant

£23K

1 year 24 weeks ago

Over £23k for a Honda Civic? Really?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Estoril M135i Manual

Ant wrote: Over £23k for a

1 year 24 weeks ago

Ant wrote:

Over £23k for a Honda Civic? Really?

Yes, just like the fully loaded Golf, Focus and Astra but unlike them reliability is fitted as standard.

maxecat

Maxecat wrote:Ant

1 year 24 weeks ago

Maxecat wrote:

Ant wrote:

Over £23k for a Honda Civic? Really?

Yes, just like the fully loaded Golf, Focus and Astra but unlike them reliability is fitted as standard.

You'd expect more than 113 hp for over £23,000 though and I'm sure the Golf, Astra and Focus diesels would give you more.

If they're so reliability then why not give a 10 or 7 year warranty as standard like vauxhall or Kia.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

"it took 100 miles of driving

1 year 24 weeks ago

"it took 100 miles of driving to work out that out car had digital radio fitted"

It would help to have a quick scan through the manual before setting off or, at the very least, have a look round the controls to see what does what. Not very clever to be driving along pressing buttons to see what happens - "sorry for the collision officer but did you know that this car has DAB?"

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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