Honda Civic hatchback (2016 - ) review
There's a lot of competition in the family hatchback class. Can the new Honda Civic hold its own?
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.5
The latest Civic is a real contender in the family hatchback class, and with the standard of the opposition, that’s really saying something. It’ll keep you comfortable and entertained in equal measure, and the entry-level petrol engine is great on both performance and economy. It’s not the poshest-feeling hatchback, and it’s a little limited on practicality, but if you can live with that, the Civic should definitely be on your shopping list.
- Enjoyable and comfortable to drive.
- The petrol engines on offer are cracking.
- Should prove to be faultlessly reliable.
- Looks will be pretty divisive.
- Numerous rivals are more practical.
- Entry-level car needs more standard equipment.
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. SR models get 17-inch alloys and a rear parking camera, while the Sportline trim adds some black elements to the bodywork to give a slightly zingier look. EX adds a sunroof, while the 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. For the fully-loaded Civic, go for the Prestige model, which features various chrome bits on the outside and the bodykit and exhausts from the Sport models.
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 That’s because the awkwardly high driver’s seat has been replaced by one that’s set much lower, and there’s lots of adjustment in both the seat and steering wheel.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 touchscreen 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.
Voted for by the public as the 2018 winner of Auto Trader’s New Car Award for ‘Best Car for Dog Owners’.
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 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 for the class. Against rivals like the Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf, it's likely to hold its value well and keep overall running costs competitive, although the details will depend on what version you go for.
How reliable is it?
Honda has a very decent reputation for reliability, although it's not been quite as spectacular in the last couple of years. As a brand it fares well in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, and the Civic achieves a super-impressive score as an individual model. However, the 2017 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study was much less impressive for Honda, although its position rose in 2018 and it still scores above the industry average. 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 safety organisation 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. Sportline gives you black leather seats with red trim, while 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.
Civic customers will be after a car that distances itself from the crowd stylistically, and is 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.