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First drive: Honda Civic 1.6 iDTEC
What is it?
An all-new, 1.6-litre diesel engine from Honda, priced from £19,400, and designed to broaden the Civic’s appeal to company car buyers in Europe. Because up until now, the Civic was only available with a relatively large 2.2-litre oil burner - good for power and torque, less impressive for economy and emissions.
So I assume that this version is more Eco then?Oh yes - 94g/km and 78.5mpg should float your eco-boat.
It’s the first engine to be launched in Europe under Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology banner, which is a marketeer’s way of saying that Honda has been working hard to make it as green as possible.
So it’s lightweight - unlike most diesels, it weighs about the same as a similar petrol engine - and it has very low frictional losses during operation. Because of those technological advancements and a new super-efficient turbo, the 1.6-litre unit manages those impressive eco figures while still producing 118bhp and 221lb ft. OK, so it’s not the cleanest or most powerful car in the class, but Honda has found a compromise between the figures that should make the Civic a great all-round, eco-friendly package.
Alright, alright. It’s green - I get that. But is it any good?
Yes. It covers all the bases you need in a diesel hatch, with one surprising trick - but more on that in a tick. Admittedly, it doesn’t have as much torque as the 2.2, but in reality the only time you’ll notice is on a long, uphill drag. In other words, the downsizing difference is marginal - this is a punchy and refined engine. And because the turbo kicks-in easily and smoothly from 1,400rpm, you’re hardly ever out of the power band, even if you pick a gear too high from the six-speed manual.
And the surprise? It’s fun to drive. Why? Well, it’s got far more torque than the petrol Civics, in an engine weighing a comparable amount. Because there’s a minimal weight penalty over the nose, the Civic doesn’t suffer from killer understeer. The steering is sharp, the body control good.
Makes you wonder why Honda took so long to launch this car in the first place. The pick of the Civics.