The philosophy that brought us the previous two generations of ‘European’ Civic has been shattered into tiny pieces by this new car.
With a global audience in mind and the outgoing Civic’s underwhelming record of European success as an advert for the alternative approach, Honda decided that hatchback buyers on this continent are not as sensitive to size as they once thought.
Bigger, then, is better. The new Civic is 136mm longer than the car it replaces, representing a growth spurt the likes of which you almost never see among cars cracked up to be compact. It’s 30mm wider, too, and 20mm lower, the latter measurement further enhancing the former, while its wheelbase is within millimetres of being the longest in the class.
The new all-steel monocoque platform makes for a slightly lighter but also significantly stiffer body-in-white structure than that which went before. But it’s the repositioning of the car’s fuel tank (formerly in a quirky location under the previous-generation car’s front seats) to where it’s most commonly found under the back seats that has allowed Honda to drop the driver’s hip point by some 35mm, as well as lowering its cabin floor and dropping its overall centre of gravity by a full 10mm.
The previous Civic’s atmospheric petrol engines have been dropped and a new pair of aluminium-blocked turbocharged replacements ushered in.
The smaller of the two displaces just under a litre and has three cylinders, direct fuel injection and a peak power output of 127bhp. The larger one, powering our test car, is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit with 180bhp and 177lb ft.
Both engines adopt Honda’s trademark i-VTEC valve timing technology and both, says Honda, are directly related to the 306bhp 2.0-litre turbo that powered the outgoing Civic Type R. A 1.6-litre i-DTEC turbodiesel joins the Civic’s engine range later this year.
Otherwise, it’s the car’s suspension that shows the most evidence of change. While the previous Civic used space-saving torsion beam rear suspension, this new one switches to a multi-link set-up that should allow Honda greater ride and handling tuning potential. Adaptive damping is also now available on both axles, having been pioneered on the rear axle of the outgoing Civic Tourer. Our upper mid-level Sport Plus-specification test car had it.