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The Top Gear car review:Honda Civic
For:Chassis, 1.5 engine, space, safety kit, mega Type R hot hatch
Against:Not quite as clever with interior space as before, divisive styling
What is it?
This is a nose-to-tail, top-to-toe overhaul of the Honda Civic. It’s much better to drive – close to class best in many ways – and sleeker with it. Yet the space of the old Civic has survived intact, if not perhaps its cabin versatility.
Most noticeably, it’s far lower than before, which makes it feel more lithe to drive. Lowering it has also reclined the passengers, so it’s longer.
The chassis now has a multi-link rear suspension so as to combine handling precision with better comfort. Adaptive dampers appear on upper-spec versions.
You’ve a choice of three petrol engines and one diesel. Two new petrol engines comprise a 1.0 three-cylinder turbo, making a healthy 129bhp. Want zestier performance? Pick the 1.5 four-cylinder turbo of 182bhp. You can have either of them with a new six-speed manual transmission, or a CVT automatic.
The diesel is a 118bhp/221lb ft option that adds about £1,300 to the 1.0 petrol, but compensates with a claimed 80mpg. You won’t reach that in the real world, but it’s a good base for reaching the 50s and 60s in more realistic conditions.
The final engine? The Civic Type R and its 316bhp 2.0-litre VTEC turbo. Spoiler alert (no pun intended): it’s Top Gear’s 2017 car of the year and one of the greatest hot hatches in recent history.
Exterior styling of all new Civics is busy with lines and angles. Huge pentagonal fake grilles dominate the front and rear corners. Sill and bumper extensions cling to the perimeter. Inside, you’re faced with a more logical and better-assembled dash than before. It’s still extrovertly styled compared with the German opposition though.
The old Civic’s famous ‘magic seat’, an upward-folding rear bench, has gone. It depended on the fuel tank being below the front seats, which is why the previous car ended up so tall. Now it’s in the conventional place below the fixed rear cushion. So you can’t have a footwell-to ceiling load space. On the other hand, that forward fuel tank always robbed rear passengers of foot space, so we’ll accept the trade.
It’s admirable that Honda fits a wide-ranging active safety suite to every single Civic model. That includes collision warning and auto city braking with pedestrian recognition, and active lane keeping. It uses the same cameras and radar for its cruise control, which doesn’t just adapt to the speed of the car in front, but also tries to predict when someone will cut in ahead of you and slows down more gently ahead of time. It’ll also change your speed as you pass limit signs. Blind-spot warning tech and a reversing camera come if you step up to the upper-middle trim.
This Civic is engineered with Europe very much in mind. But for the first time in several generations, the Civic sold here also sells with little modification in the Americas and Asia (they used to get their own very different cars.) In fact Swindon is only the factory in Honda’s worldwide network building the five-door version. It’s exported worldwide too. Good for Wiltshire.