The new Honda Civic is one of the biggest cars in the family hatchback class, but nonetheless the small-capacity turbocharged triple under its bonnet makes a significant 127bhp, along with and 148lb ft, and that's enough to deliver reasonable acceleration. You need to work the six-speed gearbox hard to make decent progress, but its short throw and slick action across the gate makes the experience quite enjoyable.
Push the engine harder and you’ll be treated to a distinctive three-cylinder thrum, while at a steady cruise the motor's sound fades away into the background. Around town and at low revs, however, a small amount of vibration can be felt through the pedals and steering wheel, whereas similar engines in the Skoda Octavia and Vauxhall Astra tend to remain silky smooth throughout the rev range, so Honda’s new motor falls a little short when it comes to overall refinement.
Nevertheless, the new Civic drives well. The steering is direct and well judged, the control weights are spot on and the combination of body control and high grip levels is impressive. This is largely down to the new rear suspension and the wider, longer and lower platform. The car weighs in at a surprisingly portly 1348kg, but the Civic displays remarkable levels of composure on all but the most undulating B-roads.
Adaptive suspension is standard on EX trim cars like the one we tested. If you leave the suspension in Comfort mode, there’s a pleasing compliance to how the car interacts with the road surface, and sudden inputs and imperfections do little to upset the balance of the chassis. Switching to Dynamic is to the detriment of the ride, but not to the extent that the car feels fidgety or nervous.
This new Civic's stability encourages you to push on and explore the limits of the chassis. However, once you reach those limits, it quickly becomes apparent that the longer and wider chassis has done little to liven up the Civic’s rather staid front-wheel-drive handling. There is a lack of adjustability even in Sport mode, and the car demonstrates the old model’s tendency to succumb to understeer.
The Civic's larger dimensions result in a more spacious cabin than before. There’s good leg room and reasonable head room for rear-seat passengers, while the boot offers 478 litres of space (larger than a Ford Focus but smaller than the cavernous Octavia). Less impressive is Honda’s labouring Connect infotainment system, which, despite decent smartphone connectivity courtesy of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, feels a generation behind the systems developed by rivals.
Beyond that, the interior is a significant improvement over that of the previous generation car. The angled centre console and high transmission tunnel place the gear shift close to hand, and the TFT dials are now framed in an old-school cowl ahead of the driver. It’s a straightforward and fundamentally good-looking layout.