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’s now following that up with a chassis retune and trim upgrade for 2014: the definitive Civic arrives at last?
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 just 94g/km and can average 78.5mpg. Given how punchy it is, this is seriously impressive. Naturally, reliability is not in question and better interior quality means this facelifted one feels like it’ll last forever, too.