Honda 1.6i D-Tec: Two different cars… one brilliant engine!

Mike Humble:

We recently tested the Honda Civic 5 door hatch with the UK built 1.6i D-Tec power unit and came away rather impressed. When you think of British made vehicles, Honda are often forgotten – and rather unfairly so as their tie in to the UK motor industry is perhaps more involved than other foreign companies with bases here. Honda’s roots in the UK go back over 30 years when a collaborative agreement was signed up with BL cars with the first fruits being the Triumph Acclaim range. The rest as they say – is history and further joint developments with the Rover Group throughout the 80’s and 90’s saw Honda develop an effective and productive UK engineering base in Swindon.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Honda Motor UK excel in the field of automotive engineering and production engineering. The vehicles produced are generally well received, the owners adore them, residual values tend be strong and brand loyalty eclipse some “prestige” brands. My own first experiences go back to my schoolboy days when I worked at a local Honda dealer doing odd jobs and getting my addiction fix for all things automotive. Even back then in the mid 1980’s I could tell that the range of cars were designed and engineered to a level that was almost unimaginable at the time. Place a twin cam Accord alongside an equivalent Cavalier, Montego or Ford Sierra… well… I need say no more!

Fast forward to the current climate and Honda still seem to sing from the same Hymn sheet if you like – superb engineering, reliability and happy customers. But of course there is more to a British made Honda than you may think, screaming Formula One engines and singing V-Tec engines are only the tip of the iceberg and after 20+ years of association with the motor trade, you seldom become surprised. And yet the diesel engine I experienced in the 5 door Civic left a deep impression on me as diesel excellence is often reserved for French and German manufacturers. So when those decent folk at Honda UK saw fit to leave me a Civic Sport Tourer and CR-V both UK assembled and fitted with the superb 1.6 diesel power unit, I thought it would be interesting to see how the engine copes in a larger vehicle.


The Honda i-DTEC 1.6 engine - Fully assembled here in the UK at Swindon.
The Honda i-DTEC 1.6 engine – Fully assembled here in the UK at Swindon.

Fully assembled at Swindon, Honda’s new 1.6i-DTEC is comprised of an aluminium cylinder head joined to an open deck aluminium block. It is weighing 47 kg less than Honda’s 2.2i-DTEC engine. All the individual components have been redesigned to minimize their weight and size and advanced production techniques have helped reduce weight even further. The thickness of the cylinder walls has been reduced to 8 mm, compared with 9 mm for the 2.2 i-DTEC. In addition, lighter pistons and connection rods have been utilized in the 1.6i-DTEC. The key target for Honda’s development engineers was to reduce the mechanical friction of the 1.6i-DTEC engine to the level equivalent of a petrol engine.

All the rotating parts have been carefully optimized to reduce their friction. For example, a shorter and thinner piston skirt has been used. At 1500 rpm, the 1.6 i-DTEC has around 40% less mechanical friction than the 2.2 unit. This not only reduces emissions and improves fuel efficiency; it also improves the engine’s response, both on and off the throttle, making the car more fun to drive. We have reduced the mechanical friction of the engine to the level equivalent of an existing petrol engine, which is an outstanding achievement.

Honda’s new i-DTEC uses a Bosch solenoid injection system which is capable of operating at a high pressure of 1800 bar. High fuel pressure means that the fuel is injected at a faster rate with finer atomization of the fuel spray which mixes with the air in the engine. This results in a cleaner and more efficient combustion helping to achieve the low emissions and fuel consumption. Honda’s engineers have also worked to improve the volumetric efficiency of the cylinders, employing a high intake flow and a high-swirl head port that precisely controls the combustion process to reduce hot spots that create unwanted emissions. The engine air flow is managed by using an EGR (Exhaust gas recirculation) system that operates at high and low pressure to reduce NOx emissions.

Honda Civic Tourer EX Plus 1.6i D-TEC

The Civic Tourer is simply a great car - Assembled in the UK too.
The Civic Tourer is simply put… a sorted and well engineered machine – Assembled in the UK too.

Well, the Civic Tourer was a decent enough car with the 1.8 V-Tec petrol engine, though lacking in low down torque, a little noisy and a touch thirsty when pushed. The 120Ps diesel version was a joy to live with – all of the aforementioned petrol reservations were soon forgotten about. The nose of the car feels as light as before and no penalty in handling whatsoever and for most of the time it’s well refined and vibration free. The power band is especially impressive – a solid belt of torque and eagerness from 1200rpm right round the dial to the rev limiter. Only when driven hard does noise become an issue and then it’s only noticeable at the upper echelons of the rev band. But as for that torque? Lets just say you’ll never find a problem with a busy roundabout or slip road again!

It is a very enjoyable and talented car that offers a cracking alternative to the mainstream rivals such as the Astra or Focus. The futuristic dashboard layout may not be to everyone’s taste but it works with razor sharp efficiency and in general, the car has very few major vices although some of the lower interior plastics aren’t very sympathetic to the touch. The way the car has been designed with flair and clever utilisation of cargo and passenger carrying cannot fail to impress the buyer too. In Honda tradition, the Civic stacks up as expensive to some rivals offerings but in a world where you get what you pay for – overall the Civic doesn’t short change.

