15 Oct 2013

Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC first drive review

Matt Hubbard reviews the new Honda Civic in top of the range EX spec with the 1.6 i-DTEC engine

Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC
Take a look at the Honda Civic in the photos.  Now, cast your mind back to the previous generation (eighth, if you're counting) which launched in 2006.  Back then the new Civic was a revelation.

It was a totally new design that blew everyone away compared to previous Civics which had been reliable and worthy, but bland.  The 2006 Civic was not bland.  It was modern, funky and will probably be looked back on as something of a classic.

Then, in 2011 came the ninth generation Civic.  It was more mature.  Some of the craziness of the eighth gen had been ironed out, and the rear light cluster poked out from the body in a slightly weird way.  This shouldn't have been a surprise.  Every manufacturer (apart from Lexus) does the same - come up with a funky, classic design and refine it, taking away radical looks piece by piece.

In the flesh, and presented in white, the Civic isn't bland, but it has lost something.  It's quite a safe design.  As a result it probably appeals to a wider market and will therefore sell more units.

But sit in it and survey the interior and....WOW!

The Civics interior is amazing.  As a design it's possibly the best I've ever seen.  Jaguar has designed the F-Type's cockpit to be 'selfish' for the driver.  This is another level.  The driver feels as though he or she is at the helm of a space cruiser.
Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC interior

An upside down U forms around the driver, from the armrest of the door, ahead of the driver over the top of the dials and the steering wheel, round to the central console.  Placed around the U are all the controls, all perfectly positioned.

The dials ahead of the driver are big and simple and don't include a speedo - that's in a separate binnacle on top, and halfway to the windscreen.  It's an utterly brilliant idea that works as well in execution as it must have done in design.

The infoscreen has an air of aftermarket about it, albeit not as much so as in the Toybaru BRZ/GT86, but works well and gives you everything you want.

The steering wheel feels lovely and sits at just the right height, the gearstick looks high but is actually perfectly placed for your hand.  The pedals sit deep in the footwell.  Bliss.

The Honda chaps who decide where to place things for the driver had more say than the chaps who design how it looks.  And all those chaps obviously did their designing in the same room.  It's a masterpiece of integration.

Enough of that, what's it like to drive?

Great.  The engine is quiet and refined, for a diesel.  It's only got 120bhp and only does 0-60mph in 10.5 seconds but, unlike some others (cough cough Renault cough) this feels plenty.  You would guess it does 0-60 in under 10 seconds, not over.

The steering and brakes feel fine.  Nothing exceptionally good, nothing exceptionally bad.  Just perfectly acceptable.  The Civic doesn't roll in corners and it rides well.  It does torque steer in slippery conditions, but not to a great extent.  The chassis absorbs lumps and bumps, but likes to have a decent play in the corners.
Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC

It returns 78mpg, and emits 94 g/km of CO2.

The EX spec I tested is top of the range and includes parking sensors, dual zone climate control, cruise control, auto wipers and "Magic seats".  Yes, magic.  I didn't drive it long enough to find out what kind of magic.  It's the only spec to come with digital radio and leather seats as standard.

The EX costs £23,1785.  I'd be tempted to go for the £20,595 ES level and option a digital radio.  I wouldn't go for white paint though, it's too safe.  I'd go for Deep Ocean Blue which looks great.

The new Honda Civic is a very good car with the most exceptional interior.  You should find one and sit in it.  You'll love it.  You might even want to buy one.
Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC

Article by Matt Hubbard