According to Honda, the current Civic ‘lacks emotion’, but that will all change next January, when the new Civic lands in showrooms. Powered by a choice of 82bhp 1.4-litre i-DSI or 138bhp 1.8-litre i-VTEC petrol engines, a 138bhp 2.2 i-CDTi diesel, the new model is representative of Honda’s desire to head upmarket, and as such the company have branded the new Civic a ‘premium private sports hatch.’ A much-revised hybrid using Honda's IMA technology will follow later.
The new car’s radical exterior looks are immediately apparent, with its part-glass nose, triangular exhaust pipes and rear door handles tucked into the window frame giving it the appearance of a coupe. The unique looks continue on the bold interior, with a novel dashboard featuring a small digital speedometer, looking to be one of the most distinctive in its class. Cabin safety is provided by front, side and curtain airbags as well as rear headrests designed to support the neck.
Despite all the changes in appearance, the new Civic should still be spacious. The cabin benefits from having the fuel tank underneath the front seats, like the Jazz, to free up space. This, combined with removal of the spare wheel, results in a boot with 415 litres of space, a useful increase on class-rival Ford Focus’s 385. Another 80 litres is also available in a below-floor compartment.
However, this space could come at a cost, as it is also a result of Honda’s decision to use a torsion beam rear axle, as opposed to an independent wishbone set-up that is favoured by many makers because it provides sophisticated ride and handling. Electrically-assisted steering also raises questions over how enjoyable the car will be to handle, but Honda remain adamant that the new Civic will provide a fun drive.
Under the bonnet, the most intriguing prospect is the new 1.8 i-VTEC. According to Honda, this should provide the performance of a 2.0-litre engine whilst retaining the economy of a 1.6. This efficiency is achieved by reduced internal friction and through the VTEC valve control system, which minimises fuel loss when the throttle is partly closed.
All models will feature air-conditioning, ESP, reach and rake adjustable wheel and trip computer as standard, with higher-spec models including sat-nav, alloy wheels, leather trim, dual-zone climate control and automatic lights and wipers. The new Civic is certainly a bold and ambitious car and, given the current Civic’s modest success in Europe, it seems striking enough to give sales a considerable boost.