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Honda Civic Diesel Test Drive Review

Honda Civic Diesel Test Drive Review


Ex-racing driver and award winning Motoring journalist, John Swift got behind the wheel of Honda's all-new Civic diesel and believes it gives hybrids a run for their money.

Best things about the Honda Civic Diesel:

  • 80 mpg average fuel consumption.
  • Tax-friendly 93 g/km emissions.
  • Huge boot.
  • Generously sized cabin.
  • Decent ride.

Click here to see the full Honda Civic range

I wish politicians had driven this car before launching into their destructive attack on diesels.

Hybrids have their place in the world and one day, some way off yet, when the recharging network is truly nationwide and batteries are lighter, cheaper and can hold more energy, then electric cars will rule the roads.

Until that day I believe cars like this, the brand new Honda Civic diesel, are doing at least as much as hybrids to make the air we breathe cleaner.

On the face of it, Honda may seem to have gone rogue; launching a diesel into today’s market seems either an act of pure madness or a deliberate denial of the way diesel sales are going, but for the people it’s been built for and who it’s aimed at, primarily the company car driver, it still makes a very strong case for itself.

Red Honda Civic diesle driving toward you down a country lane

Styling: 3/5

I used to love the previous generation Civics, but as the car has now grown in size to something nearer the old Accord model, I’ll admit I’m not such a fan. Others love it and of course, there’s no right or wrong on this issue, just a personal opinion.

One thing’s for sure though, it definitely stands out from the crowd, especially in the stronger colours. I’ve no idea why a sort of primer grey colour is now finding fashion among many car makers; to me it looks horrible and I’m pleased the Civic seems more colour sensitive than many.

I take that as a good sign because usually it means the car’s basic shape is interesting and like it or not, the Civic’s is certainly that.

Stationary red Honda Civic seen in two thirds profile

Interior: 4/5

Huge, that’s the first word which came to mind when I tested this car. The Civic is indeed much closer to the Accord and it’s getting to the point where you are pushed to consider it as a family-sized hatchback, it’s grown out of that. The seats are good; there’s plenty of adjustment and as I said, loads of room front and back. The boot is absolutely enormous; you could play football in there.

Boot open of red Honda Civic disel

Two things against it though, one being the mirror which obstructed my view on left hand bends a bit; maybe it was my seating position, but it’s rare for me to notice something like that these days and it was a minor irritant. I also found it a little drab and dark inside (at least the SR spec I tested) and the instrumentation is OK, but nothing spectacular.

 I perhaps put less value on the infotainment aspect of a car than others, finding them more than a little over-hyped. You may read others criticising the Civic’s unit, but it did all I wanted so I have no issue with it.

Black front interior cabin of a red Honda Civic diesel

Driving: 5/5

The diesel is a little rattly when first started and it’s not the nicest introduction to the car, although I could say the same about several other cars. German diesels in the VW group’s cars feel and sound a little smoother, but with a bit of temperature and a few revs the Honda soon settles down and once on the move becomes acceptably refined.

It's not the fastest thing on four wheels, but the mid-gear acceleration is more than enough to make short work of overtaking and the ride is fine, even on the worst our roads can throw at it, which is saying something.

I found the steering a little too vague for my liking and perhaps the tyres were of the new generation of energy efficient design and compound, chosen for their low rolling resistance which minimises fuel consumption and emissions.

But the whole point of this Civic, in fact the only real reason for buying it and where it lays down a challenge to hybrids, is the engine efficiency and the running costs. Well, it has endless torque, so at 70 mph it’s only turning over at 1,900 rpm in top which bodes well for fuel consumption and the official stats, which show an average of 81 mpg and a CO2 output of just 93 g/km were easily believable. That pretty much puts it in pole position for cars in this class.

Red Honda Civic diesel driving away from you on a country lane

You may or may not know, but the way cars are tested for fuel economy and emissions is being changed to a new method with the snappy title of WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure) and RDE (Real Driving Emissions). These are replacing the old, laboratory based tests introduced more than 20 years ago and will give far more accurate data of how a car performs in real world driving. It’s early days yet, but initial reports indicate that a lot of hybrids are not doing nearly as well as their makers would have you believe….

Nothing against hybrids, but if the politicians had not put their oar in, we’d all be praising the diesel Honda Civic to the heavens, saying what a brilliantly efficient car it is. Which it is.

Verdict: 4/5

It’s such a shame that cars like this now face an uphill battle for sales, because it has so much in its favour. Its target market is the company car sector and the Civic hits it bang on. That engine and the low tax / high mpg profile fits perfectly, it rides well, has a large if slightly uninspiring interior and you know that with it being built by Honda that it will last for ever; as I said, I just wish politicians had driven cars like this before deciding to stamp on the brakes for the diesel market.

Red Honda CIvi diesel stationary and seen from the side

Honda Civic diesel versus petrol?

It depends on your mileage. More frequent drivers will love the high average mpg and if you’ve got it as a company car, the 93 g/km CO2 emissions put it in a lower BiK tax bracket than the 1.0 petrol version, which Honda also now offers in the Civic range.

If you use it more as a family car, on shopping trips, commutes, school runs and so forth then the little petrol engined model may stack up better. It’s an amazingly good power unit, even in what’s a fairly big car, but if you load the car up with the weight of passengers then I prefer the torque of the diesel.

Click here to see the full Honda Civic range

Stand out points:

80 mpg average fuel consumption and tax-friendly 93 g/km emissions.

Huge boot, generously sized cabin.

Decent ride.

Honda Civic:

From £18,635.

Car tested 1.6 DTEC SR.

Cost: £22,065

0 to 60: ten seconds

Top speed: 125 mph

Average mpg: 81

CO2: 93 g/km

Warranty: 90,000 miles / three years.