The last Civic wasn’t exactly a hard act to follow dynamically. And although the new one still isn’t quite class-leading in the completeness of its driving experience, it has been vastly improved by Honda. It’s almost exceptional in some ways, and below par in absolutely none.
Lower spring rates and more sophisticated damping have had a transformative effect on the Civic’s ride. Rather than being choppy and restless, like the last version, this new one is fluent, quiet and compliant at medium speeds, if a little busy at urban pace. Above 40mph, its chassis glides over expansion joints and manhole covers with a hushed absorbency that few rivals could equal.
Larger, longer-wave lumps and bumps are dealt with in compliant fashion. Apart from a very minor tendency for the suspension to fuss and fidget over sleeping policemen and other urban road furniture at low speeds, you could call this the most refined car of its kind.
A little of the responsiveness and agility of the last Civic’s handling has been sacrificed, but not so much that you’ll miss it during everyday driving. Although it may be marginally slower to react, we’d take the positive, proportional and accurate steering of this new Civic over the overly fast wheel of the last car any day.
There may be slightly more body roll now, and a little more understeer at the limit of grip, but the authority of the car’s body control and the well met balance of its handling are both impressive.
Wheel size doesn’t have a hugely noticeable affect on this, but if you’re not bothered by the appearance, the smaller 16-inch wheels that you get on lower-specced Civics will soak up town surfaces better than the 17-inch wheels that were fitted to our top-spec EX GT car.
This is a Honda tuned with everyday use firmly in mind. The refinement of its ride, mirrored by the excellent manners of its engine and gearbox, will delight the high-mileage drivers it’s likely to serve on company car fleets.
The chief dynamic advantage of the 1.6 diesel – that it has taken almost 50kg off the front wheels relative to the 2.2-litre oil-burner – has been seized upon by Honda as an opportunity to make the car handle, and it does to a point.