Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
We reckon the 124bhp 1.0 VTEC Turbo petrol engine is all you really need. It delivers perfectly acceptable acceleration for town or motorway driving (officially the 0-62mph dash is ticked off in a reasonable 10.5sec) and it's just as perky as its chief rivals, like the Seat Leon and Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI 110.
Naturally, with 180bhp, the 1.5 VTEC Turbo is even quicker (0-62mph takes 8.2sec) and it has more low-down shove. However, it's available only in the Sport trim and doesn’t actually feel dramatically quicker on the road until you really rev it out. The 1.6 i-DTEC diesel has the most low-end welly, so it's the most flexible engine at low revs, but, with 118bhp, its acceleration isn't particularly punchy when you're going flat out.
All the engines come with a six-speed manual gearbox but the petrols add the option of a CVT automatic. To read about the hot-hatch Civic Type R, click the link for our separate review.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Civic doesn't ride as smoothly as the Volkswagen Golf (but few cars do), yet it's pretty comfortable by the overall class standards. Lower trim levels, with the standard suspension, deliver a generally more settled ride than the Ford Focus and manage potholes without any of the thumping that can blight some versions of the Skoda Octavia. Still, it's best to resist the temptation to upgrade to the optional larger alloy wheels if you want the smoothest passage through town or countryside.
EX and EX Sport Line trims ride on an adaptive suspension system, which you can stiffen and soften at the touch of a button. The softer setting is just dandy, but the firmer mode is certainly more for agility than suppleness. We don't recommend you stretch yourself financially just to get the adaptive suspension because the standard set up is fine.
The Civic handles decently by family car standards. Around town it's relatively easy to manoeuvre, but it does have a slightly larger turning circle than some of its rivals. Out of town it stays pretty upright through tight twists and turns and steers precisely.
However, tackle a corner with any great vigour and you’ll wish the steering weighted up with greater consistency to help you gauge how well the front tyres are gripping, and speaking of grip, there isn't as much generated by the Civic as there is by a Focus or Seat Leon. They remain the benchmark cars in the class if you're looking for thrilling handling.
Noise and vibration
While the 1.0 VTEC Turbo petrol engine is our favourite, it's a bit raucous when you work it hard and sends quite a few vibrations through the pedals to the soles of your feet. The 1.0 TSI versions of the Leon and Octavia are a bit smoother and quieter. The Civic’s 1.5 VTEC Turbo petrol motor is more restrained, remaining quieter and smoother when you put your foot down. We love the light and positive feel of the manual gearboxes, but the CVT automatic (available with the petrols only) sends the engine revs racing when you're accelerating hard or climbing steep hills.
Unsurprisingly, the 1.6 i-DTEC diesel is the noisiest engine of the trio on offer. Fire it up and it clatters a little at idle and rumbles as you're accelerating. Thankfully, at a cruise, it's far more hushed. With all Civics, road and wind noise are prevalent at motorway speeds, with rivals such as the Golf and Focus proving considerably more peaceful cruisers.
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