15.8.2018Honda Civic i-DTEC review
Honda's Civic has long been a fuel economy champion, performing well each year at the likes of the MPG Marathon and similar events. Having already tested the impressive 1.0 litre petrol, we now get a thorough try of the 1.6 i-DTEC diesel, having attended the launch in Italy and being impressed by its efficiency.
Review by Chris Lilly
Powering the Honda Civic tested is the Japanese firm's 1.6 i-DTEC engine, producing 120hp and 300 Nm of torque. It's a middling unit in terms of power, with both lower and higher outputs available from rivals, but Honda offers just the one diesel engine in this Civic. It's a good one, with plenty of torque to draw on, allowing for a 0-62mph time of 10.2 seconds, which isn't quick but equally isn't too slow either. It's very usable performance too, relying on the punchy diesel's nature during in-gear acceleration to shift the Civic forward at a decent lick. This model saw that engine matched to a six-speed manual gearbox, which has a nice short throw for a practical hatch that isn't pitched as a performance model. It allows the driver to work the box when the mood takes, though the engine is flexible enough to more or less leave it in a gear and let the torque pull when accelerating. As a package, the Honda's performance is pitched as an all-rounder, and it performs very well in this guise. It's a sensible choice of engine for those racking up the miles, despite Honda's excellent 1.0 litre petrol also available in the Civic.
Like the powertrain tested, the Civic's handling set-up is well balanced, and a sensible approach to a practical family hatchback. The ride is comfortable, particularly on faster roads where buyers are likely to spend most time in this fuel-sipping model, and it irons out undulations in a motorway's surface surprisingly well. Despite this comfort, it's a relatively nimble car, with limited body roll through the bends, and only when cornering enthusiastically. It allow drivers to have a smile on their face on a sweeping A-road for example, but means it's a practical choice for urban driving, where tight turns and poor surfaces can unsettle some rivals.
The Civic's is a design that sees hard-working surfacing on the car's surfaces, and some eye-catching cuts, grooves, and creases in its lines. Despite that, it's a coherent design, one that both catches the eye, but is relatively refined too. The is a sense that the Civic is a grown up machine, and while it doesn't have the premium feel to its aesthetics of German rivals, the styling raises it a notch above its mass-market rivals. Thanks to a slightly rear-ward bias to the stance, the Civic is fairly practical too, with a large boot and good rear occupant space on offer. The almost fastback-style hatch means that loads above the window-line will quickly run out of room, and there is an unusual transverse luggage cover due to the small space between the backs of the rear seats and boot lid. The sloping roof-line will impact upon tall passengers in the rear, but those of average height or less will have no such head-space issues, and even those that are long of limb will still have a good level of leg and shoulder room.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
It is easy for the driver to get a great seating position in the Civic, with Honda thinking carefully about what those behind the wheel need. The short gear-stick, sporty steering wheel, and large central dial all point to this focus, and gives the driver a feeling that they were the priority when designing the interior. They are all little points, but there are a number of rivals that haven't thought as much about the driving position. That said, seats all-round are comfortable, and those upfront provide a good level of side support too, allowing for long drives without complaint. The cabin is fairly bland, with little in terms of colour or design to distract the eye. The infotainment system almost looks like a third party unit, but sits flush in the centre console and works fairly well. It can;t compete with the looks, design, or sophistication of units from the likes of models from the VW Group though. The remaining controls are designed into the centre console tidily, and feel well built, as you would expect from Honda. It's a good cabin; not class leading, but ahead of a number of rivals.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Fuel economy is the key reason this diesel version exists in a time when consumer confidence in diesel is declining. The low official CO2 figures and high fuel economy mean that the car still has a part to play in Honda's sales mix, and this Civic boasts some impressive stats. The CO2 figure is 93 g/km for lower VED and BIK rates, while the combined fuel economy figure is 80.7 MPG, which is excellent. In the real world, I managed to average 62.9 MPG, with a mixture of driving styles and routes, though I probably covered fewer motorway/dual carriageway miles than most buyers will. It was easy when on a motorway stint to see MPG figures in the 70s, even when sitting at the speed limit, and the stats returned over my near 700 miles in the car are good ones. To tax, the Civic with this 1.6 i-DTEC diesel will cost £120 for the first year - included in the car's OTR - and then the £140 annual Standard Rate.
There are a number of features to cover in this section, thanks to the work put in by Honda. There's a lightweight but strong platform underpinning everything, and the diesel engine has been reworked from the previous iteration. New components reduce friction or improve thermal efficiency, and an aluminium cylinder head cuts weight. A new turbo reduces lag and boosts low- to mid-range performance. The engine has also been tested to RDE standards, the toughest tests around. A NOx trap and particulate filter have been fitted, as has auto stop/start, and there is a gear change indicator and Econ mode to limit throttle response. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 34.
Honda kits out the Civic pretty well, with even entry level S fitted with the likes of Econ mode, multi-function steering wheel, DAB/USB/Bluetooth media, climate control, 16-inch alloys, and a good suite of safety systems. The top of the range EX model tested adds the likes of dual zone climate control, rear camera, parking sensors front and rear, sunroof, leather interior, keyless entry & start, privacy glass, Honda Connect with sat-nav and Apply CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, automatic wipers and headlights, adaptive dampers, leather steering wheel and gear stick, and 17-inch alloys.
Despite having a couple of very good petrol options, this Honda diesel still does an excellent job for the company. The Civic diesel makes a lot of sense for long distance drivers and, thanks to low CO2 figures, even company car drivers. It offers a good driving experience, is refined, stylish, and practical enough for most, and the diesel has the potential for low running costs.
Model tested: Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC EX manual
Body-style: Family hatchback
Engine / CO2: 1.6 litre diesel / 93 g/km
Trim grades: S, SE, SR, EX
On-road price: From £20,120.
Warranty: Three years / 90,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars