The workforce at the Honda plant in Swindon were handed an enormous compliment when the Japanese firm decided where to build the new tenth-generation Civic, as the Wiltshire plant has been entrusted with worldwide production of the five-door hatchback. Significantly (not necessarily for diesel fans) it also means that the legendary Civic Type-R is made here and put on a boat to Honda’s home market, and that’s a huge honour for the British factory.
And while the petrol-powered versions of the Civic arrived on sale a year ago, the derv editions are only turning up at dealerships around now, but believe us when we say that it has been worth the wait. Six-speed manual variants are available now, with nine-speed automatic derivatives rolling off the production lines this summer, the first time that an automatic gearbox has been married up in a diesel Civic. Honda says that there are no plans for a replacement for the Civic Tourer, with British buyers restricted to the hatchback bodystyle.
The latest Civic is longer, lower and wider, resulting in more room inside for occupants and a more generously proportioned boot. The silhouette is much sportier than before, with class-leading aerodynamics, and a design that is set to appeal more to younger buyers.
We’ve always been mightily impressed with Honda’s diesel engines and this latest, significantly revised 1.6 i-DTEC unit is a real beauty. It complies with the upcoming Euro-6d-Temp emissions regulations and yet is lower in CO2 and better on fuel than the outgoing Civic. Friction-reducing technology has been employed to boost efficiency, while new forged steel pistons help to lower cooling loses within the engine block. As before, the powerplant develops 118bhp and 221lb ft of torque, and this time around it emits 93g/km of CO2 and official figures say it can achieve 80.7mpg on the combined NEDC cycle.
Accelerating off the line is decent, with a generous dose of mid-range torque when you need to press-on or overtake slower moving vehicles. The six-speed manual gearbox is silky in its operation and is combined with a light and progressive clutch. Engine noise and refinement is seriously impressive, with very little in the way of noise from up front. And it’s a similar story for wind flutter, though the wheels and tyres can be oversensitive on poorer surfaces. The steering is nicely agile, delivering plenty of feedback through the wheel, making manoeuvring around town pleasurable. The chassis is taut and grippy, with very little in the way of body lean when tackling more challenging corners. The adaptive suspension that comes as standard on EX models is a mixed bag, with drivers given the choice of two settings. Normal is designed for motorway driving, while Dynamic was developed for the more enthusiastic driver. Ride comfort can become a little too jittery over poorer surfaces for our liking, no matter which setting you use, and we look forward to being able to try a Civic without the adaptive system fitted.
The interior of the Civic continues the space-age theme of its predecessor, albeit in a more stylish and better-quality design. Yes, the dashboard is busy and perhaps fussy, but it’s different, interesting and stylish in a sector that is traditionally quite bland. The driving position is actually sportily low slung, with a relatively high centre console that separates driver and front passenger. All the major controls are thoughtfully located, so that you don’t have to take your eyes off the road for too long. The navigation system has the looks of an aftermarket unit, and comes across as being fiddly to operate at first, but a few minutes familiarisation and you’ll soon get the hang of it. The matt finish of the display cuts down on glare, and the graphics are bold and colourful. The dashboard top makes use of soft-touch materials, but become harder the lower down that you go. Oddment space is generous with a good-sized bin in front of the gear lever, as well as a deep central storage area and door pockets and a glovebox that is decently proportioned.
Even with a glass opening roof fitted on our EX test car, head room up front is generous, though at the back we would describe it as merely average. There’s decent rear leg and kneeroom, however, and space for occupants to spread out. Rearward vision is hampered by the bar that runs across the rear tailgate, though we have to say that it is an improvement on its predecessor. Boot space with the seats in the upright position is 478 litres (up one litre on the old car) and with the back seat tumbled forward, it opens up to 1,309 litres - an improvement of 99 litres.
On sale | Now
In showrooms | Now
Prices | £20,120 to £26,575
Bodystyles | 5-door hatchback
Engines | 1.6 (118bhp)
Trim levels | S, SE, SR, EX
Also consider| Ford Focus, Skoda Octavia
Model tested | EX 1.6 i-DTEC
Price | £24,925
Built in | Swindon, UK
Bodystyle | 5-door hatchback, 5-seats
Layout| Front-wheel-drive
Powerplant| 1,597cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbo diesel
Transmission | 6-speed manual
Stop-start| Yes
SCR | No
Max power| 118bhp @ 4,000rpm
Max torque | 221b ft @ 2,000rpm
Top speed | 125mph
0-62mph | 10.2secs
CO2 emissions | 93g/km (Euro-6d-Temp)
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) | 78.5/83.1/80.7mpg
Fuel tank size | 46 litres
Range | 817 miles
Insurance group | 19 BIK rate | 23%
Size (length/width without mirrors) | 4,518/2,076mm
Boot space (min/max) 478/1,309 litres
Kerb/max towing weight| 1,340/1,400kg