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My first impressions of the Civic when I was handed the keys were that it plays on its Japanese charm to stand out from the crowd, an important factor in such a competitive class.
Its sporty looks and interesting interior were two initial ticks on its report card, as is the fact that you're unlikely to see another one on the road through the sea of Golfs, especially in the Brilliant Sporty Blue colour that we opted for. This costs an additional £525 - well worth the extra cash, in our opinion.
But first impressions aren't paramount and neither are looks. Six months with the Civic has enabled a more in-depth analysis to uncover any underlying problems lying beneath the surface.
The interior has lots of flair and is logically laid out. The carbon-fibre effect on the dash feels suitably different to rival offerings without verging into being gimmicky, and the materials dotted around the cabin have a good-quality look and feel.
One of the main areas Honda sought to improve with this Civic was ride comfort and we think this is one of the standout features of the car. The car has a more sophisticated suspension set-up than its predecessor, tackling bumps well, thanks to its adaptive dampers.
The Civic is more of a rival to the Skoda Octavia than the Golf when it comes to boot space too, with a large offering for its class at 487 litres. With the rear seats folded, you gain an extra 408 litres. This proved helpful for a house move and a doggy road trip, while the seat bases can also fold up, allowing you to easily carry tall items in the rear footwell.
The tech in SR trim has most of the things you would need, including a rear parking camera, 7in touchscreen infotainment system, two USB ports, sat-nav, DAB radio and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Having Apple CarPlay meant I may not have fully experienced Honda's system, but I made sure to use it from time to time, and it proved itself to be pretty responsive and easy.
The three-cylinder 127hp 1.0-litre petrol engine replaces the 1.8-litre four-cylinder that clung on for too long in the old Civic. Also on offer is the 190hp 1.5-litre, but we feel that with 200Nm of torque here, the 127hp has enough oomph to get the Civic up to speed quickly.
The mpg offered by our long-termer is one of the lowest of its competitors. It claims to reach 55.4mpg and emit 117g of CO2 when you go for the manual, like we have, compared to 56.5mpg from the CVT automatic option.
Subject to six months at the hands of the BusinessCar team and covering all manner of terrain, it averaged 40.9mpg, a respectable percentage of the claim by Honda.
Unfortunately, I've been less enamoured by some things that have come to light in my time with the Civic. One thing is the problematic AEB system in which the front cameras get easily confused by rain or bright sunlight, making the system apply the brakes heavily on random occasions. Another annoying, but less serious, niggle is the key fob, which often doesn't lock or unlock the car the first few times that you're clicking it.
The £20,285 P11D of our long-termer might seem a little steep when the comparable Volkswagen Golf has a P11D of £20,825, however, crunching the numbers highlights a decent RV of 37.6% for the Civic compared with 36.4% for the Golf and its 47.5p per-mile figure stacks up well against rivals too.
Overall, the Civic has been a faithful companion for early hour motorway miles back from the airport, the winding country roads back home and even the bumper-to-bumper traffic around London, due to its generous technology for its class and its superior comfort.
This week, I am returning the keys to Honda with reluctance. It was a love-hate relationship, but luckily love prevailed.
Our average fuel consumption: 40.9mpg
The whole-life cost of vehicles is something you can't ignore if you're a fleet manager, and something that can really cost you if you do.
And many cars in the Honda family are big scorers in the area of whole-life costs, which is one reason why it's great to have the Civic on the BusinessCar fleet. In fact, the 1.0-litre turbocharged engine we have is one of the most efficient for fleets in the new Civic range, and its whole-life costs beat many of its competitors.
This particular car in mid-spec SE trim has a P11D of £20,285, but with an added £525 for metallic paint. It's slightly cheaper than the equivalent Volkswagen Golf which, with the 1.5-litre TSI with 130hp, has a P11D of £20,825 in SE spec.
But when it comes to running costs, this engine lags a little behind the competition, with a combined official fuel economy of 55.4mpg compared with the Golf's 58.9mpg and the comparable Vauxhall Astra's excellent 64.2mpg. According to the dash, we've only been hitting an average of 44.3mpg, but that's not bad for quite a bit of city driving in and around London.
