AS far as I can remember, the only really memorable thing about the previous generation Honda Civic was the fact that it had a completely flat floor so you could walk through from one side to the other.
It was a car version of white goods – decent enough, but its only purpose was to transport people from A to B with as little drama as possible (Type R excepted).
This is a label which could never be applied to the new Civic – it couldn’t be further removed from its dowdy predecessor.
Much has been written on the Civic’s transformation and in the car Fleet News now has on the fleet we have the ultimate combination of modern looks, a top-class diesel engine, generous equipment levels, all at a highly competitive price.
Our test car, in top-spec EX grade, has an on-the-road price of £18,095. For the money you get self-levelling headlights, Bluetooth telephone preparation, 17-inch alloys, cruise control, DVD satellite navigation and a glovebox cooler, as well as front, side and curtain airbags, and brake assist.
The price tag puts the EX in a competitive position against its competitors. For example, the Volkswagen Golf 2.0 GT TDI costs £18,495 and, if unusual looks are your thing, you might be looking at the Renault Megane 2.0 dCi 150 Privilege coming in at £18,170.
And with these competitors a number of features are not included as standard as they are on the Civic, such as cruise control, headlight washers and satellite navigation.
We’ve also added a few options to our car – metallic paint, rear parking sensors, blue ambient footwell lighting (sounds strange, but it gives a lovely soft glow around your feet at night), fancy floor mats and an eight-CD changer in the armrest. This pushes the Civic’s total on-the-road price up to £19,295.
If you want a diesel Civic, then you have but one choice of engine, the 2.2 i-CDTi carried over from the Accord. You shouldn’t grumble about the lack of choice, however, since it is a belter, producing 138bhp and 251lb-ft torque in the most refined way. Press the accelerator just gently in second gear and the surge in power is smooth yet gutsy.
The diesel is quiet and the combination of the power and the six-speed manual gearbox is ideal.
While Honda claims combined fuel economy of 53.3mpg, so far I have only managed 41.6. You can work out how efficient your driving is via a row of small green lights in the instrument binnacle. The more that light up, the more economically you are driving.
It’s a challenge to get a full set lit up when trying to get the most enjoyment out of the engine.
But the light show is just a glimmer compared to the rest of the stunning interior. The exterior design has grabbed much of the headlines for the Civic, but what Honda has done inside deserves as much praise.
For the driver the double-decked console dominates. The upper deck – sitting just below your vision – has the digital speedo and the lower houses all other information, with most space given over to the rev counter.
In the centre sits the display screen for the satellite navigation, climate control and audio systems. Sitting among black or brushed steel effect plastics, the abundance of displays could have been overpowering, but actually is arranged in a logical way based on what you need most when driving.
The materials used and the quality of fit manage to give the interior a bespoke feel. The armrests are covered in a sort of suede, for example. I don’t remember coming across this in any other car and it is a real treat.
The Civic tickles the parts that other lower-medium cars just can’t reach, combining super-cool space-age looks and excellent build quality with one of the most impressive diesel engines on the market.
Price: £18,095 (£19,295 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 140
Company car tax bill (2006) 22% tax-payer: £49 per month
Insurance group: 11
Combined mpg: 53.3
Test mpg: 41.6
CAP Monitor RV: £6,575/37%
Contract hire rate: £380
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles
Equipment and options
Total options: £1,200
Price (OTR): £18,095
Price as tested: £19,295
The manufacturer’s view
‘THIS year we expect to sell 10,000 Civics in the corporate market and nearly half of these will be diesels. Of the models chosen, more than 40% are high specification ES or EX models and the average price of a Civic sold in the corporate market is more than £17,000. Drivers have chosen the Civic because of its styling, performance and benefit-in-kind tax position.’
Harvey Hughes, manager – corporate operations, Honda UK