- Three petrol engines and one diesel
- 1.0-litre three cylinder boasts 129hp
- But the 1.5 punches out an impressive 182hp
With two power units to choose from initially, you might be forgiven for thinking that the range is lacking. Not so – the 1.0-litre 129hp VTEC Turbo is a potent little thing, with huge attention paid to its cooling system and the efficiency of its turbocharger. With 129hp available you get a lot of bang for your buck, despite its tiny size.
The 1.5-litre four-cylinder 182hp VTEC Turbo is also powerful for its comparatively small engine capacity – again, the turbocharger is working hard for its living. We love the gearchange quality and pedal weight though.
Our choice – 129hp VTEC Turbo
Both of the core Honda Civic engines certainly put the disappointing performance of its 1.4- and 1.8-litre predecessors in the shade. But the smaller of the two current powerplants is a genuine star.
With a maximum speed of 126mph, and 0-62mph time of 10.8 seconds, it looks good on paper, but on the road, this eager engine belies its tiny capacity. It feels big-hearted.
It has a slightly gruff, off-beat sound we’ve come to associate with three-cylinder motors, but you’re mainly aware of it when you’re accelerating hard. Once it’s cruising, it settles down to a muted hum.
You will have to work it on hills or when fully loaded, and it can feel lacking (compared with rival turbodiesels) when asked to pull from low revs – but in reality, it’s a minor niggle in day-to-day driving.
Punchier 182hp VTEC Turbo
Fastest of the non-Type R Civics, is also small in terms of size (given its generous power output), but thanks to its turbocharger and clever VTEC variable valve system, which tweaks the engine’s performance to priorities economy or power, it feels like a much larger power unit.
The performance figures back this up – 0-62mph takes 8.2 seconds, with a claimed top speed of 137mph – and on the road it feels quiet at motorway speeds and smooth in traffic. It doesn’t particularly enjoy being revved, however, feeling strained if you hold onto gears for too long.
Despite this, it’s the engine to go for if you’re a high-mileage driver or regularly load the car up.
Punchy and refined 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel
The Civic line-up was completed early in 2018 with the addition of a 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel engine to the range.
Packing 120hp and 300Nm of torque and available in S, SE, SR and EX models, it’s a smooth performer with impressively low claimed running costs.
It’ll go from 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 125mph. It doesn’t feel overly rapid, however the way its power is delivered is very smooth indeed.
The 300Nm torque figure helps with strong in-gear acceleration, and if you need to drop a gear or two, the six-speed manual gearbox is as slick as it is in any other Civic.
In fact, it feels an even easier version to drive than the turbocharged petrols, avoiding any kind of jerkiness that we’ve experienced in the 1.0-litre manual. It never feels overwhelmingly urgent, but it feels perfectly judged for the Civic and will suit buyers down to the ground – especially if you spend a lot of time on the motorway.
Automatic gearbox option
You might be forgiven for thinking that a 1.0-litre CVT automatic sounds like a recipe for daily misery, but it’s actually a real gem. Honda has done great work retuning its CVT gearbox to work efficiently by keeping the engine spinning at its sweetest point half-way up the rev range.
Keep it out of Sport Mode and it will run at seriously low revs when you don’t need acceleration, but on a light throttle, it steps through a series of simulated ratios – acting like a conventional seven-speed auto.
If you want performance, put it in Sport and use the steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters. Here, it responds beautifully. Overall, the CVT version works well as a package, and in daily use, it’s actually preferable to the six-speed manual version because it negates the small ‘hole’ in the engine’s power delivery. There are no appreciable differences in performance and fuel consumption figures, either.
The 1.5-litre engine is also available in CVT automatic form, which also works well, with its simulated seven-speed set-up, but bizarrely, its maximum speed drops by 10mph according to Honda’s own figures.
Hot Civic Type R on a different planet
Producing 320hp and 400Nm of torque, Honda’s flagship turbocharged Civic Type-R rivals the Ford Focus RS, SEAT Leon Cupra 300 and Volkswagen Golf R. Unlike these cars, it's front-wheel drive and is only available in six-speed manual form.
