Four engines are available: 1.4- and 1.8-litre petrol engines, and 1.6- and 2.2-litre diesels. The 1.4 needs to be worked hard, while the 1.8 provides lively acceleration when you rev it. The clean and responsive 1.6 diesel is the pick of the range, while the 2.2 diesel is so flexible that a slight squeeze of the accelerator is usually all that’s needed for brisk progress.
The Civic is a stable motorway cruiser, plus it grips strongly in bends and resists body roll well. Unfortunately, it never inspires the confidence it should because the steering is vague and overly light. Comfort isn't great, either, because the ride is pattery and unsettled. The diesels feel more supple than the petrol models, though, so are generally more comfortable.
The Civic generates a fair bit of road noise over most surfaces, and at all speeds. The 1.4 and 1.8-litre petrol engines drone a little bit at motorway speeds, and the 2.2 diesel is very clattery. The 1.6 diesel is better is a little smoother and quieter, but it’s still very raucous compared with the engines in rivals, especially if you ask for high revs.
The 2.2 diesel looks pricey, but the petrol engines and the 1.6-litre diesel are competitively priced. Discounts won’t be big, but the Civic should hold its value pretty well. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are generally reasonable, but they’re exceptional in the 1.6. Servicing costs are likely to be high, though.
The upper part of the dashboard is dense and soft to the touch, but while build quality generally seems solid enough, the lower plastics feel hard and a little flimsier than you might expect. Honda has an enviable reliability record.
Every Civic has stability control, six airbags and active anti-whiplash front head restraints to protect those onboard. Meanwhile, pedestrian protection features include energy-absorbing front wing mounts and windscreen wiper pivots designed to break away on impact. All this helped the car achieve a five-star crash rating from Euro NCAP. The list of standard security kit includes deadlocks and an alarm.
The Civic’s dashboard is a complete ergonomic nightmare. Many drivers will struggle to see the instruments past the steering wheel, and even those who can see them will be confused by the messy layout. What’s more, the brightly coloured displays reflect in the windscreen at night, and every stereo system available is too user-hostile. The cap it all, the driver’s seat doesn’t go low enough and rear visibility is awful.
Headroom is poor. In the front, taller people have to recline the driver’s seat to stop their heads hitting the ceiling. Things are even tighter in the back. It’s a shame, because in most other respects the Civic scores well in this category. There’s plenty of legroom front and rear, and an enormous boot. What’s more, the rear seats can either be folded flat or flipped up like cinema seats.
Entry-level SE-spec Civics come with alloy wheels, climate control and a USB socket, but that’s pretty stingy. We’d upgrade to the ES model, which adds cruise control, Bluetooth, a reversing camera and automatic lights and wipers. EX models also come with heated leather seats and sat-nav, while range-topping EX GTs get a panoramic glass roof, front and rear parking sensors, keyless start and Bi Xenon headlights. Between the trims, there are T grades (SE-T for example) that add sat-nav.
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The best Civic in the range, and the only model that comes close to competing with more established rivals. This well equipped mid-spec car is the one to go for.