What’s it like?
Overall, this is a much improved car. As we’ve already found with the diesel version, the Civic’s ride, composure and rolling refinement are commendable steps up from the previous generation’s. The steering feels more direct and responsive, too, although it is on the light side and lacking in some feel, but broadly speaking this is a more engaging car to drive.
Cabin noise, or rather the lack of it, at motorway cruising speeds is most impressive. There’s some wind noise around the A-pillars and over the panoramic glass roof fitted to top-sepc EX GT models, but it’s only of note due to the absence of any significant road or engine noise. At least that was the case on the Spanish motorways we drove on in this petrol-engined car.
The engine is a mixed bag. It’s a little bit cleaner and a little bit more powerful than before (140bhp and 145g/km beats 138bhp and 152g/km) and around town and at a cruise it’s a model of smooth, hushed refinement, but it isn’t particularly satisfying to work hard.
Peak torque – and it is a peak, not a broad spread – of just 128lb ft appears up at 4300rpm, and consequently the 140bhp peak power figure appears high up, too, at a lofty 6500rpm. Add long, widely spaced upper gear ratios, presumably to help lower the CO2 figure, and the perverse consequence is that you have to rev the high heavens out of it on wide throttle openings to make the car feel reasonable sprightly, which results in anything but low CO2 figures. It also results in quite a bit of noise in the cabin and the need to shuffle up and down the gearbox to maintain speed.
Should I buy one?
If you’re going to cover a lot of miles then the diesel Civic probably makes a better case for itself than this petrol version – a claimed 46.3mpg (or 47.1mpg in anything below EX GT trim) doesn’t compare too favourably with the diesel’s 64.2mpg (or 67.3mpg in lesser trim levels).
However, a Golf or Focus makes a more convincing proposition both on paper and from behind the wheel, but the new Civic shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Far from it. It’s more rewarding to drive than before but has a nice cabin and retains useful practicalities such as a huge boot and the clever ‘Magic Seat’ system in the rear which gives an extremely flexible load space. It’s also very well finished and solidly screwed together, but for the money you’d hope it would be.
Honda Civic 1.8 i-VTEC EX GT
Price: £24,495; 0-62mph: 9.6sec; Top speed: 134mph; Kerb weight: 1344kg; Economy: 46.3mpg (combined); CO2: 145g/km; Engine: 4 cyls in line, 1798cc, petrol; Max power: 140bhp at 6500rpm; Max torque: 128lb ft at 4300rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual