Since unveiling the facelifted Civic last November, Honda has taken a while to get the diesel variants on the market. Ian Robertson tests the spruced-up model
Honda’s very own space shuttle, with futuristic looks and room for all the family, was a bit of a shock to traditional buyers when it went on sale back in 2005. The up side was that it appealed to a whole new generation of younger punters, and Honda sought to capitalise on that by facelifting the Civic at the back end of last year. But while it was always meant to be a staged launch, with the upgrades applied to the range in a piece meal fashion, the Japanese firm didn’t expect it to take as long as it actually did. The five-door diesel range went on sale as late as May, thanks to the recession meaning that the Swindon plant in Wiltshire ceased production for several months.
But the delays are now a thing of the past and the Civic has kicked-off the second half of 2009 fighting fit. Changes to the exterior are minimal, amounting to a revised front grille and new rear lights. Under the skin, changes to the suspension have made the five-door models more comfort orientated, and differentiated them from the sportier three-door Type S and Type R versions. Climb into the cabin, and Honda has listened to customer criticism, improving the interior plastics, as well as introducing a new brushed metal treatment to the centre console. This results in a much improved, classier feel to the cabin, but the space age looks won’t appeal to everyone. The display in the instrument cluster, for instance, is digital and in bright sunshine, the reflections can make it difficult to read – a case of style over substance. Interior space is generous, but rear vision is made difficult because of the hefty spoiler, which is cited exactly where most drivers would want to see. And to add insult to injury, there’s no rear wiper, so there’s no means of wiping excess water or winter’s grime from the rear glass.
The Civic redeems itself with excellent performance, though. The 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine is fantastically punchy, especially when the turbocharger is on boost, which gives a real shot in the arm feel. Engine noise is reasonably muted and wind noise is well contained, too. The Civic makes for a comfortable motorway cruiser and eats up the miles with ease. On back roads, it handles well, with neat turn-in and plentiful grip. The suspension can become unsettled over poorer road surfaces though. At £20,180, the Civic EX isn’t exactly cheap, but it offers decent levels of equipment, and is priced comparably with its main rivals. With CO2 emissions of only 139g/km, it beats all of its peers apart the VW Golf, and attracts a cost of £120 for the annual vehicle excise duty. Fuel economy compares well at 53.3mpg on the combined cycle, and insurance costs are only slightly above average. Boot space is another of the Civic’s strong points with 485 litres of room available with the seats upright. Fold them down, and a cavernous 1,326 litres is available, which trumps all of its main rivals, except for the capacious Skoda Octavia.
RIVALS: FORD FOCUS TITANIUM 2.0 TDCi, PEUGEOT 308 SPORT HDi 136, VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GT 2.0 TDI
- Engine: 2204cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 138bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 251lb ft at 2,000rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,500kg
- Max speed: 127mph
- 0-62mph: 8.7secs
- Combined Consumption: 53.3mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 139g/km (E)
- Boot Space: 485/1,326litres
- Insurance group: 11