Ryan Bubear gets behind the wheel of the Honda Civic 2.2 i-DTEC hatch...
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When the covers were whipped off the eighth-generation Honda Civic hatch back in 2006, the motoring world gasped. And Star Trek fans did a nerdy little dance.
With its triangular exhaust exits, rocket-shaped exterior door handles, and a headlight/grille fusion reminiscent of Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge's face (the blind guy wearing the visor, for non-Trekkies), this Japanese hatch certainly was futuristic. Even today, some six years later, this bravely designed model stands out from the C-segment crowd thanks to its space-age styling. Whether or not it does so in a positive way, is a matter of opinion...
But, perhaps thankfully, the ninth-generation Civic five-door is a little less Starship Enterprise and a little more, well, premium hatchback. While it has retained a number of its predecessor's "progressive" styling cues (and added a few of its own), overall it's a far classier and more aesthetically appealing — if ever-so-slightly more restrained — package.
Form follows function
Aerodynamically, it looks as slippery as a soap-covered sea lion. And in addition to its sleek shape, it boasts other form-follows-function details: a horizontal brake-light running the width of the rear screen doubles as a spoiler (but makes rear visibility "interesting"), and tail-light clusters standing proud of the bodywork reduce turbulence. The new 10mm-wider Civic really hugs the road, sitting some 20mm closer to the tarmac than the previous incarnation.
The range-topping model features particularly impressive exterior embellishments, including a dark grey gloss insert below the grille; LED DLRs above the front foglights; two-tone 17-inch alloys; blue-light door-sill "Civic" branding; and weave-pattern front lip, side-sill and rear diffuser detailing.
There are five models in the local range, across three trim levels. The four petrol variants make use of the latest edition of Honda's trusty 1.8-litre i-VTEC engine, while the 2.2 i-DTEC Exclusive we had on test tops the range. Yes, with no Type R on offer, the flagship is indeed a diesel.
But what a delightfully refined diesel it is. This turbo-charged oil-burner churns out 110kW (six more than the petrol) and a hefty 350Nm. Power delivery is smooth, turbo-lag is virtually imperceptible, and diesel-clatter is happily kept to a minimum. The six-speed manual gearbox is slick and light, meaning precise cog-swapping requires nothing more than a flick of the wrist. And while it's not quite a hot hatch, it's certainly not slow either, dispatching the customary 0-100km/h dash in a claimed 8.7 seconds, before topping out at 216km/h.
And, of course, there's the benefit of wallet-pleasing fuel economy too. Honda claims a combined cycle figure of just 4.7 litres per 100km, but the average driver on the average commute would likely find that quite hard — if not near impossible — to match. We returned a final figure of 6.2 despite our (at times) enthusiastic driving style. Expect to hit mid to high fives if you exercise restraint of your right-foot and make liberal use of the standard Eco Assist technology.
The cabin of the 2.2 i-DTEC Civic hatch, which benefits from the highest trim level, has a distinctly upmarket feel to it. Honda's signature two-tier instrument cluster does duty — featuring a multitude of colourful lights — and puts the most important readings in the driver's natural eye-line. The standard equipment list is longer than a drive-through queue on payday, and highlights include: leather seats (heated and very comfortable), leather multifunctional steering wheel, premium audio system (with external amp and subwoofer), Bluetooth, dual-zone air-con, cruise control/speed limiter, auto HID headlights (with integrated washers), auto wipers, gearshift indicator, heated side mirrors, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, and panoramic glass sunroof.
That final item — the fixed full-length glass roof — amplifies the general feeling of airiness in the cabin. Indeed, space is plentiful in the Civic hatch, with Honda claiming that it has the roomiest interior of any C-segment car. With the driver's seat positioned to accommodate a six-footer, a passenger of the same height can quite comfortably sit directly behind without having to jam their knees into their chin. That said, headroom up front is a bit tight for taller-than-average drivers.
As expected, the boot can swallow plenty of luggage — some 467 litres, to be exact — with Honda's "Magic Seats" seeing that figure rocket to a mammoth 1200 with the rear bench folded neatly out of the way.
The redesigned suspension system — which includes the addition of fluid-filled compliance bushings at the rear — hits a pleasing middle-ground between a comfortable ride and sporty handling. The steering is reasonably direct, if a little on the light side, but provides a spot of fun in the bends as well as ease-of-use in the parking lot. The Civic gets the full whack of safety abbreviations (it also boasts a five-star Euro NCAP rating), including ABS, EBD, EBA, VSA, DWS (deflation warning system), and HSA (hill start assist). Six airbags come as standard across the range, as do rear ISOFix child seat anchors.
The new Civic hatch has not shocked the motoring world as the previous model did. It does not elicit Vulcan salutes from other Civic drivers. But it still sports enough eccentric design cues to make people look twice.
And, more importantly, it does so while delivering on the promise of power, efficiency and comfort. Particularly the range-topping 2.2 i-DTEC.
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Click through to page 2 for specs and pricing.