A Week With The: Honda Civic SR 1.6 i-DTEC

Mike Humble:

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The tallented, fun and frugal 1.6 Honda Civic iDTEC SR.

This Is the second Civic engagement in so many weeks and I was particularly pleased when the five door hatch arrived recently fitted with Honda`s 1.6 i-DTEC power unit. Reading through the press info, phrases such as “Earth Dreams Technology” raised an eyebrow as I have often been rather sceptical of words and quotations of that ilk.

On a personal level, I have a close bond with the Civic after running a 2.2 iDTEC as a company car a couple of years ago. It was a real turnabout car for me as I wasn’t impressed when it was delivered to my office. After just one day I grew to love the colossal bottom end grunt, rip snorting mid range punch even in top gear and I was sad to eventually see it go.

Of course, the new Civic has gone through a raft of improvements, one of them being a new smaller, greener and more frugal 1.6 diesel engine. Being a feet and inches kind of guy, I was educated at the school of thought were there is no substitute for cubic inches when it comes to engine torque. Armed with a reasonably impressive 120 horses – just how does the car compare to the old 2.2?

You can see where the price premium adds up, the application of the passion red paint, the panel gaps and quality of the two tone alloys are really top notch.

The Civic 1.6 i-DTEC in SR trim is by no means a cheap car, in fact against most of the rivals its actually on the high side, but even after a brief walk around the car some of the extra cost is there to see. Despite the Civic being a complicated shape with some odd styling cues, I found myself impressed at how high Honda have set the bar in terms of quality.

Study the exterior hard and you can see where the price premium adds up, the application of the Passion Red paint, the panel gaps and quality of the snazzy two tone alloys are really top notch. Considering the overall shape of the Civic has not really altered since original launch, the style has not really dated that much and it certainly still looks different enough to the main volume rivals. Changes are mainly to the front and rear with the latter gaining a slightly deeper rear window and wash wipe to aid visibility.

The aforementioned alterations and styling tweaks have really turned the Civic into a car that looks and feels quite upper class; I found it a feel good car right from the very first visual impression. Hopping inside the car reveals a very well equipped specification in SR trim that includes all round powered windows, cruise, leather, multi-media infotainment with DVD / Sat Nav and a large panoramic roof that pours natural daylight through once the neat two piece blind is opened.

As we found with the recently tested 1.8 V-TEC Tourer, the quality is there with a nicely padded dash top and neat white stitching to the comfortable leather seats setting off a classy well made cockpit that cleverly feels quite futuristic at the same time. The raised centre console with a short stubby gear lever falls right into the left palm and from an ergonomic point of view; the interaction between the steering wheel and gear selection is almost perfect.

Once settled in to the slightly snug driving position, most of the everyday controls are correctly placed but the bonnet or fuel release are well hidden and the buttons on both the aircon and audio system are awkward and confusing until you’re well acclimatised. Everything seems to be well fitted too with the only quality complaint being aimed at the hard to the touch feeling of the lower dashboard plastics.

Once settled in, the cockpit is snug and welcoming. The centre console is fairly high and wide but Honda have fitted a neat little padded leather bolster for your right leg that’s finished off with the same white stitching as the seats. Roomy door bins feature all round and there is plenty of space for personal effects, coffee cups and nick nacks by means of a cubby under the front armrest, a huge glove-box and double cup holder next to the handbrake. A chunky Go-Kart like steering wheel and Honda’s usual combo of “trad” and modern L.E.D fascia displays round off a very impressive driving environment.

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Interior is very well made although some of the plastics could be more sympathetic to the touch. Great driving position and ultra comfy chairs add to a very impressive package. Panoramic roof is a nice touch but steals a little headroom for the taller occupant.

Even when starting from cold the U.K assembled  i-DTEC 1.6 diesel is amazingly smooth, quiet and almost vibration free in a manner that’s almost like having your cake and eating it…

Passenger legroom is plentiful and despite the rear seat bench being designed to free up every inch of space for cargo – no passengers had any negative comment from the rear. Its neat panoramic glass roof slightly impedes headroom for the tallest of occupants but pours light in when opened which takes the gloom out of the dark grey and black interior.

Round at the rear the Civic excels in its ability to store luggage or shopping aided by a cavernous false floor, seats that fold completely flat and the rear bench cushions that swing up out of the way Odeon Cinema style – not a single cubic inch is wasted. None of this key-less ignition nonsense either; insert the key and twist for instant fun, but be ready for a pleasant surprise.

