The Honda Civic range of C-segment low medium family five door hatchbacks and the Civic Tourer estates are now in UK dealerships
at prices up to £1,600 less than the models they replace and with more technology and equipment included.
Prices start at an attractive £15,975 for the entry level 1.4 i-VTEC petrol, manual Hatchback with S grade specification. Prices top out at £26,970 for the 1.8 i-VTEC petrol Ex Plus Tourer estate. The long awaited Civic Type R 310hp, turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine hatchback joins the range in the summer priced from £29,995 to £32,295.
The revised Civic range is still built for European sales at Honda’s manufacturing plant at Swindon alongside the CR-V SUV and Jazz supermini hatchback ranges. But the plant is still only operating at around half of its 250,000 production capacity a year. In 2017/18, following a Honda funded £200-million investment, the next generation five door Civics for global sales, including Japan, will come from the Swindon factory. To make way for the increased product requirements the CR-V production is being moved to Honda’s Ontario plant in Canada and the next generation Jazz production to Japan.
Compared to its main competitors the Ford Focus and VW Golf in the C-segment, which is the second largest in the UK car market and accounts for one in five of all new cars sold in the UK, the Civic range has been an underachiever in terms of UK sales. When the ‘spacecraft’ futurist design for the Civic five door was first shown in 2006 it was hailed by the motoring media as a huge success and far removed from the relatively safe, boring but as it turned out the well liked previous versions loved by older retail customers.
However the radical design of the brash new Civic soon became dated and sales dwindled, a situation not helped by the global recession. In 2012 the Civic was restyled again using an evolution of the wedge stealth core design of the 2006 version. Other subtle styling tweaks have followed and now we have the latest improvements which are probably more comprehensive than before. Last year only around 16,000 Civics were sold in the UK but there are 720,000 Civics still on UK roads since the original Civic came along in 1980.
The latest changes are intended to re-establish the presence of Civic with a two-pronged sales attack for fleet and retail business. One is for fuel efficiency with lower CO2 tax gathering emissions and improved ride comfort and handling. The other prong is advanced safety equipment and sportier design plus the Type R version and Honda’s motorsport DNA.
The Civic Hatchback models are available with three engine options, the 1.4 i-VTEC 100hp petrol, 1.8 i-VTEC 142hp petrol and an all new 1.6 i-DTEC 120hp turbodiesel. Depending on the engine chosen there are S, SE Plus, Sport, SR and EX Plus levels of specification. The Tourer estate has the 1.8-litre petrol and the new 1.6-litre diesel engine options and the same specification choices excluding the new Sport option. Around 75% of UK customers choose the five door hatchback Civic over the Tourer estate versions, petrol engine are marginally more popular for the Hatchback models but diesel is the choice of 70% of Tourer customers. Fleet and business customers account for 58% of Hatchback sales but 55% of Tourer sales go to retail customers.
The addition of the Sport model in the Hatchback line-up with its styling hints taken from the forthcoming Type R version is aimed at attracting younger customers to the Civic range.
The latest Civics have new style front and rear bumpers, a new front grille, daytime running lights, a rear spoiler finished in Piano Black and bodyside mouldings combining to give a distinctive new look to the cars. Inside there are new chrome door handles, new door trims, new seat fabrics, control panel finished in metallic black and a new Android Honda Connect audio and information system fitted as standard across the range.
Underneath the Civic’s new skin is an improved high speed response steering system and a new Agile Handling Assist system plus retuned front and rear suspension damper settings. City-Brake Active system is standard across the range and there is a £600 Advanced Driver Assist option covering forward collision warning, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition. Garmin navigation system is standard fit on the top SR and EX Plus spec levels.
So when we add it all up the new 2015 Civics come with lower prices, higher specification, attractive new looks, higher specification, new information and safety systems, a far more comfortable and compliant ride plus an impressive new 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine.
At the UK media launch only Civics with the headline new 1.6-litre 120hp turbodiesel engine were available for test driving and I can see this engine becoming the best selling unit as it is a relatively low £1,000 more than the 1.8-litre petrol unit and that can be clawed back because of its lower running costs. We selected the Civic 1.6 i-DTEC SR manual Hatchback with SR specification priced at £23,140, the likely best selling model from the new range.
With its twin mode turbocharger, one mode gives low down torque before a more powerful mode takes over boosting mid to top end engine response. Power output is 120hp and torque is a high 300Nm delivered from 2,000rpm with drive to the front wheels through a very slick six-speed manual gearbox.
The official Combined Cycle fuel consumption and low CO2 emission figures are impressive with 78.5mpg and 94g/km for most versions and 76.3mpg and 98g/km for Sport and EX Plus specification versions. On test using motorway and country roads our Civic 1.6 diesel with the best selling SR spec returned 57.2mpg as opposed to the official 78.5mpg. With CO2 emissions of 94g/km, VED road tax is free and Benefit-in-Kind company car tax is rated at 16%. Going for the Sport or EX Plus versions will add 1% to that BIK rating but road tax is still free of charge. The Civic Tourer has similar figures.
Overall the new turbodiesel engine is a much more refined step forward in terms of smoothness, noise and overall performance plus of course it’s cleaner and more fuel efficient. Ideally it would deliver its 300Nm from lower rpm in common with other new generation engines but Honda has always delivered high revving petrol and diesel engines so this unit follows the same trend.
The other big improvement was with the suspension. Previous modern-day Civics gave a hard and uncompromising ride at times. The new set-up has significantly improved handling and ride comfort. The steering felt faster and more responsive and overall the addition of new driver information support systems will be very welcome, as will the lower purchase price which is now very competitive for such a high-specced car. With the majority of new cars bought using a PCP personal contract purchase plan this model can be obtained for 36 monthly payments of £259.
On the down-side the Civic five door Hatchback with its coupe style roofline still lacks headroom for adult rear seat passengers, legroom in the rear is also skimpy and rear visibility through the tailgate with its spoiler is not very clear. However there is a large boot of 477-litres for the Hatchback and 624-litres for the Tourer. With the rear seats folded the Hatchback load space increases to 1,210-litres and the Tourer to a cavernous 1,668-litres.
Overall the latest Honda Civics are much improved and the prices are better as well.
MILESTONES: Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC SR Manual 5-door Hatchback (likely best selling model). Price: £23,140. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, aluminium, turbodiesel, 120hp, 300Nm of torque from 2,000rpm, 6-speed manual gearbox, front wheel drive. Performance: 129mph, 0-62mph 10.5-seconds, 78.5mpg (57.2mpg on test), CO2 94g/km, VED road tax £0, BIK company car tax 16%. Insurance group: 16. Warranty: 3-years/90,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,370mm, W 1,770mm, H 1,470mm, boot/load space 477 to 1,210-litres, 5-doors/5-seats. For: Improved running costs, lower taxes, lower purchase price, higher driver aid specification, strong diesel engine, better ride comfort and handling, improved exterior styling, built in the UK. Against: Limited space for rear seat passengers, restricted visibility through the tailgate, much improved but still not as good overall as the latest Ford Focus or VW Golf. Miles Better News Agency