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Honda Civic 1.8 i-VTEC ES review (2012 onwards)
Model: Honda Civic 1.8 i-VTEC ES, £19,380
Bodystyle: Five-door hatchback
Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder, petrol, VTEC, 142hp @ 6,500 rpm, 128lb ft @ 4,300rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Date of test: April 2012
What is it?
The last Civic burst onto the scene with its triangular twin exhaust pipes and futuristic faired-in face, marking a significant departure from the styling of Honda's family faithful hatchback before that.
With the new Civic, Honda has been a bit more conservative. The styling is mildly tweaked - with plastic seemingly growing out of metal in a few more areas.
Wider, lower and longer than before
It's not a complete fresh design like the previous car was, but it's not just Honda sending the Civic off for a bout of mid-life nip-tuck surgery either.
The new car is wider, lower and longer than the previous Civic, and the car's engine line-up gets a few revisions - including adoption of the now all-important eco technology. There are also significant changes to the car's suspension, which we very much like.
Where does it fit?
This is the heartland of the C-segment. Along with the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf, the Civic is one of the most important family hatchbacks around.
It offers a bit more of a futuristic approach to day-to-day motoring. From its Casio calculator speedo display - housed in the swoopy dash - and somehow very digital-looking analogue dials, to the unique proportions of the rear, it's a very definite way of setting your stall out, Honda.
Is it for you?
But it's what the Japanese manufacturer has always done, and if you like that style of design, you'll love the Civic.
That's not to say you won't get on with the Honda if that Buck Rogers' style isn't your thing. There's more head, leg and shoulder room than in the previous car, and the rear will take three adults without the intimacy you get in the back of an Astra or a Focus.
The Civic's ride quality is excellent
With a 477-litre boot capacity with the seats up, it betters the five-door Focus by 161 litres. That gets upped to 1,342 litres with the seats folded - a full 241 litres better than the Ford.
We've established its practical, so if you're looking for an adaptable hatchback, you won't be a million miles away with the Civic. But, it's also got a few other tricks up the sleeve of its kimono.
What does it do well?
The Civic's ride quality is excellent. A combination of Honda's new fluid-filled suspension bushes and springing and damping tuned to suit UK roads works brilliantly.
In mid-spec ES trim and running on 16-inch alloy wheels as standard - meaning a relatively squidgy 55-profile tyre - the Civic's chassis is compliant in places where you'd normally wince as your rib-cage gets jangled and that chiropractor's bill goes flying through your mind.
Along with the space, the ride comfort means back seat passengers aren't crammed in and then shaken about.
What doesn't it do well?
Although the ride is so good, the steering is instantly forgettable and lets the Civic down a little.
The electric assistance of the old car has been fiddled with, but the weighting is still too light and the wheel's movement lacks feedback - particularly around the straight ahead. We hope the Type-R addresses this failing.
It's a shame, as the chassis builds decent grip levels, and in conjunction with some communication injected into the helm, we could see cooking Civics being a bit of a laugh.
To extract smiles, you have to rev it
To extract smiles - and the engine's performance - you have to rev it. In a possible bid to go greener, the motor seems flat at low revs. It's only when you have the VTEC unit spinning at around 4,500rpm that progress starts to become more than an amble.
The engine's top-end is good though, revving out cleanly without complaint - even the grumbly drone at lower revs morphs into a sportier rasping crescendo.
Rear visibility is an issue - that brake light bar across the rear screen looks cool from the outside and breaks up the glass area nicely.
But viewed from the inside through the rear-view mirror, it has a horrible knack of always obscuring the car behind if it's at a safe following distance. Bear in mind most drivers do, and it becomes an annoyance.
What is it like to live with?
ES trim gets climate control, Bluetooth, cruise control, automatic wipers and lights, stop-start, MP3 CD player and rear-view parking camera as standard, so equipment is good.
Coupled to all the space the Civic offers, it'd be a convincing and able companion to live with.
The only long-term gripe we can foresee is with the seats - once journey times click over two hours, the lack of support in the squabs makes itself known, inducing fidgets and jiggles to combat the numb bum syndrome.
How green is it?
Honda claims a combined 47.1mpg with 143g/km CO2 emissions for the 1.8-litre VTEC motor. We didn't quite see that sort of economy and struggled to break the 45mpg barrier.
Would we buy it?
If the Focus, Astra or Golf doesn't do it for you, then the chances are you're a Civic person anyway. In which case you should most definitely buy it.
Agreeable, practical and well-equipped
The 1.8 motor is worthy for urban pottering, but quick enough for motorway speeds, and in ES spec the Civic comes well-equipped as standard.
To match the Japanese car's level of kit, you'd have to shell out £21,050 for a similar spec Focus, and even then you wouldn't get parking sensors or a rear-view camera.
We were impressed with the Japanese hatch's ride and could certainly see the new Civic as an agreeable, well-equipped and practical car to live with. The latest Civic is certainly a respectable effort from Honda, and a viable alternative to the potentially more obvious Focus, Astra or Golf.
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