From £18,4758
Our UK drive of the new Honda Civic reveals that it's an impressively well-rounded family hatchback
Neil Winn - Autocar
27 March 2017

What is it?

We first drove this new entry point to the Honda Civic range in Spain at the start of the year. It was a big launch for Honda; after all, the new Civic is the product of the single largest development programme in the Japanese car maker’s 70-year history.

With a new platform, a more sophisticated multi-link rear axle and a significantly stiffened unibody (which features increases of 52% in torsional rigidity and 88% in lateral stiffness), our Spanish drive was evidence that the Civic has benefited from Honda’s renewed focus on the European market during benchmarking. The Civic's engineering team wanted to get its family hatch to drive better, with greater comfort and more driver engagement than the immediate C-segment opposition.

We've now driven the Honda Civic EX 1.0 Turbo on UK roads, where it needs to stack up against rivals such as the three-cylinder Ecoboost-powered Ford Focus, the Vauxhall Astra 1.0 Ecoflex and the Peugeot 308 1.2 Puretech. Motorists with a larger budget might also be interested in the Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI and Audi's A3.  

What's it like?

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. 

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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.

Should I buy one?

The new Civic performs the role of well-rounded family hatchback almost impeccably. At speed it is refined, plus it's safe and secure in the corners and offers class-leading levels of practicality. Around town the 1.0-litre motor isn't quite as polished as those used by some its rivals, but it is strong and quiet enough to fulfil most buyers’ requirements.

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Honda Civic EX 1.0 Turbo 2017 review

Location East Yorkshire On sale now Price £23,200 Engine 3 cyls, 988cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 127bhp at 5500rpm Torque 148lb ft at 2250rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1348kg 0-62mph 10.9sec Top speed 126mph Economy 55.4mpg (combined) CO2/tax band 117g/km, 20% Rivals Seat Leon 1.4 TSI 125 Xcellence, Ford Focus 1.0T 125 Titanium

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steve49car 19 April 2017

Civic

55mpg ... except that I had a Civic 1.4 in 1996 that returned a real world 44mpg!!! Wonder what THIS does in the real world ... one slight hill and change gear and the mpg takes a hit?Then of course the slightest leak on a high pressure petrol system... and the resulting vapour released becomes a bomb under the hood?
Bishop 5 April 2017

I believe our US cousins like it

... it's a far more important market for this car than is Europe, so suck it up. Also see under "Subaru".
si73 29 March 2017

It's better in the flesh? So

It's better in the flesh? So to speak, I didn't like it in the pics but having seen and driven one I find that I like it, though I still think you will always be on boost, good economy will be hard to achieve, I think that all the manufacturers have gone too small, 1.2/3 would be better and I still prefer n/a's, I had an 09 auris 1.33 which was admittedly not very quick but I found it very smooth and economical and it was quick enough for everything I used it for as a family car, I think mazdas n/a's are the right way to go, but they are too new and expensive for me yet.