Now some slightly less encouraging news.

All Honda’s talk of added handling dynamism for the new Civic was to be swallowed with a big pinch of salt, it turns out.

Decent handling response makes it easy to hit apexes, but the front washes wide when you come back on the power

Much as the firm is keen to grow and subtly change the Civic’s customer base, it plainly couldn’t afford to alienate the more traditional core who like a pleasant, comfortable and easy-to-drive hatchback – and they will find a lot to like about this new one.

Driven at everyday speeds on most UK roads, the Civic feels solid, planted, settled and reassuring. To point out that it has ‘big-car’ feel hardly seems necessary, given that it’s plainly a relatively large car among its rivals.

And yet the meaty weight and moderate pace of its steering, the excellent ‘bump-thump’ isolation of its generally smooth ride and the stability-first bias of its handling all show how the impression of a bigger saloon has been engineered in here.

First-rate suppression of wind noise would make the Civic remarkably quiet if not for the fact that a slightly intrusive amount of road roar finds its way into the cabin.

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It’s only a problem over particularly coarse surfaces but is at odds with the Civic’s general demeanour as a hatchback so comfortable, refined, spacious and mature-feeling that it could otherwise almost pass for a more expensive saloon.

That the Civic doesn’t handle with the natural agility of a smaller five-door, despite the influence of that lower centre of gravity, is disappointing, but it was predictable, and it’s no particularly stinging criticism in a class where a dwindling number of hatchbacks really deliver an engaging driving experience.

The Honda is a long way from a chore to drive quickly, though.

Its handling is precise and responsive enough and its grip levels are fairly high, but the fluency that our test car’s adaptive dampers provided just above town speeds is replaced by a slightly grabby, fussy ride at higher motorway speeds and on quicker A and B-roads.

Beyond a certain speed, the electronically augmented suspension appears more interested in dialling out body movement as quickly and completely as possible than in maintaining good, predictable body control, and it becomes hard to read and tough to take confidence from at times.

Although it proved acceptably precise and composed around the Millbrook Hill Route, in harder cornering our Civic test car felt like it might have benefited from Honda’s optional 18in wheels and more performance-orientated tyres than the Michelin Primacy rubber with which it was fitted.

While body control was good and grip levels high enough to carry plenty of speed on a smooth surface, when that adhesion ran out it made the car understeer on corner exit and scrabble at the asphalt a little untidily.

The Hill Route’s bigger bumps and compressions provided tough tests for the Honda’s damping reserves — and it didn’t always pass with distinction, lacking fluency under higher vertical loads and allowing bumps to disturb stability slightly.

The car’s electronic stability control system worked fairly well but didn’t prevent power-on understeer as neatly as it might have.

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