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Life with our Honda Civic: get off my land!

Published: 06 December 2017

► CAR's Honda Civic long-term test
► It's the all-new Civic Mk10 hatch
► Ours is a 1.5 petrol in Sport Plus trim

Month 4 living with a Honda Civic: just a very good car

Off-roading in the Civic. It wasn't exactly the plan, but when a country lane changes into a forest track and then just a rutted field, and when you've got to deliver a festival-hungry teenager to the other side of the field, you just keep on going.

And it turns out the Civic is perfectly happy to join in the fun. Nothing wild and crazy, but brisk enough, and perfectly safe and comfortable, and with no damage to the car (or nothing that's come to light yet, anyway). In some parts of the world, this is what most roads are like, and most cars are able to deal with them happily enough without all-wheel drive or stiffened suspension; I sometimes wonder at the first-world whinging that accompanies any sighting of a pothole or cracked tarmac.

Anyway, this field was the mid-point of an illuminating journey from the Midlands to Sussex and back again, 250-ish miles on a hot summer day, mostly on motorways. Illuminating because the fuel consumption varied a lot with the conditions: about 37mpg in the stop-start clog of the journey down, via Heathrow, but a more typical 42mpg on the freer-flowing journey back, using an unusually quiet Dartford Crossing and up the eastern side of the M25. With its light and easily modulated controls, that sweet 1.5-litre turbo engine, and its decent visibility, the Civic's an easy car to drive in heavy traffic – but it can develop a bit more of a thirst, just like any other car.

The trip was also illuminating because we found ourselves surprised how hot it was outside when we got out of the car, destination reached. The climate control had done a very good job of keeping us at the required 18ºC, when outside it was in the high twenties.

Honda Civic LTT front quarter

And it was illuminating because the Civic was entirely comfortable throughout the whole journey. It's not plush or clever, but it works. It's on dull motorway journeys like this that I tend to become conscious of any deficiencies in support or adjustment, but the Civic's turned out to be really very good, and not just for me. My only complaint is that on some surfaces, notably concrete, tyre noise is intrusive.

Meanwhile, I seem to have dialled out most of the many electronic driver aids that have intrigued me so much since I started driving the Civic four months ago. It's not been a conscious decision, but I suspect it's down to a combination of factors: a) the active cruise control is a bit jerky when it decides you need to slow down; ditto the lane-keeping tech; b) the novelty's worn off; and c) the car is so easy to drive that you don't really need any help to feel completely in control of it.

By Colin Overland

Logbook: Honda Civic 1.5 VTEC Sport Plus manual

Engine 1498cc 16v 4-cyl turbo, 180bhp @ 5500rpm, 177lb ft @ 1900-5000rpm 
Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive  
Stats 8.3sec 0-62mph, 137mph, 133g/km CO2  
Price £25,405
As tested £25,930 
Miles this month 1357
Total 7761
Our mpg 41.1
Official mpg 48.7 
Fuel this month £175.25
Extra costs None

Month 3 of our Honda Civic long-term test review: who fancies a chat about safety systems?

In what might look like a slightly demented manner, I’ve become obsessive about figuring out the subtleties of the Civic’s active safety technology. I’ve almost cracked the big one: distinguishing between Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation and Lane Keeping Assist.  

But then someone else will nab it for a couple of days and when they return it they have NO interest in talking about Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation or Lane Keeping Assist. 

Instead, they say stuff like this: Steers really nicely, doesn’t it? Neat little gearchange action. Love the way it rides. Engine’s got a good spread of power for a turbo four cylinder, hasn’t it? 

Or in James Taylor’s case, the boot. Most unusually for a car of this modest size, its boot is big enough, and its opening wide enough, to allow his bicycle to slot in without any wheel removal.

Huge boot on our Honda Civic hatchback

The parcel shelf – which rolls away into the side of the boot – makes a real difference here. Its lack of rigidity is only an issue if you want to actually keep anything heavier than a box of tissues or a panama hat on the parcel shelf. If you regard it as simply a way of shielding your shopping from peeping pedestrians, it’s great.

By Colin Overland

Month 2 living with a Honda Civic Sport Plus: the tech is creeping in...

