Look at it. Squinting headlights merge into a Perspex grille. You half expect red lights to flash from side to side behind the Honda badge as David Hasselhoff leaps over the bonnet.
Although a five-door, Honda has borrowed Alfa Romeo’s trick of merging the rear door handles into the C-pillar, giving it the sleek look of a coupe at first glance. At the rear, twin triangular exhausts sit flush with the bodywork, while the interior feels more spacecraft than car.
Our 2.2-litre i-CTDi Sport comes with 17-inch alloys, which nicely fill the slightly flared arches, and high intensity headlights, but that’s about it in terms of toys.
Yet the beautifully designed interior still dazzles without the need for gizmos galore.
A shiny red starter button kicks the engine into life, while a digital speedo sits above the main instrument binnacle.
The rev counter and ancillary gauges are hidden until the key goes in the ignition, whereupon they burst into life in a sea of brilliant blue.
The funky steering wheel has stereo and computer controls inlaid on the spokes, nicely recessed to avoid unintentional station changes or volume increases. However, I pined for the leather wheel option as the Sport model’s plastic version made my hands sweat profusely.
Honda is making a big play about the Civic’s seat design, and with good cause. The newly-designed frames hug the body and provide ample support for when you press on, but remain very comfortable on long journeys.
Build quality is excellent, although the quality of plastics on the main dash is not quite equalled by those on the centre console and around the instrument binnacle.
The diesel engine is, by general consensus, the best of the range and it’s easy to see why. Developing 138bhp and 251lb-ft of torque, it feels taut and eager yet smooth under acceleration. Unusually for a diesel engine, I enjoyed the sound, too – floor the accelerator pedal and a supercharger-like whine adds a dash of verve to the proceedings.
Handling and feel is excellent though anyone expecting a soft, cosseting ride will be disappointed. The Civic doesn’t look sporty for no reason and responds well to being driven hard.
Such sportiness doesn’t dent its practicality, however. At six feet tall, I’m no midget, but had no problem finding room in the back.
The Civic demands attention and I had more admiring and curious glances during my time with it than any other car I’ve driven.
During the test I saw one other new Civic travelling in the opposite direction. The driver raised a cheery hand in greeting. It seems that Honda has succeeded in making the age-old granny-mobile a vehicle that people are proud to be seen in.
Honda Civic 2.2 i-CTDi Sport
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £16,447
CO2 emissions (g/km): 140
BIK % of P11D in 2006: 18%
Graduated VED rate: £115
Insurance group: 10
Combined mpg: 53.3
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,475/39%
Depreciation 16.62 pence per mile x 60,000: £9,972
Maintenance 2.37 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,422
Fuel 8.43 pence per mile x 60,000: £5,058
Wholelife cost 27.42 pence per mile x 60,000: £16,452 Typical contract hire rate: £335
At a glance
We don’t like:
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Ford Focus 1.8 TDCi 115 Titanium
Vauxhall Astra 1.9 CDTi 120 SRi
Volkswagen Golf 1.9 TDI Sport
THE Volkswagen is the cheapest car on test, undercutting the second-placed Honda by £110. However, it is also the least powerful car of the four, offering 105bhp compared with 138bhp for the Civic, 115bhp for the Focus and 120bhp for the Vauxhall. All four cars are the sporty variants in their range and come with alloy wheels and sports seats as standard. The Astra, with its 120bhp engine, is the most expensive car on test, costing £30 more than the Focus.
VOLKSWAGEN makes a play for the fleet operator’s attention by being the cheapest to service, maintain and repair. Running the Golf for three years and 60,000 miles is likely to cost £1,398 in garage bills. Over the same period the Civic is likely to set a fleet back £1,422, while the Ford is slightly more at £1,446. The Vauxhall is the most expensive, costing £1,470 to keep it on the road over its fleet life.
THE Focus and Civic are at the top of this sector by being the least thirsty. Run the Ford or Honda over 60,000 miles and you can expect a diesel bill in the region of £4,962 if your drivers achieve the claimed figure of 53.3mpg. Some way behind is the Volkswagen, which will glug down £5,048 over the same distance. The Vauxhall is more than a penny per mile behind the leaders, with a fuel bill of £5,724.
THE Golf begins to show its worth, as it will lose the least value over three years/60,000 miles. CAP estimates it will retain 41% of its cost new after that period. The Civic also holds its value relatively well over the same period, with a predicted RV of 39%. The Focus falters, losing 2.5ppm more than the Civic with an RV of 30%. The Astra comes last thanks to its RV of 30% and a high front-end price.
THANKS to a low depreciation rate, cheap servicing and a reasonable starting price, the Golf is the cheapest car to run over three years and 60,000 miles. A fleet running the Volkswagen can expect a bill of £16,368 at the end of that time. The Civic performs decently all round and comes a close second, costing less than £100 more over the same period. Poor residual values do the Focus no favours – it will soak up £17,880 over the same time, and the same applies to the Vauxhall which finishes last with a total bill of £19,218.
EMISSIONS AND BIK TAX RATES
FORD and Honda share the top spot for 22% company car taxpayers. Although the Focus has slightly lower emissions, it shares a tax band with the Civic and with the asking prices of both cars so similar, taxpayers for both face a monthly bill of £54. The Volkswagen may be well priced, but higher emissions push the tax bill up to £57, while the Vauxhall is the most expensive in benefit-in-kind tax with a bill of £66 a month.
THE choice for drivers would seem to be between the Focus and the Civic. Both handle well and are in the cheapest tax band and, while the Focus has marginally more equipment, the Civic astounds with its looks and superior power. For fleet managers, the choice is less obvious. The Volkswagen is the cheapest overall to run but pollutes more and is the least potent offering. However, the Civic is only marginally behind on wholelife costs and has a much more radical image.
WINNER: Honda Civic 2.2 i-CTDi Sport