First Drive: Honda Civic
SECTOR: Lower medium PRICE: £15,975–£26,970 FUEL: 42.8–78.5mpg CO2: 94–155g/km
Honda has had a tough time in Europe recently. Prioritising hybrids over diesels and without a sporty halo car, it’s shrunk back from a diverse and engineering-led product range to a compact line-up that’s slipped off the radar a little.
It’s even tougher in fleet, where the Jazz is a small player and the Accord looks expensive. Corporate sales fall almost completely on the Civic and the CR-V, both of which have been upgraded ahead of some significant new arrivals.
This will be a formative couple of years for the Civic. The European model is months away from being exported to North America, and the new Type R will help reinvigorate the brand’s sporty side, alongside the NSX hybrid supercar.
The Civic is a good base, with proven reliability and an overall feeling of high quality. Plus it’s one of the most versatile hatches on sale – with a huge boot and rear bench base which folds upwards as well as flat, enabling loads to be stacked from the footwell to the roof.
Honda’s 118bhp 1.6-litre i-DTEC engine is a star performer, too. It’s smooth, quiet, offers plenty of torque and real-world economy comes very close to the claimed figures. With a short, light gearchange, well-weighted steering and excellent high-speed comfort, it’s a pleasure to drive.
The updates recognise its shortcomings. Where the outgoing car found an uncomfortable medium between segment norms and the futuristic styling of its predecessor, there’s an unapologetic nod to the Type R here. For the first time since the Type S, there’s also a diesel-powered Sport trim to bridge the gap with the sportiest version.
Honda Connect, the brand’s new infotainment system, is now fitted across the range. Designed to offer pinch-swipe-tap smartphone-esque controls and optionally equipped with Garmin navigation for a very reasonable £610, it’s a welcome change from its dated precedessor and very easy to use.
A price cut of up to £1,600 and collision mitigation system which drops it two insurance groups, will both help it better compete for heads as well as hearts. This still has a tough task ahead, but with an expanding model range and a more distinctive sense of style, it’s heading in the right direction.