Wednesday, 21 November 2012

REVIEW - Honda Civic ES

There is sometimes an opinion amongst car fans that the modern Honda is for, to put it one way, the older generation. I don't think that, particularly when you look at cars like the CR-Z. Sadly my case was not helped when my Civic test car arrived in "Urban Titanium" which is not the most lively of colours. However beneath this lay a great car, and one for the keen driver too. So all the haters can sit back, and enjoy the Honda.

Looks - 8/10

The styling approach taken by designers at Honda is certainly best described as "futuristic". This echoes throughout the car and is both its strongest and weakest points. On the exterior the front end reminds me of a spaceship. The daytime running lights give it a presence and seeing it coming down the road toward you it almost looks like the aliens have landed; but in a good way. Go round to the back however, and the styling is a bit less impressive. The futuristic style is still there, yet for some reason it just doesn't have the same presence about it as the front. Yes, the sticky-out rear lights are cool, and that split rear window is futuristic, but it just doesn't have the same impact as it does from the front. Also the wheels on my test model were a bit small, and some bigger ones would have made the styling more imposing all-round.

On the inside you get to see the Civic's winning showpiece; the dashboard. You certainly could be forgiven for thinking you were on the decks of a UFO, with the arcing dash all lit up with colourful bright lights. The centre console is functional and well laid out, and the materials are top quality. The seats are lovely and comfortable, but not the best to look at. The small steering wheel and short-throw gearstick add a nice touch as well.

Handling/Performance - 9/10

You certainly can't knock the Honda for how it goes. The 2.2-litre diesel engine in my test car develops 150PS and 350Nm of torque. This gets the spaceship from 0-62mph in 8.5seconds and on to a top speed of 135mph. That's definitely not 'pensioner' performance by any means, and is more suited to the commuter who wishes to fly down the M6 on a Monday morning. Having the 6-speed gearbox really helps the Civic too, because you feel more involved in the driving and can really work the car. Saying that, you don't actually need too because of the high levels of torque on offer. You can hold gears instead of changing down, and don't seem to notice any drop in pickup.There is an ECO driving mode to be had as well. This is best saved for motorway driving. You don't notice it once you are up to speed, and it works really well in conjunction with the cruise control, but makes the car feel a bit underpowered when driving round town.

The handling of the Civic shows that it has been designed for the keen driver. The characteristics are there that would be desired; sharp, perfectly weighted steering and good balance. There is little body roll, and the front doesn't feel quite as heavy as you would expect with the 2.2-litre lump under the bonnet. The ride is soft and comfortable, yet doesn't compromise the handling when you decide to stick it into some A-road bends, and that makes for a great all-round driving experience. You have enough power to shorten the time between those bends as well, which is certainly nice.

Economy - 10/10

What surprises me the most about the 2.2-litre engine is how green it is. The old variant of this engine was far from the most efficient, yet the engineers have worked some very impressive magic because this new one is excellent. It will not only offer you a combined fuel economy of 67.3mpg (yes, that is the correct figure), but will emit just 110g/km of carbons, which is real terms is like 2. This puts the Civic in VED band B, and so 12-months road tax will set you back a whole £20. I like that, because it means this big powerful engine will not cost you an arm and a leg to run. This great economy and emissions is down partly to the ECO mode, which does help particularly when cruising, and also thanks to the start/stop technology, which helps with city driving.

Practicality - 8/10

The Civic is not a small car, but it also has a few tricks up its sleeve to make even more space out of nowhere. Take the rear seats for example. You can lift the base up vertical, and so then you have a tall space for any items such as tall boxes which you may wish to transport. As you would expect there is a large boot, and plenty of legroom for all passengers. General visibility is good, but the rear window isn't the most convenient for seeing out of. That said I found the Civic a doddle to drive, and was easy to judge making parking and village driving no problems at all.

Fun - 8/10

Because of the driver focus shown in the handling, the Civic was a fun car to drive. For me it covered all bases, because I could cruise down the motorway effortlessly to work and back, but then go berserk on the A-roads should I fancy a change. Having said that, it just seemed to lack that fun 'feel'. It's hard to explain, but this felt like a car that was great at what it does, but doesn't like to make a fuss about it. I really hope Honda decide to make a Type-R version of this Civic, or failing that a nice sporty Type-S diesel would suffice. Give the 2.2 a few more PS's and a sport button, and it could be an absolute riot!

Concluding Remarks

Overall, as is reflected in the scoring, the Civic is a good car. The efficiency and performance of that diesel engine is the best you could hope for without either being sacrificed for the other, and the driving experience is one to please the majority. There are a few changes that could make it a perfect car, but with the ES I tested costing around £21,000 you do get a lot of car for your money, and it is cheaper than, say, a Golf. Get on the Honda website, or better yet head down to a showroom, and have a look at the space-age Civic; you may just find that it ticks all the boxes for you.

Total Score - 43/50 

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