This month, the Civic hasn’t done as many long, easy motorway runs as it would normally do. Instead, it’s been bodging around the wilds of Cambridgeshire. Short runs on cold days with a cold engine aren’t ideal to improving economy, and that means the overall figure after six months has dropped sharply right at the end, nudging under 50mpg to end at 49.5mpg. That bodging around has also highlighted just how frustrating the gearbox can be. Nine speeds is just too many, at least in the Civic. It doesn’t help that, while the i-DTEC engine in the car is pleasingly frugal, it’s not exactly the quietest or most refined unit.
I’ve previously covered the unique automatic headlights that operate in their own parallel universe. The same can be said of the autonomous emergency braking, a system that panics a little if there’s a parked car nearby or, on occasions too frequent to dismiss, errant air molecules. Once it catches sight of what I assume is an invisible spectre, it’s hard on the brakes with a flashing alarm on the dashboard. Still, while there’s a disconcerting number of false positives, I’ll be thankful when it actually does prevent a collision one day.
One other issue has bugged me for the last six months. I know some readers thought they might have got away without hearing about it, but the cupholder situation needs talking about. There’s one in the front, and that’s hidden deep inside the central tunnel. Put a cup in there and the top frequently doesn’t even reach as high as the armrest, making it difficult to reach for once the M25 has come to its inevitable halt. There’s a wasted shelf behind the centre console, where the USB port is inexplicably hidden, so there’s enough space to shuffle things around and make it more useable.
Otherwise, it’s been a dream to live with the Civic Saloon. Yes, it misses out on some of the practicality of the hatchback, but there are benefits you get instead that might just be enough to sway you. The boot itself is bigger than the regular Civic, and the rear seats fold down to reveal a slot to shove goods through. It coped with an IKEA trip for some kitchen cabinets, but getting a tall Billy bookcase in is probably asking a little too much. There’s plenty of interior space too, with rear-seat passengers facing an almost overwhelming amount of legroom. The simple reason it’s so accommodating is that, despite it being a ‘compact’ model, it’s only six centimetres shorter than a BMW 3 Series and 27 centimetres longer than a Focus.
You also get more compliant suspension, lending the saloon a rather more relaxed vibe than the hatchback, especially when paired with the automatic gearbox. It makes the car a breeze to plough the nation’s motorways in, but there’s enough ‘proper’ Civic to keep cross-country blasts mildly entertaining, assuming the gearbox could ever decides which gear it wants. The gear shift paddles behind the steering wheel help a little, allowing for manual changes, but the car reverts to fully automatic mode after a few seconds. You can switch the gearbox to Sport, but that takes the engine out of its peak torque range. No, it’s best to leave more enthusiastic driving to the hatchback and its gaudy vents, spoilers and splitters. The Civic Saloon is an altogether more sophisticated option that will suit those who’ve left the days of hooning around behind, and appreciate the finer, smoother things in life. Not older, but wiser. It’s a bottle of Château Léoville-Barton to the hatchback’s Pinot Grigio.
Of course, nothing that I’ve written over the last six months matters, as you can’t buy a Civic Saloon with a diesel engine and an automatic gearbox anymore. I don’t think it was something I said, but the nine-speed automatic gearbox was dropped from the range some months ago, and Honda has sold its allocation of saloons, with no more expected.
It was always a niche model, but perhaps it’s just too niche in a market that wants family hatchbacks and SUVs. Despite its flaws, which were honestly few and far between, I’ll miss this little bit of non-conformity from Honda.
Date arrived 6th July 2019
Fuel economy 54.3mpg On Test 52.1mpg
Can I get away with saying it’s different to the usual family hatchbacks, and that makes it hot by default?
The cupholder does its best to prevent you from being able to reach your cup.