I’ve spent a lot of time in heavy traffic lately. It’s given me a chance to understand Brake Hold, which had previously seemed pointless. But it works really well in stop-start traffic, where a firm dab on the brake pedal keeps you stopped on a slope until you apply a bit of power.

It works harmoniously with engine stop-start, and with the tickover-cruise facility: from a standstill, without you needing to touch the throttle, the car will proceed smoothly at walking pace.

By Colin Overland

Logbook: Honda Civic 1.5 VTEC Sport Plus manual

Engine 1498cc 16v 4-cyl turbo, 180bhp @ 5500rpm, 177lb ft @ 1900-5000rpm 
Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive  
Stats 8.3sec 0-62mph, 137mph, 133g/km CO2  
Price £25,405
As tested £25,930 
Miles this month 1961
Total 3459 
Our mpg 40.4
Official mpg 48.7 
Fuel this month 274.23
Extra costs None

Month 1 living with a Honda Civic Sport Plus: stealth mode permanently on

Without ever particularly meaning to, I’ve driven or at least been driven in every generation of Honda Civic. I’ve nearly bought a couple, come to think of it. From the tiny Mk1 of 1973 owned by a primary school classmate’s mum to a mid-noughties Type R I inexpertly blatted around Silverstone for a couple of laps, they’ve all been somewhere between good and very good.

But what is it that makes them all Civics? Driving the British-built Mk10 for the first time, I was struck by two things: 1) this is one of the best Civics; 2) it has no obvious connection with any other Civic. That was soon followed by a mental asterix from point 2): none of them have had that much to do with the others. By contrast, every Golf I’ve ever driven has had a familiar feel, as well as a lot of visual continuity; ditto the 3-series. But the Civic? They’re different shapes, different sizes, with gearlevers in all sort of places, and if you exclude the Type R there’s no discernible character traits they have in common.

This new one seems to be hedging its bets, by having an external design that uses so many lines, shapes and crevices that there could be nods to every previous-generation Civic somewhere in there, but then again maybe it’s all fresh. Inside, too, there’s a disorientating proliferation of curves and panels and textures and fabrics with no obvious rationale.

But it all works a treat. It’s practical. It’s very good to drive. And they’ve at least tried to do something with the styling, albeit they’ve then cloaked our car in gaze-deflecting shiny primer (they don’t call it that).

Honda Civic 2017 interior

The 2017 five-door line-up spans six spec levels, starting from £18,475. Your non-Type R engine choice is, currently, two turbo petrols, a 1.0-litre with 127bhp or a 1.5 with 180bhp, and seven-speed stepped CVT or six-speed manual transmission. A 1.6 diesel will join the range in 2018.

This is the 1.5 VTEC Sport Plus Manual. Ours arrived with 1498 miles on the clock. We have only one extra, £525 worth of pearlescent paint, taking the on-the-road price up to £25,930. So everything else here is standard for a Sport Plus: keyless entry, sunroof, adaptive dampers, blind sport warning, cross traffic monitoring, heated front seats, wireless charging and an 11-speaker audio system. That’s on top of all the gear that the one-lower Sport spec brings: 17in alloys, privacy glass, LED headlights, hands-free phone, brake hold etc. 

First impressions are of a well-built car that has a modest footprint – no car park too tight – but a relaxingly roomy interior. And it’s sweet to drive: a free-revving engine that’s powerful enough to feel quick, a light, precise gearshift and an agreeable way with corners. It sits low, but isn’t sportily suspended.

Letting the Civic stretch its legs on some longer trips should get a bit closer to identifying that Civic-ness. Or at least I’ll have a good time trying.

By Colin Overland

CAR magazine's Colin Overland and our new 2017 Honda Civic hatchback

Logbook: Honda Civic 1.5 VTEC Sport Plus manual

Engine 1498cc 16v 4-cyl turbo, 180bhp @ 5500rpm, 177lb ft @ 1900-5000rpm 

Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
Stats 8.3sec 0-62mph, 137mph, 133g/km CO2 
Price £25,405
As tested £25,930
Miles this month 1961
Total 3459 

Our mpg 40.4
Official mpg 48.7 

Fuel this month 274.23
Extra costs None

By Colin Overland

CAR's managing editor: wordsmith, critic, purveyor of fine captions