CO2 numbers are a little higher than competitors too, standing at 117g/km compared with the Golf's 113g/km and the Astra's 102g/km. However, switch to the Civic's automatic transmission and CO2 reduces to 114g/km; but it costs around £1,400 extra. Residual values are good, though, and the Civic retains 37.6% of its value after three years and 60,000 miles, higher than the Golf and Astra, which are at 36.4 and 30.4% respectively meaning its overall 47.5p per-mile figure stacks up well against its rivals.
We're very impressed with our Civic, and with only a month left until it's returned to Honda, we'll be sad to see it go.
Our average fuel consumption: 44.3mpg
I've already praised the Civic's colossal boot, which over the months has proved itself to be practical for long road trips, and, even more recently, in helping a family member move house.
It's all well and good having a large boot, but if the car is lacking in storage space in the cabin, it often renders it pretty useless for these lengthy drives. Luckily, this is not a problem for the handy Civic.
I'm someone who really appreciates storage and I'm always impressed when a car has lots of cubbyholes dotted around the cabin. There's nothing worse than when a small bottle of water can't fit into the door space or the glove compartment takes on its literal sense.
But the Civic has storage aplenty; the most noticeable, at first glance, is the vast amount of room for storage between the two front seats. From house keys to two drinks, snacks, phone and purse, just about everything you have in your hands when you climb into the car can fit in there. The armrest even slides back and forth to increase comfort, or let you get to the back of the compartment to collect your many items.
It's so big, in fact, that I put my house keys in the centre cubbyhole and swore for a good five minutes that they weren't in there as they'd slipped right to the back and out of sight.
The door pockets are a decent size, allowing you to fit more than just one bottle, and underneath the centre console exists a secret compartment that took me a couple of weeks to discover and is the perfect size for storing your phone, so it's out of the way and not sliding around everywhere. There is a USB port there, too, which means you can charge up without having cables all over the place.
Full of these practical features, the Civic is a fierce competitor in its class, and compared with the Golf, which is well-known for its practicality, it actually feels more spacious. Now, where did those keys go?
Our average fuel consumption: 44.5mpg
A long journey over varied terrain is a tough test for even the best SUV. But even hatches are now expected to showcase handling prowess in the field, to have a chance of topping the competition.
To gauge whether this is true of my Civic long-termer, I decided to take it on a long road trip to the Welsh valleys. As is always the case when you cross the Severn bridge, the weather took a turn for the worse. The typical Welsh sideways rain and ferocious wind meant the Civic had more of a challenge on its hands, or wheels, than usual.
The new Civic has grown significantly longer (148mm) and wider (29mm) than its predecessor, as well as going lower to the ground by 20mm. Climb inside and the lower seating position is immediately apparent, to the extent that you start to raise the seat to see over the dashboard. This is not a rare occurrence, for me anyway, but something I have noticed even the tallest of drivers or passengers doing in the Civic. But the lowered height should mean significantly improved ride and handling.
On the motorway, no problems presented themselves, but upon finally reaching the valleys, it was noticeable that the Civic doesn't grip the road quite as well as, say, the Volkswagen Golf. However, its low centre of gravity did seem to help through the tight twists and turns, and its steering and handling was precise and responsive.
Around the town, the Civic is relatively easy to manoeuvre, although it does have a slightly larger turning circle than some of its rivals.
What really sets the Civic apart is its six-speed manual gearbox, which feels smooth and tightly tuned. It comes accompanied by Honda's Agile Handling Assist, which, in layman's terms, is torque vectoring. This means the car really does immediately respond to your every touch, as the manufacturer says it will.
While we might need to upgrade to more than just a 1.0-litre engine to really feel the benefit of this technology on tight mountainous corners and steep hills, the Civic proved itself on this trip, offering a smooth and enjoyable ride.
Our average fuel consumption: 43.7mpg
I'm one of the few people who are completely open to autonomous vehicles - I just can't wait for the day when I can sit back, relax behind the wheel (if there's even one there), and put my feet up and my head down to do some work.
