The Honda Civic has been updated for 2014. Suspension and steering adjustments are intended to improve handling and high-speed stability, while there’s now a smattering of piano black trim on the dashboard and on the redesigned rear bumper.
Petrol options include a 99bhp 1.4 and a 140bhp 1.8 petrol, but the 118bhp 1.6-litre diesel will account for the vast majority of sales – not least because its CO2 emissions of 94g/km make reasonably cheap to run as a company car.
What’s the 2014 Honda Civic like to drive?
It’s not dramatically different from before. The biggest improvement is the steering, which feels less nervous at high-speeds and is more predictable in its responses, making the Civic more relaxing on the motorway and a bit more reassuring on twistier stuff. The ride comfort is also better at high speeds, so the Honda is now a fairly comfortable long-distance cruiser.
However, at lower speeds the suspension still thunks sharply over sharp-edged bumps and potholes, and isn't as settled as the best-riding rivals. It's rarely harsh enough to be uncomfortable, though.
Otherwise the handling remains perfectly acceptable. The Civic turns-into corners sharply enough, but it will run wide a touch too willingly at faster speeds, and the steering, while better, still doesn't always weight up consistently during hard cornering.
There have been no modifications to the Civic's powertrains, so the 1.6 diesel remains very strong in its mid range, helped along by a short, slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox.
However, that means the diesel engine is still very gruff and noisy, so if refinement is a big priority and you don’t do too many miles, you may want to consider one of the petrols.
We haven't driven the 1.4, but we tested the 1.8 complete with the optional £1415 five-speed automatic. This ’box is smooth enough provided you’re not in a hurry, but is quite lazy and doesn’t encourage spirited driving at all – certainly not enough to warrant much use of the standard steering wheel-mounted paddles.
The engine itself doesn't feel as punchy as the diesel, either. Despite its higher power output, the petrol has far less torque so it has to revved higher to get the best from it, and even there's nothing to get excited about.
The auto is best used as a town car, where you can make the most of the refined engine and good brake and the throttle responses; it's easy to drive smoothly in clogged-up town traffic.
What’s the 2014 Honda Civic like inside?
Large, gloss-black switches now dominate the lower dash, but they don’t really make the Civic’s interior feel any classier. Ultimately, it’s still characterised by some durable but slightly cheap-feeling plastics, and a quirky, two-tier layout that has a digital speedo readout set above the steering wheel, while a large, colourful rev-counter takes up the central binnacle.
Meanwhile, a higher-set colour screen displays infotainment information, although it’s not a particularly intuitive system to use and it'll take some time before you learn navigate the menus via the rotary dial and shortcut switches easily.
As before, there’s plenty of legroom front and back, but headroom is tight all-round, so taller people will have to set the seat to its lowest position, or will have to slouch uncomfortably. It’s a shame, because the boot is huge and the rear seats are particularly clever as they fold flat for a long, smooth load bay, or you can flip up the seat bases cinema style to turn the rear passenger area into a deep, through-loading space.
Entry-level S trim gets the basics, including 16-inch alloys, climate-control, USB-input, and electric windows all-round electric, although Bluetooth and DAB radio is standard on the 1.8 and 1.6 models - you'll pay extra to add them to the 1.4.
SE Plus is fairly lavish, adding front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, auto lights and wipers, dual-zone climate and cruise controls.
SR trim betters that with leather, heated front seats and a large colour touch-screen system complete with sat-nav fitted into the dash, and a panoramic glass roof.
Finally, the range-topping EX Plus adds keyless entry and go, 17-inch alloys, and adaptive headlights.
You can also get a new, high-tech suite of safety kit for £780, (or standard on EX Plus). It includes city-braking (which can automatically brake the car at speeds of up to 18mph if it senses an imminent collision), while potential accidents sensed at higher speeds will set off a visual and audible warning, though the car won’t brake for you.
You’ll also get a warning beep if you cross a white line without signaling, or if there’s a car in your blind spot on the motorway. You even get the speed limit displayed on the dash.
Should I buy one?
There’s plenty to like about the 2014 Civic. The futuristic-looking dash is frustrating to use but is fun to look at, while the Honda is decent enough to drive, has a massive boot and benefits from low CO2 emissions in diesel form.
However, the Civic is merely average in many key areas, and its diesel engine is actually pretty unrefined. It also remains expensive next to key rivals – even taking into account the healthy equipment levels. For instance, the big-selling diesel Civic costs £2335 more than an equivalent Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI, which is bigger, better to drive, more refined and also has a classier and more user-friendly cabin.
Yes, the diesel Civic's lower CO2 emissions means it's only slightly more expensive to run as a company car, but overall, it’s still got a way to go to worry the class leaders.
What Car? says...
Honda Civic 1.4 i-VTEC
Engine size 1.4-litre petrol
Price from £16,995
Torque 94lb ft
0-62mph 13.4 seconds
Top speed 116mph
Fuel economy 52.3mpg
CO2 output 129g/km
Honda Civic 1.8 i-VTEC
Engine size 1.8-litre petrol
Price from £19,255
Torque 128lb ft
0-62mph 9.1 seconds
Top speed 134mph
Fuel economy 48.7mpg
CO2 output 137g/km
Honda Civic 1.8 i-VTEC auto
Engine size 1.8-litre petrol
Price from £20,670
Torque 128lb ft
0-62mph 10.9 seconds
Top speed 130mph
Fuel economy 44.8mpg
CO2 output 148g/km
Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £20,375
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 10.5 seconds
Top speed 129mph
Fuel economy 78.5mpg
CO2 output 94g/km