Honda Civic 1.5 VTEC

Prestige CVT

Honda Civic, 2017, front, static
Honda Civic, 2017, front
Honda Civic, 2017, front, action
Honda Civic, 2017, rear, static
Honda Civic, 2017, rear, action
Honda Civic, 2017, interior
Honda Civic, 2017, boot, underfloor
Honda Civic, 2017, boot

I'M old enough to remember the first Honda Civic being born - it was after all among the first batch of family hatchbacks to grip British motorists.

Small, about the size of an original Fiesta, basic, affordable and bristling with advanced engineering features, it was Honda's first serious foray into the saloon car market.

What a difference four decades makes. The latest and tenth incarnation of the Civic might still be a family car, but it has grown. .. and how.

A full five-seater with a cavernous boot and the sort of luxuries you might expect to be offered in a high-end BMW - such as heated rear seats and dual climate control - it is challenging the Golf, the Focus and the Audi A3 for honours.

The product of seven years of development, it is immediately recognisable as a Honda.

The extrovert looks complete with exaggerated mock air intakes, wedge shape and pronounced rear spoiler may divide opinions, but it is unlikely ever to go unnoticed.

I drove the 1.5-litre VTEC petrol version with continuous variable transmission in top Prestige trim. There's also a cheaper and more frugal 1.0-litre version and a diesel model will be with us shortly.

One of the first things you notice sitting in the Civic is its low seating position - it's almost sports car like.

The low centre of gravity together with wide track are two elements that help endow the Honda with agile handling and better than average dynamics.

With external dimensions 13cm longer and 3cm wider than the outgoing car, it is hardly surprising that it feels roomier in the cabin.

Space between driver and passenger is among the class best and the new style fascia is easier to live with and better finished.

A large central touchscreen which includes sat nav is key to a number of controls but isn't always user-friendly.

The seats are well-shaped and supremely comfortable, while the steering wheel is adjustable for rake and height.

The fastback tailgate lifts to reveal 420 litres of luggage room with a natty cover that can be rolled out and clipped, or just tucked away.

Unfortunately the last model's clever flip-up rear seat design that allowed more luggage/passenger variations has been abandoned.

There's stacks of cabin storage space between the seats and in the wide door pockets and passenger glove box.

Honda is rightly proud of its engine design. The 1.5-litre VTEC knocks out an impressive 180bhp yet emits just 139g/km in automatic form and will easily average 40mpg-plus on normal everyday running.

Like most of the brand's engines, it is a free revver with a sweetness absent in many rivals.

Coupled to the CVT automatic gearbox it delivers smooth progress in a relaxed fashion.

The CVT system includes steering wheel paddles which allows the driver to create his or her own ‘steps', so taking away the freneticism that continuous variable systems can be prone to.

Top speed is at 124mph, some 13mph slower than the manual version. Acceleration is swift but hardly neck-jerking with a 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds.

It is generally a refined car with little mechanical noise and an absence of rattles. Different road surfaces can, however, generate some road rumble which disturbs peace within the cabin.

FAST FACTS

Honda Civic 1.5 VTEC Prestige CVT

Price: £27,550

Mechanical:180bhp, 1,498cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 124mph

0-62mph: 8.5 seconds

Combined MPG: 46.3

Insurance Group: 22

C02 emissions: 139g/km

Bik rating: 26%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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