Chassis, 1.5 engine, space, safety kit, mega Type R hot hatch
Not quite as clever with interior space as it was, divisive styling
What is it?
You’re looking at another endangered species. No, not merely because it has a petrol engine, but rather because this 10th generation of the venerable Honda Civic (it’ll be celebrating its 50th birthday this year) is shortly to be canned in favour of an all-new 11th generation model, one that will come with nothing but petrol-hybrid engines. Gasp.
At any rate, you’ve still got a bit of time to take advantage of the current Civic’s impressive remaining range of, er, 1.0-, 1.5- and 2.0-litre petrol engines while Honda dealers work through remaining stocks.
Looks a bit… different, doesn’t it?
Since the eighth generation car came out in 2005 the Civic has worn something of a brash look, which belied the practical interior within. The exterior styling 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 we’ve seen before in a Civic, and one that’s still extrovertly styled compared with its German opposition.
This version of the car was the first one to be built as a global Honda, sold broadly the same across all markets, so it had to appeal across a wide band rather than being built bespoke for local markets. Overall, we like it – in a tightly fought area of the market the Civic’s rivals are all equally competent, but verge on looking a bit samey. You couldn’t say that about the Honda, now. But it might put some people off.
Remind me, what are its main rivals, exactly?
The Civic is pretty mainstream, so its competition is the affordably priced, high volume stuff that also operates slap bang in the middle of the market. So think Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Mini Hatch, Toyota Corolla. That sort of thing.
Thanks. What about those engines?
You’ve a choice of three petrol engines, which include a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo, making 124bhp, and a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo with 180bhp. You can have either with a new six-speed manual transmission, or a CVT automatic. The third engine sits in the Civic Type R and its 316bhp 2.0-litre VTEC turbo. Spoiler alert (no pun intended): it was Top Gear’s 2017 Car of The Year and remains one of the greatest hot hatches in recent history.
Does it still have the funky back seats?
Sadly the old Civic’s famous ‘magic seat’, an upward-folding rear bench, disappeared with this latest version of the car. 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.
Is it a good safe car for families?
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. A reversing camera and blind spot warning tech comes if you step up to the SR or EX trim levels respectively.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
After the soft and vague ninth-generation Civic, the 10th version of the car was a rejuvenation. Its low silhouette speaks the truth about its sharp driving manners. Quick steering and a taut chassis put it at home on B-roads. But it’s well judged enough not to mess up the main duties of a family hatch: it’s stable at a cruise, and the ride comfort in towns and suburbs is perfectly acceptable. We’ll celebrate those attributes while it’s still on sale and keep our fingers crossed that these qualities get ported over to the new car.
Performance is lively versus rivals, whichever of the new turbo engines you get. But the 1.0’s lag sometimes takes the shine off it. The 1.5 keeps a lid on that problem, and feels semi-sporty. It’s a good match for the athletic cornering. Then there’s the 316bhp Type R, one of the best hot hatches ever.