Honda Civic Review
Model/Engine size: 2.2 i-DTEC EX GT 5-Door
Fuel economy combined: 64.2 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 7/10
The Honda Civic 2.2 i-DTEC currently comes with an unusually large capacity 2.2-litre diesel engine for this class of car, but it gives impressive performance and good economy; so should you buy one?
It should be mentioned at this point that a new 1.6-litre diesel engine is on the way and is due to emit 95 g/km CO
. The 2.2-litre currently emits 110 g/km, or 115 g/km in our EX GT test car spec, which equates to 67.3 mpg, or 64.2 mpg in the EX GT, which is still impressive. The 2.2-litre diesel in the previous Civic emitted 134 g/km CO 2 and only had a power output of 140PS, so this new engine, mated to a six-speed manual transmission, is considerably improved with 24 g/km lower CO 2 and an extra 10PS.
Despite the fact that the imminent smaller capacity, lower emission new engine is likely to be the green powertrain of choice , the 2.2 remains a strong unit. Our experience with many smaller capacity engines is that they’re optimised to perform well in the NEDC economy test, but on the road they often fall short in the area of performance, and if you do manage to extricate sufficient performance, then the economy really suffers. Not so with this 2.2-litre diesel; in real-life driving, both performance and economy are good. Official emissions figures are kept down with the help of the car’s stop/start system.
With 150PS and 350Nm torque in a relatively small car, it’s easy to maintain good progress at motorway speeds and still have enough power in reserve to overtake the numerous middle-lane hoggers that increasingly plague today’s motorways. Yet we easily managed to return around 55 mpg after around eight hours of motorway driving.
However it’s not just the engine that makes this a good motorway car. The Civic has a good driving position and comfortable seats , although there’s not a huge amount of headroom – the driver’s seat would benefit from going lower. The ride is generally smooth on motorways, so all in all, it’s a car that’s good for long journeys. In addition to all these factors, it also feels very stable at motorway speeds, and it’s likely that the optimised aerodynamics help with this.
The Civic has a slick six-speed manual gearbox , but light steering, and handling that is competent more than sporty (despite the ‘GT’ badging); overall it struggles to match the driving dynamics of a Focus or a Golf. There’s also some road noise, and at lower speeds over poor surfaces there’s occasional vibration through the steering. Although Honda was keen to advertise its diesel engines as quiet a few years ago, it’s not now as refined or as quiet as some other rivals , especially at tickover and low speeds, and it can emit a whine under acceleration.
The previous-generation Civic had an almost perfect jelly-mould bodyshape, with the profile curving smoothly from the bottom of the front bumper up over the bonnet and roof back down to the bottom of the rear bumper. This new model has a similar overall silhouette, but with a few extra sculptured items, such as the protruding rear lights. The body shape seems effective in terms of outcomes such as fuel economy and stability, but there are some compromises in the area of rear visibility, and it’s somewhat subjective as to whether this is an aesthetically-pleasing car (the same can be said of the slightly loud ‘yellow topaz metallic’ colour of the test car).
So it drives reasonably well and if you like aerodynamically-styled cars then you may approve of the Civic’s appearance, but what about the interior? The good news is that this car has lots of equipment, along with a large boot, and clever rear seats that fold upright to assist with the storage of unusually-shaped objects.
However it’s the interior where we have our main issues with the car , due to certain controls being somewhat quirky. We’re very familiar with all of Honda’s hybrid products, and you can get away with some quirkiness with cars that feature innovate technology. However the Civic is competing with very mainstream rivals such as the Focus and Golf, and here there’s a real risk in being too unconventional.
The overall appearance of the dashboard is futuristic , with the speedo being visible above the rim of the steering wheel, and other instrumentation below, and the danger of this layout is that the steering wheel rim can obscure the view of the instruments.
The SatNav screen has lots of buttons around it, not just for the SatNav , but also for the stereo , and they don’t seem to be designed or grouped in an organised way. Trying to set a destination on the SatNav isn’t intuitive, and trying to pair a phone using Bluetooth seemed impossible. Certain information such as driving range and detailed fuel consumption is available, but trying to find it in a sub-menu of a sub-menu through the touch-screen is just too difficult, and we completely gave up with trying to find a way to reset these figures, along with resetting the trip counter, as it was all just too over-complex. Also the distances on the SatNav were in kilometres , and we couldn’t work out how to change this. One thing that would help would be to have some form of central iDrive-type controller, with a big ‘home’ button, so you can always go easily back to the main menu screen.
Also, we couldn’t even find the release for the fuel-filler cap. We eventually located it hidden right under the dashboard. We drive at least 100 different vehicles each year and so we’re used to coping with layouts of different cars, but why make it so difficult? And a final gripe is that the door handles on the rear doors are almost smooth, in other words they don’t have anything to grip onto, so it’s all too easy for your fingers to slip off the handle before you’ve been able to open the door – and this was also an issue with the Honda Insight.
Despite these grumbles, you can’t deny that t he Civic is well-equipped, in all of its trim variants . Entry-level SE-spec Civics come with alloy wheels and climate control. ES models have cruise control, Bluetooth, a reversing camera and automatic lights and wipers. EX models get leather seats and SatNav, and the range-topping EX GT, as tested, gets a panoramic glass roof, front and rear parking sensors, keyless start and Bi Xenon headlights.
As well as the 2.2-litre diesel, the Civic is also available with 1.4 and 1.8-litre petrol engines. If you only cover low mileages, then a petrol engine is likely to be the best option.
The new Civic costs from £16,495, but the top-of-the-range diesel EX GT costs £26,595. Our test car also had Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), costing £1,900, together with Metallic Paint, costing £440.00, totalling £28,985, which is a lot for a family hatch.
One thing that you’re likely to get is reliability, as Honda products regularly come top in reliability surveys. Although it’s difficult to ‘buy British’ cars these days, at least the Civic is made in the UK at Honda’s Swindon factory .
The Honda Civic is, overall, a good car to drive, offering decent performance and good economy – and these are amongst the most important elements in our evaluation criteria. The looks are subjective; you may or may not like the jelly-mould styling.
What we’re not convinced about is the quirky interior controls ; if being different meant that they were a better solution, then fine – but we’re not sure that’s the case. Overall the Honda Civic gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 7 out of 10.
Although we have no complaints about this engine, a 2.2-litre diesel in a car of this size is unusually large; a smaller capacity diesel engine is due to arrive later in 2012, promising sub-100 g/km CO 2 emissions. If it turns out to be a good engine, then that will be the opportunity for the Civic to really shine from a green point of view.
Fuel economy extra urban: 72.3 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 54.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 115 g/km
Green rating: VED band C – first year £0
Weight: 1487 Kg
Company car tax liability (2011/12): tbc%
Insurance group: 20E
Power: 150 bhp
Max speed: 135 mph
0-62mph: 8.8 seconds