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 is the launch of the long-awaited 1.6 diesel. Honda’s been missing such an engine for too long, and its arrival is expected to lead a big sales lift.
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 smoother-riding, with expensive details like fluid-filled suspension bushes all helping iron out the bangs and crashes felt before. 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, but if you like to break free for a bit of fun, you might not like the upgrade. 1.4-litre and 1.8-litre petrol engines are available, but most will prefer the diesels. The familiar 2.2-litre motor remains impressive but better still is the new 1.6-litre ‘Earth Dreams’ unit. 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 dramatically improved the fuel efficiency of the new Civic, particularly the 2.2-litre i-DTEC diesel. Despite its ample capacity, idle-stop and aero gains (keen spotters will note the stick-on ‘ears’ on the rear panels) mean this averages 67.3mpg and emits just 110g/km CO2. The new 1.6-litre diesel is even better, emitting 94g and averaging 78.5mpg.