There has been a large amount of hype about Honda‘s new 1.6-litre diesel engine.

Hailed as the saviour for what has previously been an ailing performance in the fleet sector due in part to supply issues, this engine is claimed to transform the Civic into the car with the best mix of power and low emissions in its class, and is aimed squarely at corporate sector buyers.

While the existing 2.2-litre diesel unit will still be available, the 1.6 – the first in Honda’s series of clean, Earth Dreams-branded engines – brings 120hp, 94g/km and 78.5mpg.

From a costs perspective, the Civic is an exceptionally strong contender in this class. We tested the top-spec EX version, which at £23,120 has a significantly higher P11D than its immediate competitors (see the ‘Rivals’ panel below), but a residual value of 36.2% and rock-bottom emissions help to create a pence per mile figure that’s 3.4p lower than the Hyundai i30 1.6 CRDi 128 Premium – the least expensive rival of our selection.

It isn’t just a cost thing, though, because the Honda has a bit of emotional appeal going for it as well. The 120hp 1.6-litre engine isn’t as potent as the 150hp 2.2-litre unit, but it has enough power to make the car seem brisk, with plenty of mid-range pull.

There is some wind noise at higher speeds but otherwise the engine and cabin are quiet. Ride and handling are also impressive – it’s not quite up there with the Ford Focus, but the Civic is both comfortable and far more of a driver’s car than your average Astra or Golf.

The interior is where the Honda falls short. There’s nothing wrong with it as such, but the finish and materials that make up the dash and much of the rest of the cabin are a little abrasive and a far cry from the fit and finish associated with class leaders, while the satellite navigation system seems to take more getting used to than many conventional units. The cabin isn’t shy on space though, particularly in the boot, which weighs in at a hefty 477 litres.

Other sore points include the view out of the rear screen, which is compromised by the large and obtrusive spoiler, and the driver’s seating position – the seat is mounted too high and the steering wheel doesn’t raise far enough to counteract that, so many drivers will be left holding the wheel by their knees.

Save for those areas where the Civic trails the establishment, it’s a well-rounded car in this guise and makes a world of sense for businesses. The 1.6-litre diesel is a corker for costs and it ticks the boxes for refinement and performance.

Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC EX
P11D price £23,120
Model price range £16,820 to £28,695
Residual value 36.2%
Depreciation £14,745
Fuel £4909
SMR £1413
VED £0
NI £1276
CPM 47.0p
Fuel consumption 78.5mpg
CO2 (tax) 94g/km (13%)
BIK 20/40% per month £50/£100
Service interval variable miles
Insurance (1-50) group 16
Warranty 3yrs 90,000 mls
Boot space 477/1378 litres
Engine size/power 1597cc/120hp
Top speed/0-62mph 129mph/10.5secs
On sale January 2012
Score 8/10
Verdict Superb engine and
costs, only a little let
down in other areas