Honda Civic 1.0 VTEC Turbo review

The Honda Civic is a key model for the Japanese manufacturer, and this tenth-generation model has been worked on extensively by the company's engineers. Boasting improved driving dynamics, new engines, and increased practicality, the popular hatchback certainly looks good on paper. NGC tests the 1.0 VTEC Turbo model to see how it stacks up in practice.

Review by Chris Lilly

PERFORMANCE

The Civic is the first model to get Honda's new 1.0 litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine - which is tested here. Producing 129 hp and 180 Nm of torque, it's far from the most powerful unit Honda have ever fitted beneath a Civic bonnet, but it will still return reasonable performance figures. The 0-62mph time is completed in 10.8 seconds, before the Honda heads on to a top speed of 126 mph. It's not going to rival the famous Civic Type R in terms of performance then, but the 1.0 litre Civic is far from sluggish. In terms of real world performance, the Civic does very well, helped by an engine and manual gearbox that encourage the driver to engage in the act of driving. A slick short-throw gearbox allows the driver to keep the engine on the boil, and enjoyably so too. That three-cylinder unit is eager to rev and responds well to being worked hard, with the combination proving that you don't need masses of power to have fun. When worked hard, the unit can sound a bit harsh, as you might expect from a three-cylinder engine, but it settles down well at more common rev ranges. Both around town and on the open road, the engine is more than a match for what you might need from it. The Civic easily keeps up with traffic at motorway speeds and, thanks to its willing nature, works well around town as well.

HANDLING

Built on a new platform, Honda is claiming that this latest Civic is the best handling model to wear the badge ever. It's certainly an improvement in terms of comfort, with the Civic able to brush off lumps and bumps in the road's surface with ease. The handling is pretty sweet too, and while there is more lean than the previous model - because of the pliant suspension - the Civic offers fairly sharp driving dynamics for a non-hot hatch. Its a set-up that offers a good degree of composure, and the Civic will rarely be ruffled mid-corner or over rough surfaces at speed. That translates well to town work too, where the refined suspension combines well with a nicely balanced steering set-up to allow for easy progress to be made no matter the road type. In a car park the steering is light, making it easy to spin the wheel for tight turns; while it weights up well at speed, meaning a twisty country road can bring a smile to the face - even considering this is a sensible family hatch.

BODY STYLE

Honda's designers have taken a line somewhere between evolution and revolution for the latest Civic. While definitely related to the previous model, the new one is a classier design and moves Honda's design language forwards. There are a number of nice styling features to look at, including a low nose and beefy wheel arches, which mean the Civic manages to stand out from a number of its rivals - but importantly, not too much. The Civic's interior is larger than before, and boot space is certainly very good. There's a strange small luggage cover, that retracts sideways rather than in the traditional manner of towards the front of the car. It's a curious feature, but a well thought out one since the shallow roof-line means the rear seats and boot window line finish relatively close together. It might sound impractical, but there is a large amount of boot space available, and it's easy to access too. The load lip is low and the hatch wide, and there is underfloor storage space too. Occupant space provides good levels of leg room for those in the rear, but taller passengers might be affected by the sloping roof line. It's fine for most though, and is a practical rear space for children - particularly with wide opening rear doors. The front pews have no such headroom considerations, and are plenty spacious enough for all.

COMFORT & CONTROLS

Honda Civic interior

With a focus on the more comfortable suspension comes Honda's associated work on interior comfort too. The seats are supportive affairs, and prove comfortable even over long distances, while the driver can easily get into a good position. The wheel and dials are well thought for the driver to use, and nicely styled in a distinctly Honda manner, but the infotainment system is not large or high quality enough to compete with rivals' offerings. The dash as a whole works nicely though, with lots of storage space about the place. Controls around the gearstick tidy up the centre console, and the swoops and cuts into the dashboard add interest to the design. The cabin features a number of good quality materials, if not the highest quality in the market. It's not priced as a premium model though so it's to be expected, and you certainly don't feel as though the Civic is cheap. Switchgear feels sturdily built too.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

As an outright MPG champion for the Civic, a diesel model is due for launch. In the meantime then there is a choice of two engines - the 1.0 litre VTEC tested and 1.5 litre VTEC petrol. It is the smaller of the two that is the more efficient, with an official combined fuel economy of 58.9 MPG and CO2 emissions of 110 g/km. They're decent figures for a compact petrol unit, and they translate well into real world situations too. After almost 700 miles in the Civic, the trip computer was showing an average of 50.1 MPG, which I was impressed with. A large proportion of those miles were on the motorway, but even routes with an balanced blend of motorway, open road, and town driving saw an average of 49 MPG after a decent length trip - and there was no conscious effort to drive economically either. VED costs will be the flat £140 standard rate, with first year rates of either £140 or £160 depending on specification.

GREEN CREDENTIALS

The new platform on which the Civic is based is lighter but stiffer than before, and also allows for excellent aerodynamics. Both VTEC petrol engines have been downsized too, with turbocharging maintaining performance figures - and there has been a lot of work done to make them efficient. Elements such as a low-inertia turbo, lightweight components, improved airflow, and low-friction parts see a number of small gains add up to significant increases in economy. The Civic is fitted with auto stop/start to cut emissions in traffic, and there is both an Econ mode and a gear shift indicator to help with driving economically too. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 41.

OPTIONAL EXTRAS

Equipment levels in the Civic are good across the board, though you have to get into the mid-range to find excellent value. Entry level SE trim features 16-inch alloys, parking sensors front and rear, USB ports, climate control, DAB audio system with USB and Bluetooth, and Econ mode. SR increase the wheel size to 17-inch alloys, and adds rear parking camera, dual zone climate control, leather steering wheel and gear knob, automatic wipers, rear privacy glass, and 7-inch touchscreen Honda Connect infotainment system with sat-nav and smartphone integration. Top of the range EX adds heated front seats, an opening sunroof, keyless entry and start, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, leather interior, and adaptive damper system.

MODEL SUMMARY

Honda Civic rear

The Honda Civic proved to be a characterful car when in my care, and one that I would certainly consider if looking at the market. It's not as good an all-rounder as a VW Golf for example, but it's cheaper and has a similarly broad range of attributes at a high level. The Civic is practical and proves economical to drive too. The driving experience is engaging enough to keep those behind the wheel interested but is also comfortable, while the 1.0 litre VTEC Turbo engine is a willing ally in the driving experience as a whole. As such, the Civic is certainly one of the key contenders in a very competitive class.

Model tested: Honda Civic 1.0 VTEC Turbo SR Manual
Body-style: Family hatch
Engine / CO2: 1.0 VTEC Turbo petrol / 117 g/km
Trim grades: SE, SR, EX

On-road price: from £18,475. Price as tested: £20,340
Warranty: Three years / 90,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars

Click here for more info about this model range

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:18th Nov 2017

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