In terms of performance, it's up there with its fastest rivals, and overall, it's a front-running hot hatchback, that in terms of daily usability, it a useful improvement over its hardcore predecessor.
- New suspension layout results in excellent handling
- Now up there with the class leaders
- Safe and stable, but also enjoyable to drive
Given that it has an all-new body and running gear, and the styling carries nothing over from previous Honda Civics, it seems fitting that the new car doesn’t drive like the old one.
The first thing you notice when you get onto twisting roads is how much grip and poise there is in corners – and how well damped it is on less than perfect roads.
It’s not perfect, though, as the rear end is a little more unsettled than a Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus in particular, but this changes when the car is carrying rear passengers. The steering is accurate and well-weighted, yet feels very much like the last generation Civic in that it lacks the final degree of road feel.
But it’s perfectly good for a family car, more than adequate for keener drivers, and the pay-off is that it’s perfectly set-up for motorway driving.
Type R differences
There are many, so it's difficult where to start. Its steering is sharper, ride is much firmer, although in terms of damping it's controlled and progressive. In other words, you feel the bumps, but the suspension set-up rounds off the sharpest edges.
Where the Type R scores over its predecessor is that it now comes with a 'Comfort' mode, which when selected, results in a less stiff ride, and far more comfortable driving experience. Clearly, Honda has been listening to customer criticism of the old one…
- Plenty of adjustability in steering wheel and seat
- Clear instrument display punctuated by large digital speedo
- Let down by poor quality of steering wheel buttons
The Honda Civic benefits from a well-thought-out dashboard design, with simple-to-use heating and ventilation controls. Compared with the old Civic, it’s far simpler, but when pitched against the Volkswagen Golf and Mazda 3 in particular, some of the functions around the cruise control and infotainment could be a little easier.
We love the large digital speedometer surrounded by the rev counter, with the trip computer functions housed within. It’s functional and stylish, if not quite premium enough, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Good quality, plenty of space
Material quality is good, the steering wheel itself is nice, and yet it doesn’t quite have that last 10% of polish we’ve come to expect from the class-leading Golf.
This is most evident in the design and finish of the steering wheel buttons. They feel cheap and plasticky, and are a black mark on an otherwise accomplished cabin.
Finally, all Civics are packed with near-MPV/SUV levels of storage space. The locker between the front seats is impressively large – it's deep, square and pretty much perfect for families who like to carry plenty of clutter without making the cabin look untidy.
- Lower driving position might not suit all
- Rear seat headroom good, but not great
- Impressive motorway ride comfort
The Honda Civic is a very comfortable car. It’s at the softer end of the scale in its class in terms of ride quality – and as a consequence, it handles rougher city roads just as well as higher-speed motorway surface changes.
The driving position will feel a little odd coming straight out of an older Civic, and sitting lower means there’s a loss of front visibility, especially around the bulky A-pillars.
Although road roar is well insulated and the ride controlled nicely, there is a little more wind noise than average, which takes an element of polish away from the Civic’s overall comfort, especially in comparison with the supremely impressive Volkswagen Golf.
EX-spec cars and upwards feature a two-setting Adaptive Damper System which adjust the firmness of the Civic’s suspension. It’s a nice idea, but works best left in Comfort mode.
The driver’s seat is well shaped and offers plenty of adjustment and support – and in the rear, you’re not short of legroom and enjoy a well-shaped rear bench. It loses out to the Golf and Ford Focus in terms of rear headroom, though, which is a concern for growing families.
The Type R's driver's seat looks like a traditional racing bucket, but in fact is so well shaped and supportive, that most drivers won't struggle toi find the correct seating position. Rear-seat passengers in the Type R may feel a touch claustrophobic given the dark, one-piece front seats.
Petrol Civics – particularly the 1.0-litre turbo – can become quite vocal at higher revs when demanding more from the engine.
That isn’t an issue the i-DTEC suffers with. It’s the same 1.6-litre unit found in the old Civic diesel, but Honda has fiddled with various mechanical components in the engine to ensure that it’s much smoother and quieter than before.
On the move it’s very hushed indeed, only making itself heard under hard acceleration. Even then, vibration through the pedals to the driver is minimal, and the sound is well insulated, too.