Despite his love of all things animal-related, bequiffed former Smiths frontman Morrissey is a bit of a car fan, regularly spied driving a classic Aston Martin around Hollywood, where he now lives. But if he was after a modern – one that offered him economy mixed with decent looks – this Black Edition of the Honda Civic should be on his shopping list.
After all, what was it that he sung on 1986’s Unloveable? 'I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside.' Because make no mistake about it, in the grand pantheon of black cars, this is one of the blackest – even down to the filler cap, which is in keeping with the Stygian theme.
Read on for our Honda Civic Black Edition first drive review.
So, this Honda Civic is very black. What difference does it make?
A significant amount if you use the admittedly entirely non-scientific and anecdotal fellow-drivers-in-traffic-jam test. Artic truck drivers, gawping kids writing their names in misty rear windows and superbike riders all threw the Civic Black Edition a second look. Besides that fuel lid cover, it gets a gloss piano black front skirt, side skirts, rear spoiler and what Honda call a rear bumper ‘garnish’.
Those protruding flared nostrils are more than a little Darth Vader, aren’t they? The sympatico 17-in alloys in Gunpowder Black are rather arresting and, just to make sure those following you know exactly what’s in front, there’s a helpful Black Edition badge. Whichever way you look at it, it’s certainly a handsome devil, although lacking the pizzazz of the last-generation Civic which shocked on arrival in 2006.
You’d struggle to paint a vulgar picture of the inside either, where the black theme goes hand in glove with the exterior. The steering wheel is one of the best in class; not overly fussy or festooned with buttons or jog wheels, although it does take some time to work out the correct procedure for scrolling through the various screens. A CD player with DAB radio and Bluetooth connection comes as standard, although there’s no sat-nav or cruise control option.
At a time when there is a light that never goes out on most new £20k-plus vehicles – the 1.6 diesel we tested checks in at £22,460 – there’s no automatic lighting either. As someone who always switches their headlights to ‘auto’, it just gives the Civic an opportunity to moan at you if you leave the headlamps on. It’s surely a low-impact addition to make to any potential upgrade of the Black Edition.
That 1.6 diesel then – surely it will take you nowhere fast?
Actually, as good-looking as the Black Edition is, it’s the marrying of its swarthy looks with Honda’s stonking 1.6 i-DTEC diesel engine that’s the masterstroke here. Unlike the 1.8 i-VTEC petrol option, which is available with either manual or auto transmission, the diesel is stick only – the short-throw gearbox has more than a bit of S2000 about it, which is ALWAYS a good thing. We averaged a mid- to upper 50s MPG over the 600-odd miles we drove it, 90% of which was spent at motorway speeds. While that’s short of Honda’s claimed combined economy of 78.5mpg, it’ll prove extremely attractive to high-mileage drivers.
Put simply, the 1.6 i-DTEC is one of the best real world engines out there, laying down 118bhp and 221lb ft of torque and delivering its power throughout the range. Yes, it’s most comfortable at motorway cruising speeds, but it’s no wheezing asthmatic at start-up either – and with a C02 figure of 94g/km its road tax-free as well. Curves, coolness and frugality? You’ve got everything now.
Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before, but is there a catch with the new 2015 Honda Civic Black Edition?
Besides those already mentioned – the lack of sat-nav, auto lights, etc – we can’t think of many. The Civic is something of a sleeper in this class: it can't compete with the sheer quality and polish of a Golf, nor with the dynamics of sharper handling hatchbacks like the Focus. But it does a pretty damn good job of covering most major bases well. It's fair to say this special edition rather surprised us with its all-round ability.
Honda’s ‘magic seats’ – where the squabs can flip up to accommodate tall loads – give the Civic added practicality and rear leg space is more than adequate to allow passengers to stretch out and wait for their final destination.
The boot, at 467 litres with rear seats up, is cavernous – compare that with the 316 litres its Ford Focus rival meekly ‘boasts’. Talking of seats, Mozza would certainly approve of the lack of anything remotely resembling leather in the Black Edition. It’s practical, hard-wearing, unfussy cloth in here.
Well, I wonder which way you think our verdict is going to fall? The standard Civic was already good to drive, with excellent ride comfort – and we really can’t praise that diesel engine enough. Inside it’s smart too, those colourful but clear dials first seen on the previous Civic thankfully remaining intact and there’s none of that infuriating minimalism that seems to be bedevilling a few too many vehicles in 2014. And, in many ways, the sportier exterior tweaks of the Black Edition now answer those critics who felt the latest Civic didn’t quite supply the wow factor its preceding iteration delivered on launch.