Let’s be honest: without ‘Type R’ at the end of its name, many of us petrolheads tend to ignore the Honda Civic. But perhaps that shouldn’t be the case. The previous generation car is still pretty good to drive, even in regular, non-hot-hatchback form.
It has some excellent engines, for a start. You can choose from two turbocharged petrol engines, including a 1.0-litre three-cylinder unit and a 1.5-litre four-cylinder. From 2018 to 2020, Honda also offered a frugal 1.6-litre diesel.
With 124bhp, the 1.0-litre engine is very impressive, delivering perfectly adequate acceleration – 0-60mph is dispatched in a reasonable 10.7sec. The 1.6-litre diesel has 118bhp and isn’t quite as strong. It’s economical, though, with an average fuel consumption figure of 64.2mpg.
The 1.5-litre has 180bhp and, compared with the two units above, is noticeably punchier. This is particularly evident lower down in the rev range, where it has considerably more get-up-and-go.
For the 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre units, you can have a manual or CVT transmission. If you can, opt for the manual, because the CVT tends to hold the engine at high revs even when you aren’t accelerating particularly hard. The diesel has the option of a nine-speed automatic gearbox, or you can go for a manual transmission instead.
The diesel or the smaller petrol will cost around £12,000 for a sub-50,000-mile example, while an equivalent-mileage 1.5-litre car will set you back around £15,000. Examples from this generation’s last two model years, 2021 and 2022, will cost from around £20,000.
Then there’s the matter of trims. The range kicks off with the entry-level S version, which really is very basic – so basic, in fact, that it was dropped soon after it was launched due to slow sales, which means there aren’t too many for sale on the used market. SE trim is much more appealing, with DAB radio, air conditioning and front and rear parking sensors.
Step up to Prestige and you have a full leather interior and heated rear seats. A car in this trim will cost upwards of £17,000, which isn’t too much for a range-topper.
Those after a Type-R-lite might want to look at Sport and Sport Plus variants. The former gets a sporty bodykit, heated seats and LED headlights, while the latter adds adaptive suspension.
With or without the adaptive setup, Civics have a largely settled ride. Handling is safe and secure, helped by quick steering and (if you go for the manual) a slick gear change.
The interior is more than spacious enough for four, or even five for occasional journeys. The boot is a good size at 478 litres, plus it has a useful false floor. The low driving position is nicely cosetting and helps you feel at home straight away, while the dashboard is clear and logically laid out, with controls that are pleasingly weighted and which have a high-quality feel – as do most of the interior plastics.
Need to know
Manual versions of 1.0 and 1.5 petrols average 46.3mpg, or 43.5mpg and 42.8mpg respectively for CVT autos.
Most examples are registered after April 2017, so VED is a flat rate of £165 a year whether it’s a diesel or petrol.
In 2018 the hatch was joined by the saloon. Boot capacity is up from 478 litres to 519; the suspension was also softened.
Infotainment: Don’t get too excited: the Civic’s infotainment system has old-fashioned graphics and a slothful touchscreen. Its saving grace is that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard from new.
Insurance and servicing: Insurance groups range between 15 and 22, which is pretty much on par for a non-premium-badged family hatch. Servicing charges are reasonable, and Honda has a number of plans for spreading the cost.
Our top spec
Sport: You’ll appreciate the Sport’s heated seats on cold days and its sporty bodykit when you glance back at it after parking up. The adaptive suspension of Sport Plus is tempting, but we don’t believe it to be a must-have.
1.5 VTEC Turbo: For a small premium, the 1.5-litre petrol grants you a decent upgrade in power, while official fuel economy doesn’t even take a hit (compared with the smaller petrol).
Volkswagen Golf: Long been a pillar of the class, so the VW is a rival here. Latest generation is brilliant to drive, well equipped and relatively cheap to buy used.