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First Drive

First Drive: Honda Civic diesel

The story:
Honda launched its new Civic to much acclaim almost a year ago, but at the time only with petrol power. Now it's adding a low-emission diesel engine, which should further improve its appeal to the company car sector.
Category:Lower Medium
Key rival:Volkswagen Golf
Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC 120 SR
On sale:March 2018

Honda has finally added a diesel engine to the mix for Company Car Today’s CCT100 Lower Medium Car of the Year, merely nine months after the new Civic was launched.

2018 First Drive - Honda Civic diesel - image 5The diesel is a re-worked version of the 1.6 i-DTEC unit used in the previous Civic, updated to meet the latest emissions standards, and is available only in 120hp form and in the same S, SE, SR and EX trim levels as the 129hp 1.0-litre petrol alternative. Initially, a manual gearbox is the only choice, although an automatic version will follow in the summer.

Good efficiency figures have the car off to a very promising start, with an official NEDC test fuel economy of 80.7mpg and a CO2 figure of 93g/km, giving it a good company car benefit-in-kind figure.

The engine is an interesting one, in that it has unusual characteristics for a diesel. It’s got a much flatter power delivery, more akin to that of a petrol engine, where there’s not the same surge that a diesel normally offers. The i-DTEC will though pull for longer than other diesels without demanding that you change up a gear to maintain acceleration.2018 First Drive - Honda Civic diesel - image 15

It’s also impressively refined, lacking any diesel clatter, and the car maintains the latest Civic’s charms in terms of driver appeal, offering a short gearchange, good ride, well-balanced chassis and nice steering. It’s also one of the most practical cars in its class, thanks to a huge 478-litre boot and good rear seat space.

Honda is expecting 31% of sales to be the diesel, with two-thirds of that to the corporate sector, making it an important car for a brand that admits to having been held back in the company car area by the lack of a diesel option for higher-mileage drivers.

2018 First Drive - Honda Civic diesel - image 12All cars get an array of Honda safety systems as standard, which is good, although some of the settings are a little oversensitive, to the point of being intrusive. Specifically it’s the forward collision alert, while the blind-spot detection system only fitted to the top-spec EX as standard is also rather jumpy compared with rival’s systems.


Paul Barker

The verdict

Good addition to an award-winning car. The new diesel is refined, efficient and performs well, albeit without the punch you might expect.