THE new tenth-generation Honda Civic is the result of the largest single model global development programme in the company's history.
A core model for the brand in Europe, the Civic has been at the heart of the brand's sales and manufacturing in the region for 40 years.
For many European customers, the Civic is Honda and the development team targeted a sporty rejuvenation to place the new model in a league of its own.
If we take the Type R out of the equation, it's certainly achieved that, even if it might not compete against the class benchmark, which remains the Volkswagen Golf.
Honda's claim is that it's the sportiest Civic ever, setting new benchmarks in terms of performance, fuel efficiency, spaciousness, safety and interior quality thanks to new thinking and new approaches to body construction, vehicle aerodynamics and chassis design. Judging by the length of the Honda press kit, they re-wrote the book.
The result is a marriage of (very) distinctive design, sporty styling and versatile practicality with a renewed focus on rewarding driving.
Wider, longer and lower than any of its predecessors, the new Civic has short overhangs and taut lines. A sharp and aggressive ‘face', pronounced wheel-arches and sculpted front and rear intakes and aggressive sloping roofline hint at the Civic's sporting character.
It's looks are not going to be everyone's cup of tea though you can accessorise further with the Â£1,195 Orange Line pack - there's also a Black Line pack - and Â£1,995 Hexia wheels. They add a front chin spoiler, side skirts and rear diffuser as well as mirror caps in either black or orange. Orange line also includes interior accents across the dashboard in the same colour. Then you've got something looking like it's just driven out of the Fast and Furious.
Except it's not really fast or furious. Leaving aside the Type R once again, the Civic for now only comes with two new turbocharged engines - a 1.0 VTEC petrol or a 1.5-litre VTEC. A 1.6 turbodiesel is expected in March.
The 1.0-litre driven here will sprint from 0-62mph in 11.2 seconds - though, helped by a healthy dose or torque, it feels faster than that. Officially the top-spec EX version will do 55.4mpg but I didn't get more than 41mpg, which is respectable enough.
The new engine, in this case matched to a slick six-speed manual gearbox, is fitted to a lighter, stiffer chassis with tightly tuned aerodynamics, a sophisticated new suspension system and technologies such as Honda's Agile Handling Assist electronic stability system, which ensures the Civic immediately responds to your every touch.
A much lower driving position also adds to the sporting feel and the driver's seat is not only comfortable but highly-adjustable. By Honda's own admission, this is a car engineered from the ground up to fulfil the promise of agile and rewarding dynamics and it pulls it off without the pure power, grunt and theatre of a true hot hatch. Handling is excellent, steering is responsive though on the twisting B-roads you will need to work the gears hard and put up with the rev-happy three-cylinder pot.
On motorways, it's much quieter when cruising and very comfortable - just what you want from the family hatchback.
As a family hatchback, the new Civic is also very safe. It comes complete with six airbags, including side airbags, and Honda Sensing as standard - a suite of active safety and driver assist technologies which uses a combination of radar and camera information, plus a host of high-tech sensors to warn and assist the driver in potentially dangerous situations.
The new wider, longer platform does bring class leading interior space and the new interior features a simple, uncluttered layout.
At the top of the centre console sits the seven-inch second-generation Honda Connect colour touchscreen display, which as well as being a touch-control device for the infotainment and climate control functions, integrates with reversing cameras on the top grades. It's also now compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
In front of the driver, there's a completely new digital instrument display which is easy to use and understand.
The range-topping EX also comes with heated front seats, panoramic sunroof, 11-speaker audio, dual zone climate control, leather interior, privacy glass, auto wipers, power folding door mirrors.
Boot space remains class-leading at 478 litres. The rear seats split 60/40 and the low sill and wide opening makes it easy to load. There's also plenty of clever storage space in the cockpit.