But you’ll not be far from the car park before you realise Honda has spent the last six years doing a lot more than doodling a slightly different shape for the Civic.
It’s the ride quality you notice first. There’s a new compliancy and fluency which means it doesn’t jolt or rattle any more. And while there’s no doubt a properly engineered multi-link rear end can be tuned to work yet more effectively across a wider spectrum of surfaces, the ills of the old Civic rear end can now be regarded as substantially cured.
It handles too, proving poised, balanced and benefitting from steering greatly improved by new front suspension geometry and a quicker rack. Once more the Civic a reasonably fun and capable car to punt down a decent road.
But it’s most effective in more humdrum environments. It seems strange that the world’s largest producer of engines still either can’t or won’t prise more than 148bhp from a 2.2-litre diesel when so many produce far more from less, but perhaps Honda regards the startling headline fuel consumption and emissions figures that result as a worthwhile alternative. And you can’t question the smoothness of the engine at part throttle, nor overall levels of refinement that are genuinely outstanding.
That said, the motor is hobbled slightly by high gearing, particularly in its intermediate ratios, a condition exacerbated by a discernable lack of low down torque. While some diesels are happy chugging at 1500rpm, this one is not shy about rumbling its displeasure and encouraging you to change down. None of which, of course, is incorporated into the official fuel consumption calculations which, I strongly suspect, is why the car has been geared this way in the first place…
Should I buy one?
This is a car in which Honda at least places a lot of confidence, a fact it is more than happy to demonstrate by asking you to put your money where its mouth is.
And even if you forget extremely expensive GT version more lowly models remain premium-priced, the EX costing more than either the most expensive diesel Ford Focus, Alfa Romeo Giulietta or non GTI-chassis’d diesel Golf you can buy. Given that these represent the most able cars the Civic is likely to encounter any time soon, that’s fighting talk.
Is it up to it? Can Honda take an old Civic and so transform what was never a very good car even when new into something than can take on the best brand new designs and the established class leader?
In a word, no. But to a certain sort of customer, a family man or woman who most values interior space, fuel consumption, mechanical refinement and safety I expect it might yet craft a compelling case for itself.
And no matter who you are, you should know the Civic is radically improved, far more so than its looks might suggest.
In short the Civic is good enough to be regarded as if not a new car, then at least one that has been effectively renewed. But what is beyond doubt is that for 10th generation of Civic, coming to a showroom near you some time in 2018, nothing less than a clean sheet will be required.
Honda Civic 2.2i DTEC EX GT
Price: £26,595; Top speed: 135mph; 0-62mph: 8.8sec; Economy: 64.2mpg; Co2: 115g/km; Kerbweight: 1367kg; Engine: 4 cyls in line, 2199cc, turbocharged diesel; Power: 148bhp at 4000rpm; Torque lb ft: 258lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox: 6-sp manual.