How much is too much? Do we need nearly 500 TV channels to choose from? I barely have time to watch just one. Is it necessary for there to be almost 2,000 Greggs stores in the country? Since they’ve stopped keeping the sausage rolls warm, no, it’s not necessary. (Sorry Greggs, but you’ve let everyone down there.) And does the Honda Civic really need a nine-speed gearbox?
To cut to the conclusion rather earlier than usual, no, it doesn’t. I’m assuming that there’s a dizzying array of ratios to choose from for emissions regulations, as the WLTP testing can be passed with the engine running at lower revs thanks to higher gearing. However, while that might result in the pleasingly low CO2 emissions figure of 108g/km and a fuel economy result of 54.3mpg. Real-world figures aren’t significantly different, which is pleasing. Testing by Emissions Analytics of the manual gearbox models shows the 62.8mpg figure is only slightly wide of the 57.9mpg to be expected. The company’s forecast for the automatic model is 51.6mpg, which isn’t far off the 49.7mpg I’ve been getting so far.
Coming in around 10mpg short of the manual model is a little disappointing, but it’s what the switch to nine gears has done to the drive that really frustrates. I mentioned last month that the 400-metre drive from my house to the main road sees the car making an astonishing 18 gear changes, and that continues for urban driving. It’s indecisive, always thinking there’s a better gear to be in at any given moment, so the car lurches around, never settling on one option.
It mixes that with a rather unpleasant and poorly soundproofed engine note. The engine itself is genuinely fantastic, offering decent performance and flexibility under most circumstances, and when mated to a different gearbox, some incredible economy figures. The automatic gearbox brings the worst of it out though, the engine revs rising and falling continuously, filling the cabin with a metallic rattle that gets tiring very quickly. Even switching to manual changes doesn’t help too much, as there are so many gears to choose from that you soon lose track of where you’re at, and each ratio is so short that you’ll be needing to change gears every few seconds anyway.
Still, with every cloud there’s a silver lining. The Civic Saloon, thanks to its softer suspension over the hatchback, rides through town nicely, dismissing many of the imperfections in the road that other cars would highlight. Find a long, straight motorway and it’s wonderfully relaxed. The engine revs drop to barely noticeable, the engine noise subsides to a distant rumble, and wind noise is notable by its absence thanks to the sleek lines of the car.
Date arrived 6th July 2019
Fuel economy 54.3mpg On Test 49.7mpg
The customisable instrument panel means you can get rid of some superfluous information. Who actually needs a rev counter on an automatic car?
There’s an automatic brake hold function, allowing you to sit at lights without having to hold the brake pedal down, but it resets every time you turn the car off, inevitably leading to a short roll forwards at the next traffic light.