(First Published 2013)
Honda’s “Earth Dreams Technology” Research & Development team have developed a new engine for the Honda Civic. The ninth generation Civic has been with us for over a year now, and has been well received so far, but it’s the new 1.6L Diesel engine that has caught my attention.
At first glance it would seem that the 1.6 simply slots into the middle of the range to fill a gap between the basic 1.4 model and the top-end 2.2 models. But beneath the surface, this remarkable engine has an astonishing party piece. We’ll come to that later.
Whichever engine you choose, living with the current Honda Civic has positives and negatives but, overall, I was impressed with the car.
The styling is less bold than the previous-generation model, but as Honda Civics go, it’s quite a smart looking car. Bigger than its predecessor, inside and out, it looks heavier than it feels, and there are some interesting space-saving features that make it a very practical car. In the boot, there is a height-adjustable floor panel, and in the rear cabin you’ll find Honda’s clever “Magic Seats” system – one of those simple, “Why-hasn’t-it-been-done-before?” ideas. The rear seat-bases fold upright, like theatre seats, to create a huge, accessible space behind the front seats. This, coupled with doors that open to almost 90 degrees (surprisingly unusual), makes loading big boxes, bicycles, and other out-sized baggage easy.
It’s no surprise that the World-renowned Japanese car maker has put together a high quality cabin with a space-age feel to the layout of controls. There are a huge number of controls, though, which will require owners to search through the owner’s manual to establish all the functions of the car. Some features will be familiar to those who have driven older Civics, but Honda have introduced a few features more commonly associated with more expensive cars. Some models feature key-less entry & ignition, automatic headlights, an auto-dim mirror, and reverse cameras with all round parking sensors. Having said that, Honda models have always had good standard specifications allowing them to sit at the more expensive end of their class.
The 1.6 Diesel EX that I’ve been driving costs around £23,500. On paper that seems a lot, but it does represent reasonable value for this quality of car. Then there’s the party-piece. The 1.6L Diesel delivers astonishing fuel economy. There are displays aplenty showing how fantastic your average MPG is on current and recent journeys. The figures I returned were consistently above 65mpg, touching 80+mpg at times. What makes this all the more remarkable, is that I wasn’t making any particular effort to drive more economically than usual. If anything, the ample low-end power of this car lends itself to quick driving in town and rapid progress out in the country. Even on short stretches of clear road I was able to overtake lorries easily, with a squirt of power, and never once felt I could do with a bigger engine. Perhaps with the car full of heavy boxes and bicycles I’d think differently, but as a daily driver the 1.6L Diesel leaves very little to complain about.
At night, however, I discovered a little issue that bothered me. The main displays (the trip computer and digital speedometer) are positioned far up front, above the dash board and just below the base of the window. Presumably this is to keep the important information near the drivers eye-line, but at night they illuminate the top of the dashboard which is then reflected in a light-blue and white sheen across the windscreen. There is a control to dim the brightness of the display but at night, when you first realise you need it, it is near impossible to find among all the other controls in the complex cockpit.
But that’s a minor niggle. Overall, the car is competent and comfortable, with more than enough power, tremendous practicality, and is, generally, a pleasure to drive. But what makes it stand out is that exceptional fuel efficiency. The car has such low CO2 emissions (94g/km) it is even tax-exempt. Honda engineers have long striven to build the most fuel efficient engines, and with a real-world range of around 700 miles between fill-ups, they should be commended for their achievements in the Honda Civic 1.6 Diesel.