The Honda Civic injects a refreshing dose of individuality
Estate cars aren’t usually bought for their stylish looks, but the Honda Civic injects a refreshing dose of individuality into the mix. All over the car, you’ll notice odd bulges and strange little bits jutting out at unconventional angles, but in a good way; overall, the Civic doesn’t look weird, just interesting and edgy. All examples come with alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights, while a couple of the higher-end trims get a slightly sportier makeover.
To be honest, the Civic’s driving position is a complete dog’s dinner. The seat won’t go low enough, the cushion you sit on is too short and the pedals are offset. If you favour an upright driving position, the limited steering adjustment means you can’t push the wheel far enough away from you, forcing you into a more reclined position. There are too many instruments and information displays to easily pick out the nugget of information you want, and the touch-screen infotainment system (standard on SE Plus trim and above) isn’t intuitive enough to operate. The Tourer does have an advantage over the Civic Hatchback, mind; there’s no spoiler cutting your rear window in two, meaning your rearward visibility is clearer, but your view still isn’t as good as it is in other small estates due to the rather small back windows. Many of the cabin materials feel pretty plush, and the build quality is generally very solid, but it still doesn’t feel like as posh a product as some rivals do.
The way the rear seats fold down is really neat
The one prerequisite for any estate car is a big boot, and the Civic delivers, with a large, deep loadbay. It’s not as big as some rival estates, and it’s not as square-sided, either, but it’ll be big enough for most small families. The way the rear seats fold down is really neat as well; the bases cantilever down automatically as the backrests drop on top of them, which gives you a flat, level load area. There’s enough space in the passenger compartment for four tall adults to get comfy, but the raised middle seat and wide transmission tunnel mean squeezing a third person into the back won’t be quite so comfortable.
Ride and handling
If you want your family estate to major on comfort, there are plenty of rival cars that do the job better than the Civic. The suspension is very much on the firm side, and on even the smallest bumps, ruts and ripples, the ride is fairly fidgety at all speeds. The firm suspension does have a benefit, that being tight body control in the bends, and there’s plenty of grip provided, too. However, the handling still isn’t ideal, and it’s down to the steering. It’s quite quick, but the initial responses are quite slow; that means that when you turn the wheel, very little happens at first, and then the car dives in all at once.
Two engines are available, a 1.8 petrol with 140bhp and a 1.6-litre diesel with 118bhp. The diesel is the only one we’ve tried so far, and it’s the engine that the vast majority of buyers go for. It’s not the quietest or smoothest engine of its type, but it’s not bad enough to spoil the otherwise impressive level of refinement. It feels nice and muscular when it’s on song, too, but it has a rather narrow power band for a modern diesel engine. You’re left wanting for acceleration if you let the rev-counter drop below 1,500rpm (which, because of the way the gearing is set up, you often will), and the pull tails off towards the top of the rev range.
The Civic returns an official fuel consumption figure of more than 74mpg, with CO2 emissions of just 99g/km,
This is one area in which the diesel engine does impress. Equipped with this engine, the Civic returns an official fuel consumption figure of more than 74mpg, and with super-low CO2 emissions of just 99g/km, the tax bills it commands for company car drivers are exceptionally low for the class. The petrol will be much pricier to run, returning just 45mpg and chucking out 146g/km. The Civic’s purchase prices sit towards the loftier end of the scale when compared with other small estates, but since Hondas traditionally enjoy very solid resale values, you should get a decent return on your investment when the time comes to sell it on.
Mechanical reliability is an area in which you can be very, very confident. As a manufacturer, Honda usually sits on or near the top of pretty much every reliability survey going. That’s certainly the case with Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, and as an individual model, the Civic’s score is fairly off-the-scale as well. In short, if you buy a Civic that experiences any severe mechanical gremlins, you’ll be exceedingly unlucky indeed.
You get an impressive amount of safety kit as standard in the Civic. Along with the stability control and advance braking system that you expect in any modern car, the Civic weighs in with no less than eight airbags and an autonomous braking system that can sense an impending collision at low speeds and apply the anchors automatically if the driver takes no action. All but the entry-level trim can also be specified with a Safety Pack that contains blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition. Euro NCAP hasn’t crash-tested the Civic Tourer, and no test has been done on the Civic hatchback since all this fancy safety kit was made available, either. But, but the previous version did achieve the full five-star rating back in 2012.
The S trim forms the entry-point into Civic ownership, and even on this version, the standard kit includes a DAB radio, a multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth, climate control and four powered windows. We’d still advise the step-up to SE Plus trim, though, because it adds desirable goodies like leather wrappings for the steering wheel and gearlever, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, front foglamps and parking sensors complete with camera. The Sport model substitutes a couple of those bits for some sporty styling goodies, while SR trim give you heated leather seats and a glass roof. The top-of-the-range EX Plus version adds a powered driver’s seat and keyless go.
Not the best car of its type, but worth a look if you’re after something a bit different
Because you want a small family estate that’ll deliver bullet-proof reliability and inject a dose of style and luxury into your everyday motoring. Not the best or most well-rounded car of its type, and not the cheapest, either, but worth a look if you’re after something a bit different.