The Honda Civic now has a new 1.6-litre diesel engine and it’s proven to be the most economical car in real life use that we’ve tested to date, as well as being an accomplished motorway cruiser.
We tested the new Honda Civic 2.2 i-DTEC relatively recently and we were impressed. However in the current world of downsizing, a 2.2-litre engine is very large for this class of car, so Honda has now developed an all-new 1.6-litre diesel with the aim of becoming more competitive in the area of fuel economy and emissions, especially for the fleet market.
Design & Engineering
The latest Civic loosely follows the design style of the previous-generation model, with a ‘jelly-mould’ body shape. It’s probably subjective whether you like it or not, but there are certainly better looking cars in its class.
The interior can split opinion even more. The car arrived and the first drive was from Manchester airport to Stansted airport, at night. You’re faced with four different sets of bright blue displays, which is just too much. Some of the interior controls are also too small and fiddly, especially the buttons around the satnav (although the satnav itself is easy to programme). To swap between viewing the car’s MPG and its range, you have to press four buttons to scroll between the two read-outs – which is far too over-complex. To reset the fuel economy figure you have to press a separate button near the instrument cluster. And if you’re not familiar with the Civic and you need to refuel in a hurry, good luck with finding the fuel filler release handle, which is in a ridiculously hidden away position under the dashboard.
The boot is a good size but the spoiler that sits across the rear window can limit visibility, particularly blocking out the headlights of cars behind at night. A camera assists with improving the rearward view when reversing.
The 1.6 litre i-DTEC engine is the first evidence of Honda’s ‘Earth Dreams Technology’ project. The name might be fluffy but the benefits are tangible. Honda started with a blank piece of paper and ended up with the lightest engine in its class, with 40% less friction than the 2.2 i-DTEC, and matching petrol units, which contributes to great fuel economy and increased responsiveness.
The good news continues when you look at the figures. With 118 bhp and 221 lb. ft. of torque at 2,000 rpm putting it firmly at the top of the tree, there’s no compromise on performance. The new engine is also mated to new a 6-speed manual gearbox that’s 7Kg lighter than the transmission in the 2.2-litre model.
Both the Civic and the new 1.6-litre engine are built in the UK at Honda’s Swindon plant, which can build up to 500 of the engines in one day – or one engine every 138 seconds.
Honda Civic Driving Experience
Much of our driving of the Civic was on the motorway, and we simply couldn’t have wished for a better motorway companion. The driving position is good, the seats are comfortable, the Civic has a good ride, it feels stable, and the cabin is mostly quiet. The engine is smooth and its good levels of torque (300 Nm) result in it being responsive (there’s lots of torque in first and second gears, resulting in the ability to easily spin the wheels if you’re driving progressively). But the best thing was the economy – more about that in the next section.
Away from the motorway, the Civic remains a pleasant driving experience, and the lightweight engine results in the car feeling agile with good handling, yet the ride remains comfortable. The steering wheel feels nice and thick and the steering response is helped by the lighter engine.
Honda Civic Economy and Emissions
The Honda Civic 1.6-litre proved to be the best car that we’ve tested to date in terms of real-life economy. Driving at around 70mph all the way from Manchester to Stansted airport and back resulted in fuel economy of 63mpg, and our urban economy averaged 53mpg. Our overall fuel economy over a week with the car averaged 61.6mpg. This narrowly beats the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics at 61.4mpg, which was previously our best test car in terms of real-life economy. This compares to an official combined miles per gallon figure of 78.5mpg (equating to emissions of 94g/km CO2); 61.6mpg falls short of this, but some other cars with official economy figures of around 80mpg have achieved an average of 43mpg after a week of testing, so the Honda’s real-life economy is impressive. Another benefit of the fuel economy is an official range of 863 miles on one tank of fuel.
Honda’s ‘idle stop’ system contributes to its low official CO2 emissions figure, and there’s an economy button (hidden behind the windscreen wiper stalk) that you can press to optimise the car’s efficiency.
Price, Equipment and Model Range
The Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC costs £23,175. It came with one option, pearlescent paint, at a cost of £500, taking the total cost to £23,675. There are three trim levels – SE (£19,400), ES (£20,595) and EX. Our EX spec car included, over the ES trim, HDD navigation, premium audio, leather interior, front heated seats, and front and rear parking sensors. So although the car is quite expensive in top-spec EX trim, it’s very well equipped. The Civic is also available with the 2.2-litre diesel, and petrol engines.
Honda has a very good reputation for reliability and we don’t have any reason to believe that this Civic will be any different.
The new 1.6-litre diesel engine in the Civic is excellent. It’s smooth, refined, torquey and economical. A real-life economy figure of 61.6mpg is the best that we’ve achieved to date with any car (excluding eco-driving events). The Civic is an outstandingly capable car for motorway driving, but it’s also very good on B-roads and around town. This is a car that fleet managers should seriously consider.
The dashboard is the car’s biggest challenge for us. It just feels a bit too gimmicky and some of the controls are unnecessarily complex.
The exterior of the car is quite distinctive, and whether you like it or not is probably a matter of personal preference. A Tourer Concept of the Civic was on display at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, and it looked fantastic – much better than the hatchback. We look forward to testing the production version of that Concept, and hope that in the meantime Honda takes a look at the dashboard of a BMW 3 Series and incorporates some learning from that into the interior of the Tourer, making it less quirky. In the meantime the Civic hatchback 1.6 i-DTEC remains a very impressive and very economical car overall, and it gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10.