From £15,760
Needs to ride better or be more involving. Looks like a Type R-lite, but isn’t

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

12 October 2006

What is it?

The mildly sporting Civic Type S. It’s Type R-lite and, seemingly, good value at £15,250.

If we had a pound for every time a manufacturer said ‘sporty’ at a press launch, moving the Autocar road test office to the Nordschleife would be more than just a fantasy. But this 3dr Civic is a nicely turned out piece of kit.

Overall dimensions are the same as the Civic 5dr, but the front doors are longer, there’s a more pronounced kick to the window line and the bumpers are lower. The rear track was been widened by 20mm and the side skirts, front splitter and 17-inch alloys complement the ensemble rather nicely. I was worried at the launch that the Civic’s looks might date badly – and they still may. But right now, it’s a real looker.

Inside the Type S you’ll find all the trademarks of a semi-sporting hatch: a leather-bound steering wheel and Alcantara seats. The rest of the regular Civic cabin is as intriguing as ever. The two-tier dashboard is offset by beautifully lit dials, an intricate steering wheel, aluminium pedals and a peculiar ball at the base of the gearlever. And it works. Other than the poor rear visibility, the Civic is ergonomically sound and, even in three-door form, spacious.

What's it like?

At first, it’s quite a lot like the five-door Civic to drive. The steering’s light, fast and accurate, but you soon realise that the ride’s more nuggety.

The Type S gets revised spring and damper settings over the 5dr and rides on 225/45 tyres, which give it a worse ride than the regular Civic. And that’s a worry, because it wasn’t great in the first place. The pay-offs are moderately good body control and high grip levels.

The Civic hangs on gamely before dropping into understeer, but the electric power steering still gives no involvement – there’s all too little tactile feedback or intimacy and no incentive to drive it in the way that a hot hatch should be driven.

Still, the driveline is smooth. The Type S comes only with a 1.8-litre petrol or a 2.2-litre diesel. Both drive through slick six-speed gearboxes, and although we usually recommend the diesel option, here we’d go for the petrol. The i-CDTi lacks the quietness that it has in the Accord, and although it generates 138bhp – as much as the petrol engine – it does so more frantically and over a far smaller range. The 1.8-litre, SOHC petrol is a more willing companion, with linear response and a better sound.

Should I buy one?

The basics are there in the Type S, but they’ll need to be better honed for the new Type R if it is to be properly engaging. As it is now, the Type S is moderately enjoyable, but doesn’t ride well enough to be a normal, sensible Civic. If you want sensible, there’s always the basic S model. Everyone else should wait until March for the full-house Type R.

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