The new Honda Civic
"As power hungry individuals we drove the 1.5 litre four cylinder manual version first but, impressive as it was, the progressive throaty sounding 3 cylinder bought the biggest smile."
For our Dream Drive series, we drive some great cars. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Rolls Royces and the like take us into the heady dreamland of ultimate modern motoring. Some own these cars and live the dream, others aspire to. Either way these often amazing cars represent the best that motoring can offer.
The drawback is that they cost a lot of money. 70 grand is about the entry-level price, many going up to half a million and more. At this price the cars should be bloody good you say, and mostly they are. Yet whilst supercars and luxury cars are technological wonders, they present less of a business and commercial challenge to a manufacturer than producing an affordable car that you and I can buy.
One such example is the Honda Civic. The market is massively more competitive for a car like this and there are endless challengers, but in the new Civic Honda have created an exceptional car.
Returning from the European launch of the new Honda Civic we car scribblers were all rabbiting on about the brilliant one litre three cylinder engine powering the new car. It out performs the old 1.8 petrol variant in every way, whilst its tractability is simply outstanding. This car is the first model in Europe to offer Honda’s Euro 6 compliant 1.0 litre three-cylinder engine, along with a 1.5 litre four cylinder turbo charged – each available in manual transmission or CVT automatic. A diesel powered version is to follow.
Small 3.0 cylinder engines are all the rage now due to their low emissions. They’re also a clever tease away from the growing number of electric and hybrid options, and represent the combustion engine at its ultimately most efficient. In this case the 1.0 litre three cylinder petrol engine produces 129 PS from 106 g/km CO2 and 55.4 mpg, whereas the four cylinder 1.5 litre engine achieves 182 PS, 133g/km CO2 and 46.3 mpg.
As power hungry individuals we drove the 1.5 litre four cylinder manual version first but, impressive as it was, the progressive throaty sounding 3 cylinder bought the biggest smile. Whilst the all-round economy gains of the 3 cylinder engine are compelling, in performance terms it is only marginally slower than the 1.5 litre car making the 3 cylinder both the prime choice and the anticipated best seller in the UK.
Yet it now powers a Civic that is 30mm wider and 130mm longer than the previous (9th generation) car. The equation is balanced by a structure some 16kg lighter than the previous generation car, yet it has 52% greater torsional stiffness. Now that’s progress. The CVT is good for those of us who like to drive in ‘press and steer’ fashion, but the chassis responds even better to enthusiastic gear-changing; it’s more involving too. Both the lightness and improved torsional stiffness of the new car are readily evident on the road, contributing to both the agility and sure footedness of the car. Steering feel is one of the new Civic’s highlights, blending exceptionally well with the driving rhythm of the car due to some clever technical adjustments. If I happened to be a customer, the improvements in steering feel along with the impressive 1.0 litre engine would be the strongest purchasing points.
Better by design
The interior finish and overall cabin quality is a massive improvement over the previous generation car. There is a totally redesigned dash with clearer user friendly controls. It is less fussy, yet modern, fresh and clean.
The new Civic is a total body redesign of course, departing from its innovative reiterations of previously popular but now dated lines. Your call on the new design versus the old one, but the new car retains the sporty purposeful look.
Prices start from £18,335 for the entry level SE 129 PS with the top of the range 1.5 182 PS CVT all bells and whistles car priced at £27,295. Techno options incorporate smart phone technology, thumb pad controls, Honda CONNECT and an advanced four point adaptive damper system.
More importantly, Honda have fundamentally got this car right in the areas that matter most; it is a substantive engineering and structural step-change. It’s now up to the salesmen to do their thing.
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