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Honda Civic

Honda

Review

##honciv.jpg --Right##USER-chooser drivers have paved the way for Honda to double the number of compact cars it sells in Britain. For the business motorists who decide which car they drive played a key role in the development of the Japanese company's trend-setting new Civic range.

Hundreds of user-choosers helped shape the radical Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra rival, which has been designed from the inside out to boast the most spacious and innovative interior in its class.

They also listed all the features they would like the newcomer to have and told the company's market planners how much they would expect to pay for them.

Honda UK managing director Ken Keir said: 'We took a long, hard look at the C-sector market and decided we ought to find out more about the views of the people who buy our cars. We spoke to hundreds of them at secret clinic sessions staged across the country. The feedback has been invaluable from several aspects, especially as the sector accounts for 25% of all new car registrations.

A demonstration fleet of 300 Civics is being made available to user-choosers who already operate Civic or Accord models and the cars will be offered for loan periods of seven days to three weeks.

'This is the most important car to be launched in the history of Honda UK and it reflects the commitment our parent company has made to the UK. We're here for the long term, and with annual production of 250,000 units we could be the second biggest domestic car producer in three years' time,' added Keir.

Engines continue to be sized at 1.4 and 1.6 litres, but have been extensively revised to be lighter, develop greater power and use up to 10% less fuel. Offering rear passengers considerably more legroom than either the Volkswagen Passat or the Mercedes-Benz E-class, the Civic is the new Tardis in its sector and has a remarkably spacious and airy interior.

But the short nose design and extended wheelbase means big-car accommodation is not achieved at the expense of boot space and a split-fold rear seat allows the car to carry large loads.

Despite its aggressive price of under £12,000, even the entry-level S version comes with an impressive list of equipment as standard, including air conditioning, electric windows, front and side airbags, anti-lock braking and height-adjustable steering and driver's seat.

It has the feel of higher grade transport and its dashboard gearlever - part of the packaging that creates above-average room and a flat floor - allows snappy, short-throw changes that fall neatly to hand. Though it is clearly more practical than sporting, the Civic's reworked suspension and power steering provide excellent agility with easy handling characteristics.

Now with higher torque, the 1.4-litre is an even more spirited performer, but its 1.6-litre VTEC stablemate offers additional refinement to go with its more subdued motorway cruising demeanour.

Swindon's hot Type R Civic, a three-door boasting a 189bhp 2.0-litre engine, will be launched with other three-door versions at the Geneva Motor Show in March, and it is believed that Honda is working with Isuzu, its Japanese partner, on a turbodiesel unit for vehicles based on the new Civic platform, including Stream, the seven-seat compact multi-purpose car just unveiled at the Berlin Motor Show.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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