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The Top Gear car review:Honda Civic
What is it like on the road?
Sitting lower than in the old Civic, or indeed many rival hatches, makes you feel connected to the road. It’s not just an illusion; the Civic traces a precise and quick-witted path to follow your orders.
The high-geared steering would feel nervous if the car’s actual reactions weren’t so progressive. It rolls less than most rival hatches, and just gets on with the job of steering round the arc you set. There’s not a lot of steering feel, but the general chassis confidence makes up for it. It copes well with mid-corner bumps too.
No surprise then that the ride is relatively taut, but it never gets harsh over small bumps, and on big intrusions it usually finds something in reserve. The adaptive damper system is nice to have, but not transformative.
The engines aren’t quite such a success. The 1.0 certainly has enough urge to get the car up hills, making a distinctive triple-cylinder chatter as it goes. But because it needs high boost to make its power and torque, there’s definite lag across the rev range, especially below 3,000rpm. Also the rev limit is just 5,600rpm, and we kept bouncing against it. Most unlike high-revving Honda engines of old.
The 1.5 will rev higher, to 6,500rpm, and lags less. Even so, you can’t help the feeling Honda pulled back on the tech. How much more responsive would it have been with VTEC and a twin-scroll turbo? (The VTEC Turbo badge is a dummy – there’s no VTEC here.) Still, let’s not bicker - for a relatively mainstream hatch, this is impressively lively. On boost it does 0-62 mphin the low-8-second range, depending on transmission and tyres.
The manual transmission has a well-oiled notchy lever action and wisely chosen ratios. The optional CVT is decently predictable in light driving. But if you press on, or take control using the paddles to choose between the seven virtual ratios, it slurs annoyingly.
The brake pedal is progressive and nicely firm and the Civic pulls up true. But the pedal box was a bit cramped on the left-hand-drive cars we tested, getting in the way of heel-and-toe shifts. If you’re into that sort of thing.
Road noise doesn’t bother you most of the time, but it works its way up on coarse surfaces. Wind rustle gets audible at high motorway speeds too. It’s no biggie, but overall silence falls short of a VW Golf’s.