What is it?
The new Honda Civic diesel completes the latest generation of the family hatch.
Low emissions and high economy, smooth drive, strong safety package
The new Honda Civic Diesel is an effective, efficient family hatch that shows the best of current diesel technology. Filling a big gap in the Civic range, it takes the plusses of the Civic petrol line-up and adds a welcome extra element.
The Honda Civic is built in the UK.
Diesel – the new villain of the auto industry, according to the politicians. And as a result of negative and to a great extent ill-informed publicity, diesel sales over the last year have plummeted, down 17% on 2016.
So why, one might think, has Honda chosen now to launch a diesel version of the new, tenth-generation of its Civic hatch, which first appeared in early 2017? Quite simply, because it doesn’t have one in the range, and even with the anti-diesel rhetoric, people still want diesels – especially those running fleet cars.
Offering buyers the diesel option is expected to put a distinct upturn into Civic sales, which have been declining at around the same rate as the overall market, and Honda is confident that before long some 31% of all Civics sold will be oil burners.
This is also quite a diesel – even though it is not an all-new unit but a heavily revised version of the previous 1.6-litre engine.
Honda is proud to point out that the engine has been tested to the new, stricter European emissions testing regime – this includes ‘real world’ tests yet the latest diesel returns fuel economy and emissions both slightly improved on its predecessor and right at the top of the class when compared to rivals. On paper, it’s a winner…
Buying and owning a Honda Civic diesel
The new engine is the only effective change to the new tenth-generation Civic that we tested back in May 2017. And like the petrol models, it is a British-built car, Honda’s Swindon plant the global hub for Civic, sending them across the globe.
The car is very different to its predecessor, Honda tearing up the designs of its previous somewhat radical-looking, and therefore marmite-opinion forming, model to produce something larger and much more mainstream.
Like the petrol Civic, the diesel is available in four trim levels, at prices starting from £20,120, just over £1,300 more than the equivalent petrol version. That buys the S, though the £22,065 SR, the third of the four trims, is expected to be most popular.
So the engine then. Trying to keep CO2 emissions down, while also reducing the NOx particulates that are causing the current urban air quality concerns, would normally mean increased fuel consumption. So Honda put its engineers to work.
A host of technical innovations include forged steel pistons instead of aluminium to reduce cooling losses, and several friction-reducing technologies to cut friction losses to levels normally only seen in petrol engines.
All this means combined cycle fuel economy of 80.1mpg and CO2 emissions of just 93g/km – seriously impressive, and achieved without having to get involved in any additives such as AdBlue.
At 120hp, with 300Nm of torque, the diesel is the least powerful option in the Civic range. The alternatives are petrol units of either 1.0 litre and 129hp, or 1.5 litres and 182hp – plus the bonkers Type R with its 320hp.
The diesel’s 9.8 seconds to 62mph is around half a second quicker than the 1.0-litre petrol, though the 1.5-litre variant cuts the time to 8.2 seconds. But the diesel also goes more than 20 miles further per gallon compared to the smaller petrol engine, and with some 17 grams lower emissions.
Safety rates highly across the Civic range too. The ‘Sensing’ package is standard, comprehensive active technology that includes autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, a system that applies gentle steering movements to prevent the car veering out of its lane, and even an adaptive cruise control that calculates what will happen if cars ‘cut in’ to the space ahead, and reacts accordingly.
Unsurprisingly the Civic has a top five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, though this was only achieved when the car was retested following modifications to its rear seat restraints.
Inside the Honda Civic diesel
The Civic diesel interior replicates that of the petrol version tested in 2017, and our comments from then still hold firm. Honda has abandoned the sci-fi look of the previous cockpit for something more mainstream and more effective.
The various controls mostly work very well, though the second-generation Honda Connect infotainment system is not to the same quality, either in its graphics or its ease of use, as the rapidly advancing variants of some rivals. However, the system does include smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
This is a significantly larger car than its predecessor, 14cm longer and 3cm wider, though with a 2cm lower roofline. And this means a great deal more room inside, notably a massive increase in rear knee space by 10cm, and a 478-litre boot that is right up with the best in the class.
Generally, the new Civic is a comfortable car to sit in and to travel in.
Driving the Honda Civic diesel
The diesel powerplant in our test car was combined with a six-speed manual gearbox – there will be a CVT auto version, but not until mid-2018. And the overwhelming first impression of travelling in the diesel Civic is just how undramatic it all is.
We have become very used to modern diesels having none of the rattle that once was the calling card of such engines, but this Honda unit takes matters to a new level. It is almost silent in operation – the only way to make this unit noticeably audible is to take it to the top of the rev range.
You never need to, however, as it pulls so very strongly from low revs – acceleration is as swift as it is smooth, making the car relaxingly confident to drive.
A major feature of the roads on the Italian launch route around Rome was their lack of quality. But this also served to demonstrate how effective the Civic’s chassis is. It soaks up the bumps and holes, never transmitting their effect to the cabin, so passengers will enjoy their Civic experience as much as the driver.
In the corners, the Civic remains just as confident. A complete change of installation under the bonnet has had no effect on the car’s balance, and cornering is an exercise of precision and confidence. The road manners are one of the biggest highlights of this car.
Dropping a diesel engine into a car can have a major and adverse effect – but not in the case of the new Honda Civic. This is a highly accomplished car that demonstrates all that is good about the most modern diesels, being responsive, confident and highly efficient.
Despite what the politicians may tell us, there are still plenty of motorists for whom diesel remains the most sensible option – some 67% of Civic diesel drivers will likely be fleet buyers.
The Honda Civic Diesel costs from £20,120, which is around £1,300 more than the cheapest petrol equivalent. But particularly for high-mileage drivers, it is well worth considering.
The Honda Civic is built in the UK.