When you really excel yourself at something you not only get that deep self satisfaction that tells you that this is your best work, but also the admiration of all your peers. This is what Honda did with the outgoing Civic. It looked fantastic with its triangular exhausts and Knight Rider inspired dashboard. It was a great car to drive, very direct and rewarding. It was practical, well priced, appealing to the younger generation, the list goes on… So what Honda were faced with whilst developing this new 2012 Civic was a true dilemma. How do you improve upon something that was so good in the first place?
Earlier this year we were invited to a preview of the new Honda Civic before it went on sale, and if I’m honest I came away from it a little worried. Gone were the funky exhausts, the rocket shaped door handles, and the futuristic dash. It was clear that Honda wanted to go back to a market that it felt it had neglected with the previous “lava lamp” Civic. My concern was that with this softening of design would the character of the car become softer also? Well today we find out as after much delay, due to natural disasters, we got the keys.
Our test car was the top of the range 1.8 litre petrol in lavishly equipped EX GT spec. We had all the toys such as; keyless go, 17 inch alloys, HDD Navigation, full leather, aluminium pedal set, panoramic glass roof and more. All-in-all the value of this Civic was just under £25,000. So, no excuses then. This car is arguably the best platform for Honda to show us what its best seller is made of.
Let’s start with what meets the eye. When I first made contact with the car at the preview it was in a rather bland grey and my immediate impressions were that its appearances came across as a little dull. But my goodness, what a difference a lick of paint can make. In this sensational silver the little styling details that were once hidden now jumped out at me like a startled deer. Though not as bold as its predecessor, it is all in the fine characteristics of this cars design that it conveys its nature. The handsomely contrasting grill sets the cars wedged stance in stone. The protruding rear lights gives the silhouette further definition, and the now visible body lines highlight its premium sculpture.
The premium feel continues inside as quality and attention to detail really are class leading. The cabin cocoons its occupants in high grades of leather and techno-wizardry. Supportive seats that sprout body hugging bolsters provide good levels of comfort and support. Rear legroom is also fantastically vast meaning that the awful question of “are we there yet” will not be caused by cramp. With all the gadgets that this car and its rivals contain it has become par for the course to have a maze of buttons on the console, it is the very same for the Civic. They all make sense and are positioned logically, but I do feel that the number of them is a little excessive. The cabin also houses what Honda call “magic seats” that basically allows you to raise the base of the seat and use that area as a separate loading bay to the boot. We like it, we like it a lot. I mentioned attention to detail not that long ago. How is this for being anal? Honda noted that on the old model, whilst it was raining, the boot lid would drip on people loading the rear of the car. The Japanese resolved this with a tiny gutter that directs the water away from the edge of the boot. Top marks to them for listening to customer feedback.
Now we move to the most important part of the test. How it drives. The 1.8 litre motor, being a VTEC, means that it loves to rev all the way up to 7,000RPM allowing you to preform such tricks as dropping from 6th to 2nd at 40MPH with no fuss. Power delivery is progressive and as mentioned, the more you rev the nuts off it the more enjoyable it becomes. Acceleration is brisk and the gearbox has a very smooth action meaning that your journey from a junction to the speed limit is effortless. The dials are well displayed and the handy speed limiting feature in our car meant that we were safe from speed cameras for today. Dropping a cog and throwing it into a progressive bend revealed that my hesitation of the car being too soft were invalid. Though the steering perhaps could do with a tad more feel, it was direct and the suspension helped balance the car faultlessly. The previous Civic was a little harsh over the bumps but this generation irons them out without falter.
Overall this new Honda Civic is a much more grown up, and in many ways, complete car than the one it replaces. It may not have that same visual statement that it once had but as a machine it is a very commendable piece of engineering, and something the likes of Ford should be very worried about.