Wednesday, 23 October 2013

REVIEW - Honda Civic i-DTEC SE

Now this isn't the first time I've reviewed a Honda Civic- I previously reviewed the 2.2-litre diesel ES model. However Honda decided to drop the 2.2-litre engine from the Civic and in its place have come up with a 1.6-litre gem which aims to offer similar performance to the old one but whilst increasing economy. So the big question is: does it work? Is the 1.6 as economical as you would hope? And does it drive as well as the 2.2 did? Well I decided  I should find out, so read on to see what I thought...

Looks - 7/10

Two years ave gone by since we first saw this Civic for the first time. And to this day it still seems edgy and futuristic. The lines are bold, sharp and a bit out there, and that works well because it's made the Civic age well. That being said, there are a few bits I don't understand on the car. The rear light has some sort of plastic trim underneath it which- after staring at it for a week- I couldn't fathom a use for. The rear lights also stick out much further than is probably necessary. The front is rather nice, and the daytime running lights look fantastic. The wheels on the SE model are 16-inch and, despite possibly being an inch too small, are a nice two-tone design which works well. The shark-fin aerial is a nice touch too.

Sadly the interior lets the Civic down in my eyes. On one hand you have this wonderful, sweeping, futuristic dashboard with dials that look like they came off a spaceship. The biggest let down are the seats. They're wonderfully comfortable-don't get me wrong- but to look at they're just a bit boring. It doesn't do many favours to the stereotyped age of Honda drivers, and I thought it was a shame the seats couldn't be as futuristic as the dashboard. With this being an entry-level model, you don't even get a leather steering wheel. This is something that you don't really appreciate until it's not there, and this was just another minor touch that let the Civic down. These points aside the rest of the interior is top quality and the plastics are very nice.

Handling/Performance - 9/10

So this section is rather important to see how the new 1.6-litre engine performs. On paper you get 120PS and 300Nm, which gives a 0-62mph time of 10.5 seconds and a top speed of 121mph. That's more than enough for a car of this size, and the Civic certainly never felt slow. The 2.2 never tore your face off, so I'd say the power lost isn't all that noticeable. Having a 6-speed gearbox also helps to ensure the engine's power is used in the most effective way. In 6th gear motorway cruising is effortless but also at low enough revs to remain quiet and efficient. As with most diesels there is a power band, and a relatively short one at that. Climb higher into the rev band and you don't get much go. However if you keep the Civic in the sweet spot (2,000 - 3,000rpm) then it feels rather nippy.

One thing that is really apparent from the Civic is the driver-focused handling. The nicely-weighted steering has a sharp turn-in and allows you to put the nose where you want it. The seats are supportive as well as comfortable, and the driving position is nice too. The Civic rides well, but it isn't all that sporty, so doesn't have much feel once you get onto a bumpier A-road. However, as a motorway cruiser the ride is perfect, and that's what this car will be used for most in the real world.

Economy - 10/10

And if you use the Civic as a motorway cruiser you will discover its raison d'ĂȘtre. The new 1.6-litre diesel is remarkably economical. I'll start with the figures on paper. 94g/km CO2. 78.5mpg combined. Free road tax. If that doesn't do it for you then I shall explain further. The Civic isn't hard to drive economical. Granted, if you want to achieve the 78.5mpg you will probably have to stick to 60 or so on the motorways and avoid large hills.

But don't think you have to drive at a glacial speed to experience a reasonable return. I drove this car as I would any other, and achieved upwards of 65mpg. I think that's remarkable, especially as I didn't give any thought to economy. I do not doubt you could get nearer the claimed figures if you tried. On my week-long test I barely used any fuel, and that's not through not using the car. The range of the Civic according to my trip computer was upwards of 700 miles and that really is impressive.

Practicality - 8/10

As you would expect from a 5-door hatchback these days, the Civic is a practical car. It's roomy inside, and there are clever innovations which make the interior more useful. The first is in the boot. There is an adjustable floor which gives more space when required and also allows for items to be hidden. The rear seats are very clever too. They fold flat to extend the boot space. The bases also fold up vertical to allow taller items to be transported behind the front seats. There is lots of room for all the occupants and the aforementioned comfortable ride makes the Civic a nice car to travel in.

Where I feel the biggest flaw of the car lies, is when it comes to visibility. Now that split rear window does look rather funky, but it is the Civic's biggest downfall. it cuts out a significant area of visibility from your rear view mirror. For all the jokes I could make I shall remain serious. If there was ever an incident behind me and I was asked by a Traffic Officer to surrender the registration number of the berk who caused it, I would have to look at my feet and tell him that I did not know, because it was blocked by the split window. And that would make me feel foolish. I fear that this is down to a 'style-over-substance' approach which creates a very noticeable flaw, and that is a shame.

Fun - 8/10

I love a car that puts a smile on my face. I'm not so bothered about why it makes me smile, but a car that fills you with joy is a box ticked for ownership in my book. This Civic made me smile for its point-blank refusal to use fuel. Also, the space-age looks look good whenever you drive past a shop window. And being so driver-focused means the handling will always remind you that you're driving a good car. Yet somehow it isn't enough. In particular the interior just leaves me wanting more, and the spark of a truly fun car is missing. I was impressed with the Civic every time I drove it, but I just didn't find myself grabbing the keys at every opportunity.

Concluding Remarks

So the newly-engined Honda Civic. It maintains most of the performance of the 2.2-litre, whilst being super economical. And the cost of all this? Well, therein lies another stumbling block. The basic SE model with the 1.6-litre diesel will set you back £19,400 which I think is a little on the steep side. Especially considering that the entry-level SE model doesn't offer much in the way of gadgetry. However you do get reliability, and this car will certainly last for as long as you need it. It will also save you money in running costs which may be more important, and the residual values are good too. Why not pop into your local Honda dealership, or visit the Honda website. So to sum up then, the Civic 1.6 i-DTEC; economical in the real world, not just on paper.

Total Score - 42/50

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