Until that day, many cars are fitted with advanced driver-assistance safety technologies that will bridge the gap to autonomy, and one of these cars is the Honda Civic. The entire range impressively comes standard with Honda's 'Sensing' suite of safety technologies, which earned the Civic a score of 88% in Euro NCAP's safety assist caterory, and combines camera and radar technology to enable a whole host of technologies that on other cars of its class you'd likely have to pay extra for. These include adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and automatic high-beam. It also includes some tech which is becoming old hat but is still extremely useful such as lane-departure warning and parking sensors.
But what do we think? One thing is for certain: reverse parking next to a Land Rover that had a large tow bar on the back would have been an entirely different situation in the Civic, with its small rear window, if it wasn't for the reverse camera and parking sensors.
One technology I find particularly useful in London is the adaptive cruise control and speed limiter, which keeps me in check in the 20mph zones that seem to be popping up everywhere, as well as on the motorway on my way to various airports.
The one technology on the Civic that seems to be failing to turn the autonomy sceptics is the parking-assistance sensors. While they work well when parking and manoeuvring in tight spaces, a real problem occurs when driving towards bright sunlight. As standard as this piece of kit now is in the automotive industry, a bit too much sun in its eyes leads to the sensor beeping like crazy, meaning I have had to turn it off on multiple occasions when driving.
Apart from a few glitches, though, the safety assistance technologies on the Civic are a step in the right direction. Maybe I'll just try driving in the dark next time.
Our average consumption 43.9mpg
The Civic's 1.0-litre turbocharged engine is proving to cynical drivers everywhere that downsizing can be fun. But with the recent diesel backlash and consistently higher fuel prices, it seems that more needs to be done to improve the efficiency of our vehicles. One obvious choice is switching to electric, but this won't be possible with our new petrol long-termer.
I'm someone who enjoys that warm feeling inside when I'm doing my bit to help the environment, and when I jumped into the Civic, the big green button labelled 'Econ' next to the gear stick gave me just that.
So after a few weeks of zipping along in normal mode, accompanied by passengers constantly hovering their fingers over the button asking what it does, it was time to push it.
The first change I noticed was not acceleration, as I had expected. On a hot day in London, in fact, the biggest noticeable change was in the air-con. I soon noticed that the green button was making me red in the face, as the mode improves efficiency by reducing the length of time that the air-con runs.
Sweat aside, I was curious to see what effect the mode had on the throttle. Despite the engine being turbocharged, the difference isn't too pronounced, like it would be in a higher-powered engine. Initially, what I noticed was that the pedal was slightly gentler and less responsive when trying to accelerate quickly, but it is relatively hard to spot.
Has the mode improved fuel efficiency? Truth is, only a few weeks into using it, I haven't seen a significant jump. But as the car is relatively new, it could be the case
that differences like these may not be obvious yet.
Econ mode is not the only green system in the new Civic, as it is accompanied by Eco Assist, which uses colour-changing lights on the dash to help monitor your driving style.
Rapid acceleration and other bad driving habits will make the dash turn blue. A more efficient driving style will cause it to glow green. The more green you see, the better your mileage will be, says Honda. Lovely.
So, next time you plan to put the pedal to the metal in the Civic, perhaps a push of the Econ button first will be worth your while.
Our average consumption 44.0mpg
A few years ago, my grandfather bought a Renault Scenic and - despite us telling him over and over - he continues to keep his car key on the front windowsill of the house, right next to the drive, meaning the car is almost never locked. Did I say that out loud?
While remote locking is an extremely useful function when you approach the car with your hands full of shopping bags, I am always worried about whether the car has really locked when I reach the doors of the supermarket and can no longer see it to check.
I was quite glad, therefore, when I was handed a standard electronic key for the new Civic, meaning I can hit the lock and unlock button manually when I am within just a few feet of the car and can be sure that my car is locked wherever in the house I choose to dump my key after a long day of driving.
But it turns out that even this manual electronic key may not ensure you lock or unlock the Civic successfully. Click once and nothing happens; click twice a bit harder and you might be lucky to hear that unlocking sound; but it's usually third time lucky for this key fob - pretty annoying when you've already spent three minutes fumbling in your handbag to try and find it.
I thought it was a bit strange having problems with the key fob battery just a few months into its life. But quite a few fellow motoring journalists I've spoken to are having the exact same problem. It seems the key fob has a mind of its own.
