What's the used Honda Civic hatchback like?
When you consider that the Honda Civic is a rival to the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra et al, credit should be given to its designers for making it look genuinely distinctive. That’s especially the case when you remember that until the launch of this eighth-generation car in 2006 the Civic had gained a reputation for being safe and steady rather than interesting or edgy.
No such danger with this particular car, which looks just as adventurous on the inside as it does on the outside. There’s a whiff of form above function in elements such as the layered instruments (some drivers will find their view of the speedo is blocked by the steering wheel) and mass of buttons on the steering wheel, but at least it could never be described as boring.
There’s a good amount of space in the front, including plenty of in-car storage, but those in the back seats will find headroom and legroom are tighter than in a VW Golf and the small rear windows also make it feels somewhat claustrophobic, as well as restricting visibility for the driver.
The rear seats are usefully practical though, not only having seatbacks that fold down but also bases that flip up like a cinema seat to create a deep load bay that’s ideal for carrying tall items.
Combined with a boot that is considerably larger than you’ll find in the majority of family cars it makes the Civic very practical, particularly in five-door form.
It’s a shame therefore that the ride is noticeably firm both at town speeds and on the motorway (models built post-2009 were a little softer, but not hugely so), and that there’s a fair bit of tyre noise to endure too. It’s not even as though the hard ride gives the Civic a particularly sporty feel either, although the steering is pleasingly direct.
The engine line-up for this British-built car starts with an 83bhp 1.4-litre i-DSI petrol, but most will find the 138bhp 1.8-litre petrol or 139bhp 2.2-litre diesel more agreeable companions on account of their additional power. From 2007 Honda also sold a sportier Civic Type S, and from 2008 there was the high-revving Type R with 197bhp, which was flawed but fun. At the more frugal end of the spectrum Honda offered a hybrid Civic in saloon form only, but it was never terribly popular.
All manual Civics come with six gears. If you’d prefer an automatic it’s best to look at a post-2009 facelift 1.8-litre model when the jerky i-Shift gearbox was swapped for a smoother torque converter. At the same time a perkier 100bhp 1.4-litre litre i-VTEC petrol engine took over as the entry-level model.