First Drive: Honda Civic
The tenth-generation Civic offers plenty for fleets, but there’s a catch, says Alex Grant.
SECTOR: Lower Medium PRICE: £18,335-£23,870 FUEL: 46.3-60.1mpg CO2: 106-139g/km
Though ‘Civic’ is a global nameplate, it’s never been a truly global car. Honda has spent the last 45 years engineering specific versions to suit European, Asian and North American markets – cars often sharing little more visually than the badge on the boot.
Not any more. For the tenth generation, global R&D talents were channelled into building a Civic for all markets, but based on European expectations for ride, handling, steering and refinement, reasoning that a car designed in Europe can work everywhere. So the new hatch shares a platform and styling with the coupe and sedan sold in other markets, and cars built in Swindon will be exported globally, including to North America for the first time.
This isn’t the only break with tradition. Honda’s high-revving, naturally aspirated petrol engines have made way for downsizing and turbocharging; 127bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder and 180bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder engines, both with a six-speed manual or continuously variable transmission, the latter programmed with seven stepped ‘gears’ for Europe.
They’re both components of a sportier drive. The Civic is wider, lower and longer than its predecessor, built around a lighter, more rigid frame and with a quicker, more direct steering setup derived from the old Type R. Relocating the fuel tank from underneath the front seats offers a sportier driving position, and there’s a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension setup at the back.
It adds up to a big change. The Civic feels remarkably sure-footed and much more direct than the old car and, sat lower with the dashboard wrapped around you, even the smaller engine offers a sporty drive, yet it’s also quiet and composed at motorway speeds. Honda’s hardest selling point will be the CVT – it’s an acquired taste, and not overly well suited to three cylinders.
But it’s not without compromises. The repositioned fuel tank means there’s no upwardly-folding rear bench and Sport trim levels lose the under-floor storage to make room for a large centre-exit exhaust. The others get a similar load volume to the outgoing Civic, despite being 130mm longer, and all feature a clever load cover which retracts sideways so it doesn’t have to be removed if you’re folding the rear bench.
Some things haven’t changed. There’s still a spoiler and rear wiper partially obscuring the rear view, though the window itself offers a better view of low objects than most other hatchbacks. The cabin is unmistakeably Honda, too; it’s solid and futuristic, with a new internet-connected infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the option of Garmin navigation. A package of assistance systems is standard across the range.
This means Honda has potential, or it will once the line-up is complete. The 1.6-litre diesel won’t be available until later this year and there are no plans to replace the Tourer – drivers seeking either will be offered the old car, which is still being manufactured as a stop gap. Honda’s global Civic is a good product, but diesel-favouring fleets won’t find out yet.
What we think
Competitive petrol engines and a sharper drive are good foundations for the Civic, but, for fleets, that excellent 1.6-litre diesel can’t come soon enough.
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