Epsiode 30 : Cleverness Theme - Special Edition - Honda Civic 1.8 i-VTEC Sport Manual Review

This episode is a Special Edition. This episode is also our first full car review, thanks to the kind people at Honda UK who loaned us the car earlier this year.

Honda revealed their Civic concept at Geneva last week, now the future is all well and good, but what about the current model? Is this UK built car any good? I got to find out recently by spending a week with one.

The car was given a rigorous testing by the Cracked Windscreen horde. Performing typical family duties as well as trip away to North Wales. A snowy North Wales as it turned out.

The car in question is a Civic 1.8 I-VTEC Sport, to give it's full name. Fuel is petrol, gearbox is manual and the doors are 5 in number.

The on the road price is £19,615, with the actual model I drove coming in at £21,135 due to the White Orchid Pearlescent Paint (£525 option) and 18” Nitrogen Alloys (a £995 option).

Honda refreshed the Civic in 2015, with some nice exterior touches. The restyling includes new headlights, with rather smart daytime-running lights integrated along the bottom edge. The round front fog lights remain in the pseudo-air scoops below the headlights.

The front bumpers have been altered, with the car I drove having a neat red trim to it which is a nice counter to the piano black finish. The red splashes are echoed along the car, with wing mirrors, high level rear spoiler and another trim in the rear bumper all being red.  The contrasting white, red and smart black alloys helped make the car stand out and get noticed! Wherever it was, people paid attention.

With 5 door models there is the neat “hidden” door handle, in the framing of the window. I likes a neat detail and have always been fan of this.

As you move to the rear, we come to the more contentious area of design. Some complain about the rear wing obstructing visibility, but it didn’t bother me much - and YES I do use my rear view mirror! But the lower glass area does become dirty quickly, particularly on winter roads.

The rear lights have been slightly sculpted with vertical slashes in the projecting sides. Below them is a single vertical fin that appear stuck on, almost like an after thought. If they’d been molded into the bodywork, that area would be neater. 

As listeners to the show know, I’m generally not a fan of white. However, I think it suits the Civic well. The flat areas on the wings, above each wheel arch are less noticeable in the white. Honda’s Brilliant Sporty Blue is another good colour option.

Overall I like the Civic’s distinctive looks, although some areas could do with being less fussy. You know it’s a Civic, there is no mistaking it for anything else and that is a good thing.

Honda has a deserved reputation for build quality. My hopes were high and I was not disappointed. Accessing the car is simple, with some nice touches, especially if you have small kids. I shall start, a little unconventionally, with the rear passenger area. Those of you with children will understand how this area is as important as where you sit in the front.

The rear doors open to as near as doesn’t matter 90 degrees. This is great for everyone but if you have kids you’ll quickly appreciate how much easier this makes it for them to get in by themselves, allow you to do up seat belts or manhandle a backward facing car-seat. Clearly someone who has ankle-biters has been involved in the design of this area!

Added to the wide opening doors, the cills of the car I drove had kick plates with an anti slip finish, helping to protect the paintwork and ensuring there is firm footing when accessing the rear. Again, it’s an example of details being thought out.

Continuing the cleverness theme, the rear bench has a gap between the bottom of the seat and the floor of the car. Now, this sounds like such a small thing, but I found it invaluable for quickly storing items. The ability to shove small people’s coats and wellies under the seat rather than in the boot is not to be sniffed at.

The rear bench held two front facing car-seats, a booster seat AND their occupants, who had plenty of room to swing at each other, giving you an idea of space in the rear.

I was worried the dark interior, combined with the nice privacy glass to the rear windscreen and passenger windows, would make it feel claustrophobic in the back. Not at all. No complaints from any of the demanding users of that area.

The lid of the boot is reasonably light, but I found the lip a smidgen high. Despite this access into the boot is good, with the opening being a large regular shaped hole. The load area is nice and flat without real intrusion from the wheel arches.

As there is no spare wheel Honda have used this space to create an under the floor storage area. There’s a simple fabric loop that hooks to the back of the seats to keep it open. It’s all that’s needed. No more, no less. I’m a big fan of that sort of design. If I continue with my yard stick that is wellington boots, the space easily held all ours. All together the boot has 477 litres with the seats up and 1210 litres with the seats folded.

