Honda Civic hatchback

£15,975 - £25,935

The Honda Civic has long been on the periphery of the small family hatchback class. It's never been a bad car, but that's not always enough in a class filled with impressive rivals. 

It's up against competitors like the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Octavia, SEAT Leon and new Vauxhall Astra. There's also the seriously impressive Hyundai i30 and Kia Cee’d, which offer excellent value for money and temptingly long warranties.

That said, the Honda's distinctive styling makes it stand out from what's generally a pretty conservative crowd. Add to that the brand's stunningly good reputation for reliability and it starts to make more sense. 

You get the choice of three engines for your Civic – two petrols and one diesel – and we’d recommend the diesel. Not only is it cheap to run – returning nearly 80mpg and emitting less than 100g/km of CO2 – but it's also smooth, refined and impressively powerful. 

The 94g/km CO2 figure is important as it exempts the car from road tax and puts it in the 16% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax bracket, which makes it very affordable for both private and business users. The diesel is a strong performer, too, managing the 0-62mph sprint in a very respectable 10.5 seconds. It also feels strong, with lots of power across the rev range. We think it's clearly superior to the Civic's rather breathless 1.4 and thirsty 1.8-litre petrols. 

Although it has that fairly punchy diesel engine, the Civic doesn’t offer much in the way of a sporty drive. It's been engineered for comfort rather than involvement. The suspension is soft and the steering, while accurate, doesn’t inspire an awful lot of confidence. Both the Ford Focus and VW Golf are much better to drive.

While the Civic isn’t particularly cheap (in fact, it's quite pricey) it does come with a fairly generous amount of standard equipment. Climate control, LED daytime running lights, alloy wheels, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity and electric windows are standard across the range. If you add the reasonably priced optional sat nav, you’ll have pretty much all the kit you’ll need. 

Safety isn’t a concern, either. Euro NCAP gave the Civic the full five stars for crash safety and it comes with loads of safety equipment as standard. There's the usual array of airbags, as well as traction control, stability control and anti-lock brakes, plus a tyre-pressure warning system, ISOFIX child-seat mounts and active city braking, which can autonomously stop the car at low speeds if it senses a potential collision.