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The Top Gear car review:Honda Civic
For:Chassis, 1.5 engine, space, safety kit
Against:Its nose and tail design are polarising
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.
Two new petrol engines power the first Civics on sale. The old 1.8 natually aspirated engine has gone. In its place comes 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.
There’s no diesel yet, but towards autumn the previous Civic’s 1.6 diesel will reappear, but with as-yet unspecified enhancements. There’s no mention of an estate.
The most exciting missing model is the Type-R. That hits the road in autumn 2017. It’ll field a 2.0-litre engine with about 330-340bhp. We’re salivating.
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.