Honda’s 11th generation Civic arrives as a hybrid with all the practicality and composure you’d expect.
The Car.co.uk First Drive Verdict: 3.9
The Honda Civic has been with us for 50 years since its introduction in 1972. During that time, over 27 and a half million of them have been sold in 170 markets worldwide. Originally, it was meant to be a basic car for everybody in the same way as something like the Volkswagen Beetle or the classic Mini, but the Jazz took over that baton many years ago and today the the Civic is a little bit more upmarket, more of a rival for models like the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Toyota Corolla. No longer built in Britain, it’s now in its 11th generation and will only be available in the UK market as an E:HEV hybrid with an E-CVT powertrain. This is not to be confused with a CVT gearbox though, in fact the Civic doesn’t even have a traditional gearbox, instead the CVT bit is about continuously varying the current from the electric motors. These motors receive their power from a 2.0-litre engine, which essentially acts as a generator similar to the Vauxhall Ampera and BMW i3 range extender.
There are three models; Elegance, Sport and Advanced, with the range starting at £29,595 and deliveries are set to begin in October this year.
The designers have taken the last generation and smoothed things out, replacing the more aggressive angles with elegant and sporty curves. It works well, although we still miss the days of the quirky Civic with its rocket ship door handles and unique appeal. Today it’s bigger, more upmarket and more mainstream, but it still looks fashionable. Inside there’s a minimalist theme where it counts, with clever elements like the narrow honeycomb design which spans the dashboard and covers all the air vents to give it one nice long, simplified look that mimics the design of the grille. The designers have also decided to ditch some of the controls which were in the touchscreen and go with physical controls for things like the climate and volume, bit of a turnaround after Honda came in for some flack for putting too much in the touchscreen. That screen has also been redesigned and has a nice finger rest so that your hand can easily balance over what are now much clearer icons and menus. Overall, the interior feels spacious, light and well laid out, while still offering all the practicality you expect in a Honda.
PRACTICALITY - 4.5 out of 5
That practical side of the new Civic means a layout that has everything easily to hand with good quality materials and soft touch plastics on all the major touch points. There’s also a special engraved plastic on the centre console, which Honda claims is scratch-proof. Practicality also comes in the form of more space. The new Civic is 31mm longer, but the engineers have added 35mm to the wheelbase, all of which has been given to the passengers in the back seats. There’s loads of space back there, more than enough for tall adults to sit comfortably. If it’s luggage or shopping space you’re after then you’ll find 409 litres when you open the new tailgate, which interestingly is now made of resin and is 20% lighter than the last one. Reducing weight has been a key focus for the engineers and the aluminium bonnet is now 43% lighter than on the old model.
TECH - 3.5 out of 5
Technology includes a new 9-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and the ability to stream your music through services like Spotify and enjoy your tunes on a 12-speaker Bose auto system in the Advanced model. There’s a wireless charging pad for your phone and the Civic also gets a new Power Meter which shows how much energy the car is using or creating through regenerative braking. When it comes to safety the Civic has the 13-component Honda Sensing System. Added to that for the first time is Adaptive Driving Beam or what some refer to as matrix headlights as well as traffic sign recognition. You've also got Traffic Jam Assist, which now not only controls acceleration and braking but the steering as well.
DRIVE - 4.0 out of 5
Like most car makers, Honda is committed to an electrified future, planning to launch 30 new electric vehicles by 2030 including two high-end sports models. Executives told us it is still staying true to its DNA of making cars that are fun to drive, so while the new Civic is a transition model as a hybrid, does it provide that driving pleasure? It has a 2.0-litre petrol motor and an electric motor on top of that with a combined output of 184hp and 315Nm. Honda is claiming 56.6mpg combined and 114g/km of CO2.
It’s front-wheel drive and the car chooses which hybrid mode to be in, namely EV, Hybrid or Engine, the latter being for higher speeds on the motorway. Then you have the driving mode selections; Econ, Normal, Sport and for the first time Individual, which allows the driver to tailor settings to suit them. Still on the subject of modes, it has an an interesting thing called Winding Control which detects when you're on a winding road having some fun and it specifically tailors the settings to allow you to do so.
You can too, because the new Civic is an extremely well composed car. It feels nicely balanced, there's a minimal level of road noise and improvements to the chassis are noticeable in both comfort and dynamics. The electronic power steering has been improved too with better feedback and response and it feels really good, especially when you switch it into Sport mode and decide to have a bit of fun on a winding piece of road as we did in the Malvern hills. It feels bigger than rivals, mainly because it is, but it’s easy enough to pilot around tight bends, down country lanes and it soaks up bumps in the road impressively well. The engine is responsive and we were pleased by how quiet it is under hard acceleration, something that stands it apart from a number of direct rivals.
It seemed perfectly at home cruising along the motorway but then was happy to be hustled a bit on some twisty B-roads, all of which bodes well for the upcoming Honda Civic Type R which arrives in the UK in January 2023.
VERDICT - 3.9 out of 5
The question therefore is should you buy it over its direct rival which is the Toyota Corolla hybrid and then of course other models like the Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Peugeot 308, new Vauxhall Astra and the Volkswagen Golf. The design and interior comfort are great, providing all those things we expect to have a Honda as well as useable technology and a good engines. It's a nice overall setup that should prove to be both a good commuter and a good long distance car, although we have yet to try it out for a longer period to be able to to judge that properly. It’s not as compact as rivals like the Golf, feels more premium than the Corolla and matches the Mazda in terms of driver enjoyment. Honda is hoping that the new Civic will regain some of the ground it lost over the last couple of years, but with strong rivals and more EV choices in the market, it has more of a point to prove than ever.
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