Another security bugbear that is coming to light is that you have to fully unlock the car to open the petrol cap. It may not sound like much, but I'm often travelling up and down the country on my own, and prefer the security of having the car locked when I get out to fill the tank. After all, who knows what may be lurking in that 487-litre boot.
Our average consumption 44.2mpg
Looks may be subjective but practicality definitely is not.
While the new Civic's rear seats have been robbed of the magic flip-up mechanism on the previous model, the latest Civic's boot is still pretty clever, not to mention big.
With 420 litres of storage, or 478 if you open the under-floor storage compartment, it is one of the best boots in its class, bigger than the Volkswagen Golf and the Seat Leon, which both offer just 380 litres.
With the rear seats folded down you can gain another 408 litres, but a medium-sized border collie proved this extra space is not always necessary, even for a long road trip from Cardiff to London. In fact, she was as happy as I with the standard boot size, which also conveniently meant her dribble was contained to one part of the car. If needed, however, the seat bases can also fold up allowing you to carry tall items in the rear foot-well without much of an issue.
To make loading easier, the boot opening is now wider than the previous model, and there is a handy extendable parcel shelf that can be pulled across to hide valuables or removed to give the dog a good view.
Practicality in the cabin isn't too bad either, with several storage compartments dotted around, as well as a nifty sliding dual cup holder in the centre console and door pockets big enough for the large bottle of water I like to bring on long journeys.
There is plenty of legroom in the whole cabin, as well as headroom in the front, thanks to Honda's decision to relocate the fuel tank from under the front seats to a spot in front of the rear axle. This means even tall passengers will feel like they have enough room to move about. In the back, the Civic's sloping roofline means headroom is a bit tighter, and the Golf feels more spacious in this respect. Overall, the Civic is a spacious ride for humans and animals alike, and although it's not as smart as it once was for storage, it has kept its reputation for practicality very much intact.
Our average consumption 43.2mpg
While it's still a pleasure to jump inside, and admire the busy and angular styling cues adopted by Honda in the new Civic, there are some flaws that are coming to light.
The first thing passengers comment on is the 7in touchscreen display that dominates the dashboard and houses the second-generation Honda Connect infotainment system, encompassing everything from the satnav to internet browsing and smartphone functionalities.
Despite its good looks, even after a couple of months and almost daily driving, the Connect system is still quite fiddly and difficult to use, with the layout of the interface being quite convoluted and complex.
A problem arising from what we assume is Honda's attempt to have fewer complexes is that all physical buttons on the system have been removed and replaced with touch-sensitive versions. While this design choice may look sleek and stylish, it's infuriatingly difficult to use, especially when on the move. In fact, adjusting the volume when driving proves difficult even with the large touch buttons on the screen. The system is, however, available with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which really are saving graces here.
Of course, certain functions, such as changing the radio channel and adjusting volume, can be controlled by buttons on the steering wheel. While the buttons look cluttered and, not to mention, dated, they are reliable and far better to use while driving.
Despite the fiddly and frustrating nature of the Connect system, the sat-nav luckily pulls it out of the bag. It hosts some simple but intuitive features, such as 'spell town' and 'postcode', which come up almost straight away, unlike other systems that seem to make finding these functions far harder than it needs to be.
One big gripe, though, is the pinch and swipe functions on the sat-nav map. While it attempts to provide a sophisticated smartphone-like interface, the actions are delayed and cumbersome, and almost not worth using.
Connecting your phone through Bluetooth is a simple task and, once connected, the Apple CarPlay functions allow the complex nature of the Civic's interface to be rectified.
Our average consumption 42.5mpg
Only a few years ago, buying a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine would have caused a few sniggers from your mates in the local pub. But that is no longer the case as, now, these turbocharged babies are proving that downsizing can be fun.
This is especially the case with Honda's new Civic, which the manufacturer claims will regain the 'essence of Civic' with a distinctively sporty driving character, something undoubtedly missing from its predecessor.
In the last month of it being on our long-term fleet in its 'Brilliant Sporty Blue' colour, the car struggles to go a day without resulting in an unexpected glance and thumbs-up from a passing boy racer, especially with a pretty swift start at the lights aided by its short, precise gears and a light clutch.
