Chris Knapman of The Telegraph, recently reviewed the new Civic Diesel engine awarding it 4 out of 5 stars. Read on for his detailed review.
Launched at the beginning of last year, the 10th generation Honda Civic is slowly establishing itself as a thoughtful alternative to the obvious family car contenders such as the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.
Rightly so, too, for it has a combination of attributes that are easy to admire, be it the spacious interior, well-sorted dynamics, sensible running costs or strong engines.
To date those engines have been fuelled by petrol, but after a delayed start Honda’s latest diesel unit has also joined the Civic range. For despite the decline in demand for new diesels, Honda has concluded that the fuel still has a role to play for the time being.
The engine in question is a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder carried over
from the previous generation Civic but updated with new pistons and a
NOx storage converter to reduce emissions, along with detail changes to
eradicate some of the noise and vibration inherent with diesel power.
MODEL Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC EX
TESTED 1,597cc four-cylinder turbodiesel, six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive
PRICE/ON SALE From £20,245, as tested £26,075/now
POWER/TORQUE 118bhp @ 4,000rpm/221lb ft @ 2,000rpm
ACCELERATION 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds
TOP SPEED 125mph
FUEL ECONOMY 78.5mpg/80.7mpg (EU Urban/Combined). On test 56mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS 93g/km
VED £145 first year, then £140 per year
Power and torque outputs are unchanged over the old Civic diesel, with 118bhp and 221lb ft, but further gains have been made in efficiency to the extent the Civic diesel now returns 80mpg on the EU Combined cycle and emits just 93g/km of CO2.
At present the Civic diesel is only offered with a manual gearbox in the form of Honda’s reassuringly precise six-speed unit. Drive is sent to the front wheels, while the suspension consists of MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link set-up at the rear.
The body is a five-door hatchback with a sloping roofline that just starts to eat into headroom for taller adults travelling in the back seats. Legroom is excellent though, and the boot is similar in size and shape to a Skoda Octavia’s, making the Civic a particularly useful family hatchback.
From the driver’s seat you get the same multi-textured dashboard layout as any other Civic, with the only obvious change being a digital rev counter capped at 6,000rpm rather than the 8,000rpm of the petrol models. The dial display itself initially looks busy but is actually very well ordered.
All but the entry-level SE come with a 7-inch central touchscreen, although despite featuring the expected satnav and DAB radio it’s not the most satisfying of user experiences, being occasionally slow to respond and frequently unintuitive to control. At least it comes with Android Auto and Apple Carplay to give you easier access to your phone’s music and contacts.
Equipment levels are generous across all models, with the SE coming with front and rear parking sensors, alloy wheels and climate control. On top of this the £1,800 more expensive SR adds, among other things, a reversing camera, power folding wing mirrors, a leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control and the touchscreen.
Upgrading again to a top-spec EX Civic rounds thinks off with luxuries such as heated leather seats, keyless entry, blindspot monitors and adaptive dampers, although with another price hike to the tune of £2,800 you’d need to really want said features to justify the extra outlay.
As for the driving experience, perhaps the most telling thing about the Civic’s diesel engine is you don’t tend to notice it. Of course it’s a little noisier than the petrol equivalent, but by the standards of four-cylinder diesels the idle is relatively quiet and it only becomes unpleasantly coarse above 4,000rpm. Admittedly, it could never be described as quick, but nor is the 0-62mph time of 10.2 seconds painfully slow either.
The only thing you need to watch out for is being caught at a low speed in a high gear, because although tractable enough to entertain such a scenario without stalling, the engine doesn’t produce anything in the way of meaningful torque until there’s at least 2,000rpm on the rev-counter.
As for fuel economy, we achieved 56mpg over 350 miles of driving, which is a good 10mpg more than we’ve managed in any petrol Civic under similar test conditions, not to mention broadly competitive with what this car’s rivals will manage.
In terms of comfort there’s noticeable road noise to contend with, but otherwise the Civic is a class act, with suspension that simultaneously smooths our battered road surfaces while maintaining a tight grip on the car’s body movements. This generation of Civic has a lower centre of gravity than its predecessor and you really do notice it in how planted the car feels through corners.
There’s also plenty of adjustment in the driving position, including the ability to drop so low it’s as if you’re in a sports car. That the steering is completely lacking in feel is no great surprise, but it is at least precise, quick and well weighted, adding to the sense that the Civic is a car that’s been set up with keen drivers in mind.
Admittedly, the same can be said of the ride and handling of petrol Civics, which are also cheaper to buy (the 1.0-litre starts from £18,895 to the diesel’s £20,245), offer arguably sweeter performance and remain better suited to those who don’t frequently undertake long journeys.
That’s all as expected though, for adding a diesel option to the Civic range was always about increasing choice rather than toppling the already available engines. It has done just that, and with considerable conviction.
VERDICT While it’s not about to convert anybody who didn’t want a diesel before, this new engine still represents a worthwhile addition to the Civic range, being good to drive and cheap to run for those who cover a lot of miles. If you’re in the market for a diesel family hatchback it should definitely be on your shortlist.
TELEGRAPH RATING Four out of five stars