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Honda Civic: Test Drive Review

Date: 16 December 2011   |   Author:

Category: Lower medium
P11D price: £23,845
Key rival: Volkswagen Golf

Honda hasn't had a lower medium segment diesel for the past 12 months, thanks to a combination of a delay to this new Civic and Euro5 emissions regulations killing off the diesel predecessor before the new one was ready.

But it's here now, and Honda is viewing its new hatchback as a route back into fleet. The firm has slipped to the bottom end of the top 20 fleet brands thanks to a lack of product brought about by both the absence of a diesel Civic and supply problems caused by the Japanese tsunami earlier this year.

Half of the 24,400 new Civics registered in 2012 will go to fleets, with the figure rising to half of 32,200 in 2013 with the addition of a new sub-100g/km 1.6 diesel engine coming late next year. Those figures are more impressive as Honda claims to do almost zero daily rental, so all its fleet volume is contract hire and leasing or fleets that buy outright.

But for now the obvious corporate choice of engine is the 2.2-litre 150hp unit that emits just 110g/km, giving it the best combination of power and efficiency in its class, according to Honda. For a 67.3mpg engine, it provides impressive pace, even if the soundtrack is a little rough and not the final word in refinement. The ride quality is improved, solid and assured, if still not class-leadingly cosseting, and the pleasing gearchange combined with the chunky steering wheel makes the driving experience a decent one.

Honda is talking up the new Civic's practicality, and the boot is large at 467 litres - 150 litres more than the current Ford Focus. The clever rear seats are also in place, offering both a drop down to a full flat floor and the ability to fold up the Seat cushions to carry tall items such as bikes. In the front, there are a few bits of hard plastic that look like they will mark easily, but everything is otherwise logically laid out.

Honda has solved the single biggest issue with the previous Civic by adding a rear windscreen wiper, although the Toyota Prius-style bar across the rear window remains. It's been moved down to increase visibility, but is still not as good as a one-piece window. The advantage according to Honda is that it is much easier to spot posts and other parking hazards, although all but the most basic trims offer a rear parking camera.

The costs case makes compelling reading for Honda. While the P11D is significantly higher than equivalent models from Ford, Vauxhall, and even VW and Alfa Romeo, the whole-life cost equation sees Honda come out on top thanks to low emissions and therefore fuel cost, and SMR and insurance costs that are lower than the Civic's peers. The downside is that the high P11D means higher BIK than the rival Volkswagen Golf or Alfa Romero Guilietta models.

The new Civic is improved over its predecessor, if still not flawless, but the combination of practicality and low running costs makes it something of a return to form for Honda in the business car arena.