From £15,760
If you value interior space, fuel consumption, mechanical refinement or safety, then add it to your shortlist

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

31 October 2011

What is it?

A big gamble. Honda is banking that the design of old Civic was so avant-garde when it was new six years ago that it does not need replacing as such, merely refreshing.

It shares its platform, basic suspension architecture (including its infamous torsion beam rear axle) and basic engine line up with old Civic. On the plus side, the revised exterior still looks modern and stands apart from the crowd while the interior retains its class leading space, vast boot and clever flip-up rear seats.

Honda says that, beneath the skin, the Civic has been improved in every important regard and directed us to a 2.2-litre diesel that’ll account for most sales to make its point. Power is up 10bhp, but fuel consumption is dramatically down from 55.3mpg to an impressive 67.3mpg if you stay clear of the 17in rims. CO2 has tumbled from 134 to a class-busting 110g/km.

Is it any good?

This is not a car that endears immediately endears itself to you. The driving position is a little high, the weird confluence of analogue dials and LED readouts on the dash less than successful.

Nor has Honda thought sufficiently hard about how the driver will operate the car which, given all the year spent studying that the paragon or ergonomic simplicity that is the VW Golf, is a mite disappointing. Up spec EX and GT models come with a central combined information, entertainment and navigation module which looks off the shelf, has very poor graphics and is needlessly fiddly and complex to operate.

But you’ll not be far from the car park before you realise Honda has spent the last six years doing a lot more than doodling a slightly different shape for the Civic.

It’s the ride quality you notice first. There’s a new compliancy and fluency which means it doesn’t jolt or rattle any more. And while there’s no doubt a properly engineered multi-link rear end can be tuned to work yet more effectively across a wider spectrum of surfaces, the ills of the old Civic rear end can now be regarded as substantially cured.

It handles too, proving poised, balanced and benefitting from steering greatly improved by new front suspension geometry and a quicker rack. Once more the Civic a reasonably fun and capable car to punt down a decent road.

But it’s most effective in more humdrum environments. It seems strange that the world’s largest producer of engines still either can’t or won’t prise more than 148bhp from a 2.2-litre diesel when so many produce far more from less, but perhaps Honda regards the startling headline fuel consumption and emissions figures that result as a worthwhile alternative. And you can’t question the smoothness of the engine at part throttle, nor overall levels of refinement that are genuinely outstanding.

That said, the motor is hobbled slightly by high gearing, particularly in its intermediate ratios, a condition exacerbated by a discernable lack of low down torque. While some diesels are happy chugging at 1500rpm, this one is not shy about rumbling its displeasure and encouraging you to change down. None of which, of course, is incorporated into the official fuel consumption calculations which, I strongly suspect, is why the car has been geared this way in the first place…

Should I buy one?

This is a car in which Honda at least places a lot of confidence, a fact it is more than happy to demonstrate by asking you to put your money where its mouth is.

And even if you forget extremely expensive GT version more lowly models remain premium-priced, the EX costing more than either the most expensive diesel Ford Focus, Alfa Romeo Giulietta or non GTI-chassis’d diesel Golf you can buy. Given that these represent the most able cars the Civic is likely to encounter any time soon, that’s fighting talk.

Is it up to it? Can Honda take an old Civic and so transform what was never a very good car even when new into something than can take on the best brand new designs and the established class leader?

In a word, no. But to a certain sort of customer, a family man or woman who most values interior space, fuel consumption, mechanical refinement and safety I expect it might yet craft a compelling case for itself.

And no matter who you are, you should know the Civic is radically improved, far more so than its looks might suggest.

In short the Civic is good enough to be regarded as if not a new car, then at least one that has been effectively renewed. But what is beyond doubt is that for 10th generation of Civic, coming to a showroom near you some time in 2018, nothing less than a clean sheet will be required.

Honda Civic 2.2i DTEC EX GT

Price: £26,595; Top speed: 135mph; 0-62mph: 8.8sec; Economy: 64.2mpg; Co2: 115g/km; Kerbweight: 1367kg; Engine: 4 cyls in line, 2199cc, turbocharged diesel; Power: 148bhp at 4000rpm; Torque lb ft: 258lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox: 6-sp manual.

Join the debate

Comments
33

1 November 2011

The risk you take if you design a futuristic looking car and then replace it with almost the same car is that you give the impression of running out of ideas. What seemed futuristic previously now seems like the manufacturer is just going through the design motions.

Fal

1 November 2011

£26k for this!

I have a (mint condition) 2005, which I love but never in a million years would I choose this over the other rivals.

If the FT-86 is really going to be around £20k then it's no contest as to where I'd be channelling my wage.

1 November 2011

I also have the now previous generation diesel and there is absolutely no way I'd go near this thing if I was looking for a newer car, simply because it's so bloody ugly. Funny the review mentions that the previous civic was never a very good car - I thought it got pretty good reviews from autocar themselves?

I've certainly no complaints about it, shuffles along nicely, handles tidily and has a mountain of kit as standard on my EX. Though it's hardly exciting and admittedly the buttons take a bit of figuring out! Quite honestly blows my previous 2.0tdci focus out of the water though.

1 November 2011

I hope there's discounts about! Wow, that's expensive. I actually don't mind it now I've seen it a few more times, they just need to get away from those silly launch colours.

Autocar, so Honda can't squeeze more than 148bhp (150PS) out a 2.2 diesel? Ever heard of the 180PS Type-S Accord?

110 g/km of CO2 for non-GT versions is extremely good at this engine size and power. This, and the fact it actually drives nicely, goes some way to overcoming that price tag. Hopefully it's lease rates will be reasonable.


1 November 2011

"But to a certain sort of customer, a family man or woman who most values interior space, fuel consumption, mechanical refinement and safety I expect it might yet craft a compelling case for itself." So it will appeal to most of the market then!

1 November 2011

A somewhat more positive review than Autocars colleagues at Whatcar who gave the new model only two out of five,criticising ride quality and general refinement.Will be interesting to see a few more reviews elsewhere and gauge overall opinion from there.

1 November 2011

Struth, but that is one ugly mess of a car. And to think I used to be a huge fan of Hondas back in the 80's and 90's.

1 November 2011

It is a caricature of the old Civic. And Honda are having a complete laugh with the pricing!

1 November 2011

Thinking back (and I could be wrong) but I can't say I've ever seen an outstanding report on a new Civic, save that of the first UK generation of Type R's and even then that didn't extend to the entire model range.

Civics have always traditionally done some things really well and something quite averagely giving them an overall report of could do better and merely class average. However, they still seem to hit the mark with quite a few people and they seem to sell well enough for Honda to continue the formula.

I'm not going to pretend this car doesn't disappoint me because I was hoping they could do significantly better than they have. However, I do see it selling well, even if they have to a big refresh half way through it's model life.

 

 

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

1 November 2011

[quote Autocar]

This is not a car that endears immediately endears itself to you. The driving position is a little high, the weird confluence of analogue dials and LED readouts on the dash less than successful.

Nor has Honda thought sufficiently hard about how the driver will operate the car which, given all the year spent studying that the paragon or ergonomic simplicity that is the VW Golf[/quote]

The car may be a bit of a let down, but the grammar is truly bad.

 

 

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 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
  •  Maserati Ghibli Diesel
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    Maserati releases another range of updates for its range best seller, the Ghibli. We've driven the diesel version, but there's little improvement on before
  • Tipo Front
    First Drive
    21 September 2016
    New Fiat Tipo offers impressive space and practicality for a reasonable price. We try the 1.6 diesel on the demanding roads of North Wales
  • Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150
    First Drive
    20 September 2016
    The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense: it's spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run