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Honda has taken its time bringing this four-door version of its Civic to the UK, where its hatchback counterpart has already been on sale for 18 months. That doesn't mean it's been beaten to the punch though - as a small family saloon from a mainstream manufacturer, it is effectively without rivals, with only the premium Audi A3 and new Mercedes-Benz A-Class offering any competition. This could be because history teaches us that, premium German manufacturers aside, compact saloons struggle over here. So, can Honda buck that trend?
At 4,648mm, the saloon is 130mm longer than the hatch, and that means a bigger, 519-litre boot (an increase of 41 litres). However, the trade-off with the four-door body style is that the opening is more restricted, although you do still get 60:40 folding seats. But arguably the most significant effect of the saloon makeover is not practicality, but appearance. In contrast with the outlandishly styled rear end of the hatchback, the saloon cuts a far more conservative figure, something that may appeal to those wary of attracting the wrong sort of attention in the company car park.
Further forward, there are more familiar elements from the hatch. Climb aboard and you'll find a well-designed interior, with soft touch materials well deployed higher up and neat touches such as USB sockets hidden under a shelf below the centre console, allowing untidy charging cables to be concealed. Some of the buttons on the steering wheel feel a bit cheap, but the wheel itself is high quality.
Infotainment comes via a 7in central touchscreen. This could be a bit quicker to respond, but the graphics are clear, and the menu shortcut buttons are useful, as is the ability to display sat-nav directions and other information in the middle of the rev counter on the driver information display. There is plenty of rear legroom, and headroom should be acceptable for most (although, at 5ft 10in my head does touch the roof lining when leaning back in the rear seat).
The Civic saloon comes with two engine options - a 1.0-litre, 126hp petrol and the 1.6-litre, 120hp diesel seen here, which is expected to be the more popular choice by a small margin. Unfortunately, as diesels go, it is not the quietest - there's a fair bit of noise when accelerating and a bit of a rattle even at a cruise. The power on offer is adequate under normal driving conditions, although it does feel a bit sluggish on B-roads. At least the gear change shifts sweetly, while the car's handling makes tackling those B-roads enjoyable, feeling responsive and agile, helped by quick steering.
This agility is not achieved at the expense of comfort either, as the ride is smooth. Refinement is impressive too, with wind and road noise well suppressed at speed.
The Civic saloon does make a strong case for itself when it comes to efficiency. Not only are an official combined fuel economy figure of 83.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 91g/km for the diesel very competitive for the segment - better than the likes of the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra - they're also slightly better than the equivalent Civic hatch (by 2.4mpg and 2g/km respectively) thanks to the saloon's improved aerodynamics, although the latter figure isn't enough for a BIK tax saving.
The downside is the saloon costs £500 more to buy, while residual values are also a couple of percentage points weaker, making it a little more difficult to create the business case over the hatch.