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The Top Gear car review: Honda Civic
For:Slowly getting better with every facelift, diesel is a corker
Against:Has it become the finished article too late?
1.6 i-DTEC SE Plus-T 5dr
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Practical, economical and competent for a smallish diesel engine. And spec for spec, it’s about two grand cheaper than the 2.2.
Not a bad engine, but far from stimulating and way too expensive in EX GT trim…
New engine, new rules. Diesel is highly efficient but harsh, the Civic a decent alternative for non-Golfers
Still reliable, useful and good-looking. But if you want a bit of fun, you might not like the new Civic…
The Type R 200 is a sort of Mugen-lite, and that’s a good thing. Just exercise some self-restraint when tuning the thing…
Vastly improved over the Type R (itself no slow coach) but at a cost. If it were £25k, it’d be hot hatch champ.
A fantastic car and what the Type R should always have been. But way too much money.
Same power, but more focus for the Type R. New limited-slip diff and white paint only make it more appealing.
What we say:
The Civic is hardly a barrel of fun, but it is clever, and efficient, and capable
What is it?
The latest Honda Civic will be familiar to fans of the old one, as Honda takes a leaf out of Volkswagen’s design handbook and goes for evolution rather than revolution. Because of this, the five-door only Civic remains an unusual looker, with the pyramidal outline spiced up this time round by a set of flowing wave-like creases along the sides. There’s no missing the beak-like black grille surround either. Oh, and it finally gets a rear wiper too.
Big news for 2013 was the launch of a long-awaited 1.6 diesel. It followed that up last year with a chassis retune, and now Honda’s finally facelifted the rest of it, giving the Civic a sharp new nose and much more attitude. At last, it’s the real deal. And not before time.
Honda has listened to all the criticism of the old Civic and fed this into the latest one. It is thus a lot more refined and smootherriding, with expensive details like fluid-filled suspension bushes all helping iron out the bangs and crashes. The tyre roar of the old one has been quelled too.
Pity Honda has dialled back some of the driving enthusiasm of the old Civic, the root cause of which is new fuel-saving electric power steering. It’s a pretty groggy system, proving gluey and short of feel. This means a lot of the sharp, connected cornering you got with the old Civic has melted away. It’s an unquestionably better car to drive though – and, in fairness, the facelift does restore some of the fun. 1.4-litre and 1.8-litre petrol engines are available, but most will prefer the diesel. The old 2.2-litre motor has gone, but fear not: better still is the new 1.6-litre ‘Earth Dreams’ replacement. An eye-opening blend of power, economy and emissions is backed up with impressive refinement and well-rounded manners. Its new six-speed gearbox is great, too.
On the inside
Interior quality has taken a much-needed step up. There are now more soft-touch plastics and premium-finish surfaces. The trouble for Honda is that the Civic’s rivals have improved too: assembly standards are immaculate but it lacks the last edge of tactility that helps win over showroom-browsers. Honda hopes the futuristic styling will do this instead – as before, it’s all bold shapes and colourful displays in the new Civic, but with a welcome improvement in ergonomics and intuitiveness.
Honda has worked hard on the fuel efficiency of the current Civic, particularly in ultra-sophisticated 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel guise. It emits as little as 94g/km and can average 78.5mpg. Given how punchy it is, this is seriously impressive (and even the sharp, ‘quasi-Type R’ Sport comes in at under 100g/km). Naturally, reliability is not in question and better interior quality means this refreshed one feels like it’ll last forever, too. A simpler trim line means it’s easier to pick one, although we’d like more engine choice…