3dr very similar in profile to 5dr
Driving environment is great, unlike the poor steering feel
Rear visibility isn't great
Good body control from stiffer suspension, but too hard a ride
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?
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.