Even when starting from cold the U.K assembled “Earth Dreams Technology” i-DTEC 1.6 diesel is amazingly smooth, quiet and almost vibration free in a manner that’s almost like having your cake and eating it, the way this wonderful engine goes about its business in normal day to day business left me both shocked and pleased. For a small unit the torque delivery over 1200 rpm means you never find yourself willing the car forward – even block gear changes on motorway slip roads can be done with no fuss or loss of momentum.

Rear doors open to almost 90 degrees and back seat folds flush or lifts upwards and there's even plenty of hideaway storage under the bench cushion - a practical masterpiece in engineering.
Rear doors open to almost 90 degrees and back seat folds flush or lifts upwards and there’s even plenty of hideaway storage under the bench cushion – a practical masterpiece in engineering.

The mid range clout is wonderful making overtaking on single A roads effortless and fun, this car can genuinely raise an eyebrow or induce a grin with just one little action of the right foot. Only at the upper echelons of the rev band does the 120Ps engine remind you is related to Dr Rudolph, but even then its controlled, vibration free and without the feeling that she’s gonna blow cap`n. I might just add here on record by stating that it’s possibly one of the best engineered and capable engines of its type – my own Golf 7 Bluemotion felt almost agricultural afterwards.

in a world where you only get what you pay for, trust me when I say that the Civic iDTEC is worth every penny

Its certainly a sublime car to pound the black top at speed and around town the effortless power curve, slick gearchange and progressive brakes all add up to a most impressive all rounder. Parking is a doddle thanks to the standard reversing camera while the decent sized door mirrors give a great view around, especially when overtaking. A lot of fun can be had on the swooping A roads too as there’s not a great deal to fault the Civic in the road holding department – everything from the damping to the steering feel is all very well engineered and sorted. Low speed ride comfort is typically firm but never overbearing, just a shame that some surfaces induce suspension and tyre noise.

The British made 1.6 diesel offers class leading emissions and fuel economy with a beautifully smooth power curve. In everyday use, its astonishingly refined - its quite brilliant!
The British made 1.6 diesel offers class leading emissions and fuel economy with a beautifully even power curve. In everyday use, its astonishingly refined and punchy – Put simply… its quite brilliant!

So is the Civic 5 door the forgotten British hatchback? Well, its not as edgy to drive as a Focus nor does it feature the prestige dashboard look of the current Astra but it does promise to be utterly reliable, hold its resale value and feature a caring network of dealers that tend to treat everyone special. Price wise it’s a little expensive compared to the blue oval or Wyvern badge wearers too but in a world where you only get what you pay for, trust me when I say that the Civic iDTEC is worth every penny. Forget the fluffy image of mature careful drivers, this Honda is serious 21st Century stuff that begs to be driven and enjoyed!

Thanks are due to Keith Snowman and the team at Honda UK

The Humble Opinion

Once again, the Civic has left me deeply impressed with its dynamics and driver appeal. The engine and transmission are amongst the very best available and leads the field in economy, space and those all important green credentials. The technology and practicality are brilliant… as is the performance – power without vice. Look beyond the Auntie Mabel brand image and you find a car that’s fast, fun, very well made and equipped which never fails to induce a grin – and the best part of it?  Its British made too… I urge you to try one!

AUTOBRITANNIA RATING: 8/10

MAIN STATS: Honda Civic SR i-DTEC

Production Facility: Honda Motor Europe Ltd Stratton St Margaret Swindon.

Price As Tested: £24.360

Engine / Transmission: 1600 i-DTEC diesel with 6 speed manual gearbox.

Power & Torque: 120Ps & 300Nm

Economy: 78.5mpg combined (claimed) 65mpg on test

Co2 & VED Banding: 94g/Km (Band A)

Suspension: All round independent coils

Brakes: All round discs (vented front) with ABS & EBD. Lever park brake

Cargo Space: 401 litres seats up / 1342 litres seats down

THE HIGHS: Good looking – Practical – Effortless performance – Superb economy – Well equipped – Great chassis – Refined – Amazing driveline – flawless high speed crusing – Rock solid build quality – Promises good residual value.

The Lows: Instrument reflections in darkness – Some incidental plastics feel hard to the touch – Not cheap in SR trim – Stereo / Sat Nav over complicated and fussy to use – Pedestrian brand image – Fuel filler lever and bonnet release awkward to reach – Suspension noise and tyre rumble on some surfaces.

 


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