The Honda Civic Diesel offers highly impressive official combined economy of 81 mpg, so despite the blanket demonisation of diesel in many areas of the media, should you consider this car if you want to save money on fuel?
The Honda Civic has always been a relatively niche choice in the family hatch class, but when we tested the previous diesel model it offered good economy – so should you consider the latest iteration?
The styling of the latest Civic could be described as the opposite of clean and uncluttered. As design is a very subjective thing, this may work for some people, and not for others. Either way, our test car had visual similarities with the Type R.
The interior follows the theme of the exterior – in a world where car dashboards are becoming minimalistic, curvy, and with soft touch materials rather than lots of plastics, the Civic bucks the trend.
Today, the latest Civic may not seem an unusual size, but if you compare it to the different generations of Civic since the very first model, it has grown massively.
Our test car is the recently-introduced diesel model, with a 1.6-litre engine and manual gearbox.
Here at Green Car Guide we’re not in the habit of focusing on reviews of machinery such as the Honda Civic Type R, but we do ensure we drive such models for the purposes of comparison. We also think that rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive is a much better solution for putting a large amount of power onto the road. However, the Type R, despite being front-wheel drive, is a brilliant car (with the exception of its fuel economy), and the latest model is still a Touring Car in terms of performance and the driving experience, but it no longer only has rigid Touring Car-like suspension – some ride comfort has now been engineered in. Anyway, during our time with the diesel Civic, a number of people gave it a second look, presumably thinking it might be a Type-R – so does the diesel model benefit from any of the genes from the Type R?
The base chassis is of course shared between both cars, and even the diesel model feels low and planted to the road when negotiating high speed corners and roundabouts. You can also select a firmer ride setting. It exhibits decent ride comfort, at least on smooth roads, but the secondary ride can get caught out on poor surfaces.
The diesel engine is smooth and refined, with good levels of torque. However when you deliver the torque through front-wheel drive, you can end up with lots of wheelspin if trying to accelerate quickly in the wet. Unlike many modern cars, the traction control system isn’t quick to manage this (which could be a good thing in some people’s eyes).
The manual gearbox is generally good – it’s normally smooth-shifting, but not always.
The instrumentation has a unique graphic style of its own – think of the opposite of the restrained black and white graphics of BMW dials. The infomedia system – and some other controls – would benefit from being more intuitive, and the satnav isn’t the highest quality system around.
We also found that the trim on the right-hand side of the gearbox digs into your left leg while driving.
The official NEDC combined fuel economy for the Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC EX Manual is 81mpg, with CO2 emissions of 93g/km. We achieved 87.7mpg at 50mph on the motorway, and 67mpg over a 200-mile motorway journey. Both of these are impressive results. After a week of mixed driving with the car we averaged 57.3mpg, which is, as usual, down on the official economy figure, but this is still good. You should also get a real-world driving range of over 500 miles.
The Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC EX Manual costs £24,950. Our test car had the options of pearlescent paint (£525), tech pack (£600), bring the total price of the car to £26,075. A petrol engine is also available. Perhaps surprisingly, after Honda persevered with hybrids for so many years, and were ahead of the game with the original Insight, just as hybrids are in demand due to air quality concerns, today’s Civic isn’t available with a hybrid powertrain.
One of the strong points of the Civic, in diesel form, is the potentially impressive real-world economy, especially if you do high motorway mileages. It’s also got a decent chassis, and it’s worth noting that it’s likely to be reliable. The question is, are such attributes sufficient in what is a very competitive class? The trend is for interiors with increasingly high levels of perceived quality, and slick infomedia systems. The Civic will find it hard to compete in areas such as these. Which leaves us to summarise that underneath the fussy exterior the Civic is basically a good car, and it might be on the list as the next car for motorists committed to Honda as a brand, but there are a lot of other rivals that might offer a broader range of talents for buyers not wedded to Honda. And we still think that Honda is missing a trick by not offering the Civic with a hybrid powertrain. The Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC EX Manual gets a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.