Honda Civic Review
"Edgy style, sensible soul"
Honda Civic review - front view, driving, blue, 2020

Honda Civic review: it's hardly rock and roll but we like it

  • Published 28 April 2020
  • 6 minute read
  • By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

Introduction

Do you like the look of the Honda Civic? It was designed with people like you in mind, with Honda hoping to tempt younger buyers away from the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.

One thing’s for sure, you’re not going to miss a Civic in a crowded car park. It is to the family hatchback segment what a Damien Hirst creation is to an art gallery and Piers Morgan is to breakfast television. It will divide opinion.

It isn't ordinary looking, that's for sureHonda Civic review - front view, blue, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

Look beyond the Marmite styling and you’ll find a supremely practical hatchback that will almost certainly provide reliable transport for the duration of even a four-year leasing contract. You don’t develop a reputation for dependability without good reason, and Honda’s rep for building cars that don’t break down is spectacular.

What’s more, leasing deals typically start from less than £220 a month, which is strong value for a car of this size.

Dare to be different? You’ll be saving money if you do.


Looks, tech and design

I won’t labour the point about the styling, but that lower and wider stance really helps the Honda Civic to stand out. The looks are bordering on aggressive – it wouldn’t seem out of place on a race track. But then, the range-topping Civic Type R is one of the very best high-performance hot hatchbacks on the market, and that seems to have rubbed off on the rest of the range.

Things are a little more conventional on the inside, which will be a welcome relief if you’ve ever experienced the awkward weirdness of previous Civic models. Build quality is excellent, but it’s worth pointing out that Japan doesn’t really embrace the whole soft-touch plastics thing. Instead, you get an interior that’s built to last and fit for purpose. If not exactly squidgy under your fingers.

Well built, but a little drab?Honda Civic review - interior, 2020 Available to leaseLease Now

The driving position is spot-on, with plenty of adjustment in the steering wheel and seat. The low-slung layout might seem odd if you’re accustomed to driving high-riding SUVs, but in exchange you get a feeling of being properly connected to the road. You feel hunkered down and cocooned, without it being claustrophobic.

Things are less positive in the back. Although there’s plenty of legroom and kneeroom, the sloping roofline means that headroom is severely compromised. Anyone over six feet tall will struggle, and real beanpoles will be better off in the boot.

Especially since it’s hard not to be impressed with the luggage space. Only the Skoda Octavia is more cavernous, with the Civic offering 420-478 litres of boot space, depending on the model. Although the rear seats don’t fold flat, there’s still 1,209-1,267 litres of usable space on offer.

I’d avoid the entry-level S model, because although it boasts LED headlights and a suite of safety systems, you don’t get air-conditioning, alloy wheels, a touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or a rear wiper. You might miss these on a four-year leasing contract.

The SE trim offers a few extras, but I’d skip this, too, and go straight to the SR. This adds dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a rear parking camera, automatic wipers, plus front and rear parking sensors.

It probably does have a good angle, but we haven't found it yetHonda Civic review - rear view, blue, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

A digital display replaces the analogue dials of old, and while it offers little in the way of customisation, its clarity should be applauded. It’s just a shame the touchscreen feels a bit dated, especially in light of the screens you’ll find in the latest VW Golf. On the plus side, the addition of proper buttons and a volume knob was a welcome part of the 2019 facelift.

EX, EX Sport Line and Sport complete the core range, with the Type R acting like the really eccentric uncle you only see at Christmas. I haven’t gone into great detail as part of this review, but if you want the most bonkers and ballistic hot hatchback, the Civic Type R should be the first car you test-drive. Just remember, unlike your uncle, a hot hatchback is for life, not just for Christmas.

Or try: Our review of the Toyota C-HR


Driving

Although the Ford Focus is often cited as offering the best ride and handling in the family hatchback segment, the Honda Civic has a genuine claim to the title. It’s clear that Honda’s engineers spent a lot of time perfecting the experience.

It all starts with the excellent driving position, which raises your expectations. The Civic rides the Uk’s notoriously pockmarked roads with aplomb, but it still feels sharp and poised when it comes to cornering.

Poised driving experienceHonda Civic review - rear badge, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

If you’re after some of the styling of the Type R, but without the wild performance, the EX Sport Line is a good compromise. Thanks to some cosmetic upgrades, including a rear spoiler, it certainly looks the part, but it’s mechanically identical to other models.

Honda has a habit of producing excellent engines, and this is evident in the Civic. The 1.5-litre turbocharged VTEC petrol engine powering the Sport model is a peach. It delivers 182hp, which is enough to complete the 0-62mph sprint in 8.2 seconds when paired with the excellent six-speed manual gearbox.

You could save a bit of money by leasing a 1.0-litre turbo, but honestly, I wouldn’t. Because the 1.5-litre comes with the desirable Sport trim, you get more for your money, and you won’t be pushing the engine to get the best from it, which tends to ruin the fuel economy and make driving about as relaxing as Christmas dinner at the in-laws.

Alternatively, the 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel offers an attractive blend of mid-range punch, smooth refinement and low running costs. It doesn’t feel quick, but if you spend a lot of time on the motorway, you’ll love its hushed manner and impressive economy.

Engineering excellence is a Honda strong pointHonda Civic review - rear view, driving, blue, 2020 Available to lease Lease Now

A word about the CVT automatic transmission, which is optional on the petrol engines. By CVT standards, it’s very impressive, especially if you take control using the steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters. It’s worth a look if you’re after a relaxed drive, but the six-speed manual gearbox is so good, I’d be sticking with that.

Looking for a fun to drive hatchback? Try the Ford Focus


Cost and economy

At the time of writing, leasing deals start from £214 per month, which is excellent value for money. Even the 1.0 EX Sport Line weighs in at just £280 a month, so upgrading to a smarter Civic needn’t break the bank.

Predictably, the diesel engine is the fuel economy hero, with the potential achieve over 60mpg, according to the official figures. Supposedly the 1.0-litre turbo will return nearly 50mpg, but you’ll have to be kind to it to see anything like that; same story with the 1.5-litre’s claimed 46mpg. In both cases, there’s a small penalty for choosing the CVT gearbox – it costs more and drinks more.

The value is strong with this oneHonda Civic review - dead-on, front view, blue, 2020 Available to leaseLease Now

Insurance groups range from 15 for the 1.0 S, SE, SR and EX, to 22 for the 1.5 Sport. This might be one reason to opt for the 1.0 over the 1.5.

The best cars to lease for small families


Verdict

Spend some quality time with a Honda Civic and you’ll begin to appreciate its finer points. It’s a bit of a slow-burner, lacking the wow-factor of the Volkswagen Golf, while missing the immediacy of the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.

But if you’re somebody who appreciates engineering and quality over marketing and fluff, the Honda Civic is the family hatchback for you. It’s a ‘B+’ student – an eight out of 10 across the board. There’s a lot to be said for consistency.

Dare to be different?

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