It’s probably fair to say that impeccable C-segment styling – of the sort that Volkswagen, Vauxhall, Seat and Ford now glibly turn in every lifecycle – remains a nut left high on the tree for Honda still to crack. The Civic’s designer is Japanese, and the design influences of his homeland are the salient ones here. That means the car is busy with lines and features and veneers – and not entirely at ease with any of them.
Nevertheless, it is possibly less troubling in the flesh than on paper, and – I think – modestly better looking than the model that preceded it. Inside, there’s no modesty about it: the new Civic is dramatically superior, even allowing for the laboured Honda Connect infotainment system. Mainly that’s because the old layout was peculiar and the latest one isn’t, but beyond that it's sturdily good looking, generally well thought out and eminently durable in the predominantly plastic way that Honda long ago made its own.
With the fuel tank now moved aft (it was under the front seats in the old model), the advantage of sitting 34mm lower can hardly be overstated either, and while the rear has hardly swollen to class-leading size, the benefit to back seat passengers of a longer wheelbase is appreciable, too.
The way the Civic now drives is similarly deserving of praise. The virtues of its myriad hardware changes are manifested in an enduring sense of real composure, and it's; a characteristic that assimilates everything from the ride quality to the unflappable handling. The passive suspension is no less impressive than the adaptive set-up we tried in prototype format last year, with bump absorption is of a consistently high standard, and – on Spanish roads – the car doesn’t want for wheel control, even when upset under cornering loads.
This helps to make the Civic’s basic poise a tangible asset. Better managing the transition between yaw moment, lateral g and body roll was a specific Honda target, and it has duly rendered a car confidently in control of its faculties. Granted, the longer, wider footprint has certainly not upgraded any lingering sense of verve – this is innocuously balanced front-drive handling, with a slightly syrupy steering feel to match – but the Civic’s precision and overriding sense of assurance make for easy bedfellows.
Likewise the new 1.0-litre motor, which dependably fulfills the now familiar tiny three-pot brief. Honda, as its long heritage stipulates, takes the production of no new engine lightly. With no alternative to forced induction now available, the firm has responded by making its mono scroll turbocharger small and light enough not to overtly strangle the VTEC function toiling away elsewhere, and the result keeps any idea of variance in the delivery well distant from the driver. This is a blown triple in its most modern vogue: usable, quick enough, quiet enough and parsimonious by design.