Honda driving up dynamic appeal of Civic
- Credit: Honda
It's a hatchback apart due to its clever space efficiency and unusual design, but now the Honda Civic has been enhanced to drive better too, says Matt Joy, of the Press Association.
Sometimes it's the smallest changes that can make a big difference.
Honda's sixth-generation Civic hatchback appeared late in 2012 and followed on from where the old one left off – smart and forward-looking design inside and out, impressive efficiency and the unburstable feel that's a Honda trademark.
But there's no room for standing still in this, or any, segment which is why there is a tweaked version of the Civic now on sale.
Rather than being heralded as a full-on facelift, the 2014 model year Civic is enhanced, polished and preened rather than overhauled.
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The visual differences are very subtle but worthwhile. The Civic is an eye-catching shape in any case, and although it has been designed to be very aerodynamically efficient for good fuel economy it also has a very modern feel to it. Now all models have gloss black trim detailing around the nose and tailgate while both front and rear lights have been slicked up too. It's one of the most distinctive cars in the class.
The same can be said for the cabin. The Civic's layout leaves many of its rivals looking terribly dull. It puts the important things in your line of sight and yet does so without sticking a big slag of grey plastic in front of you. All the controls and switches operate with a reassuring solidity too – the Civic feels like it can cope with the long haul. And 2014 models get leather trim on the steering wheel, gearlever and handbrake as standard with some tasteful contrast stitching too.
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But the biggest change to the Civic is in respect of the driving experience. Honda has altered several suspension components, both front and rear, in order to deliver more control and sharper responses for the driver, without compromising ride quality as a result.
Set off at an ordinary pace in the 2014 Civic and you wouldn't notice any difference – and that's a good thing. It deals with poor road surfaces with the kind of calm you would expect from a family hatchback, and hasn't suddenly been turned into an uncompromising hot hatch. It deals with the everyday without breaking sweat.
Yet it's a more engaging companion in the process. The steering has a little more weight to it and responds more sharply, while the suspension itself keeps the Civic more level and planted through a bend. It adds that little bit more enjoyment to the driving experience and keeps the Civic up there with the best in the class.
It helps that the Honda Civic already has one of the best turbo diesel engines in the sector too.
The 1.6-litre i-DTEC engine delivers plenty of power and torque and also spectacular efficiency, with more than 70mpg combined possible.