Futuristic interior thats made very well - A superb drivers car.
Futuristic interior oozes quality and has a good driving position.

In conclusion you have car with class leading space fitted with a class leading engine that ticks all the boxes for performance, economy and that all important green factor. Another good fact is the way that the Tourer goes a long way to quash the present brand image of Aunty Doreen and Murray Mints, its bursting with a certain kind of youthfulness that all ages can enjoy. The D-Tec powered Civic Tourer is a thoroughly great and intelligent car which I hope proves to be a great success!


Honda CR-V SE 1.6i D-TEC (2wd)

The British made CR-V with the 1.6i DTEC engine is a lovely long distance family hold-all with cracking built integrity.
The British made CR-V with the 1.6i DTEC engine is a lovely long distance family hold-all with cracking build integrity.

Another good car made better with that brilliant engine. I was half expecting to find a chink in the Honda armour owing to a large and bulky car with what at first seems to be a very small engine rattling around under the bonnet. Big cars with little engines often bitterly disappoint, anyone who has driven a 1.6 petrol Zafira will testify as they grimace with pain at the sight of almost 4000rpm on the dial at the legal 70. Just like the two Civics fitted with the same engine, the level of available power and torque in the CR-V allied to the way its delivered with the minimum of fuss is most impressive. This family orientated Honda sits at 70mph at a smidge over 2000rpm in top gear with barely any background engine noise to be heard.

We recently experienced the 2.2 diesel auto version too and found ourselves shocked to notice there was barely any noticable lack of performance between them. The manual 6 speed gearbox of the 1.6 is effortless and sweet to swap cogs with and the clutch pedal is light with an almost perfect biting point. Very early on from the first driving experience, its clear to see that the CR-V is a thoroughly thought out and well designed drivers car just like the Civic Tourer. Only the plain styling that emulates rivals like the X3 and other cross over vehicles was a point to critisise, but to be fair, it looks current, in fitting with rival brands – just slightly anonymous but that great engine makes up for it.

The CR-V has a pleasant drivers cockpit that works well in terms of ergonomics if a little plain looking in parts.
The CR-V has a pleasant drivers cockpit that works well in terms of ergonomics if a little plain looking in parts.

Make an evasive manoeuvre for example – even on a long motorway bank and the power is there to get you out of harms way. A figure of almost 50 mpg as an average was achieved too, and that included some fast running, choking M25 traffic and urban rush hour misery. The large and well padded velour trimmed seats met with universal praise and the excellent driving position allied to generous sized door mirrors keep you on top of your game no matter how long the distance. Responsive brakes, a light clutch, good steering with plenty of communicative feel all add up to a package that may not be cheap in initial outlay but is hard to seriously criticise. It’s well equipped, very refined under most situations and the build quality is everything you would expect of a Honda – not a squeak, not a rattle and not even a peep of skew whiff trim.

Passenger and load space is vast. Clever rear seats drop in one simple motion - Very cleverly though through.
Passenger and load space is vast. Clever rear seats drop in one simple motion – Very cleverly thought out and simple to use.

As with the Civic Tourer the CR-V has some nice practical touches too. The rear seats fold in the traditional 60/40 split but do so by a single one handed action that tilts the back rest and lifts the cushion base at the same time. A decent sized glovebox, centre cubby box (with audio / media inputs) and all round door pockets ensure your clutter and nick nacks are hidden. There is even a panoramic mirror fitted the roof mounted sunglasses pocket so you can keep an eagle eye on your loved ones. So there we have it… two great British made cars with a superb British made engine – both fantastic to drive and both being almost certain to be a stress free purchase!

Our thanks once again are extended to Keith and the press team at Honda Motor UK

Main Engine Stats: Honda 1.6i DTEC

Spec: 1597cc transverse all alloy 16v in line four cylinder & turbocharged

Produced: Honda Motor UK Stratton  St Margaret – Wiltshire

Power & Torque: 118Bhp @ 4000rpm & 221Lb/ft @ 2000rpm

Best Economy & CO2: Combined claimed 78.5MPG (Civic) 99G/Km (Civic)


Honda Civic Sports Tourer EX Plus 1.6i D-TEC

Autobritannia Rating: 9/10

The Highs: Great performance – Good Economy & class leading emissions – Power and torque delivery – Stylish – Class leading space and practicality – Build quality – Helpful dealers – Tidy & entertaining handling – Well equipped – Smart looking.

The Lows: Not cheap – Ride a touch firm at low speeds – Instrument reflections at night – Audio / Infotainment system looks aftermarket and is annoyingly complicated to use – Some splashes of colour needed inside – Incidental plastic feel hard to the touch.

Price From: £21.375 on the road

CO2 = 99 G/Km – Class leading


Honda CR-V SE 1.6i D-TEC (2wd)

Autobritannia Rating: 8/10

The Highs: Good strong performance – Economy – Incredibly easy to drive – Superb CO2 figure – Able chassis – Ride comfort – Practical and roomy – Well equipped – Superb refinement – Wonderful motorway cruiser – Good driving position – Excellent front seats – Solid build quality.

The Lows: Expensive against its rivals – A little bit plain Jayne looking – Interior colour scheme a touch drab – Awkward fuel and bonnet lever positioning.

Price From: £23.030 On the road

CO2 = 119G/km – Class leading

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