Honda Civic saloon, Fiat 500X, Audi A6 Avant

With the Ac­cord no longer sold in the UK, the saloon ver­sion of the Civic brings nor­mal back to Honda’s line-up. By Colin Over­land

CAR (UK) - - Contents -

THE CIVIC HAS been many things over the years, but the best ones have all been hatch­backs and the worst ones sa­loons. The last saloon that made its way to Bri­tain was a par­tic­u­larly grim hy­brid that set back the cause of elec­tri­fi­ca­tion by sev­eral years, and made in­no­cent by­standers wince at its ug­li­ness. Some still can’t sleep.

This time around Honda has done the safe thing, which is also the smart thing, and could well prove to be the suc­cess­ful thing: the new four-door ver­sion (they’re not even call­ing it a saloon) is as much like the cur­rent hatch­back as you could pos­si­bly get. Which is to say that both of them are coupe-shaped and low, yet won­der­fully roomy in­side, with loads of lug­gage space.

The boot is ac­cessed via a con­ven­tional lid, rather than the five-door’s cy­cle­friendly hatch open­ing, and you get a reg­u­lar par­cel shelf rather than the hatch­back’s side-slid­ing roll-up soft shelf. The ca­pac­ity is a mighty 519 litres – a full 100 litres big­ger than the boot in the near­est ri­val, the Mazda 3 Fast­back, and 101 big­ger than the Civic hatch­back. The rear seat­backs still fold for­wards to ex­pand the space, but it doesn’t be­come such a neatly uni­fied and eas­ily ac­cessed area as in the hatch­back.

Honda is clearly aim­ing the saloon at older, more tra­di­tion­ally minded driv­ers. So the hatch­back’s ag­gres­sive, nearpsy­chotic an­gles and slashes get toned down, there’s a bit more chrome, no more cen­tral ex­haust, smaller fake vents, and the en­gine range favours ef­fi­ciency over larks. Your choice is tur­bocharged 1.0-litre petrol three-cylin­der or 1.6-litre four-cylin­der tur­bod­iesel. There’s no sign of the lovely 1.5 turbo petrol four we en­joyed so much in our grey long-termtest hatch­back, and no hint of a Type R-style 300bhp-plus 2.0-litre turbo.

The petrol comes with a six-speed man­ual or a seven-step CVT (we haven’t driven ei­ther of those), while the diesel comes with a six-speed man­ual or a nine­speed au­to­matic. That’s the first time any Civic has ever had the com­bi­na­tion of diesel and au­to­matic, which could be a big at­trac­tion for re­tired head­mas­ters ev­ery­where, es­pe­cially if they haven’t spot­ted any­thing in the news­pa­per about diesels maybe not be­ing such a good idea af­ter all. It’s smoothly com­pe­tent rather than stump-pullingly grunty.

And yet, for all this sub­tle po­si­tion­ing of the saloon 12° to the right of the hatch, the way they drive is ac­tu­ally very sim­i­lar. Es­pe­cially with the in­volve­ment en­cour­aged by the sweet-shift­ing man­ual ’box, it’s an agree­able kind of al­most-fun: pre­cise steer­ing, de­cent body con­trol, fuss-free brakes. It’s re­fined but not de­tached, roomy but still easy to squeeze through tight spa­ces.

There are three spec lev­els, start­ing with a high de­gree of stan­dard safety kit and adding ex­tra labour-sav­ing de­vices as you pay more to grad­u­ate from SR (which starts at £19,395 for a man­ual petrol) via SR to EX (which can reach £27,120 for the diesel auto). As with the hatch­back, there’s lots of in­fo­tain­ment but it’s of­ten fid­dly to op­er­ate.

Not as classy as the Audi A3 saloon. A bit big­ger and a bit bet­ter than the Mazda. And sev­eral months ahead of its only other true com­peti­tor, next year’s Mer­cedes-Benz A-Class Saloon. But re­as­sur­ingly nor­mal.

HONDA CIVIC FOUR DOOR 1.6

i DTEC SE MAN­UAL > Price £20,745 > En­gine 1597cc 16v tur­bod­iesel 4-cyl, 118bhp @ 4000rpm, 221lb ft @ 2000rpm > Trans­mis­sion

6-speed man­ual, front-wheel drive

> Per­for­mance 9.9sec 0“62mph, 125mph, 83.1mpg, 91g/km CO2 > Weight 1366kg

> On sale Now

Big boot, a bit more chrome, de­cent en­gines: Honda didn’t over­think the Civic saloon

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