Honda has never been a big fleet player, and re-entering the core fleet segment without a diesel option could be ambitious. We take a look.
On the road
On the road
Honda’s strapline for the new Civic is “Dare to be different”, and it certainly rings true, given the Japanese brand is heading into the lower medium sector, the core fleet arena, without a diesel engine in its five-door hatch line-up.
There will be a 1.6-litre diesel joining the range around the end of 2017, but for now we’ve got a pair of petrols to choose from, only one of which really makes sense for company car drivers.
The main one then is a 1.0-litre 129hp three-cylinder unit, which doesn’t sound like much until you drive it. The on-paper perceptions are proven incorrect by a punchy and characterful engine mated to a chassis that fulfils what previously sounded like bold claims from the brand about the new Civic rediscovering the brand’s sporty credentials.
It emits 117g/km in this mid-trim SR spec, and just 110g/km with the smaller alloys that come with the entry SE trim. Ford can offer 108g/km from a 125hp Focus petrol, but most rivals are higher than 117g/km for their similar petrol engines, and on-road indications are the Honda will get within a very reasonable distance of its official economy figures.
The other engine, which is much less likely to feature on the choice lists, is a 182hp 1.5-litre unit that doesn’t get below 133g/km. That version also, confusingly, has a different trim line-up to the 1.0-litre; its various levels are named Sport, Sport Plus and Prestige.
Honda has really gone for it in terms of trying to appeal to as many as possible with the new car. As well as the sporty driving experience, which we’ll get on to soon, the Civic has the practicality box well and truly ticked. More so with the smaller engine than the larger, bizarrely, because boot space differs between the two thanks to the way the central exhaust pipes are mounted on the more powerful model. That takes it down to 420 litres from the positively enormous 478 of the car driven here, but either is well above class average, and the 1.0-litre’s luggage space is beaten only by the Skoda Octavia in the lower-medium class. It’s a shame, though, that there’s no parcel shelf as such, with the luggage hidden by a flimsy draw-across tonneau cover that has the consistency of a window blind. Plus, it doesn’t always retract properly. Then there’s the matter of the aerodynamic bar across the rear window that restricts visibility. At least there’s a back window wiper these days, unlike a couple of generations back when Honda decided that such a thing was surplus to requirements.
The luggage space is far from at the expense of rear passenger room, with the Civic again proving to be up with the Octavia for passenger comfort at the top of the class, although legroom is more plentiful than headroom.
Up-front, the cabin is nicely designed and put together using decent-quality materials, although some of the storage space could be better designed for the kind of phone-shaped modern detritus that litters a car’s interior. Unfortunately, the 7.0-inch touchscreen media set-up fitted to the SR and EX trims doesn’t dovetail particularly well with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems you also get as standard at this level; switching between the on-board system and the mobile systems can be clunky, and is further hindered by a touchscreen that isn’t the most responsive on the market. The volume control could also do with buttons rather than the flush touchscreen you’re forced to use.
Equipment levels are impressive, given this mid-spec car’s price of a little over £20,000. All
Civic 1.0 models get front and rear parking sensors, climate control, automatic lights, Bluetooth and 16-inch alloys, while the £1,845 step to this SR trim increases the alloys to 17-inch and adds dual-zone climate control, satnav, a rear parking camera, automatic wipers, power-fold mirrors, a leather steering wheel, two USB sockets, privacy glass and alloy pedals. It’s a combination that’s well worth the price walk. Top-spec EX versions also come with keyless entry, heated front seats, a sunroof, blindspot sensor, the adaptive damping system and leather interior, a package not as enticing in toy terms, given the £2,860 price increase and how well-kitted the mid-spec trim is. It is worth noting though, that the options list is minimal, with the expectation that drivers and companies pick the spec that suits them, rather than plundering extras.
As mentioned, the 129hp 1.0-litre engine doesn’t sound particularly impressive on paper, but in reality it’s a pleasantly punchy little unit that offers bags of performance for its size. It’s backed up by the very capable chassis, well-weighted steering and nicely balanced ride quality to form a car that really can challenge the class best for driver enjoyment.
The gearshift for the six-speed manual has a nice short throw, and slides solidly between the ratios. The stick itself is mounted at a nice height, and is certainly preferable to the CVT automatic that’s also offered. The auto shaves a few g/km off the emissions, which is enough to drop the Civic by one benefit-in-kind band, but the extra £1400 for the auto also brings an unpleasant increase in engine noise and a feeling of multiple equine escapees from the horsepower figure.
