Honda has chewed up and spat out the rule book with the new 10th generation Civic which replaces both the old model and fills the gap left by the discontinued Accord.
The old Civic’s modern-looking exterior did not accurately reflect what lay beneath – yet it had many fans. It was not the first word in dynamism, had a messy interior and archaic rear suspension.
This time around Honda’s non-conformist approach to styling has again been applied, but in a longer and sleeker body which looks more mature. In standard trim it’s far sportier than before but still a bit bonkers. With huge fake air intakes on the rear bumper and a centre-exit exhaust, it certainly stands out.
Inside the Civic is far more civilised. It has a modern, clean dash with a simple layout. Build quality is good too and all models get a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a digital instrument cluster.
The torque-less old VTEC petrol engines have been consigned to the history books, making way for efficient new turbocharged units. At launch, a three-cylinder 1.0-litre with 129PS and a four-cylinder 1.5-litre with 182PS are available. Later in the year a re-worked version of the 1.6-litre DTEC from the previous model will join the line-up with improved efficiency and 120PS.
The 1.0-litre triple is a real delight with plenty of useable power and a hearty thrum when worked hard. The more powerful engine is unlikely to gain much fleet appeal due to its higher emissions but offers strong performance with a 0-60mph time of 8.2 seconds.
The most efficient Civic for fleets is the £18,335 (OTR) entry-level 129PS in SE grade which has CO2 emissions of 110g/km. Company car drivers should expect to pay around £58 per month (20% taxpayer) in tax for this model. Civics with an automatic transmission have slightly lower emissions (106g/km for the 1.0 SE) but, owing to their higher list price (£19,635), company car tax will be slightly more expensive.
Until the Type-R is launched, the range tops out at £27,480 for the 182PS Prestige with an automatic (CVT) transmission. But with CO2 emissions of 139g/km it is unlikely to make it onto restricted company car choice lists.
Shifting through the six-speed manual gearbox is effortless and will appeal to keen drivers. The CVT, on the other hand, is less impressive. In fairness to Honda it’s certainly one of the better CVT boxes out there with seven ‘simulated’ gears rather than one constant ear-bashing stay at 6,500rpm, but it’s too sluggish to pull away and dampens the engine performance.
For the traditional Honda driver the CVT will appeal as it offers a smooth and relaxing drive and slightly better economy, but we’d recommend opting for the manual. Honda expects around 60% of buyers to do the same.
Official consumption for the 1.0-litre petrol is 58.9mpg or 60.1 for the automatic. Both models lose around 3mpg in higher trim levels due to the larger wheels.
In comparison an £18,280 five-door Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI S also achieves 58.9mpg but has a 19PS deficit and lower specification.
Equipment grades for the new Civic range from SE through SR and EX – or Sport, Sport Plus and Premium with the larger engine. Only SEs benefit from the lowest CO2 emissions as they are fitted with 16-inch wheels.
The full suite of Honda Sensing safety kit is fitted to all models and includes autonomous braking with adaptive cruise control, blind spot assist, lane-keep assist and traffic sign recognition. A reversing camera with cross-traffic alert comes on higher spec models.
The body is stiffer – 52% over the outgoing model – 16kg lighter and with independent suspension all-round.
The changes are immediately apparent on the road. The Civic offers a strong balance between ride comfort and handling. There is little body roll and excellent grip.
A new steering rack further enhances the drive. It has variable gearing which tightens up the more you turn. It means the car never feels fidgety on the motorway but requires little effort to tackle tight corners.
By lengthening the body Honda has been able to extend rear legroom by 95mm and the car will comfortably carry five adults. The raked roofline does encroach on rear headroom slightly but overall the cabin is comfortable. The boot is a generous 478 litres (around 100 litres larger than most rivals).
Overall the Civic is an impressive package. Even without a diesel its running costs are competitive, and combined with Honda’s legendary reliability the new Civic is a strong fleet contender against the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus.