Honda Civic 1.0 VTEC

Turbo SR

Honda Civic, front
Honda Civic, front
Honda Civic, front
Honda Civic, side
Honda Civic, rear
Honda Civic, rear
Honda Civic, interior

SOMETIMES it's good to get into a car without knowing too much about it, so as not to have any prejudices or preconceptions.

This Honda Civic proved a great example of that approach.

If someone had told me it was powered by a comparatively small engine - a three cylinder 1.0-litre unit - I might have concluded it was going to have some serious limitations.

While we all know there has been a huge drive by car makers to produce smaller but efficient and decent performing petrol engines, one tends to imagine three-cylinder 1.0-litre units are essentially designed for city cars and superminis.

In all honesty when I first got behind the wheel of this Civic 1.0 VTEC Turbo SR I imagined it had a 1.6-litre, or even a 2.0-litre engine - and a decent one at that.

Deliciously smooth, pleasingly refined and impressively potent it's a really great engine and the fact it's a 1.0-litre three pot just makes it even more remarkable.

It pulls well from low revs, delivers power seamlessly and never feels lacking - even with a full load.

Given the ever accelerating move away from diesel this really does feel like the future - at least when it comes to internal combustion motoring.

Reassuringly it also has a nice throaty engine note.

While the engine is the heart of any car it is only a component, so how does the Civic fare all round?

This tenth generation Civic, launched last year, is an all-new model that once again demonstrates Honda's determination to be different.

Its predecessors were characterised by that eye-catching wedge shape that wasn't to all tastes and after a very avant garde Civic Honda did tone the looks down.

The latest version is totally different again and still very individual but bows more to the conventional.

It has a sleek and muscular profile that's finely sculpted and a great blend of sportiness and style.

It's longer, wider and lower than its predecessor and a key development is a new advanced suspension system.

Added to that the latest incarnation has a lighter and stiffer chassis.

These elements combine with great aerodynamics to create a hatchback that has a genuinely sporty feel and it is a real joy to drive.

Its handling is razor sharp and it has a very nimble and agile feel when being driven enthusiastically.

There's no compromise to ride quality either and the Civic is a noticeably comfortable car to travel in.

As mentioned it's lower than the model it replaces and you are immediately conscious of that when you sit in the driver's seat.

You feel very low down and while it takes a little getting used to it enhances the driving experience and gives the Civic something of the feel of a sports car rather than a family hatchback.

In terms of engine options there's currently that amazing 1.0-litre unit or a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol one.

Sure the larger unit is significantly more powerful but if I were buying I'd need quite a bit of persuading to make me take the step up. In reality the differences are marginal and when it comes to economy the differences are very marked indeed.

The three-cylinder unit isn't the fastest on paper, with a 0-62mph time of 10.9 seconds, but in reality it feels sufficiently sprightly.

And with a combined economy figure of 55.4mpg you're getting up into diesel territory.

There is a diesel option in the shape of a revised version of the 1.6-litre unit used in the CR-V.

So, how does the Civic deliver in terms of practicality? The coupe styling does impinge a little on rear headroom but the cabin is a decent size and there's a generous amount of legroom for those travelling in the rear.

I actually managed to transport four adult passengers with no complaints, thanks in part to that extra width.

The Civic boasts a big boot (478 litres) which increases to 1,267 litres with the rear seats folded.

There's an interesting quirk in the boot which works well too - a tonneau cover which spools from side to side rather than front to rear.

If, like me, you're one of those people who hasn't got on with the vagaries of some conventional tonneau covers the chances are you'll rather like it.

Other than that the Civic is nicely appointed throughout, with instrumentation and switchgear characterised by a quality look and feel.

Hondas in the past have had a tendency to be a little on the pricey side but the latest Civic is competitively priced whichever of the seven different trims you opt for.

FAST FACTS

Honda Civic 1.0 VTEC Turbo SR

Price: £20,340

Mechanical: 129ps, 988cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 126mph

0-62mph: 10.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 55.4

Insurance Group: 15

C02 emissions: 117g/km

Bik rating: 24%

Warranty: 3yrs/90,000 miles

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