Company Car Today

First Drive

Honda Civic

Honda Civic 1.0 VTEC Turbo 129 SR
The story: Honda is looking to attract a younger customer with the new Civic, and claims to have prioritised driving dynamics, practicality and safety kit
Key rival:Volkswagen Golf
On sale:March 2016

Honda is hoping fleets are gradually making their way back to petrol power with its new Civic. Indeed for this year it’ll need them to if it wants to make any impact with the latest version of its hatchback, as there won’t be a diesel alternative until at least the end of 2017.

The good news then is that the Japanese brand has been working hard on new petrol engines, and has two turbocharged downsized units at launch. The more fleet-relevant s a 129hp 1.0-litre that comes with CO2 figures as low as 106g/km, while there is also a performance-orientated 182hp 1.5-litre, though that doesn’t get below 133g/km so will never be the mainstream fleet choice. It’s also worth noting that the higher trim levels are hit by higher Co2 emissions thanks to larger alloys, meaning a manual car with 17-inch wheels is at 117g/km, which can’t match the likes of Peugeot or Ford, but is slightly ahead of most other rivals.

Honda is trying to reinvent the Civic as a car that’s fun to drive, as well as practical and styling, in an attempt to encourage a younger customer base than has traditionally considered the brand. And largely the new Civic has fulfilled that brief quite successfully.

From the driver’s seat it is refined and comfortable, yet fun to drive when the situation allows, and Honda has managed more successfully than most to straddle the line between comfortable and sporty. The six-speed manual gearbox is a better bet than the £1400 optional CVT auto that turns the engine into something or a racket under accelerations. It is though a couple of g/km more efficient than the manual.

Rear legroom is excellent for the class, though headroom is restricted by the sweeping roofline, and the mammoth boot is bested in class only by the Skoda Octavia’s frankly ridiculous load space. That at least partially mitigates the fact that there won’t be a Civic estate this time around, with Honda pointing to the fact that 92.5% of C-sector cars are five-door hatchbacks. The new Civic also loses Honda’s magic seat system that allows the seat base to be folded up to create handy space for the likes of larger boxes or bikes in the rear seats. The company reckons it wasn’t a feature particularly appreciated or used by customers.

Up front, the cabin is classy if understated, kind of how you’d expect a Honda cabin to be. Everything is logically placed and works how it should, including the Honda Connect 2 system that comes on the higher trim levels.
Though the lack of a diesel will be off-putting for company car users, Honda’s standard safety equipment list is something that well and truly ticks the duty of care box. The Honda Sensing suite of kit, fitted to every trim level, includes collision mitigation, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition. The firm is also expecting a five-start Euro NCAP crash test score when the car is assessed.

The Civic’s whole life cost case is pretty strong thanks to residuals that outpoint all major rivals, and are several percentage points above the previous car. The Honda’s 35.0% predicted residual from KwikCarcost puts it in front of even the VW Golf, though that is a car about to be replaced.

It’s a shame Honda’s diesel Civic is so far away, because it will undoubtedly hamper the progress of a really quite good car. Honda accept this, hence the 83% retail sales prediction, but the new car is good to drive, has good interior space, a huge boot, excellent levels of standard safety kit and looks classier than its predecessor inside and out. It’s a pretty damn fine effort at moving Honda back towards the front of the incredibly competitive C-sector.

The verdict

Massive step forward in all areas should push Civic into fleet consciousness, though lack of diesel will be an issue in the short term