Road Test: Honda Civic 1.5 Sport

  • All-new Civic hatchback launched
  • New architechture and engine options
  • Prices expected to start from around £17,500

The 10th generation of Honda’s Civic hatchback has arrived, with the Japanese company promising a more dynamic driving experience coupled with a distinctive design.

Previous generations have been strong on practicality and reliability, and have tended to find favour with older buyers. But this 1.5 Sport model represents a change in direction.

This latest Civic is a clean-sheet design with a broader audience in mind, aiming to better rivals such as the SEAT Leon, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.

Updated design and engine line-up

The exterior and the vehicle architecture are all-new, while there are two new petrol engines offered at launch. The cabin has been redesigned, mixing the typical Civic space efficiency with a more sporty driving position.

Elsewhere the Civic benefits from a more sophisticated rear suspension set up compared with the last model. The latest generation of Honda Sensing safety tech is also available, including Collision Mitigation Braking and Cross Traffic Monitor.

Key to the new Civic’s approach is the bodyshell, it's 130mm longer overall and has an extra 30mm in the wheelbase, making the new Civic is significantly larger than before. Its increased width and lower roofline give it more aggressive look.

Some of the traditional Civic buyers might find it aggressive looking in Sport guise. It is certainly less elegant than the outgoing model, but it may succeed in the goal of attracting an increased number of younger buyers.

The bigger bodyshell means more space inside for passengers and luggage. Legroom and headroom up front is impressive, while in the rear legroom is also good. Headroom is compromised due to the steeply curving roofline, though. There’s good storage in the cabin too, with a sizeable cubby between the front seats and a shelf behind the centre console – usefully, there are also cable tidies running from the connectivity ports, indicative of the thought that has gone into the cabin.

Strong engine feels larger than 1.5-litres

The new 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol fires quickly and smoothly, even in this pre-production car. The pedal actions are typically Honda-light and easy to modulate, while the revised six-speed manual gearbox has a pleasingly mechanical shift action.

In normal driving the engine responds keenly to acceleration demands, behaving much like a larger-capacity unit with good torque from low engine speeds. Even in turbocharged form, there is also something of the classic Honda VTEC in its willingness to rev hard, right around to the 6,500rpm red line. Doing so provides satisfactorily brisk acceleration.

You get 182bhp, which means a 0-62mph time of 8.5 sec, balanced with decent economy figures - 47.1mpg and 137g/km CO2 is claimed by Honda.

The Civic’s steering is accurate and quick to respond to inputs from the driver although it is a little numb in terms of feedback. But for the vast majority of drivers it will be satisfying to use. Ride comfort is broadly good too; smaller bumps can be felt in the cabin but longer undulations are dealt with comfortably and without upsetting the Civic’s equilibrium.

Driven with more vigour it responds with enthusiasm, although it is still slightly less satisfying to drive than the best in the class.

Verdict

Much improved in many areas, the Civic is more spacious and offers a more impressive drivetrain than the outgoing car, and is more fun to drive too.

Some will mourn the loss of the Magic Seat system and the looks have the potential to put off buyers. But in many aspects the Civic is an impressive and contemporary offering in this competitive class.