The Honda Civic evolves yet again with this latest UK assembled version. They seem to be chasing the volume market thanks to a range of more efficient petrol engines and a slightly watered down approach to visual styling. Will it open up a new customer base while still retaining their existing one?
I’ll make no excuses about the Honda Civic, its a fine car and one I can thoroughly vouch for in its previous guises. Historically speaking they are utterly reliable, hold their used values well and have a repeat purchase level that some premium brands would be envious of. Well despite the previous model coming into play in 2013, we now have a totally new model in our midst. Still produced in their Swindon plant, visually at least, they seem to have toned down the once notable Sci Fi styling traits.
Or have they? well on the outside it certainly looks a little more traditional in terms of five door hatchback styling. Gone are the hidden rear door handles (thank God as they looked and felt rather cheap) and where there were once curves you’ll now find its appearance slightly more angular. As anyone would come to expect with a Honda its exterior fit and finish along with the paint application all look rather bang on cue for a Honda – so no disappointments there at least.
As I have said before, styling is always an opinionated topic but I will go so far as to say it looks slightly bulbous around the front end. Also I’ll stick my head on the chopping block to say I think the darker colours show the new Civic in a better light if you get my meaning. Its noticeably lower than than the old model and this is certainly felt when opening the door and getting inside. Despite this, once inside there seems to be adequate headroom both front and back, rear legroom isn’t lacking either.
There’s a wide centre console that gives the driver a slightly cocooned feel behind the wheel and that coupled with a very sombre fifty shades of black colour scheme makes for a rather gloomy and unexciting interior visual appearance. The leather topped gear lever is just right in size but despite looking short and stubby has an odd feeling shift action that’s also seemingly long in its travel. Drivers will note plenty of storage space around the front of the cabin including a good sized glove-box and deep door bins.
But for the love of God who thought that putting the charging sockets and USB ports behind the front console tray, out of the line of sight and in darkness? You literally have to clamber around on your knees to plug in a phone charger or dock your phone to the head unit BEFORE you commence driving – not good! Getting a good driving position is no problem though, plenty of height and reach adjustment for the wheel and seat though I did find the cushion a bit flat and in need of a little more under-thigh support.
“Everything feels reasonably well nailed together and seemingly up to the job of a lifetime of family frolics but some plastics feel cheap to the touch, bone hard and scratchy“
In terms of interior quality its pretty much as owners of the old model will find. Everything in the cabin feels reasonably well nailed together and seemingly up to the job of a lifetime of family frolics but some plastics feel cheap to the touch, bone hard and scratchy. Also of note was the rather poor looking weld to the drivers door window frame where it meets the actual door complete with rough paint over the spattered weld. Again – not good… especially where Honda are trying for Volkswagen customers.
Firing up the 1.0 turbocharged triple brings the dashboard to light – quite literally. The visual effect of the dials coming to life remind me of a firework deploying in the night sky. Two simple bar gauges warn you of fuel and temperature and the circular large centre dial combines engine and road speed. Its all very clear and easy to read but needs a splash more colour in the graphics rather than just blue and white neon with thin red needles. The sunken nature of the dash panel means there’s little reflection in the windows when driving at night.
With 129PS on offer the 3 cylinder power unit actually does a pretty good job of whipping you along. Hard acceleration brings just a little bit of vibration through the pedal box and steering wheel area and the throbbing thrum when going hard at it is actually quite entertaining – just don’t expect this engine to rev as high as Honda plants of old. There’s plenty of torque too allowing block gear-changing where possible and nor could I find any flat spots that some highly strung three cylinder engines sometimes have. All in all its a cracking little engine mated to six perfectly chosen gear ratios.
Get it on the motorway and you’ll not even notice someone has sawn off one cylinder. Engine noise when cruising at speed is barely noticeable but overall refinement is slightly spoilt by tyre noise. Handling and ride in my opinion are both some of the best experienced recently. Flat cornering, fast steering, strong brakes and a genuinely decent ride are hard tricks to pull off these days. Honda engineers have really done an incredible job here but as with many manufacturers, its all a bit spoilt by the over-light and dead feeling electric power steering set up. Dial in some feel Honda… and it could be class leading by a mile.
