How did we find spending six months with a new Honda Civic?
Honda was keen. It wanted to get us into the latest Civic, to run one for six months. Why? Because we’d previously ran a Honda Jazz for six months, and the experience had left us rather cold.
So it was with relish that we first set eyes on our brand new bright red Civic 1.0 VTEC SR. Compared to previous generations, which celebrated their oddball quirkiness, this is a big step on. It’s still unorthodox, but less divisive and, we think, more likely to get potential customers interested. It was much more exciting than our old Jazz…
Honda Civic 1.0 VTEC SR
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol
Torque: 147lb ft
Top speed: 126mph
Claimed fuel economy: 55.4mpg
Test fuel economy: 38.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 117g/km
We also greeted the interior with excitement. Again, it’s more conventional than older Civics, and all the better for it. The dashboard has ditched the double decker layout, quality is higher and the driving position can be set super-low for a sporty feel behind the wheel. What Honda didn’t overlook was the need to make it roomy and practical, just like older models. Boxes firmly ticked there all round too, it seemed.
The SR trim we picked has a long list of standard equipment, including dual zone climate control, automatic wipers, rear-view camera and automatic city emergency braking. It also had the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, rather than the alternative 1.5-litre four-cylinder: we chose this on purpose, to see how downsizing would measure up.
On paper, the small engine was decent, with 127bhp giving 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds, and very strong economy of 55.4mpg. Initial driving impressions backed this up. The thrummy engine note was appealing, power delivery flat and even, and the gearchange absolutely fantastic.
But with miles behind the wheel, it soon became clear there’s no substitute for size. Many were the times it could feel lacking, exacerbated by the fact power deliver was so linear and the redline set at a surprisingly low 5500rpm: you could often find yourself bouncing off the rev limiter.
When driven in this way, it could get noisy, and it also impacted fuel economy. After six months, our average was 37.6mpg – good, but a fair way off the 55.4mpg promised by the figures. Tyre roar was also a bit intrusive on motorways.
Countering all this, though, were the Civic’s many strengths. A comprehensive chassis overhaul has endowed it with a high-spec suspension system, which gives it a premium feel on the road, rather like a detuned Civic Type R. Steering was slick and well-weighted, grip ample and the dynamic balance in corners pleasing.
Add in the low driving position and superb gearshift, and you’ve a semi-sporty car that’s really good fun to drive. And in all the time we had it, one that proved utterly reliable. Nothing fell off, nothing rattled, nothing even hinted at breaking. A genuine old school Honda of the highest order.
It was thus a sad day when a man came to take it away. We were nonplussed when they took away our Jazz, but this time, there was more than a tinge of regret. We’d grown to really like the Civic, and we’d happily run one again for another six months like a shot. Perhaps we should put a call in to Honda again…