From £15,760
Honda is ready to play the downsizing card against Ford Focus Ecoboost and the latest Vauxhall Astra with a 1.0-litre Civic

Our Verdict

Honda Civic

The Honda Civic is an impressive achievement and a worthy rival to the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, but it isn't quite up to class-leading standards

Matt Burt
27 October 2015

What is it?

The new Honda Civic is due in 2017 - and the Japanese manufacturer knows that its VW Golf and Ford Focus rival needs to offer smoother, punchier and more efficient petrol engines to keep up with those rivals and cars like the latest Vauxhall Astra. Downsizing is king in the family hatchback class, it seems.

We already know that the car will get a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, but now Honda has announced that the next generation of Civic will also be offered with a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder motor - and given us an early chance to try it.

The baby triple - an all-new, all-aluminium design with no balancer shaft and intake VTEC - is designed to replace the normally aspirated four-cylinder 1.8-litre petrol in the Civic’s line-up. It offers 127bhp and 148lb ft of torque, but should slash the car’s fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Honda is aiming for 99g/km on versions with a manual transmission.

What's it like?

Our test drive took place at Honda’s R&D centre - and in an existing Civic fitted with the new engine, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. The motor doesn’t quite have the oomph to make the car feel particularly rapid - it doesn't feel like it has 127bhp on tap, it must be said - but enough of that torque is present low down in the rev range to allow for fairly relaxed and sensible progress.

Drivers of the 1.8 will certainly notice how the turbo gives a bit more low shove in fifth and sixth gears on motorways. It's not particularly keen to rev out, though; Honda had taped an artificial redline of 5700rpm to the steering wheel to keep us in check, but in truth it felt done and dusted long before that figure came into view.

Refinement? It’s probably a tad unfair to say this, given that our car was a late prototype and an existing Civic, but it definitely sounded a bit more gruff than Ford’s Ecoboost - which manages to sound so much more sophisticated than a 1.0 triple when it’s in the Focus.

There’s not a huge amount of vibration through the pedals or seat, but Honda’s NVH engineers are going to have to work hard to make sure the next generation of Civic does a better job of suppressing that unmistakeable three-cylinder thrum, particularly at a motorway cruise, where it was too noticeable at the 3000rpm that was required for 80mph.

Should I buy one?

You can’t; you won’t be able to get this engine in the current Civic at all, in fact. When it does arrive in the next generation of the car it should have appeal to Civic devotees craving a bit more bottom-end torque than the normally-aspirated 1.8-litre units they’ve been used to. They should see real benefits in fuel economy and running costs.

Everyone else’s reaction will depend as much on how many of the existing Civic’s foibles have been ironed out - and on how good a job the new one does on making the new engine seem sophisticated and refined as well as capable and efficient. The basics are there, then, but plenty of hard work remains.

Honda Civic 1.0 prototype

Location Tochigi, Japan; On sale 2017; Price From £16,000 (est); Engine 3cyls, 1.0 litre, petrol; Power 127bhp; Torque 148lb ft; Economy 66mpg (est); CO2 emissions 99g/km (est)

Join the debate


27 October 2015
Just how many years behind Ford are they?

27 October 2015
winniethewoo wrote:

Just how many years behind Ford are they?

I keep hearing the motoring press sing the plaudits of Ford's 1.0 Ecoboost but in reality, the experience is somewhat different. Yes emissions are down, but official economy is pie in the sky. Today's real-world average for Civic's current 1.8 is 42.2mpg, real-world average for Focus 1.0 Ecoboost is 42.8mpg - hardly the progress they want you to believe.

27 October 2015
scotty5 wrote:
winniethewoo wrote:

Just how many years behind Ford are they?

I keep hearing the motoring press sing the plaudits of Ford's 1.0 Ecoboost but in reality, the experience is somewhat different. Yes emissions are down, but official economy is pie in the sky. Today's real-world average for Civic's current 1.8 is 42.2mpg, real-world average for Focus 1.0 Ecoboost is 42.8mpg - hardly the progress they want you to believe.

Ford are a poor comparison. Whether it's the American influence or not, they're middle of the road in fuel economy at the moment. Try looking at real world figures for Peugeot's Triple instead, the 1.2 Puretech, and you'll see reports of high forties or fifty mpg in comparable cars like the 308

Honda's recent 1.6 diesel is probably the most efficient diesel engine around. If they can repeat that success with their petrol then I'd expect real world averages of 52.8mpg.

Although that may be more difficult. Peugeot's engineers are very good, they've made the latest revision of their older diesel engine design perform almost as well as Honda's new diesel.

27 October 2015
Totally agree with Winnie, I remember the late 80's and 90's when Honda built the best engines in the world bar none and their build quality and style lead to comparisons with BMW.Other manufacturers were playing catch up with Honda. My favourite motoring journalist of all time , LJK Setright even bought hondas. Seems a long time ago.

27 October 2015
Catching up with Ford/GM and dumping that updated 1.8 Looks like small one litre 3 cylinder turbo'd engines are here to stay and all those ludites who kept harping on about they're fall to bits blah blah blah are finally silenced.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

27 October 2015
But really this is just a PR exercise to get Autocar and other media on side (something Honda hasn't been good at in the past). It tells us nothing about how good this particular engine might be in the next generation Civic, or whether it will indeed achieve the 99gm/km CO2 target Honda has set itself (it has a history of narrowly missing such targets!)

27 October 2015
but if they wrap it in an appalling body style like the current one then sales will be limited to the few people who actually like the styling.

So a lot of development to do on the engine, sack the existing stylists, and try and revive a class that's moved to premium badges. I'm normally an optimist, but I'd say they're heading the way of the other non-premium marques in European sales.

I'm not convinced that it's a great comparison replacing the limp 1.8 engine anyway. How about with a market leading 1.6 or 1.8?

31 October 2015
I don't think the current Civic has an appalling body style, but like most Japanese brands the interior design is a mess. Its a shame when its predecessor actually had a wacky but nice cabin, then they go and regress back to old habits. I quite like Honda as a manufacturer but there are just too many drawbacks with their current range.


27 October 2015
Premium marques in the C-segment? Are you one of those people who thinks VW or Skoda or Seat are 'premium marques'...? Honda has always gone its own way technologically and has rarely missed a beat. I would buy reliable Hondas over any flaky VW product or a French c-segment car, any day.
If you claim 'non-premium' marques are somehow in decline in this segment, the you need to check the sales stats...

27 October 2015
I own a 2014 1.8 Civic and I'm cautious about changing to a forced induction 1.0. I looked at a Focus 1.0 125ps before buying the Civic but the combination of an expensive turbo and dual mass flywheel put me off. I've no doubt the basics of the engine are built to last but the peripheral components I'm less sure of. Honda engines tend to be well built, but there are plenty of issues reported with flywheels and clutches on their diesel models. As for economy, my Civic offers a real world 44-45mpg and can do 50 on a longer run all without the need for a turbo or direct injection. The idea of more torque lower down is appealing, but you adapt your driving style to suit a n/a Honda engine and there is plenty of power when you work it.


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