“On the plus side, the new Civic has a range of decent petrol engines and brilliant chassis composure. On the downside though you can feel and see the cost cutting and attention to build quality detail lacking in many areas“
The clever rear seat design whereby the cushion folded up has gone owing to the fact the fuel tank has been moved from under the front seats to the back. So no longer can you hear fuel sloshing around under your bum once a gallon or tow has been burned off. Boot space is up there with the best and seats fold almost flush to the floor, but where’s the parcel shelf? What you find is sliding sheet of cheap feeling vinyl that works like a roller blind. Rather than moving back and forth akin to a traditional load cover, it slides left to right. As an extra bonus, you cannot place anything on top – even something light causes a sorry looking sag. Weight saving or cost cutting… its a rubbish and annoying idea.
Every downside brings an up however. The SR model is well equipped with all round power windows, adaptive cruise control, reverse camera, auto lights and wipers and a very in depth trip computer all as standard. Compared to rivals like Golf or Focus, the operation of items like climate control or other centre display may seem fussy and complicated. Once accustomed to to it all works quite well and the audio system does have a pretty good sound quality to it.
“…as for seeking new customers from other brands I think it stands a chance of doing so… but not in huge numbers. It still has that blue rinse brand image – the battle here will be done and won (or lost) in the marketing department and not at the salesman’s desk“
On the plus side, the new Civic has a range of decent petrol engines and brilliant chassis composure. On the downside though you can feel and see the cost cutting and attention to build quality detail lacking in many areas, some of which is poorer than some some Pacific rim rivals costing thousands less… seriously! But as for seeking new customers from other brands I think it stands a chance of doing so… but not in huge numbers. It still has that blue rinse brand image – the battle here will be done and won (or lost) in the marketing department and not at the salesman’s desk.
The Humble Opinion
Did I have a rouge car or is this how it is from now on?
I came away a little disappointed with the new Civic. For sure it drives really great and as mentioned before, the chassis and ride is really quite astounding… possibly one of the best in its class. Other major plus points include it being well equipped, reasonably economical and roomy for passengers and cargo.
Fuel economy seemed decent too, missing the claimed figure perhaps but not to shabby for a car barely run in and some very mixed driving that included a drive in and out of central London. One thing of note though is other rivals have a slighter better Co2 figure for similar sized engines.
But in the quest for lightness and / or cost, you can really feel where the engineers have lost their arguments with the accountants. For those dye-in-the-wool Honda drivers it will be an eye-opener.
But don’t get me wrong, its not a bad or poor car – in fact its quite a good one, but for a model that’s clearly trying to run with and chase the pack rivals rather than go its own way, a little more attention to detail is needed. But I will state that nothing mentioned here is impossible to rectify, just based on past models I expected much better.
Come on Honda… we know what you can do when you try!
AUTOBRITANNIA RATING: 7/10
MODEL TESTED: Civic 1.0 VTEC Turbo SR
PRICE: £20,340 excluding options
Driveline: 1.0 12v three cylinder turbo with 6 speed manual box
Power / Torque: 129PS / 200NM
Economy: *58.9mpg (48.5 on test)
Co2 Output: 110G/KM
Performance: *0 – 60 in 10.4 seconds *126mph max
* = Manufacturers or Govt claimed data
- Strong performance and engine flexibility
- Excellent brakes
- Agreeable fuel economy
- Superb handling and ride
- Well equipped
- Roomy cabin
- Good driving position
- Impressive safety equipment
- Some ergonomic nightmares
- Notably cheap feeling minor trim
- Steering lacks feel and communication at the rim
- Fussy infotainment operation
- Some noted rough edges in build quality that some cheaper rivals don’t have
- Excessive tyre and road noise
For more information on the new Honda Civic CLICK HERE