"The latest Honda Civic is now safer and more comfortable than ever, offering owners a large boot and distinctive looks."
The bold design of the previous Honda Civic really turned heads thanks to its radical shape, and while the latest version doesn’t make the same instant impact, that's as much to do with the likes of the Ford Focus and Renault Megane adopting a similar approach just as it is Honda calming down its exterior style.
You still get the unique split rear window (and all its associated visibility problems) and the short, steeply curved front, but the bulk of the car has been updated to increase fuel efficiency and aerodynamics – often at the expense of style.
The Civic comes with stop-start fitted on models with a manual gearbox as standard, and comes in six specifications – entry-level SE, automatic SE-T, ES, ES-T, EX and top-of-the-range EX GT. There's also a choice of four engines: two diesels and two petrols, though it is only available as a five-door hatchback.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
You should be able to get fuel economy of around 50mpg in the Civic, alongside CO2 emissions of between 129 to 150g/km, if you select one of the available petrol engines. However, the diesels would be our choice, with mpg in the high 60s to high 70s and emissions starting in the tax-free bracket of 94g/km of CO2. That adds up to cheap car to run in anyone's book, while the current Civic is also five insurance groups below many of its rivals.
Interior & comfort
Honda had often been criticised for the harsh ride in the previous Civic, so it has worked hard to significantly improve the comfort in the current car – and it shows. Using a new fluid-filled suspension has made a genuine difference, producing a smooth and comfortable ride, with only really big bumps and deep potholes getting noticed. The sleek, aerodynamic exterior also works to reduce wind noise – which you can hardly hear at all. The front seats are a little high, but the view is undeniably excellent and you get lots of lower back support. The rear of the car is also pretty spacious, with a standard amount of shoulder and legroom. However, because the roof slopes quite steeply, taller passengers will likely get a crick in their neck, especially compared to the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus. Thankfully, Honda has replaced the confusing, complicated dashboard of the outgoing car with a far more intuitive and practical layout that is much easier to use, with losing any of the hi-tech drama that has become Honda's signature look.
Practicality & boot space
Honda knows how to maximise the space inside its cars, and the Civic is no exception. The Civic's dimensions are certainly generous enough to begin with, but there is more space than you think there will be. Like putting the fuel tank in the centre of the car, beneath the floor, to create more room, or tucking the compact rear suspension away entirely. These touches are invisible to the eye but result in a 487-litre boot, which is a full 171 litres more than the Ford Focus. If you fold down the back seats, that expands to an impressive 1,210 litres, which should be enough to carry most bulky items. You also get Honda's handy “Magic Seat”, which comes with a flip-up, cinema-seat-style base to create more space for bags behind the front seats when the rear seats are folded flat. The boot is split into two levels, which means no spare tyre but extra flexibility. Visibility out of the front is excellent but looking out the back is a challenge, with the split rear window really getting in the way of reversing and simple jobs like checking your mirrors. Add some thick door pillars that make tight junction particularly hard to get out of, and general visibility is something of an issue.
Reliability & safety
This ninth-generation Civic is still too new to feature in any customer satisfaction surveys, but the previous car had an excellent reputation for durability. However, simply due to its age, it did drop 24 places in the 2013 Driver Power survey's top 100 car rankings, to come 92nd. Honda itself held firm at number six (out of 32) in the manufacturers rankings, continuing its reputation for making reliable, sturdy cars – the same reputation that has given Honda a bit of an “old man's car” image. The Civic shares many of its engines, gearboxes and parts with the old model, which proved as reliable as you could hope for when it was launched. Certainly, only the Toyota Auris is likely to get close to matching the Civic's reliability. It's well built, with a hi-tech looking dashboard that isn’t likely to present any difficulties, and not much is likely to go wrong during the life of the Civic. It was also awarded the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, with all models fitted with a full range of airbags, while the EX and EX GT models also get adaptive cruise control and a low-speed collision mitigation system to help avoid accidents.
Engines, drive & performance
The current Civic provides a much-improved balance of ride comfort and fun driving than its predecessors – showing that Honda has listened to its customers. Rough roads are less of an issue, even if it still doesn’t match the Volkswagen Golf and the steering is still much too light for any real accuracy. It's not as fun to drive as the Ford Focus, but the 1.8-litre petrol engine becomes especially loud when accelerate hard to get some better performance out of it. All the rest of the three engines offer reasonable power and good fuel economy. The entry-level 1.4-litre returns 52.3mpg and emits 129g/km of CO2, while the 2.2-litre diesel is easily the fastest model available, accelerating from 0-62mph in only 8.5 seconds. However, we’d suggest choosing the 1.6-litre diesel, which delivers tax-free CO2 emissions and returns 78.5 mpg in fuel economy but never sacrifices its robust performance. The six-speed manual gearbox is fitted as standard across the whole range, with a five-speed automatic gearbox only available for the 1.8-litre petrol (and best avoided).
Price, value for money & options
You pretty much get what you’d expect for your money in the Civic, with no big surprises either way. All models are fitted with LED daytime running lights, alloy wheels, stop-start technology, air-conditioning and an MP3 compatible stereo as standard, while higher spec cars add in accessories such as automatic headlights, climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and sat-nav. There's also an ECON mode that adjusts the sensitivity of the accelerator to make the Civic more economical. The top-of-the-range EX and EX GT models do start to become particularly expensive, but there is lots of equipment, plus options such as adaptive cruise control and automatic braking systems to help you avoid any accidents. Luckily, resale value for Hondas on the used market is normally strong, with the Civic getting better second-hand deals than the Ford Focus.