The body itself has a longer wheelbase than the previous-generation Civic, while relocating the fuel tank from beneath the front seats to beneath the rears means that the driver sits 50mm lower than before. The centre of gravity is lower overall, too. Some bonding rather than spot welding means the body-in-white is 16kg lighter and 38% stiffer than the previous Civic’s, but the most significant mechanical change is that there’s no longer a torsion beam rear axle. Instead, the latest Civic gets a fully independent, multi-link set-up.
At the front there are MacPherson struts but, as is sometimes the way with really powerful front-drive hatches, they’re dual-axis ones. Some manufacturers give this set-up different names – Ford called it the RevoKnuckle, Vauxhall/Opel the HiPer Strut.
On a conventional strut, the whole strut turns when steered, which means there’s a large distance between the centre of the driven wheel and turning axis, across which distance the wheel torque acts, and can corrupt the steering. The dual-axis strut puts the wheel carrier on a separate knuckle, and only that part turns, making the turning axis much closer to the wheel centre. The result is a bit like pushing a door near the hinge rather than the handle: the force acts over a shorter distance, therefore the same effort moves the door less. And in this case, hey presto: less torque steer.
This can mean, too, that there’s less road feel through the steering, but when it comes to 316bhp and 295lb ft acting through the front wheels alone, that’s a compromise worth making. The Civic's engine drives through a six-speed manual gearbox - there’s no flappy paddle option – via a limited-slip mechanical differential. As well as all this, the Honda will brake an inside front wheel, so it feels less like you’re munching the front tyres for the sake of it.
And the engine? It’s still a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo. It retains the same block as the old model, in fact, with a lone, single-scroll turbocharger and VTEC variable valve timing on the exhaust valves. There’s more cooling all around the engine and on some detail bits inside: the oil cooler is now water-cooled rather than air-cooled, there are oil channels in the pistons and the valves are silicon-filled, all for better heat dissipation.
But it’s the work on the exhaust that has liberated the most power. The exhaust manifold has a water jacket around it, and the rest of the system is freer-flowing and easier-breathing than before. Giving the engine this easier exhaust while maintaining lower temperatures at the top of the engine means the power can be turned up without the engine being inclined to pre-ignite, or knock. The reason for the small, third, central exhaust tube, meanwhile, is to reduce boom at lower revs and on smaller throttle openings. Negative pressure going back into the pipe apparently reduces resonance at low revs but then helps the air flow out at higher revs.