£17,000 - £30,000 Price range
35 - 80 MPG
The current Honda Civic looks like it crash-landed from Mars, but this new-for-2017 model is relatively restrained but still manages to be something of an oddball next to big class players such as the Ford Focus, VW Golf, and Vauxhall Astra.
For now, only Civic Sport models have been driven. They look more distinctive than basic cars on account of their centrally mounted exhausts, big wheels and body kit. Regular cars are less daring, but the new Type R proves Honda hasn’t lost its touch for producing the positively nutty.
With the new look comes a new way of thinking, which sees Honda ditch some of its quirkier ideas in favour of tech that has been available on rivals for years. That means the old ‘magic’ back seats – which flipped up so you could carry everything from houseplants to bikes – have gone and in comes independent rear suspension. A scintillating prospect, given that a similar system is credited with making the Ford Focus the best-driving car in class.
The Civic’s dimensions have also changed. With no Mondeo-sized competitor in its line-up, Honda has grown its small family car so that it is now 30mm longer than a Vauxhall Astra. A 2.7m wheelbase is apparently the lengthiest in class – so rear-seat legroom is strong and the boot is big, even though the new suspension causes slight packaging problems. Despite the size increase, and the fact that the body is 41 per cent more torsionally rigid, the Civic’s body is 16kgs lighter than the old model .
Unless you go for a diesel, the engine line-up is all new, too, now following the trend for offering small capacity motors – in this case, 1.0 and 1.5-litres in size – boosted by turbos to offer decent performance and low running costs. The 1.6-litre diesel is carried over from the old model and will remain the cheapest to run in the range.
It is too soon to comment on exact specifications, but Honda has confirmed all Civics get the firm’s SENSING safety kit, which includes blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane-keep assist. Armed with that lot, a five-star NCAP rating should be nothing more than a formality.
The efforts to make the Civic appear more mainstream haven’t stopped with the outside, inside the two-layer design of the old model’s instrument binnacle has been ditched for something more conventional. It features lots of horizontal lines, which help accentuate space and A-pillars that are 9mm thinner than before let in more light and offer improved visibility.
Interior quality has improved with the top of the dashboard finished in soft-to-the-prod plastics and getting mock-leather stitching. Main touch points are highlighted by shiny black plastic trim pieces and the general design errs on the side of simplicity. Something you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever sampled the hodgepodge design of the old model.
The instrument binnacle is also more mainstream, featuring regular instruments backed up by a crystal-clear TFT display that can show everything from emails to a turbo gauge. Its graphics are crystal clear and easy to follow.
Honda Civic infotainment
That goes for the infotainment system that is all new – replacing the frankly awful system fitted to the current model. Based around a seven-inch display, it features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – so it’ll hook up to your smartphone using the same menu structure – and works in tandem with the car’s TFT display to relay directions from the car’s sat-nav. Unlike the old version, it has buttons that make sense and a radio tuner that mere mortals can operate.
Honda Civic passenger space
The Honda’s long wheelbase means that tall adults sitting in the back should have few complaints when it comes to leg and footroom, though the car’s sloping roofline does see headroom suffer. With no ‘magic’ rear seats to accommodate, the Civic’s fuel tank can now be found in the conventional spot – underneath the rear seats – to allow for more cabin room. We’ll have more info on passenger space when we have the car in for a full test in the coming months.
Honda Civic boot space
With a 478-litre capacity – 98 litres more than a Golf offers – the Honda’s boot remains one of the best in class and the small boot lip and smooth load area make it easy to load. Under the floor, there’s an extra storage area – except in Sport models, where space is restricted by the centrally mounted exhaust.
While independent rear suspension has been bolted to the Civic for improved driving dynamics, what strikes you first is how well it rides. The new setup means that the rear wheels compress and rebound in isolation of each other so that jolts aren’t transmitted to the other side of the car unless a big bump runs under both tyres.
In practice, the Civic’s rear end feels more planted than it used to – less like it’s dragging its rump along the ground, and more like the tyres are working in harmony with the ground running beneath them. The steering’s weight is well-judged and delivers accurate responses, but whether it’s a better drive than a Ford Focus is a question that will have to wait for another day – and a side-by-side comparison.
So far only Sport models have been driven. They come with two-stage adaptive dampers with Regular or Dynamic modes. Even the latter, sportier setting never feels that agile to drive, instead erring on the side of stability. That could be down to the car’s long wheelbase, which means it drives like a larger model.
Prototypes did not prove to offer big-car levels of refinement, though, with wind noise heard from the door, window and sunroof seals, but you would expect this to be solved when full-scale production begins.
Using knowledge gained from the outgoing Type R, petrol Civics will be the first mainstream Hondas to combine (variable-valve timing) VTEC technology with an efficiency-boosting turbocharger. The diesel is carried over from the outgoing model but will join the range six months after the car goes on sale.
Honda Civic petrol engines
A new three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine will form the backbone of the Civic range. It has yet to be sampled properly by the motoring press, but the official figures sound encouraging – it produces 127hp and Honda reckons it should be good for fuel economy of around 60mpg and low CO2 emissions of just 104g/km.
With 180hp, the 1.5-litre model offers a significant boost in performance. Unlike VTEC engines of old, it doesn’t need to be ragged to extract the best from it. In fact, the addition of a turbo means peak torque of 177Ib ft is available from just 1,900rpm – this effortless delivery means it feels like a diesel to drive. Its running costs don’t live up to that promise but fuel economy of 47.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 137g/km are, nevertheless, perfectly acceptable.
Both petrols come as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox that operates with a pleasing slickness. If past experience is anything to go by, the optional CVT automatic will be one extra that’s well worth avoiding thanks to its power-sapping/noisy operation.
Honda Civic diesel engine
The 118hp 1.6-litre diesel is the only engine to be carried over from the current Civic. Figures for it have yet to be revealed but expect subtle improvements on the outgoing model’s 78.5mpg fuel economy and 94g/km CO2 emissions. It also comes fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox, but skips the optional CVT automatic in exchange for a conventional auto, with nine-speeds, that should prove deeply more favourable.
So the new Honda Civic represents a significant break in tradition from the old model, while still displaying some of the quirkiness that should appeal to buyers of the current car.
Improved interior space, more fuel efficient engines and a driving experience that promises to be better accomplished than ever should appeal to British buyers. As will the fact that this global model will be built in Honda’s UK plant in Swindon.
It comes at a good time for Honda, which saw its UK market share increase by 14 per cent in 2016, whether the new model can continue this growth we’ll find out soon – the new model goes on sale in December 2016 priced from around £17,000.