2012 Honda Civic 1.4 SE review

* 2012 Honda Civic 1.4 SE review * Entry-level model * On sale now, from 16,955...

This is the 1.4-litre petrol 2012 Honda Civic the cheapest version in the new range.

The updated 1.4 i-VTEC produces 99bhp, while stop-start technology and Hondas Econ mode which regulates the air-con and engine responses help cut emissions from 135g/km to 129g/km, and boost average economy from 47.9mpg to 52.3mpg.

This engine is available in entry-level SE trim only.

Whats the 2012 Honda Civic 1.4 SE like to drive?
The Civics 1.4-litre engine copes reasonably well within city limits, but performance is sluggish on faster roads. Peak torque doesnt arrive until 4800rpm, so you need lots of revs to get the most out of it.

Gearshifts are smooth, and the short-throw action is satisfying and easy to use, but the Civic disappoints in other areas. The handling is fine, but the steering is light and short on feel at speed, so it doesnt inspire much confidence in corners. The ride becomes unsettled on poor surfaces, too.

Performance is sluggish on faster roads

Whats the 2012 Honda Civic 1.4 SE like inside?
The 2012 Honda Civics cabin is solidly built and most of the materials are classy.

The sweeping dashboard display is punctuated by digital screens and dials, which are easy to use, but can be a distraction when they reflect in the windscreen at night. Rear visibility is compromised by the two-part rear window.

Digital dashboard display reflects in the windscreen at night

Despite being rather soft and short on lumbar support, the Civics seats provide decent long-distance comfort. As with all Civics, the rear seats flip up to provide a large storage area, while the boot floor can be removed to reveal another large compartment below.

Should I buy one?
Honda Civic 1.4 i-VTEC models undercut the equivalent 1.8 petrol by 1215 and the 2.2 diesel version by 3345 respectively. SE trim includes a decent standard of equipment, including climate control, four electric windows, USB connectivity and alloy wheels. A T-Grade package is an 995 option, which adds Bluetooth and satellite-navigation.

Civic 1.4 i-VTEC SE isn't the most convincing model in the range

At 16,955 the Honda Civic 1.4 i-VTEC SE is reasonably priced and well equipped. The Civic falls short of the class leaders in too many areas, however, and this isnt the most convincing model in the range.

Turbocharged engines from some rivals provide better performance and economy than this 1.4-litre, notably the Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost .

The Civic isnt much cheaper to run than the 1.8 equivalent, either, which has considerably more power, so is a better bet. Better still, wed save 2455 over the Civic 1.4 and buy the cheapest Hyundai i30, or find the extra cash for a Volkswagen Golf 1.2 TSI.

Hyundai i30
Volkswagen Golf

What Car? says

Dan Alcock