The lid has four handles available for closing. Two on each side. Honda clearly isn’t a company that penalises you, with medieval style thinking, for being left-handed!

When opening the doors to the front, the first thing I was struck by was the blue CIVIC lit up on the kick plate! The kids loved it.

After sitting in the firm but comfortable driver’s seat and hearing the reassuring thunk of the door closing, you are met with the Civic’s dashboard. This is a split level dash. Directly behind the nicely-sized three spoke steering wheel there are three traditional ‘analogue’ style binnacles. The temperature is to the left with the fuel to the right. In the centre is a large rev counter.

Between the rev counter and the windscreen is another display, digital this time. That houses the speed, an additional information panel (for media, trip computer, door open warning, etc) and indicators letting you know how economically you’re driving the car. This is represented by two sets of lines either side of the speed reading. Blue is economical and green is not.

The steering wheel has buttons to control the menu and media, on the left and the cruise control on the right. Behind the lower left area are the controls for the phone, if you are connected up. All are solid buttons, easy to reach and where you would expect. They make performing the task you want simple.

Below a double set of air vents, directly in line above the transmission tunnel, is the touch screen display. I didn’t like this very much as I didn’t find the user interface, the buttons and software as intuitive as I’d hoped. There was a lag between touching the screen to something happening. Before I worked this out I would accidentally be activating the next screen before I could see it. The buttons were a bit fiddly too and not the easiest to use on the go.

From the screen you see the images from the rear facing camera. This was great when parking in tight spaces. Very helpful. I liked this a lot! It could also explain my lack of frustration with the split rear windscreen.

Below the screen are the controls for the air con. Reassuringly these are still buttons.

Moving down the transmission tunnel from the console you come to the gear leaver. I liked the position of this, it was slightly raised up, moving it closer to the steering wheel. The gear change is quick and easy too.

Just behind that, on the passenger side is the handbrake lever. Next to the driver is a covered cubby area that could hold two drink cups.

The materials in this area felt solid, with nice plastic to the cover of the drinks holder that balances hard wearing with a quality feel.

Between the front seats, behind the handbrake, is an arm rest which is the lid to a cubby box. This is a nice large rectangular space that also houses the various options for connecting and charging devices. There is a 12v power adaptor, 2 USBs and an HDMI socket. That should cover your all needs!

Once you are on the move you will note that the steering whilst light isn’t vague and you don’t notice it after while. There is an Eco setting which does typical eco driving things, such as encourage a smoother style (with the warning lights), changing up sooner than you’d think (with gear indicators on the dash) etc.

I found that the engine sat at motorway speeds higher up the rev range than I anticipated, even with the six gears. It’s fairly quiet on the move, with road and wind noise well masked. Helps to make the journey more relaxed for you and your passengers.

As it’s petrol the official mpg figures are down quite a bit on Honda’s diesel. However, they aren’t dreadful, being 46.3 for the manual and 44.1 for the automatic. This results in CO2 of 145 and 150 g/km respectively. That makes it VED Band F. I would expect fleet buyers to go down the diesel route.

The ride was a decent mix of firm and comfortable. You can feel the worst of the road, at slow speeds, but it’s not too intrusive. When on faster roads it copes well with lumps and bumps. Again, you and your passengers travel in comfort.

I was surprised by the levels of grip. Having a wheel at each corner undoubtably helps. I took the car up the A5 above Betwy-y-Coed and had a great time on the wiggly roads as you move up out of the valley. It was cold and wet but I was confident in the car’s stability. There were no dramas!

Overall I like the Civic. As I’ve said some external areas are a bit too fussy for my liking, but the car is striking. The interior is good, with a quality feel to the cabin. Those that sat in the car were surprised that it was a sub £20k car. Well done Honda!

I had fun driving this when I was on my own, but equally it transported the family around in comfort. That’s a great mix and one I look for in a car such as this.

The Civic is currently not the first choice for some buyers, which I think is a shame, as I think they’re missing out. It’s a slightly left field choice that does the job very well, and that’s what makes a Motoring Podcast car!

Thank you once again to Honda for the loan of the Civic.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this review and the Civic. Feel free to get in touch with me, via Twitter, where I can be found as @CrackedW_Screen, or in the comment section below.