By Bill McCarthy
THINK of the Civic and you may think of the firecracker Type R, or maybe just a smart looking medium-sized family hatchback.
Futuristically styled when it first came out, but still a practical family motor the Civic has never been short of innovations.
So given the doubts about the future of diesel technology, Honda has tackled it head on with its latest 1.6 oil burner, mated to a nine, yes nine, speed automatic gearbox.
This is the first time that a combination of a diesel and automatic gearbox has been available on a Civic.
In addition the firm has incorporated a new system to deal with harmful emissions.
The diesel is one of the first engines to be officially tested through the Real Driving Emission (RDE) procedure to validate nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate emission levels. It has a new NOx Storage Converter (NSC) system which enables faster conversion and a reduction in emissions.
The nine-speed gearbox is as sweet a nut with you barely able to register the gearchanges while delivering official average fuel economy of 68.9mpg.
The spread of ratios means the automatic delivers smooth shifts and acceleration through the gears. Depending on the engine speed and throttle application, the transmission is also capable of ‘skipping’ gears for quick response, for example shifting down directly from ninth to fifth gear or from seventh to fourth gear, in addition to one- and two-gear downshifts.
With its latest lightweight, rigid body shell and the lower centre of gravity a combined with sophisticated suspension, it now also features superior handling dynamics.
While the Type R is a full-fat hot hatch and not afraid to flaunt it, this model also has some sporting features seen on the performance model.
The interior also has a sporty feel and offers high quality fixtures and fittings with hi-tech colour touch screen and impressive levels of standard kit, even at entry level.
It is longer, and lower than previous generations, making it more aerodynamic, with short overhangs and muscular, large wheel-arches cat-like projector lights and sculpted front and rear intakes.
This top ender offers all the bells whistles and wizardry you could want, including heated leather seats with lumbar adjustment, classy 11 speaker sound system and if you want that little bit more there, there is the optional Tech Pack, with wireless charging, LED fogs, LED headlights with washers and heated rear seats.
The centre console features a piano-black finish, while the seven-inch Honda CONNECT colour touch-screen display controls navigation, climate, connectivity and infotainment and reversing camera.
It also runs Apple Carplay and Android Auto and employs the familiar ‘pinch, swipe and tap‘ functionality of a smartphone to access its features and apps.
A small TFT screen behind the wheel also gives the driver instant information.
It is still hugely practical with plenty of stowage space and seating versatility.
A neat innovation in the large boot area is the side-sliding tonneau cover, which can be operated with one hand for extra practicality.
The split and folding rear seats provide a large stowage capacity of 550 litres, expanding to 1,267to roof level with the seats down.
On the road the 118bhp engine delivers decent pace, hitting the 60mph mark in just over 10 seconds. The refined power unit and decent soundproofing means occupants are well insulated from outside noise, with little tyre and wind noise intruding.
It is also a fine motorway cruiser while just as happy around town where the nine-speed automatic and weighted, direct steering, comes into its own.
Safety kit is impressive with standard Honda SENSING offering camera and radar technology, collision mitigation braking system, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and intelligent-adaptive cruise control.
Honda Civic 1.6 iDTEC EX 9AT
Mechanical: 118bhp, 1,597cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 9-speed automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 125mph
0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Combined MPG: 68.9
C02 emissions: 108g/km
Warranty: 3yrs/90,000 miles
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