Honda Civic hatchback (2006-2011)
- Comfortable driving position
- Unique sporty looks
- Big boot and versatile storage
- Uncomfortable over bumps at low speed
- Limited rear headroom
- Poor visibility out the back
"Space-age styling and great reliability are part of the Honda Civic's appeal: it's also fun to drive and practical, but has poor rear headroom."
There's no missing the fact that the futuristic looking Honda Civic is styled unlike any other family hatchback. The downside of this is limited rear visibility and compromised rear headroom. However, the boot of both three and five door cars is enormous. There are two petrol and one diesel engine on offer with the standard car, while the three-door-only Type R comes with a powerful 2.0-litre petrol unit. The Civic has a great driving position, but its firm suspension doesn’t handle rough roads very well.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Avoid petrol engines for cheap motoring
The three petrol engines – 1.4 and 1.8-litre in the standard Civic, 2.0-litre in the Type R - all need a good push of the accelerator to get the best performance from them, which eats into fuel economy. The Type R in particular is not a car to buy with fuel economy in mind. The 2.2 i-CTDi diesel, however, offers 55mpg economy. Honda servicing costs are reasonable.
Interior & comfort
Rear headroom and ride quality are poor
For driver and front seat passenger there's plenty of space, but the car's sloping rear means headroom in the back is tight. The suspension doesn’t handle potholes too well at town speeds, thumping into them with a harsh clunk - a fact owners dislike according to the Civic's dismal 98th placing for ride quality in the 2010 Driver Power survey. Otherwise, the Civic is a good long-distance car, with minimal engine noise (petrol or diesel), and a lack of tyre and wind noise at higher speeds. Honda prides itself on the quietness of its i-CTDi diesel, and it's one of the smoothest units on the market.
Practicality & boot space
Mammoth boot and fold flat seats too
The five-door version has narrow back doors, which makes access difficult, while passengers getting into the back of the three-door must clamber over the front seats to settle into the cramped chairs in the back. All Civics make up for this lack of rear space with a huge boot, which has a whopping 485 litres of space, compared to the 350 litres of the Volkswagen Golf and the 385 litres of the Ford Focus. It even beats the larger BMW 3 Series, and it's accessed via a big hatchback opening, with a useful additional space beneath the boot floor. There's even extra storage under the chairs, which fold flat very easily.
Reliability & safety
Very safe and generally reliable
Honda has one of the world's largest crash test facilities at its Japanese research and development headquarters, so it's no surprise that the car scored a full five stars in the Euro NCAP test. The maker is also famed for the build quality and mechanical integrity of its cars, and although the Civic has had a handful of recalls, it's largely proven reliable. Reported issues include the engine failing to start and a faulty handbrake, although all have been remedied. If anything does go wrong, its dealer network has a reputation for excellent customer service.
Engines, drive & performance
Gear change and steering work brilliantly
Honda deliberately made its latest Civic a sporty looking car to appeal to younger family buyers. Its carefully designed interior looks futuristic but is clearly laid out, and you should feel instantly comfortable in the driver's seat. The gear change is slick and precise, the steering light and accurate and all engines are smooth and quiet - with the exception of the powerful 2.0-litre petrol engine in the Type R, which revs to a roaring 8,000rpm.
Price, value for money & options
Well equipped and holds value well
The Civic is priced reasonably and equipment levels are high. Dealers are difficult to squeeze discounts from, but the car holds its value well. Honda runs special offers from time to time, mainly focusing on low finance rates. Because three-door versions are limited to sportier trim levels, they all get alloy wheels, a leather steering wheel and metal pedals, which enhance the cabin.
What the others say
The Civic is quite fun to drive, feeling light and agile, but the steering is a bit of a conundrum: initial turn-in to corners is a bit lethargic, then the car suddenly dives into the turn, taking a tighter line than you might ideally like. The ride is pretty jiggly around town, but it smoothes out with speed.
It's Japanese, so therefore quality is as good as you'll find anywhere. Even being built in Britain doesn't stop it being one of the most robust cars in this class.
The standard Civic Type R has become something of a forgotten hatch in recent times, a result of mixed reviews and the fact that it hasn’t moved forward in a sector now crammed full of sharper alternatives. On track it's not a biddable companion. It takes a delicate foot and a great deal of patience to get the best from it. Get greedy with the throttle out of a slow- or medium-speed corner and the inside front wheel will light up instantly, wasting the energy you were hoping it would use to pull you forwards.
The Civic is available with two petrol engines, but it's the 2.2-litre i-CTDi diesel that's our favourite. This fantastic engine is free-revving, impressively refined and punchy, too. It remains our favourite diesel in the family hatchback class, and is preferable to the 1.8-litre petrol which is vocal in its mid-range and lacks torque which leads to downchanges on the motorway – but the slick, fast shift means changing gears is no chore.
Last updated: 28 Jun 2013