Honda plays the generation game with the iconic Civic
So why, I wonder, does it remain one of the most over-rated and overlooked cars on the road? I’ve just had a week at the wheel of one and I knew I would like it. I just didn’t appreciate quite how much I would admire its sporty ride, elegant lines, premium quality and overall excellent value.
It’s all to easy for buyers of premium models to be drawn to the established Germanic brands or the relatively new alternatives such as Lexus.
But Honda is the quiet rival. It doesn’t shout its quality and its style is often radical, full of eccentricity. Its reliability means it appeals to older, safer drivers, yet it has success in motor racing which gives it a broader draw.
Now, I should have known better but I expected this Civic to be compact. It’s what the name conjures up in my mind but actually it is quite a large and wide car and my overall memories are of comfort and firm ride and handling – two feelings which don’t often go together.
What’s more, this is not an electric car. It is that best of all worlds, a hybrid. Honda assume rightly that most people – especially those buying privately – don’t want the expense and limitation of a fully electric vehicle but rather the compromise of petrol and electric power.
Alhough the Civic’s design on the outside hasn’t changed dramatically, there are plenty of other changes elsewhere – not least a new touchscreen that replaces the poorer system found in this hatchback before. With the closure of Honda’s Swindon factory, this is also the first Civic in some time that hasn’t been built in Britain.
Though Honda had a wide range of hybrid powertrains readily available, it developed a new system for the Civic. There’s just the one option offered – a 2.0-litre petrol engine paired with two small electric motors and a battery for a combined 181bhp and 315Nm of torque. It’sbrisker than the previous 1.5-litre petrol Civic, with 0-60mph taking 7.9 seconds in our Advance car, and capable of a 112mph top speed.
Economically and environmentally it fares well. It has CO2 emissions of 114g/km on our top-spec test car, or just 108g/km on models fitted with the smaller wheels. Honda also claims 56.5mpg, though we quite easily exceeded that on our mixed test route.
Honda is keen to push the Civic as a ‘driver’s hybrid’ – and there’s truth to this. These self-charging hybrids, very generally speaking, tend not to be great to drive, but this Honda is a big step up. It’s smooth, isn’t shy of performance, and is generally very pleasant. Ask a lot from it with your right foot and it does get quite vocal, but it’s otherwise quiet and refined, with minimal road noise too.
At the same time, the ride is excellent, getting the balance about right between soft and firm. Honda is keen to stress this latest Civic – a ‘global model’ – was developed largely on European roads, and it certainly feels that way.
So, what of the style? Honda has often gone its own way with some dramatic results. Honda adopted an almost saloon-like profile for the Civic a few generations ago, and that kind of style remains here. In terms of design, it’s definitely more evolutionary than revolutionary, but is a very smart-looking car nonetheless. More or less the same size as the outgoing car, the roof is slightly lower and helps to give it more of a coupe-like appearance than before, and really helps to add to the street cred.
The front end is sportier than the outgoing car too, with additional black trim helping it to look more aggressive, without spoiling the otherwise elegant design. For a racier look, the mid-range Sport model also benefits from black 18-inch alloys and additional garnish.
Without doubt, the biggest step up on this new Civic is its new 9in touchscreen, which is a significant improvement compared to the previous system. It’s slicker, easy to use and gives the Civic a modern feel, helped by a new fully digital instrument cluster (Honda’s first), which is found on the top-spec model.
Three trim levels are offered on the Civic – Elegance, Sport and Advance, with even the entry-level grade getting a huge range of equipment. Highlights include adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and a reversing camera. In fact, we reckon there’s not much need to upgrade.
But should you want to, the Sport brings wireless smartphone charging, LED front fog lights and larger 18-inch alloys. Opt for the top-spec Advance and it features high-end equipment like a Bose sound system, a panoramic glass roof and electric seats.
Civic starts at £29,595 and rises to £32,995 for a top Advance model. It might seem expensive, but it’s right on the money compared to Toyota’s Corolla hybrid.
Honda has raised the Civic up a notch for this latest generation. Its hybrid setup is the Japanese firm’s best yet, with its combination of performance, smoothness and efficiency really standing out. Blended with an enjoyable and comfortable driving experience, there’s a huge amount to like about this new car, and is one of Honda’s best cars in years.
It’s one of those rare cars that really doesn’t have much wrong with it, and fully deserves to carry the famous Civic nameplate well into the future and beyond.
Honda Civic e-HEV Advance
ENGINE: 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid emitting 181bhp and 315Nm
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 112mph and 0 to 60mph in 7.9 seconds
ECONOMY: 56.5mpg average
INSURANCE: Group 28
WARRANTY: Five years, 90,000 miles