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Honda Civic review (2012 onwards)
Summary: Honda's new Civic aims to build on the success of the previous-gen car with more fuel-efficient engines, a smoother drive and an improved interior
Since 1972, Honda has sold more than 650,000 Civics in the UK in an evolution that has spanned eight generations. Could Honda's 2012-model Civic help the Japanese firm make a bold break for the magic million mark?
The previous Civic sold well thanks to its revolutionary looks and top reliability ranking. If this attracted you to it, you might be disappointed with this new one from a styling point; it's more of a gentle progression than a rip-up-the-rulebook, start-again approach.
That doesn't mean it is a mid-life refresh either; this is a brand new car, sharing very little with the old one and sitting wider, lower and longer than before. It has also benefited from significant changes to the suspension, engines, rear visibility (only marginally improved) and the introduction of new eco tech.
The previous Civic's engines have been carried over, albeit in a more powerful and cleaner state. However, it's disappointing not to find a brand new petrol engine - like a 1.4 turbo or 1.6 turbo - to compete with European rivals. A smaller diesel engine is on the way next year and should open up the Civic's appeal.
The smallest 1.4-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine is the cheapest way into a Civic but we can't recommend it.
Fine around town, it struggles on faster roads, requires a downchange to overtake or tackle an incline, and needs to be thrashed hard. The dash - or should that be crawl? - to 62mph takes a woeful 13.4 seconds.
The 1.8 offers 142hp (42hp more than the 1.4) and slashes the nought-to-sixty time by more than four seconds.
At low revs it doesn't feel particularly lively, but sweep the needle past 3,000rpm and there's a noticeable lift in performance.
By far the best choice is the 2.2 diesel. It's a big engine for this class of car and a choice that will see you spending at least £20,095 but, until the smaller diesel is launched, it's the best match for the Civic.
Performance is effortless. With a 150hp kick at 4,000rpm and a 258 lb/ft boost of torque from 2,000rpm, it pulls muscularly from low revs and has flexibility the petrols can't match. Its only issue is a familiar diesel clatter at low revs.
Ride & handling
Honda wanted a sportier driving experience than before with better ride comfort - in other words it sought the holy grail of car dynamics.
One step in aiming for this was the introduction of fluid-filled suspension bushes. On smooth Spanish roads they certainly took the shock out of nasty bumps and potholes, but we'll have to wait for a UK drive to really determine the effectiveness of this set-up.
Honda also sharpened the electric power steering system and, compared with the previous Civic, it does feel sharper but it is still devoid of feel.
That aside, the Civic grips adequately and turns into bends with a minimum of fuss, but it isn't what you would call sporting. Best leave that to the Type-R that's bound to follow (as a five-door because Honda isn't bringing a three-door to market).
One area of trouble for the previous Civic was the perceived quality of its interior trim. Honda has upgraded the leather and coverings, taking the air of plushness up a notch. As is usual, though, the materials situated lower in the cabin aren't of the same quality.
The dashboard is now mounted right in front of the driver for improved ergonomics, with a large digital speedo readout and a separate computer to the side displaying fuel range and 'eco-ness'. The half-full petrol gauge symbol in this display is confusing at first glance as you easily mistake it for the actual fuel meter.
Space is a key attribute of the Honda Civic and this latest car is no exception. The rear has enough leg, head and shoulder room for a trio of adults to sit side-by-side without feeling overly familiar with one another, while the boot has a massive 467 litres of storage space with the seats in place, rising to 1,342 litres with them folded, significantly more than both the Ford Focus and the Volkswagen Golf.
The rear seats are super-clever, too; they flip up, fold down and recline at the push of a button or pull of a lever, allowing you to fit a bike lengthways across the rear.
The Civic is available in four trim levels: SE, ES, EX and EX GT. All cars receive air-con, stop-start, alloy wheels, a USB port and hill start. From March 2012, SE and ES models have the option of the T Grade kit, which adds Bluetooth, sat-nav and a hands-free telephone system for an additional £995.
Economy & safety
In addition, all Civics are fitted with stop-start and an 'econ' button, which enables a gentler throttle map to boost fuel efficiency.
The ninth gen Civic's engines have also been tweaked to deliver fewer emissions and better economy.
The 1.4 pumps out 129g/km and returns 52.3mpg, while the 1.8 has reduced emissions from 152g/km to 137g/km and increased fuel economy to 48.7mpg. The biggest changes are to the 2.2 diesel, with emissions down from 134g/km to 110g/km and economy up to 67.3mpg (please note, some trims and the automatic transmission have slightly higher carbon dioxide readings).
MSN Cars verdict
The Civic is neither as sporting nor as refined as its makers would like, but the 2.2 diesel especially is a fantastic choice that is cheap to run and good for the environment. The smaller diesel due next year will make the Civic even more appealing. In isolation, the 1.4 would only score three stars.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||1.4, 1.8|
|Power, hp||100, 142, 150|
|Torque, lb/ft||94, 128, 258|
|0-62mph, secs||13.4 - 8.5|
|Top speed, mph||116 - 135|
|Mpg, combined||44.8 - 67.3|
|CO2||150 - 110|
|Ratings out of five||2.2 diesel|
|Ride & handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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