The Honda Civic’s adaptive suspension helps make it involving when you want to have fun and comfortable when you don’t. Unfortunately, it’s only standard on high-spec EX models
You can get the Civic with one of three petrol and diesel engines and with either a manual or CVT automatic gearbox.
You’ll want to consider the 129hp 1.0-litre petrol model if you spend most time around town. It’s reasonably perky and can return around 45mpg (compared to Honda’s claimed 55.4mpg). If you mostly do long journeys then the 182hp 1.5-litre model will be a much better bet.
The entry-level Civic’s 1.0-litre petrol engine does a fair (if slightly forgettable) job but the 1.5-litre turbo model is an absolute gem – it’s smooth, powerful and fairly frugal, too
It’s not just faster than the 1.0-litre version (it can accelerate from 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds compared to 10.2 seconds) but it’s smoother and can return almost identical fuel economy – go easy on the accelerator and it’ll easily manage 44mpg.
You’ll want to consider a 1.6-litre diesel model instead if you do lots of long journeys. This 120hp Civic will accelerate from 0-62mph in a respectable (but hardly spritely) 9.8 seconds but easily outstrips the petrols in the fuel economy stakes. Honda claims it’ll return 80.7mpg but even in normal driving conditions you can expect to see a figure in the high sixties.
It’s also impressively quiet at low speeds for a diesel engine and it’s also happier pulling heavier trailers than the petrols. Sadly, you can’t get it with an automatic gearbox but the standard-fit six-speed manual is impressively smooth and very easy to use around town.
The optional CVT gearbox will set you back £1,400 across the Civic range but it’s worth considering if you spend a lot of time in heavy traffic. It’s not perfect, however – it causes the engine to drone loudly when you accelerate hard and blunts the 1.5-litre models’s otherwise rather spritely performance. Fuel economy takes a slight hit compared to the standard manual gearbox, too.
The Civic’s light steering makes it easy to drive around town but there are a few blindspots to worry about. The pillars where the front doors meet the windscreen can obscure your view out at junctions and the narrow rear windscreen can make parking slightly nerve-wracking, too.
Thankfully, all but entry-level S models come with front and rear parking sensors and SR models and above get a reversing camera as standard.
The Civic soaks up bumpy city streets and poorly maintained country roads impressively well for a relatively small car, too – especially EX models and above thanks to their standard adaptive suspension. It can’t quite soften the jarring thud of large potholes quite as well as a VW Golf but the Civic runs the class-leading German car very close in terms of outright comfort.
You’ll hear a little more wind and tyre noise in the Honda at motorway speeds than you would in the VW but it’s far from excessive – you can easily have a conversation with your passengers without raising your voice.
Head off the motorway and onto a windy country road and the Civic feels more agile than the Golf. It comes with a clever system that individually brakes its rear wheels to help it turn sharply and its adaptive suspension stops it leaning too much in tight corners. That said, it’s not quite as sporty as a Ford Focus or as surefooted as a Vauxhall Astra.
When it comes to safety, even entry-level S models come with bundles of kit as standard such as lane-departure warning, traffic-sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking (which’ll stop the car automatically to help prevent a collision) all helped the Civic score a reasonable four-star safety rating in the strict 2017 tests.