What is it?
Heeding feedback from dealers and customers, the Honda Civic hatchback has undergone a mild dynamic and styling refresh for the 2014 model year.
The aim, says Honda, is to close the dynamic gap between the base model and the imminent Civic Type R, which is set to arrive in 2015, and also to give the car a slightly more upmarket feel.
Under the skin of the ninth-generation Civic, the electronic power steering has been retuned to make the car feel more surefooted at higher speeds.
The suspension set-up – MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear – remains the same but the front and rear dampers have been tweaked to enhance body control, and the toe and camber of the rear suspension have been realigned to improve overall handling.
The tweaks have been carried out by the engineering team at Honda’s Swindon base to further align the car with European tastes.
What's it like?
Given the advantage of driving the tweaked Honda Civic back-to-back with the existing version, the benefits were clear. The steering, which previously felt numb and rather fudgy through the thick-rimmed steering wheel, is now more slick and communicative.
Thankfully, its not quite as ultra-quick and nervous as the system found on the previous-generation Civic, but it now feels nicely balanced.
The spring and damper changes have ramped up the driver involvement level by a notch. During higher-speed cornering, the revised Civic feels tauter, more composed and body roll is contained. The front and rear ends of the car appear to be on closer speaking terms than previously.
The Civic’s ride can be a little inconsistent, fidgeting over some road imperfections, although well within tolerable limits. A roughly surfaced dual carriageway threw up a fair degree of road noise, too. A contributing factor may have been the 17in wheels and tyres that our high-spec test car rode on, as opposed to the 16in versions which are standard on lower-spec models.
The key exterior styling changes are at the rear, which gets privacy glass on the lower rear window, and piano black finishes to the tailgate, licence plate surround and lower bumper. The front bumper finish is now also piano black, instead of anthracite grey, and there are darker wheel arch garnishes. The changes are extremely subtle, but a side-by-side comparison with the outgoing car indicates a more cohesive and upmarket look.
The interior changes include some light-coloured stitching on the leather and touches of brightwork and gloss finishing that conspire to lift the previously less-than-inspiring cabin.
Unchanged are the Civic’s more fundamental drawbacks of a cabin that somehow conspires to offer limited headroom to even drivers of medium height, and restricted backwards visibility caused by the split rear window.
Should I buy one?
It’s definitely worthy of consideration. The changes are likely to be accompanied by a modest price increase, although Honda is also planning to redefine its spec levels to include extra kit, which should further sweeten the deal.
There are no changes to the performance of the Civic’s engines, with the lightweight and pleasingly economical 1.6-litre modern diesel installed in our test car still the pick of the bunch, especially if you are in the market for a frugal hatch with tax-beating CO2 emissions.
Overall, the raft of tweaks doesn’t affect the Civic’s position as a left-of-centre alternative to the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, although keener drivers will now find more to get inspired by.
Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC EX
Price £23,785 (est); 0-62mph 10.5sec; Top speed 129mph; Economy 78.5mpg (combined); CO2 94g/km; Kerbweight 1428kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1597cc, turbodiesel; Power 118bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual