Best-sell­ing Civic

Gloucestershire Echo - - TEST DRIVE - By JON SMITH

THE ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tions in the world of mo­tor­ing – not un­like the wider global landscape – are many. A re­cent no­tice­able di­chotomy is that while fam­ily cars are grow­ing stead­fastly larger in size, their en­gines are di­min­ish­ing in ca­pac­ity.

Wit­ness the cur­rent VW Golf or the Ford Fo­cus, each big­ger ex­ter­nally than their pre­de­ces­sors and yet driven by puny 1.0-litre en­gines.

Another ad­vo­cate of small is best is Honda, the renown Ja­panese mar­que that pro­duces more en­gines than other com­pany and re­mains widely re­spected for its en­gi­neer­ing ini­tia­tives and prow­ess.

We’ve been driv­ing the best seller in the cur­rent Civic line-up which also gets a diminu­tive 998cc three cylin­der turbo to pro­pel it.

With five seats and a huge boot, the idea of such a tiny power plant up front may not at first ap­pear ter­ri­bly ap­peal­ing.

But take a closer a look at the spec and you’ll see it knocks out no fewer than 127bhp, pro­duces a mea­gre 117g/km of emis­sions and will sail past the 120mph mark. Im­pres­sive stats that would have been un­think­able just a few years ago.

In prac­tice the three-pot power unit is sweet and re­fined with rea­son­able pull from high gear, the lack of cu­bic inches only be­com­ing ap­par­ent on a gra­di­ent or when fully loaded with pas­sen­gers.

The slick­est of six-speed gear­box helps make life bet­ter when you have to change down a cog or two.

The en­gine it­self is fairly quiet when not stretched with a pleas­ant distant bur­ble.

Floor the ac­cel­er­a­tor, and there’s a tad more com­mo­tion but few will be troubled by this. In terms of ac­cel­er­a­tion it polishes off 62mph in around 11 sec­onds, so it’s sim­i­lar to what you would have ex­pected from a 1.4-litre unit a few years ago.

Drive the Civic the way it en­cour­ages you, ie with a touch of verve, and the fuel gauge will take a dip pos­si­bly to the mid 30s.

But pedal lightly and 45-plus is a pos­si­bil­ity.

Few cars re­spond so pos­i­tively to gen­tle run­ning.

Steer­ing is pos­i­tive and fairly high geared and of­fers more feed­back than most.

To­gether with fluid han­dling and an ab­sence of body roll, the re­sult is quite a sport­ing drive by fam­ily saloon stan­dards. It feels bet­ter planted on the road than the ob­vi­ous ri­vals.

The Civic’s an­gu­lar styling with mul­ti­tudi­nous mock air in­takes may not be to ev­ery­one’s taste, but it cer­tainly stands out from crowd, and I found its raff­ish lines grew on me as time went by.

On the prac­ti­cal side of things, the cabin has a Tardis-like feel to it with am­ple legroom for all, de­spite the low seat­ing po­si­tion, which means head­room is never an is­sue.

There’s a stack of stowage space and the boot swal­lows up 550 litres of luggage – there’s even a false floor that al­lows to hide away valu­able.

Al­ter­na­tively, lift up the lid and use as a stop to pre­vent shop­ping rat­tling around.

The EX ver­sion tested which is the best equipped model – apart from the racy Type R – comes with cli­mate con­trol, sat-nav, leather seat­ing and even an elec­tric glass slid­ing pan-roof. Some of the con­trols es­pe­cially for the heat­ing and sat nav are a bit fid­dly how­ever.

The looks might be of the Mar­mite va­ri­ety, but be­neath the sur­face the Civic is a clever and well-thought fam­ily hatch with much to rec­om­mend.

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