Honda’s new Civic good clean fun

Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer, drives Honda's more mature ninth-generation Civic.

Honda caused of a stir when it launched its previous generation Civic. To say it was a radical departure is an understatement. Aimed at attracting younger drivers to the brand, its radical appearance helped Honda towards its goal.

Now we have now the ninth-generation Civic, packing greater levels of refinement and comfort and delivering a driving experience that should please those seeking a bit of fun from their daily commute. In diesel form the car is also considerably cleaner, and if you haven't already noticed it's visually a little less in your face.

Its overall stance might be similar to the previous Civic but it's been softened slightly fore and aft. A black centre section replaces the glossy nose of old, while the design of the back light bar has been toned down plus it's been repositioned as part of tailgate redesign to boost rearward visibility. And there's now a rear wiper – proof that Honda does listen to customer feedback.

Overall the Civic keeps its athletic profile. The glass area has been reduced to exaggerate the 'sporty' character along with the inclusion of the steeply raked windscreen.

The sporty theme continues inside, with the driver's environment divided into an almost wrapround section including the main instruments and gearlever, making you feel like you're in the cockpit of a racing car. The rest – high-level digital speedo, audio unit, climate controls – are above and to the left respectively where you'd expect.

Unusually for a car in this class, cabin space is also good. It's often a compromise – good up front but only fine for children in the back – but Honda touts the Civic as having 'class-leading' cabin space and adult-friendly rear legroom.

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The load-carrying abilities are no less impressive. There's a 'second trunk' compartment in the boot floor for your valuables, plus with 477 litres and 1,378 litres with the rear seats up and folded flat respectively, the new Civic follows in the footsteps of the smaller Jazz with its above-average carrying capacity. Like the Jazz, it has 'magic seats'. These rear seats not only fold flat but, as part of the 60:40 split arrangement, the seat back and cushion can be folded upright to reveal a further load option for tall items.

The three engines – two petrol, one diesel – have been revamped to deliver more savings at the pump and when paying the tax man. In manual transmission guise they all get the now expected engine stop-start feature. A five-speed automatic option is available for the 1.8 petrol.

Petrol power remains the dominant option and the 100bhp 1.4 and 142bhp 1.8 deliver smooth performance and meaningful economy savings. CO2 is down for both and the 1.8 has a bit more power. The latter is a particularly smooth and willing.

The big changes have been reserved for the 2.2-litre diesel which gains 10 more horsepower at 150bhp, yet dropped 24g/km to register 110g/km CO2 and is now EU5-rated. With such tax-friendly credentials the car is now a more attractive proposition for company car-drivers.

New electric power steering has been cleverly calibrated to deliver a good balance of weight and feel. The redesigned manual gearshift is more accurate and needs less effort. Forward visibility is good – the view rear is better.

The ride is on the firm side of supple, clearly biased towards reducing pitch and roll in the corners but the strut front and rear beam axle set-up has been honed to deliver an impressively sophisticated ride on even the worst urban roads. The diesel Civic is a motorway mile-muncher, the 1.8 petrol feels lighter and more fun on twisty roads.

With four trim levels boasting generous kit, a cabin delivering a high-quality ambience and above-average space and a flexible load capacity that's hard to beat elsewhere, Honda's attention to detail should be commended. Style-wise this Civic is less polarising and its on road performance is more rounded and mature. It's still fun, though. In fact, with the engine improvements it's good clean fun.

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