Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC ES-T
What would you be prepared to sacrifice to own a car billed with class-leading fuel economy? Ride quality? A decent driving position? How about refinement and good rear visibility?
Six months with our Civic have revealed that you’ll have to take a hit in all those areas, and a few more. Does that mean you should opt for one of its rivals instead, however?
At £21,775 new, our 1.6 i-DTEC ES-T certainly couldn’t be considered great value, even though it came with plenty of equipment. An equivalent Ford Focus costs almost £1400 less, while a Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI SE is more than a grand cheaper. Take Target Price discounts into consideration and the Honda comes within £932 of the VW, but the Ford looks even more of a bargain, with an advantage of £2064.
The long-term view is more positive for the Honda. After three years it is forecast to be worth a healthy amount more than its key rivals – see the deprecation graph for the details.
The Civic claws back more ground when you look at the fuel costs; at 78.5mpg, its official average economy figure beats the Golf 1.6 TDI’s by 4mpg and the Focus 1.6 TDCi’s by 11mpg.
As you’d expect, 78.5mpg proved elusive. Our True MPG team managed to average a still-respectable 66.4mpg, but the best I could average was 57.6mpg. Bear in mind, though, that I have something of a heavy right foot on the motorway (most of my journeys involved travelling the length of the M3 daily). An average driver should be able to achieve 60mpg-plus.
Not so good was the 1.6 diesel’s refinement. It was a clattery thing when started from cold, and didn’t improve much when warmed up, sending vibrations through the pedals. It was torquey, though, with a 0-62mph time of 10.5sec and a top speed of 129mph; it picked up speed quickly on the motorway and I rarely had to change down from sixth gear to keep up with traffic.
Most of the What Car? team borrowed the Civic during its time with us, and nearly everyone criticised its crashy ride and numb steering. I’ll admit that the suspension did a poor job of isolating ruts and drain covers, but the ride quality improved slightly at speed. I took issue with the comments about the steering; sure, it was devoid of feel, but it was quick and I always found it precise enough when I was hustling the Civic round bends. The slick six-speed manual gearbox was also a pleasure to use.
However, the driving position was flawed. The seat was height-adjustable but didn’t go low enough, no doubt because the fuel tank sits beneath the front seats. The steering wheel moved for height and reach, yet it was always too close to my chest. You also had to set the wheel low if you wanted to see the speedometer.
The dashboard layout was a little bewildering for the uninitiated, with a mixture of digital and analogue displays for speed and revs, plus a touch-screen for the sat-nav and radio and another screen for the trip computer, audio connectivity and reversing camera. It all took a little learning, but was straightforward to use.
I was impressed with the stereo’s quality. It sounded terrific when streaming music from my Android phone via Bluetooth, but the USB connection worked only with Apple devices, and even then it was a bit glitchy.
The sat-nav was largely effective, although I did have to revert to my phone’s Google Maps on a couple of occasions when the Civic’s system couldn’t identify a postcode. The ‘T’ in ES-T trim is the nav option, and its costs a grand more than ES. If you’re a smartphone user with a reliable mapping system I’d urge you to think carefully before splashing the cash.
In isolation the Civic isn’t a bad car, but when compared with the best in the class (and even some middling rivals) its shortcomings are all too apparent. If you spend a lot of time on the motorway it’s worth a look. However, the Focus and Golf are cheaper to buy, better to drive, cost less to insure and leave company car drivers better off. They’re simply better all-rounders.
Price when new £21,775
Price now (new) £21,775
Extras White Orchid pearlescent (£500); floor mats (£75)
Total price new £22,350
Current part-ex value £16,222
Overall test fuel economy 57.6mpg
Worst test fuel economy 52.5mpg
Best fuel economy 60.2mpg
True MPG 66.4mpg
Official fuel economy 78.5mpg
CO2/tax liability 94g/km/13%
Contract hire £278
Cost per mile 41p
Insurance group 16
Typical quote £522
Servicing and repair costs