Ten Second Review
The tenth generation Honda Civic is certainly one of the more interesting shapes in the Focus-sized family hatchback sector - in contrast to some of the conservative Civic shapes of the past. Which in my book, makes it a welcome contender in this segment, especially in the revised, more affordable form we're going to look at here. Honda aim to reduce the average ownership age of Civic buyers with this model and I certainly think they'll do that. The more I looked at this car, the more the sweeping lines grew on me.
Check out the on-paper stats of this tenth generation Civic and you'll find that in almost every respect, it's conformed at last to conventional family hatchback expectations. Every respect except one - and you're looking at it. The styling - just about the only part of this car created in Japan rather than Europe - remains unique, divisive and charismatic. It's a 5-door-only bodyshape this time round.
Behind the wheel, there's far more conformity to class convention than there is outside, though not to the point where you'd feel that you were sitting in anything other than a Honda. Gone are the unusual split-level instruments and the driver-focused asymmetrical fascia. Instead, you now view a relatively conventionally-styled instrument binnacle through the grippy three-spoke wheel, though closer inspection reveals that the middle dial is actually a TFT-LCD screen flanked by stylised digital temperature and fuel gauges. Anything this can't tell you will be covered off by a 7-inch centre-dash infotainment screen. It comes complete with Garmin satellite navigation, internet browsing capability, a reversing camera, 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' 'phone-mirroring connectivity and a DAB audio system with at least eight speakers.
In the rear, there's 45mm more room for your knees and a full 95mm more space for your legs: as a result, there's probably more room back here than in any other Focus-segment contender bar Skoda's Octavia. Out back, there's a 478-litre boot. Here, I particularly liked the clever side-retracting parcel shelf, the cassette for which can be positioned on either side of the cargo area. It works in concert with a fabric panel that clips in on the inside of the rear hatch and means you don't have to have the usual moulded shelf that you'd need to take out every time it's necessary to carry a really bulky load. This is a feature other brands are bound to copy and when they do, I'd like to see extendable material used that doesn't crease and rough up so easily when you pull it out at an angle.
Safety's pretty important to me - as to many Family Hatchback buyers. Previous Civic models were recognised amongst the safest cars in their class and this version has continued the theme. With a tough body structure and subframes, recessed pedals, double pretensioners on the front seatbelts and side curtain airbags, this Civic has achieved a Euro NCAP five star result for front and side impact safety.
The interior is spacious and comfortable, the driving position exemplary and the careful dashboard design distinctly favourable. Plus the car is comfortable, even when fully loaded with three adults, two children and half my local toyshop.
Engine-wise, most buyers will be choosing between a couple of 'VTEC Turbo' powerplants, a three cylinder 1.0-litre engine developing 129PS and the four cylinder 1.5-litre 182PS variant I tested. Both are a big improvement on the normally aspirated units they replace, responsive and efficient, with the base engine managing a competitive 58.9mpg on the combined cycle and 110g/km of CO2. You'll be offered a CVT auto gearbox as an option, but I'd want to stay with the lovely, snickety precision of the standard six-speed stick shift.
As for engine alternatives, the 120PS i-DTEC 1.6-litre unit used in the previous generation model has been carried over into this one with only minor changes. Also pretty much unchanged is the 2.0-litre petrol engine used in the flagship Type-R hot hatch, though this now puts out 320PS. You don't need 'Type-R'-style power though, to really enjoy driving this car, thanks to a much stiffer body this time round that improves traction and body control. That more rigid structure also plays its part in contributing to the 'big car' feel we referenced earlier, something further emphasised by the more sophisticated rear multi-link rear suspension set-up. This allows this model to cruise over potholes its direct predecessors would have crashed through.
Design and Build
Fuel costs apart, where Honda has really set out to make the latest Civic differ noticeably from the competition is in specification. To charm out the chequebooks, included as standard on every model are luxury features you won't expect to find at prices that start at around £18,500. The volume 'SE' model gets things like 16-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors and a DAB 8-speaker 180-watt audio system with USB and Bluetooth connectivity. There's also climate controlled air conditioning and the steering wheel audio controls, rear wiper and heated mirrors.
Market and Model
This improved tenth generation Honda Civic is a great car for taking on a picnic, dashing round town or powering down the motorway for a business appointment. Yes, I would happily make room in my drive for one.
Cost of Ownership
'Kaizen', the Japanese approach to 'continuous improvement', characterises every aspect of this revised tenth generation Honda Civic. The smarter styling is welcome, but otherwise, it's as you were. The sharp handling is a selling point, as in this MK10 model's spacious interior. And it's made a big difference that Honda has finally got its house in order when it comes to petrol power, the 1.0 and 1.5-lite VTEC TURBO units good enough to go up against the class best.
A lot of boxes have been ticked then, yet it's clear that Honda has also worked hard to maintain this car's more characterful approach in this segment. Add in British build quality, a great driving position and strong standards of safety and media connectivity and you've got a potentially very appealing package. Dynamic functionality was Honda's goal in creating this car. They may well have achieved it.
The Honda Civic has always been a more interesting choice for buyers in the Focus-sized family hatchback segment. This tenth generation model gets a minor styling update and has forty years of heritage to build upon. We like the spacious, dynamic-looking body, the strong standards of safety and the revvy petrol engines. It all sounds quite promising.
There aren't too many changes to the sleek and swept-back shape. Just a more elegant, symmetrical lower front grille around the fog lights, a smoother air-intake design and full LED headlight clusters with redesigned LED daytime running lights, plus some revised 16 and 17-inch alloy wheel designs. Only the usual five-door hatch body style is now on offer. The sharp lines here are complemented by the most comprehensive aerodynamic packing in the segment, including complete under-body panelling. More importantly, this MK10 model Civic is bigger than before, in hatchback form 30mm wider and 130mm longer than its predecessor. All of this sits on a more advanced unibody platform that Honda says is 16kg lighter and 52% stiffer than before.
Inside, smarter textured interior panels have been added, plus the 7-inch Honda Connect touchscreen gets physical buttons and there are now dials for the infotainment and climate controls. Otherwise, it's as before. The driving position is set quite low and buyers should certainly notice the extra cabin space facilitated by the large body. Passengers on the rear seat get more space than is typical in this segment. Out back, luggage space remains near-class-leading, with 478-litres on offer in the hatch version. Plus there's a hidden underfloor compartment on most models that offers a further secure storage area.
Engine-wise, there are new 1.0 and 1.5-litre VTEC TURBO petrol units with 129 and 182PS, these selling alongside the 120PS 1.6 i-DTEC diesel unit carried over from the previous model. Handling is improved by an all-new suspension set-up, a lower centre of gravity and a boost in body rigidity. Ride comfort has been enhanced too.
A lot of boxes have been ticked then, yet it's clear that Honda has also worked hard to maintain this car's more characterful approach in this segment. Dynamic functionality was Honda's goal in creating this car. They may well have achieved it.