It's not just the looks, sound and power that makes it stand out, though. On the road, the 1.0-litre engine is a gem, producing 129hp and propelling you from 0-62mph in
10.9 seconds, even paired with the manual gearbox. In fact, it's staggering that such a small engine can power such a large vehicle. The small three-cylinder provides enough oomph as well as pretty good mid-range pulling power when looking to build up speed on motorways.
There is a bigger engine on offer, the sportier 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol model, which offers 182hp and an 8.2-second 0-60mph speed. However, Honda expects most buyers to snap up the smaller engine and it's not hard to see why. The existing 1.6 i-DTEC diesel will be carried over and added later in the year.
Honda says the new Civic has a 1.0-litre engine that can propel you briskly along and, yet, return a claimed 55.4mpg. At the moment, not having reached 2,000 miles yet, the best we've managed so far is 42.2mpg but this may alter with the more miles we put on the clock.
In spite of this, the Civic is proving to be an enjoyable ride, and is a prime example that good engineering and innovation means that even the smallest of engines can create a big impact.
Our average consumption 42.2mpg
"It looks like something from outer space," mum shouted as I drove it onto her drive.
I would have to agree.
For this reason, Honda had to step it up a notch, which it decided meant starting from scratch. Everything is completely new: suspension arrangement, platform, engines, everything. So much so that it looks like Honda went to 'infinity and beyond' to rejuvenate its family car competitor.
At the heart of the new Civic are two petrol engines: an entry-level 127hp 1.0-litre and a 190hp 1.5-litre. Our long-termer is the former and with 200Nm of torque there is enough to get the car up to speeds quickly on motorways. However, the three cylinders means it is all talk at the traffic lights - slightly worrying when you find yourself next to a Civic Type R driver who fancies a drag race.
This Civic doesn't disappoint for potential fleet customers with 55.4mpg economy and 117g/km CO2 figures, and the six-speed manual gearbox is quite snappy leading to a fun and exciting drive. However, moving up to the 17-inch alloys in SR trim as we have done results in an 11g/km emissions penalty - something to bear in mind.
Honda believes this engine arrangement will be the best-seller with either six-speed manual or CVT automatic gearbox options, but a 1.6-litre diesel is to be added to the offering at a later date, which will be tuned for better fuel economy and CO2 emissions. Also available is a seven-speed CVT automatic, which we would avoid, especially paired with the 1.0-litre petrol as the gear changes are slow and jerky.
The Civic's steering is well-weighted and the car offers enough composure in the corners to inspire confidence. The new multi-link rear suspension allows for greater body control when cornering, helped by the lower and wider stance of the car. In total it is 30mm longer, 20mm lower and 30mm wider than the previous model - all of which, according to Honda, contribute to a lowered centre of gravity by 34mm and therefore a sportier drive.
Our car in the mid-range SR spec is equipped with the Honda Connect 2 infotainment suite, as well as front and rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloys, rear parking camera and dual-zone air-conditioning, all fitted as standard.
In this trim, the £20,865 price tag will get you the option of metallic paint at £525. Compared to its key rival, the 1.0-litre EcoBoost ST-Line Ford Focus, and without any add-ons, the Civic comes out £1,000 cheaper. It is also cheaper than the Golf, which is marginally more expensive and doesn't come as well equipped as standard.
The Civic has always prided itself on practicality, and headroom is plentiful up front and adequate in the rear, although six-footers may feel cramped for legroom over longer journeys. With the rear seats in place Honda claims a boot capacity of 478 litres, which is just one litre bigger than the previous car, but larger than many of its rivals such as the 380-litre boot offered by the Volkswagen Golf.
The Civic really stands out against its competitors in the whole-life costs department, thanks to a 35.0% residual value, which keeps pence-per-mile figures very competitive, despite its higher running costs.
While it may be on another planet with its design with busy lines and features we believe a myriad of changes under the bonnet and elsewhere will provide this family car with ample opportunity to compete with its fierce rivals and win over even the most sceptical of mums.
Our average consumption 42.8 mpg