Nevertheless, the overall driving enjoyment comes with no cost to the car’s ride comfort. Add in the good refinement, with a little noise at high speed, and you have a car that’s equally adept at long motorway runs as it is diving on to back roads.
The design also supports the driving experience, with Honda having developed an aggressive-looking hatchback that’s distinctive and muscular, including the big rear spoiler attached to the top of the bootlid. The narrow headlights and gaping air intakes help create a strong look.
Like many in the sector, the key target for the Civic is the Volkswagen Golf, and the Honda has a clear residual-value advantage over its German rival, and the other serious mainstream volume competitors such as the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. In fact, KwikCarcost’s residual value predictions for the Civic puts it up with the premium brands, possibly helped by the more modest volume ambitions of a firm that isn’t a serious fleet player.
In summary, the Civic is great to drive, offers massive boot space and decent occupant space, is well priced, well equipped for that price and is powered by an engine that surpasses expectations. The lack of a diesel is disappointing, and could rule the car out for higher mileage or CO2-conscious fleets for the moment, but the Civic has arrived at a time where diesel’s star is waning, and switching to petrol power isn’t the obstacle it once was. There are some ‘characterful’ annoyances with the Civic, such as that luggage cover and some of the infotainment functionality, but it’s a bit of an under-the-radar hit that deserves more success than it’s possibly going to achieve.
The Civic name has been around since 1972, when Honda introduced the first of what is now 10 generations of a model that launched with the “car for all people, a car for the world” tagline.
Over those 10 generations and 45 years, the Civic has grown by nearly a metre from the first car’s two-door 3550mm length. The original car was powered by a 50hp 1.2-litre petrol engine and weighed 680kg. The new car is powered by either 129hp 1.0 or 182hp 1.5 petrols, and weights 1275kg.
Over those 10 generations, Honda has sold hybrid versions as well as petrol, and the seventh generation was the first to receive a diesel engine in 2003.
The most recent figures show that Honda has produced in excess of 18.5m Civics. More than 2m of them have been built in the UK, where Honda has had a manufacturing base since 1989, and which has built the Civic since 1994.
Honda UK Manufacturing in Swindon was established off the back of a collaboration deal with British Leyland in 1985, and the plant also builds the CR-V SUV.
What they said
What they said
“The British-built Honda Civic is made in Swindon and exported worldwide.
The range is set to grow with the arrival of the high-performance, Type R, in addition to a new diesel Civic that will offer even more choice to fleet and corporate customers.
“This latest Honda Civic builds on the notable success of past models. It is the result of the largest research and development global project Honda has ever undertaken. It has a distinctive style, along with more refinement and performance.”
fleet sales operations manager,
Need to know
Three things we like...
The massive luggage area includes a handy underfloor compartment
The gearshift is a pleasingly short and sharp throw
Boot spoiler is one of several sporty styling touches that really work
...And one we don't
The adaptive cruise control is ridiculously jumpy, slamming on the brakes for cars in adjoining lanes
A big achievement here - punchy 1.0-litre 129hp engine outdoes its on-paper performance, and handling is very impressive.
Petrol engine’s emissions are reasonable, and the car recorded good real-world figures.
Huge rear seats and massive boot make for a very sensible hatchback. Only minus is the odd luggage cover arrangement.
Mid-spec SR isn’t missing much, maybe only heated seats and keyless entry. Shame you can’t specify those as options.
Low, wide stance hides the fact that this is a big car and make for a muscular look. Shame that Honda has persisted with the aero bar across the back window that blocks your rearward view.
Comfort and refinement 8/10
There’s a pleasant if very audible thrupping noise from the three-cylinder engine, but high-speed ride and refinement are very good.
Plenty of space and decent quality, although more useful storage areas would be appreciated.
Apple CarPlay is fine, as long as you don’t want to hop in and out to the nav or audio screens. Satnav itself also a touch behind modern systems for look and functionality.
Whole life costs 9/10
Well-priced and with a decent residual value for the sector, as well as reasonable emissions figures.
CCT opinion 9/10
Not perfect, but very impressive. It’s a shame there’s no diesel yet, but the petrol is still well worthy of consideration.
The new Civic is a huge leap forward from its predecessor, and has a whole suite of strengths to make it a great company car, despite the lack of diesel at present.