Honda Civic 1.6 I-DTEC EX

New Civic now of­fers an alternative to petrol power: a 1.6 diesel

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - SIMON DAVIS @si­mon­davisnz

Diesel-pow­ered hatch

Honda’s 10th-gen­er­a­tion Civic has al­ready im­pressed us with its com­fort­able ride and well round­ed­ness as a fam­ily hatch­back but, un­til now, we’ve had the op­tion of only two petrol-pow­ered en­gines to choose from – bal­lis­tic Type R aside.

The car you see here, then, is the first – and only – diesel vari­ant to be of­fered to UK buy­ers. It fea­tures a re­vised 1.6-litre four-cylin­der I-DTEC en­gine, which, Honda claims, is good for 80.7mpg on the com­bined cy­cle and CO2 emis­sions of 93g/km.

It’s a re­fined if not par­tic­u­larly ath­letic en­gine that will take to the task of long-dis­tance tour­ing with­out bat­ting an eye­lid. At mo­tor­way speeds, it’s barely au­di­ble and the re­vised chas­sis that Honda spent so much time and ef­fort per­fect­ing for the new model soaks up im­per­fec­tions with lit­tle fuss what­so­ever – even with the adap­tive dampers in their firmest set­ting.

On a more chal­leng­ing road – of which there were few on our Ital­ian test route – the Civic feels con­fi­dent in its dy­namic abil­i­ties. Turn-in is quick enough and body roll is neg­li­gi­ble, but this isn’t a car that shines or stands out next to ri­vals such as the Ford Fo­cus and Seat Leon.

The diesel pow­er­plant lacks a bit of in-gear get-up-and-go at higher speeds too. Peak torque comes in at 2000rpm, so there’s a need to work the six-speed man­ual gear­box if you want to make any mean­ing­ful progress. How­ever, be­cause it’s di­rect in its ac­tion and with a pleas­ingly short throw, we’re more in­clined to over­look this.

Sim­i­lar to its petrol-pow­ered range-mates, the Civic diesel’s in­te­rior is de­cid­edly more up­mar­ket than that of its pre­de­ces­sor. Soft­touch plas­tics fea­ture on the top of the dash­board and, al­though it may not pos­sess the visual ap­peal or ma­te­rial qual­ity of, say, an Audi A3, it’s cer­tainly not a place in which you’ll lament spend­ing time. Rear leg room is good, too, but that swoop­ing roofline does com­pro­mise head space a touch.

All in all, this is a very like­able car. But un­less you’ll be spend­ing most of your time on the mo­tor­way, the petrol mod­els of­fer the same ben­e­fits, with a cheaper ask­ing price. We’d be in­clined to go for one of those if it were our money.

Re­fined 1.6-litre diesel has a healthy 221lb ft at 2000rpm and suits mo­tor­way use

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