For a company that prides itself on making fine petrol engines, the comparative performance of the outgoing four-cylinder units will have been a source of mild distress to Honda.

Credit where it’s due, then: the Civic’s turbocharged replacements return the firm to the cutting-edge fold – and in a way that remains idiosyncratically pleasing, too.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
The dampers could do a better job of keeping the car’s weight in check over larger bumps

We’ve driven the new three-cylinder motor elsewhere and complimented its well-mannered usability and inherent parsimoniousness, but the larger 1.5-litre four is demonstratively the much more potent option.

Honda claims a 0-62mph time of 8.3sec, but we went half a second quicker to 60mph with more than 200kg of collective road tester heft aboard.

Not so long ago, that would have been sufficient for hot hatch respectability, but even now it lands the Civic comfortably at the head of the downsized petrol field and equivalent to the kind of performance we’ve previously wrested from the hybridised VW Golf GTE.

The Civic’s delivery is no less likeable, primarily because the introduction of forced induction has not made an empty acronym of VTEC.

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In fact, while there is now inevitably more twist to play with than before, with 177lb ft available from 1900rpm, it is of a lazier and less substantial sort than the forcefully linear Golf GTE  – as evidenced by the Honda’s tendency to move from  30-70mph and out of low revs at a noticeably slower pace.

So while the Civic’s functionality at medium crank speeds is improved, it still politely suggests that it is building to something – that being the unexpectedly keen and pleasantly reminiscent surge that appears at 4000rpm and remains unfettered until the limiter at 6500rpm.

It is this hard-edged eagerness – and the immodest 180bhp that appears at 5500rpm – that differentiates the Civic from most of its rivals, just as it agreeably connects it to the brand’s recent past.

Combined with 49.6mpg touring potential and an amenable six-speed manual gearbox, that makes the 1.5 i-VTEC Turbo a genuine selling point.

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