Honda Civic Hatchback (2016 - ) review
There's a lot of competition in the family hatchback class. Can the new Honda Civic hold its own?
Interested in buying a Honda Civic?
How good does it look?
You could be forgiven for thinking the styling of the Honda Civic is a lesson in knowing when to stop. It’s clear the designers wanted to make the car stand out from the crowd, and that’s undoubtedly been achieved thanks to the car’s unconventional lines and proportions. However, while many of the car’s in-your-face details work well, the sheer number of them is a little dizzying. Everywhere you look, there’s another faux air vent or one more unconventional crease, and it all makes the styling look very busy indeed. Still, if that’s the kind of look that floats your boat, you’ll absolutely love it. Entry-level S models miss out on alloy wheels, and a rear wiper for that matter, but these are boxes that are checked from SE trim upwards. Sport and Sport Plus models (available with the 1.5-litre engine only) get a slightly sportier exterior treatment including sill trims and centrally mounted exhausts.
What's the interior like?
Climb inside the Civic, and drivers of the old car will immediately notice how much more comfortable they are. That’s because the awkwardly high driver’s seat has been replaced by one that’s set much lower, and there’s lots of adjustment in both the seat and steering wheel. You’ll also notice how much simpler everything looks. Rather than being faced by a vast array of dials that are stacked up in a horribly confusing layout, your instruments are nice and easy to read. A touch-screen system does away with the need for too many dashboard buttons, but the system isn’t very easy to use because the menus are illogical, the screen transitions are slow and the graphics are dated. Your rear visibility is pretty limited, too, due to small back windows and a spoiler that slashes across your rear screen, blocking your view. On the quality front, the Civic feels very solid, and there are soft-touch materials in most of the important places. There are one or two slightly drab and grainy finishes that mean it doesn’t feel as expensive as its poshest rivals, and the dark colour scheme doesn’t help, either, but you won’t feel too short-changed.
How practical is it?
This area is something of a mixed bag for the Civic. There’s lots of rear leg-room, but head-room will be a little tight for particularly tall passengers, meaning that loftier folk will travel more comfortably in some of the Civic’s rivals. Similarly, the boot is among the class leaders for capacity, but there’s an odd ridge in the boot floor, the seats don’t lie totally flat when you fold them down, and the previous Civic’s ingenious ‘Magic Seats’ feature – which allowed you to carry particularly tall items in the rear footwells by allowing you to flip up the bases of the back seats – is not provided in the latest Civic. That’s a real shame. All that being said, though, the car should be plenty practical enough for your average small family.
What's it like to drive?
The previous Civic behaved in a rather nervous and unsettled way on the road, but the latest car does nothing of the sort. The suspension does a great job of shielding you from the effects of a bumpy surface, so the ride always remains comfortable, and because you’re well isolated from exterior noises, the Civic is also a fairly quiet and serene way to travel. It also has the capacity to excite when given the opportunity, too, because the car handles with real deftness and precision. The grip on offer is nothing short of immense, while the body is kept impressively flat under heavy cornering forces. The steering is brisk and predictable in its responses, and you feel enough feedback through the wheel to keep you on top of the action. The pedals are responsive, the gearshift has a slick, short-throw action, and it all adds up to a car that feels impressively stable and secure in all driving situations.
How powerful is it?
Civic buyers choose between a pair of turbocharged petrol engines, and one diesel. For most, there’ll be no need to look past the entry-level choice, a 1.0-litre unit with 129 horsepower. It’s impressively smooth for a three-cylinder, and it doesn’t get too raucous on the noise front, even when you thrash the pants off it. Best of all, though, it stays perky and eager right throughout the rev range, and this helps keep you moving along without too much effort. The four-cylinder 1.5 has 182 horsepower, and again, it gives impressive flexibility and smoothness, only this time with very strong pace indeed. Really, the only thing going against it is the extra it’ll cost you to buy and run it over the 1.0-litre, but for most buyers, that’ll be a saving worth making. The diesel choice is a 1.6 with 120 horsepower. The power comes easily if not all that quickly, so it’s a flexible – if not flabbergasting – performer. That said, while it sounds rather loud and clattery compared with the petrols.
How much will it cost me?
Prices for the Civic are competitive without being particularly cheap, so it feels like good – if not exceptional – value for money. Likewise, resale values will be solid – if not sensational – for the class. Being a small-capacity turbo, the 1.0-litre engine manages to combine its impressive performance with excellent economy. Depending on the equipment grade of your car, CO2 is punted out at a rate of 110g/km at its minimum (when paired with a manual gearbox), while the corresponding official fuel economy figure sits at around 59mpg. Even by the impressive standards of the class, those are good figures. The best you’ll get out of the 1.5 is 139g/km and 49mpg, respectively. The diesel’s figures look even better at 93g/km and 80mpg, but before you sign on the dotted line, bear a couple of things in mind: the diesel will cost private buyers more than the similarly powered entry-level petrol, and because company car drivers will pay tax on the higher list price, their monthly bills may not be any lower.
How reliable is it?
It’s no accident Honda has a reputation for reliability that is the envy of the motor industry. Take a look at pretty much any reliability or customer satisfaction survey going, and you can bet Honda is on or near the top of the list. That’s certainly the case with Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, and the Civic achieves a super-impressive score as an individual model. If you are unlucky enough to buy one of the few Hondas that does go wrong, you’re covered by a three-year warranty.
How safe is it?
The latest Civic has earned the maximum five stars in crash tests by the expert bods at Euro NCAP, but with the amount of safety equipment included as standard, that's no surprise. Each and every version has a vast suite of electronic driver aids that includes Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Lane-Keep Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition, Adaptive Cruise Control and a Forward Collision Warning, and that’s on top of the usual measures you get, like the collection of airbags, the stability control, and the tyre pressure monitoring system. The loftier trims also add more driver aids in the form of a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and if you fit your car with the optional continuously variable automatic transmission, then with all grades, you also get a low-speed following function.
How much equipment do I get?
Entry-level S trim is definitely worth avoiding because it doesn’t have essential items like alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a rear wiper, or a Bluetooth phone connection. SE trim ticks those boxes, along with the ones for a DAB radio with USB ports, front and rear parking sensors, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. SR grade is the one we’d recommend because it adds leather-covered controls, automatic wipers, privacy glass and a touch-screen infotainment system with sat-nav, and a rear parking camera. EX trim adds keyless entry, leather upholstery, an adaptive suspension system and an opening glass roof, but it takes the price rather high. Go for a Civic with the 1.5 engine rather than the 1.0 or the diesel, and you choose between different trim levels entirely. Sport trim gets most of what you get with SR trim, along with some racier styling, while Sport Plus adds a glass roof, heated front seats, keyless entry, adaptive suspension and a wireless phone charging function. Prestige trim also adds leather upholstery, heated rear seats and lashings of chrome on the bodywork.
Because you’re after a car that distances itself from the crowd stylistically, and because you want something that’ll be faultlessly reliable. What’s more, the Civic is dynamically very polished, so you’ll always enjoy driving it. If that forms a major part of your buying decision, you should certainly give it a look. If cabin quality or practicality are more important to you, however, there are other family hatchback offerings that’ll probably suit you better.