"The latest Honda Civic is now safer and more comfortable than ever, offering owners a large boot and distinctive looks."
The latest Honda Civic hatchback doesn’t stand out as much as its radically designed predecessor, but this is more because other cars, such as the Ford Focus and Renault Megane, have moved forwards in their styling rather than the Civic toning down its styling. The short curved bonnet and unusual split rear window of the previous model remain, as does the hi-tech interior but Honda has introduced syling changes that help the car's aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. The Civic also comes with stop-start systems on models fitted with a manual gearbox, which stops the engine when the car is stationary, further helping fuel efficiency. The Civic comes in four specifications, SE, ES, EX and flagship EX GT, with a choice of four engines - two diesels and two petrols - but is only available as a five-door hatchback.
The previous Honda Civic could be a bumpy, uncomfortable place to be and Honda have done a decent job in dealing with that criticism in the new model, striking a balance between ride comfort and fun driving. The car's ability to soak up potholes is much better than before, even if it's still not quite as good as a Volkswagen Golf. The only real let down when driving the Civic is the steering, which can feel a little too light and inconsistent, and isn't as good as in the Ford Focus. Noise in the car is minimal and well controlled, but the 1.8-litre petrol engine needs to be revved quite hard to work well and gets noisy when you do. There are three other engines in Honda's Civic range, all of which give decent performance and good economy. The 1.4-litre petrol is the entry model and returns 52.3mpg with CO2 emisions of 129g/km. The 2.2-litre diesel is the fastest car in the range, going from 0-62mph in just 8.5 seconds, and returning 67.3mpg while emitting 110g/km of CO2. The 1.6-litre diesel is the pick of the range, delivering tax-free emissions of 94g/km and returning 78.5 mpg while maintaining a decent performance. The six-speed manual gearbox is standard across the entire range, with a five-speed automatic gearbox only available for the 1.8-litre petrol.
The main citicism of the last model of Civic was its firm ride. Honda has improved this dramatically thanks to new fluid-filled rear suspension and the car now treats its driver and passengers to a relatively smooth and comfortable ride, with only major potholes and road bumps drawing attention to the ride quality. Wind noise is nicely controlled thanks to the more aerodynamic design. In the front, the seats are set a little high for you to feel really connected to the drive, but they do give a decent view and plenty of support. Sitting in the back is relatively roomy, but the steeply sloping rear roof of the Civic means that taller passengers may feel a little cramped, however - especially in comparison to the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus. The Starship Enterprise-like dashboard of the previous model could be a little wearing for some drivers, so Honda have toned it down in the latest Civic without losing any of its drama and it should be easier to live with as a result.
The Civic hatchback is now into its ninth generation and has built up a good reputation over the years for being very reliable. The Civic is still too new to have appeared in the 2012 Driver Power Survey, but with Honda placing sixth in the customer satisfaction survey and other models in the range scoring highly for reliability across the board, we expect the Civc to do very well in next year's survey. Only a Toyota Auris is likely to rival the Civic for reliability. The ninth generation model currently on sale has carried over many of the engines and gearboxes of the previous model, which proved to be nearly bullet proof. The interior is well constructed, as you'd expect from a Honda, and despite the hi-tech look of the dashboard, very little should go wrong over the life of the car. The Honda Civic received a full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests and all cars come with plenty of airbags to keep the driver and passengers safe. The EX and EX GT models are available with adaptive cruise control and a low-speed collision mitigation system to help prevent accidents.
The Honda Civic hatchback's dimensions are generous but one of Honda's strengths is using the space cleverly so that more space is available on the inside that you would expect. So the fuel tank is mounted in the middle of the car, underneath the floor, and the rear suspension is kept tucked away and compact. That means the boot offers 487 litres, which is a helpful 171 more than the Ford Focus. The boot has two levels inside, but the downside to this arrangement is that the Civic doesn’t have room for a spare tyre as a result. The rear seat is Honda's clever ‘Magic Seat’, which not only folds down conventionally but also comes with flip-up bases like a cinema seat, offering generous space for bags behind the front seats. If the view out of the front of the Civic is good, the view from the rear is very hampered. The split rear window looks good from the outside but interferes with visibility when reversing or checking your mirrors. Combined with the thick rear pillars, which can make pulling out of tight turnings difficult, then vision around the car has a lot of room for improvement.
Value for money
The Honda Civic is generously equipped, with the four different specification levels all coming with LED daytime running lights, alloy wheels, stop-start, air-conditioning and MP3 compatible stereo fitted as standard. Higher spec levels add items such as automatic lights, climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and sat-nav. The Civic has an ECON button that adjusts the throttle response and other settings to help the car become more fuel efficient. The flagship EX and EX GT models are very expensive, but come with lots of equipment and options such as adaptive cruise control and automatic braking systems to avoid an accident. Honda's cars tend to hold their price well and the New Civic is unlikely to be any different and should outperform the Ford Focus in this regard when it comes time to sell the car on.
The Civic should be one of the cheapest cars in its class to run. The new car has dropped five insurance groups on some models and all versions are fairly economical. The diesels, in particular, offer good levels of economy and CO2 emissions, making them the better choices for the wallet concious.The 2.2-litre diesel returns 67.3mpg and emits 110g/km, but the 1.6-litre diesel can return 78.5mpg and emit less than 100g/km of CO2, exempting it from road tax. The petrols are pretty efficient, too, with even the bigger 1.8 litre capable of returning 48.7mpg and emitting just 137g/km, which compare well with its rivals.