Honda Civic 1.4 – Review
By Liam Bird
Occasionally in this job you get requests. I’m not talking about the usual “slow-downs” that seem to regularly be uttered from the passenger seat just before entering a favourite corner. I’m referring to the people who seem to think that because you have access to manufacturers’ cars for road tests it’s easy to obtain the new Aston Martin straight after its launch, or Rolls-Royce’s latest just in time for their niece’s wedding. Strangely, that one always seems to coincide with the question: “Are you busy next weekend?”
Fortunately though, some people’s requests are a little more realistic. My mum, despite the fact she’s never driven, asked whether or not I could persuade Honda to lend me their latest Civic. She thinks they’re attractive. And apparently, they look good in red.
It’s hard to believe that its six years since the launch of what Honda called their Revolution Civic. If ever there was a car that exploded the myth that all new vehicles look the same then the last generation Civic was it. The triangular fog-lamps, the cab-forward styling, the short overhangs front and rear… I could go on. Honda’s last Civic proves that not all hatchbacks have to fit the mould.
2012’s Civic picks up exactly where the last one left off. Fractionally wider, lower and longer than the car it replaces, and with a shorter wheelbase, styling changes this time around are seemingly more evolution than revolution. Quite whether or not the new Civic is as good looking as the last one though is something I’ll leave you to decide.
But as always it’s the bits you can’t see that that make all the difference. Those subtle external changes have reduced aero-dynamic lift at speeds above 60mph, increasing stability, and new fluid-filled, rather than solid rubber, suspension bushes have improved overall comfort and reduced road noise. All new Civics also come as standard with an Eco button too. Press it, and not only is the start-stop function enabled but a subtle engine management re-map and a reduced air-con output mean that your mpg goes up whilst your CO2 emissions drop. A 1.4 VTEC comes with a tax disc that boasts the word nil.
“Cavernous load space”
Inside even the entry level SE specced cars, as tested here come with electric and heated mirrors, climate control, USB port – for all-important MP3 connectivity, and i-MID information display.
My advice though would be to pay an extra £995 – budget permitting – and add the T-grade package. That way you’ll not only add Bluetooth and sat-nav, but you’ll also avoid the lack of a leather steering wheel rim. After-all, sometimes it’s the bits you touch that make all the difference.
What you will get though, whatever spec you choose is almost unparalleled practicality. Honda’s magic seat system allows the rear seats not only to be folded flat, creating a cavernous load space, but also to be flipped up cinema-seat style; Carrying that yucca plant back from the Garden Centre should never be a problem again.
There’s a trade off for all that versatility though. The Civic’s stylish split-level dash means, for some, the digital speedo is difficult to see. The steering feels a little numb. The engine note is definitely more spin-cycle the sports-car, and then there’s the performance. A 13.4 second 0-60 time for the 1.4 isn’t exactly going to set anybodies hair on fire.
But perhaps I’m missing the point. The Civic is beautifully put together, easy to live with day-to-day, superbly practical and comes with an enviable reputation for reliability. Plus it’s frugal, the gear-change is light, it’s easy to see out of, and it doesn’t drink heavily either. It may never be the most exciting car on the road, but trust me: Your mum’s going to love it.
Honda Civic 1.4 I-VTEC SE
Engine: 1339cc SOHC
Transmission: 6 speed manual front wheel drive
Power: 99 bhp @6000rpm
Torque: 94lb ft @4800rpm
0-62MPH: 13.4 Sec
Max Speed: 116mph
MPG: 52.3 Combined
Price: From £16,495