Why the latest version of the Honda Civic is one of the best family hatchbacks on the market...
Launched in 2017, the 10th generation Honda Civic couldn't have looked more different than the outgoing model. Longer, lower, lighter and wider, its radical styling makes it one of the most distinctive and divisive cars on the market. If, like me, you approve of its looks, then you're in for a treat because it's a cracking car.
Built at Honda’s UK manufacturing plant in Swindon, the Civic is priced from £18,890 to £26,570 and has won various awards.
Rivals include the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia.
And, if you're after one of the best hot hatches money can buy, then feast your eyes on the Honda Civic Type R. Treated as a standalone model, it sports a huge rear wing, offers a truly thrilling drive and is great value (priced from £30,995).
Sleek and sporty, the Civic certainly stands out from the crowd, looking like no other car on the road. The low roofline, sculpted profile, spoilers and other aerodynamic aids, plus Honda’s new corporate nose, all add up to an aggressive stance.
Inside, the cabin is spacious and comfortable, while the instruments are well laid out and easy to use. The driving position is fairly low and it generally has a conservative feel with an extensive use of black plastics.
There’s plenty of space for driver and passengers, front and rear, plus loads of storage spaces and cubby holes. However, I'd say back-seat passengers 6ft 2in or above might struggle for headroom - a casualty of the sleek roofline.
There's a class-leading 478 litres of storage in the boot, or 1,580 litres with the rear seats folded.
Infotainment comes courtesy of a clear 7.0-inch touchscreen display in the centre console on which you can access the latest version of Honda Connect with full connectivity and boasting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
The Honda Civic is available with two small, turbocharged petrol engines (1.0 or 1.5-litre), plus a 1.6-litre diesel, with a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or CVT automatic.
The manual is especially good with a slick, short throw for sporty changes, while the auto box is one of the better CVTs around. However, if you floor the accelerator, it will pile on the revs, especially with the smaller engine.
The surprisingly gutsy 127bhp 1.0-litre unit is the most popular choice, and it's very capable and refined for its size, Yes, there’s the familiar three-cylinder thrum, but unless you try to drive it like a hot hatch, it’s refined and will happily whizz around town or country lanes, and cruise on motorways.
It will sprint to 62mph from standstill between 10.4 and 11.2 seconds, depending on which trim and gearbox is selected. Claimed fuel economy is 55.4 - 60.1mpg, while CO2 emissions area low 106-117g/km.
However, if you prefer a little more power and a more relaxed drive, then the 1.5-litre unit might be for you. It's faster to 62mph with times between 8.2 and 87.5 seconds. Fuel consumption is slightly lower at 46.3 - 48.7mpg and CO2 emissions are 133 - 139g/km.
New for 2018 is a frugal 1.6 i-DTEC producing 118bhp with low CO2 emissions of 93g/km and fuel economy of 80.7mpg, perfect if your time is largely spent cruising on motorways.
The Type R is the ultimate Civic, boasting a 316bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, capable of rocketing the car from 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds and on to a maximum speed of 169mph.
There are six trim levels - SE, SR, EX, Sport, Sport Plus and Prestige. In short, the Honda Civic is well equipped, but I’d suggest aiming for a least the SR grade which includes dual zone climate control, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors and a rear view parking camera. Stretch to EX and you get an opening glass sunroof, rear privacy glass, keyless entry and start.
I like Honda's attitude when it comes to safety too. All Civics, across the range, are fitted with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) which applies the brakes automatically if the car's radar senses a hazard. Other driver assistance aids, including lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition, are also fitted as standard. The Civic achieved a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
How does the Honda Civic drive?
The Civic doesn't just look the part – it offers a rewarding and comfortable car to drive.
The ride is on the firm side, which reduces body lean when cornering on more challenging roads at speed, but it still manages to stay smooth.
It's also an easy car to drive with light and responsive steering. A bit of road noise makes it through to the cabin on rougher roads, but it's not excessive.
The Civic Type R is something else altogether. Blisteringly fast and exciting to drive, yet practical, safe and spacious, if you’re in the market for a hot hatch, this is right up there with the Ford Focus RS, Volkswagen Golf R and Seat Leon Cupra 300.
Honda Civic: the verdict
The Honda Civic boasts distinctive, radical styling and plenty of tech - it's also rewarding to drive, spacious, safe and well built. A definite for any family hatchback shortlist, it's also increasingly popular as a company car. The Type R is simply hot hatch royalty.