The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.7
The Honda Civic beats all rivals when it comes to space and reliability. But this new grown-up Civic has lost some of its predecessor’s joie de vivre – and that spoiler still gets in the way.
Reasons to buy
- Expect it to be very reliable
- Class-leading space in cabin and boot
- 2.2-litre diesel offers 110g/km CO2 emissions
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
The front of the new Honda Civic shares much with the hybrid Honda Insight while the integrated spoiler tail-light of the rear softens the lines of the outgoing model. Honda says this is in response to opinions being polarised by its previous design. However, the more evolutionary development of the new model means some of the previous car’s “Wow!” factor is lost. The new design is lower and wider than the model it replaces. Three-door fans will need to look elsewhere as this is a five-door only model, although it’s hard to tell, thanks to hidden rear door handles.
What's the interior like?
Honda has improved the quality of materials in the new Civic, giving them a softer, higher-quality feel. However, while they are better, they still have a way to compete with the Volkswagen Golf. The lay-out of the controls is driver-focussed with the rev-counter taking centre stage and a digital speedo sitting on a secondary information display. It feels more spacious and more sober than its predecessor.
How practical is it?
The new Civic claims class-leading space for passengers and luggage with the biggest cabin and boot in its class. Boot-space of 477-litres (including 76-litres within an under-floor compartment) is indeed way ahead of rivals and one of the areas in which the car excels. The ‘magic’ rear seats can be flipped forwards or folded back cinema-style, allowing objects such as bicycles to be loaded across the width of the car. The new Civic has also seen Honda address one of the downsides of the previous car’s bold design: the lack of rear visibility caused by the awkwardly positioned rear spoiler. It’s now lower, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
What's it like to drive?
Ride comfort was a bugbear for the previous Civic, with most finding it too firm. Honda has taken this on board and made improvements to the suspension set-up as well as strengthening the car to enhance body control. The steering has been sharpened while cabin noise has been reduced. Civic’s with smaller alloy wheels ride well, soaking up bumps better than the previous Civic, while the sportiest models have less compliance, but still won’t rattle your fillings loose. The 1.6 diesel version of the car feels more lightfooted than the others because it’s less nose-heavy thanks to the very lightweight diesel engine. It means the front steers in beautifully for corners. Sadly, the rear torsion beam suspension doesn’t respond as well as the front to bumps, and upsets the smooth rhythm of the ride. On a the motorway, it’s fine though, cruising along very nicely.
How powerful is it?
The new Civic offers a choice of four engines. There are two petrol engines, a 99bhp 1.4 i-VTEC and a 142bhp 1.8 i-VTEC as well as a 150bhp 2.2 i-DTEC diesel and a 118bhp 1.6 i-DTEC diesel. The smaller petrol model covers 0-62 mph in 13.4 seconds and has a top speed of 116mph. It’s not quick then, but its smooth nature makes it well suited to town driving. The larger-capacity petrol engine covers 0-62mph in between 9.1 and 11.5 seconds, depending on trim and gearbox specification. We found the 1.8-litre petrol a competent cruiser but it requires working hard for more enthusiastic driving. The 2.2 diesel engine covers 0-62mph in between 8.5 seconds and 8.8 seconds depending on trim specification. All models come with a six-speed manual transmission as standard. However, the 1.8-litre petrol can be specified with a five-speed automatic gearbox. A further small diesel engine is expected to join the line-up in late 2012. The 1.6 litre diesel feels livelier than the others and the maximum torque at 2000rpm makes for a very fun drive. While diesels usually sacrifice power to keep the CO2 low, this has the magic numbers of 118bhp and 94 g/km CO2 – which is class leading. This power and less turbo lag, means it can achieve 0-62 mph in 13.4 seconds and a top speed of 116mph.
How much will it cost me?
The new Civic comes with significant reductions in CO2 emissions over the outgoing model. The two petrol engines emit 129g/km and 137g/km respectively while the 2.2 diesel version has emissions of just 110g/km and returns 64.2-67.3mpg, though specifying diesel adds considerably to the on the road price and will require high mileage to be a worthwhile investment. The star of the show for keeping running costs low is the 1.6 diesel version which returns a mighty 75mpg and has CO2 emission of just 94g/km which means you don’t have to pay road tax. The petrol engines return between 44.1mpg and 52.3mpg depending on trim and gearbox selection. This has partly been achieved through stop and start technology. Every Civic gets an ECON driving mode to smooth acceleration inputs and promote economical driving.
How reliable is it?
Honda has a fantastic, well-deserved reputation for reliability. This has been recognised through accolades, including being named the most reliable car brand by Which Car? in 2011, as well as top volume manufacturer in the JD Power survey in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Add the fact this is a car with a heritage stretching back 40 years and the new Civic looks like a very safe bet.
How safe is it?
The Civic has been awarded a maximum five stars from Euro NCAP, offering high levels of occupant and pedestrian protection. It also received particular praise for its high levels of on-board safety technology including its Collision Mitigation Brake System, which is an automatic emergency braking technology that uses radar to detect imminent collisions. The system is only available on cars in top of the range EX GT trim, but all models come with Electronic Stability Control and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution (which applies brake force evenly between the wheels) as standard.
How much equipment do I get?
The Civic is available in SE, ES, EX and EX GT trim levels. The entry-level SE trim includes 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic air-con and USB connectivity. The ES specification adds features new to the Civic including cruise control with a speed limiter, rear view parking camera, keyfob-operated windows, folding door mirrors plus automatic electric rear windows. It also brings dual-zone air-con, Bluetooth Hands Free Telephone, front fog lamps, auto headlights and wipers, leather steering wheel and gear knob, ambient interior lighting and six-speaker audio system. Specify the T-Grade package for integrated touch-screen sat-nav. EX comes with leather upholstery, heated front seats and a HDD sat-nav and premium audio system. New to the Honda Civic range are keyless entry, front and rear parking sensors, bi-xenon HID headlights and lumbar support. Also included on EX GT is a panoramic glass roof, 17-inch alloy wheels and privacy glass, while options include Honda’s Adaptive Cruise Control and Collision Mitigation Braking System.
Because you want a practical hatchback that won’t go wrong.