Like many late developers, Honda has showed itself to have sustained periods of brilliance when it comes to cars.
In little more than half a century it has presented some outstanding models to the world, some with names whispered with reverence, such as the NSX affordable (and reliable) supercar.
True, there have been some clunkers along the way but equally a generation that started motoring on impressive and frequently powerful Honda bikes that helped decimate the British motorcycle industry has been happy to engage with the company’s cars, boosted no doubt by the high profile gained via the Japanese maker’s Formula 1 activities.
The latest, 10th generation, Honda Civic is no exception when it comes to buyer appeal. If you thought the last generation was startling to look at then this new one is brilliantly sharp and packed with features upon which to feast your eyes.
Honda has made it lighter and stiffer so it’s more engaging to drive. Hearing that it has something called Agile Handling Assist might also get the juices flowing but in reality the car can be as gentle as it is stimulating. It can certainly match your mood.
There’s a choice of engines, naturally, but for this test we opted for the one litre three cylinder petrol unit, coupled to a CVT transmission. That might sound like a recipe for a boring life but the car feels vigorous while still being almost perfect for use in heavy urban traffic.
That statement is qualified with an “almost” because the stop/start system that helps conserve fuel by cutting the engine in queueing traffic can be a bit slow to restart. When you’re keen to get away to catch the lights and you also have to overcome what feels like initial inertia from the CVT set-up then life can get frustrating, especially as there can be quite a jerk when it kicks in unless you judge the throttle very sensitively.
The temptation is to flick the system out of operation, which makes it rather pointless. The electronics need a bit of fine tuning here and then everything would be good.
With a top speed of 124mph, slightly slower than the equivalent manual gearbox, and 0-61 mph time of 11.0 seconds (slightly quicker) the Civic in EX trim is fast enough for most. Cut the kit levels and the acceleration, although not the top speed, gets a bit more responsive but these days, with the roads so crowded, maybe the comfort of higher trim levels is far more to be appreciated than any slight gain in performance.
Once rolling, the Civic CVT bowls along quite happily – not in the way that some older drivers may remember the DAF “elastic band” CVT cars doing with their ringing hum because the three cylinder Honda engine gives the car quite a roar.
It’s pumping out 129 bhp at only 5,500 revs, which some Honda owners of yesteryear might think subdued for a company that’s renowned for fast-spinning engines. Peak torque comes at only 1,700, perfect for a CVT system where the car quickly wants to settle to bowling along at low revs with plenty in reserve.
Perhaps what’s most remarkable about this Civic CVT is the great fuel economy.
It’s a large car with an ample interior yet it manages to average 43 mpg without any trouble. More impressive was a longer run, admittedly fairly gentle in terms of acceleration but still with cruising at the motorway limit for about 20 miles that saw a consumption of 51 mpg. It shows what can be achieved with modern, well-engineered cars that are geared to having a low environmental impact.
The Civic’s turbocharged engine delivers there too because its 114 g/km of CO2, while not as low as some cars, is worthwhile when taken in combination with its fuel-sipping nature.
Remember that this is a car that will carry four adults in comfort and five with ease so it’s not exactly small. In fact when you first see it you could almost mistake it for an Accord replacement rather than a successor to the last Civic.
There’s a huge boot, made all the bigger by the lack of a spare wheel. Honda has given some thought to this and the space it releases is all available for concealing items under the carpet. The tyre goo and pump are concealed in the side trim in an otherwise redundant space. It’s another example of how Honda always finds the right answers.
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Honda Civic 1.0 VTEC Turbo EX CVT
Does it fit your ego…
0-62 mph: 11.0 secs
Top speed: 124 mph
Bhp: 129 @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 180 Nm @ 1700 rpm
…and your wallet…
Combined: 56.5 mpg
CO2 emissions: 114 g/km
Best bits: interesting yet economical