► All-new tenth-gen Civic tested
► New hatch bigger inside and out
► On sale in December, prices TBC
The Honda Civic has been a key part of the company’s range since 1972 – and now the tenth-generation version has arrived. Honda says the development programme is the largest it has ever conducted for a single car, such is the new car’s importance in the global market. Big expectations come as standard.
So is it just an update of the old car?
Not at all. The Civic has a new exterior, a new structure, two new engines, new rear suspension and a fresh cabin.
You certainly won’t mistake it for the old car; the exterior is a significant change from the outgoing version and the hatchback is now much closer in appearance to the saloon version found in other markets. It’s significantly bigger with the largest increasing being in overall length, up by 130mm.
It’s also wider and lower than any previous Civic, and more than anything those changes are reflected in its appearance. The flared nostrils emphasise its width and the pattern is echoed at the rear, with the big C-shaped tail lights and wide lower bumper.
Opt for a Sport model, as tested here, and cosmetic upgrades will include 17-inch alloys and a modest bodykit. It’s unlikely to be mistaken for anything else (expect perhaps an Accord) but not necessarily for the right reasons – it has a busy, messy design.
What have they done to the inside?
It’s more conservative inside, following the more traditional Honda approach of space efficiency and clever design. The lower roofline is offset by reduced seat height, with the hip point 35mm lower than before, and the rear bench moved downwards to match. Honda’s had to move the fuel tank as a result, and subsequently Magic Seats can’t be fitted due to packaging constraints – reducing practicality. That said, leg and elbow room is good. Only headroom is a little compromised as a result.
Better still is the cabin itself. The layout is unfussy, and the new TFT instrument cluster is part of an increased tech offering; Honda says its media system is capable of reading text messages and even emails.
There’s some smart features in here too, like the rear parcel cover that stores widthways rather than front to back, and the cable tidies that sit ahead of the connectivity ports. Consequently it should be an easy, fuss-free car to live with.
Are the new engines any good?
The diesel doesn’t arrive until next spring and is a fettled version of the existing 1.6-litre engine, while the 1.0-litre 3-cylinder wasn’t available to test.
However, the performance of the 1.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol driven here bodes well right from the off. Even in this pre-production car it is smooth and quiet, and paired to a typically slick six-speed manual. Progress is brisk and effort-free and, like a bigger naturally-aspirated unit, this turbocharged 1.5 pulls without fuss from low revs – yet is happy to spin up to the 6500rpm redline, throwing in a pleasing turbo whistle when you get there.
The performance suits the Sport tag and is balanced with decent if not exceptional fuel consumption – 47.1mpg combined is claimed.
Is it Sporty to drive?
Time and conditions meant a truncated drive but our spell behind the wheel suggested good things. The steering is quick and accurate, if not hugely feelsome, but more promising is the lack of roll, brisk turn-in and eagerness through the bends.
Honda’s new Civic, then, is sufficiently engaging to make you consider taking the scenic route on occasion, if not every single day. It also bodes well for the Type R, which should arrive a little more quickly than the last one.
What else do I need to know?
Sport models have a slightly smaller under-floor storage area in the boot on account of the centre-exit exhaust, so it’s worth getting your priorities straight before you order.
The key improvements to the Civic are on the driving front; the new 1.5-litre turbo is impressive and the handling is better than before.
It’s still a practical car, too – more so than most rivals – and the build quality appears up to the usual high standards.
Visually it’s a mixed bag however, and while it’s competent on several fronts it isn’t strong enough in any one area to shade the key competition.
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