The Civic's steering remains pretty uninspiring, providing little feedback for the driver and showing little urgency in changing where the front end is pointing.
That said, there is a fair amount of traction to exploit, and the Civic keeps its body under reasonable control through a series of bends. Ultimately, a Golf, Focus and Leon all steer with greater precision and handle more sharply.
Ride comfort has been slightly improved over the outgoing model. The improvements are mainly seen in initial bump absorption, which makes low-speed progress more settled. Build speed and a worsening secondary ride starts to reveal itself, with large bumps and expansion joints sending the Civic's body bobbing about.
Honda's 1.6 diesel engine remains a mixed bag. There's no disputing the competitivness of its CO2 and fuel economy figures, especially considering there's enough power and torque on tap to ensure brisk progress in and out of town. Engine refinement is no worse than the rival 1.6 diesels at high revs, either.
However, its rivals' diesel engines pile on maximum torque lower down the rev range, so there's less need to work their gearboxes hard.
The Civic's dashboard is still on the busy side when it comes to its climate controls and three separate displays, but at least its new infotainmnt system is a vast improvment. The previous version's confusing set-up has been replaced with a more user-friendly system with fewer buttons. The Android-based system is easy to naviagte through, too, and the 7.0in screen itself looks pleasingly bright and responds well to touch.
Adults will find the Civic's rear seats cramped compared with a Volkswagen Golf's, and its tapering rear windowline makes it a more claustrophic place to sit. That said, boot space is still 477 litres, which is a considerable amount more space than the equivalent Golf, Focus or Leon's.
Beyond the sporty tocuhes and Honda Connect system mentioned, opting for a Sport Navi Civic gets you a reasonable amount of kit, including Bluetooth, sat-nav, cruise control, a rear parking camera, front and rear parking sensors and climate control.
Should I buy one?
The Civic remains a reccomendable family hatch, but not our favourite. It has a comfortable ride, a clean, frugal diesel engine, a huge boot and a much improved infotainment system. This Sport Navi model also comes well equipped.
However, for the same sort of money a Golf 1.6 TDI Match offers more passenger space, a better ride and handling combination and a higher quality, better laid out cabin, even if it can't quite equal the Civic for equipment, boot space, CO2 emissions or fuel economy.
A Ford Focus 1.5 TDCi Titanium and Seat Leon 1.6 TDI SE offer the same blend of strength and weakness against the Civic as the Golf, and remain within a stone's throw of the Honda's price after you've specced them to the same level.
Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC Sport Navi
Price £21,430; Engine 4 cyls, 1597cc, turbo, diesel; Power 118bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1425kg; Top speed 129mph; 0-62mph 10.5sec; Economy 76.3mpg; CO2 rating & BIK tax band 98g/km / 15%