Civic Pride . . .

THE new 2017 Honda Civic has arrived and Honda has a new slogan to go with it: “We’ve changed everything except the name”.

Well, they sure have changed everything and the good news is that it’s all for the better because the new Honda Civic is an absolute belter.

Longer, wider and lower than the previous model it’s no surprise that it also looks sportier– in fact it really is quite striking for a mid-sized, 5-door family hatchback with large air-intakes at the front and a narrow black grill giving it quite a menacing look.

At the rear things are a little busier with a large and wide tailgate split in two by the signature mid-screen spoiler and rear wiper. There is also a subtle spoiler on the rear of the roof emphasising the Civic’s sporting aspirations.

It’s practical too with more interior space for both front and rear passengers and 478-litres of boot space which is a whole 100 litres more than the Volkswagen Golf.

When Honda say they have changed “everything” that also includes the power units. The New Honda Civic comes with a choice of two new petrol engines – a 1.0 litre, 3-cylinder VTEC TURBO pushing out 129 PS and a 1.5 litre, 4-cylinder VTEC TURBO with 189 PS. Both engines are a direct result of experience gained during the development of Honda’s first ever VTEC TURBO unit – the 310 PS 2.0 litre used in the 2015 Civic Type R performance hatchback.

The 1.0 litre engine is available in 3 trim levels starting with the Civic SE at £18,475, the SR (£23,040) and the EX (£23,200). The 1.5 litre engine is only available in the Sport (£22,540), the Sport Plus (£25,405) and the range-topping Prestige (£26,155). All are available with a 6-speed manual or CVT automatic gearbox.

Equipment levels on even the basic SE model is impressive with parking sensors front and rear, an electronic parking brake with Brake Hold, electrically adjusted and heated door mirrors, Economy Mode and Honda’s excellent SENSING suite of safety technologies which includes auto braking in the possibility of a collision with a pedestrian or vehicle, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, Adaptive Cruise Control and Intelligent Speed Limiter which will use Traffic Sign recognition alongside the adjustable speed limiter to ensure you don’t break the speed limit.

I’ve been driving the Civic EX model which includes a 7in infotainment CONNECT system that includes Garmin Sat Nav as well as DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is also a full leather interior, Privacy Glass, keyless entry and start, an adaptive damper system (switchable), auto wipers, blind spot alert and cross-traffic warning for when reversing, front heated seats, an opening glass sunroof and an 11-speaker sound system which sounded clear and punchy enough to satisfy any audiophiles.

Sitting in the cabin you’ll feel quite cossetted. The driving position feels on the low side although getting in and out presents no problems. The centre console being quite high adds to the impression of being hunkered down in the seat and from there you have good all-round visibility – even the split rear screen doesn’t present a problem.

The main instruments are now LED with a rainbow-shaped rev counter dominating and a digital speedometer within along with configurable data ranging from mpg figures and range information to sat nav directions, traffic sign info and media information – all accessible from the steering wheel controls which also include cruise control settings. Set to the right of this is fuel status info and to the left is temperature info. Cabin finish is up to Honda’s usual standard which means very good – even the Germans will be impressed. However, I wasn’t convinced by the fake carbon-fibre on the dash.

Rear passengers enjoy a good deal of space although that sloping roofline will mean passengers over 6ft may have a problem if they lean right back into the seat. No matter, there is plenty of leg room available for “slouchers”.

Now, you may be thinking that Honda have made a mistake by putting a 1-litre, 3-cylinder engine into its best-selling family hatchback. But you’d be wrong. It does actually work – and much better than you’d probably imagined. Not only does the 1.0 litre engine pull well but it is surprisingly refined too – unless you take it toward its rev limit where it can get a little vocal. Frankly, I was astonished by its flexibility and willingness – it’s certainly the best 3-potter I’ve ever driven by some margin.

A 0-60mph time of 11.2 seconds may not come under the heading of “exciting” but you’d be missing the point if you thought that figure defines what makes a car sporty to drive. Driving dynamics also play a large part and the new Civic has a couple of tricks up it’s sleeve to put a smile on your face which includes an all-new rear multi-link suspension system that not only helps keep the Civic planted through the corners but gives a less twitchy and more comfortable ride all-round than the previous model.

Then there is the steering which uses a dual pinion system developed for the Type R which gives the Civic a very responsive and direct feel. Take a new Civic for a test drive and one of the first things you’ll notice is how little you need to turn the wheel to change direction – which can make for a lot of fun on twisty A-roads. The stubby gearstick helps to keep things moving along nicely too, with a short, precise throw although I did find the back of my hand brushing the dash a couple of times when shifting into first gear.

The new Honda Civic surprised on many levels – from its daring exterior and cutting-edge safety features to the sensible use of space and practical features – but the biggest surprise has to be that cracking little 3-cylinder engine which I’m sure will leave the opposition playing catch-up for some time yet.

Car kindly supplied by Swansway Honda, Rochdale. Tel. 01706 390761

VERDICT: *****

AT A GLANCE: Honda Civic EX

OTR Price: £23,200

Engine: 988cc, 3-cylinder petrol

Power: 129 PS

Transmission: 6-speed manual

0-62mph: 11.2 secs

Top Speed: 126 mph

Combined Economy: 55.4 mpg

CO2: 110 g/km

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