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Honda Civic 1.6iS - 3,012 miles



##CivicB.jpg--right##JUST how important are looks these days? In the C-sector market where competition is fierce, you could be forgiven for thinking that looks can kill. So in this cut-throat world where style is all, how does a car like the Honda Civic perform?

Set against cars like the Ford Focus, the Civic fails to please my eye and where the Focus is edgy and stylish, I find the Civic just plain dull. But looks aren't everything. Inside, the Civic is one of the most spacious cars in its class. Manufacturers take note - legroom can be added without sacrificing vital boot-space. You can get a family of five in the car and a family's shopping in the boot.

The instrument panel is clear but, boy, is it ugly. Dials may be easy to read but the chunky knobs that adjust the car's air conditioning are garish at best. Still, at least they're easy to find. But these are minor gripes. The fact is that the entry-level S version comes with a list of standard equipment as long as your arm.

Air-conditioning, electric windows, front and side air bags, anti-lock brakes and height-adjustable steering all come at no extra cost. The focus of the car is arguably its dashboard-mounted gearstick, which all cars should have. It allows snappy changes to be thrown neatly and with precision.

The Civic's suspension and power steering make the car easy to handle and enjoyable to drive. In fact, it's almost as much fun to drive as the Peugeot 206, only without the little French car's cramped conditions. The 1.6-litre engine is powerful enough for a car of this size and has undergone extensive revisions to maximise output and cut fuel consumption.

The Civic delivers 42.8mpg on the combined cycle - that's more than the Ford Focus LX, which offers 40.9 mpg - although my test consumption is way below that figure. The VTEC engine has plenty of get-up-and-go at the top end, but drivers may find delivery at the low-end a little frustrating. On motorways, the car cruises comfortably, offering the driver more power if needed.

With an on-the-road price of £12,460, the car is competitively priced against the 1.6-litre Ford Focus LX, which comes in at £12,480 and doesn't have anti-lock brakes as standard. The Civic emits 169g/km of CO2, meaning that under the new company car tax regime to come into force next April, a driver will pay 15% tax on the car's list price. In cash terms a 22% taxpayer will fork out £390.72 a year.

This means that high mileage drivers will pay the same benefit-in-kind under the CO2 tax as they do at present. A driver travelling less than 2,500 miles will be £530 better off, while a driver covering between 2,500 and 17,999 miles will make a saving of £260.

The Civic is expected to retain 37% of its original price. So after three-years/60,000 miles this car could be worth about £4,500. This stacks up favourably against the Focus 1.6 LX, which is has a predicted residual value of 36% or £4,375.

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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