HONDA has raised its game and the challenge to rivals with its 11generation Civic e:HEV.
The medium-sized five-door hatchback is roomier than the version it replaces and is mechanically simpler.
There are three trim levels, Elegance, Sport and Advance, but they share the same powertrain and are identical in performance terms so differentiate with fitted equipment.
The entry level Elegance from £29,595 includes keyless entry, heated mirrors and front seats, nine-inch touchscreen infotainment, parking sensors and rear-view camera while the mid-spec Sport from £30,595 adds air-conditioning, synthetic leather and fabric upholstery, wireless charging, LED front lights and the £32,995 Advance tops the range with adaptive headlights, powered synthetic-leather seats and heated wheel, glass sunroof, 10.2 inch digital display, BOSE 12-speaker sound system and upgraded wheels.
A new highly developed and sophisticated 2.0-litre petrol engine is coupled to an electric continuously variable transmission which does not have conventional gears and the two have been fine-tuned to work at their optimum for performance, economy and refinement.
A new suspension system holds it all on the road and is comfortable but capable of being pushed by an enthusiastic driver.
Inside the Civic e:HEV looks a class above its category with clean lines, good textured controls and very clear instruments with minimum distractions for the driver.
Seats were extremely comfortable and had good adjustment range on the front pair, good room and were nicely shaped.
Headroom was good throughout but some taller people may find the legroom a bit short in the back. Seats have an offset split to progressively raise the luggage capacity to a maximum 1,220 litres.
Access was good throughout and the low waistline and deep windows give the cabin a bright appearance as well as reduce blindspots but you have sensors and a reversing camera as standard. There is no sunroof on the two lower grades, but a decent sized glass panel on the top Advance grade, which also gets heated steering wheel and intelligent headlights among its trim items.
Behind the wheel, the acceleration begins with electric assistance, silent and swift, and the system decides when it needs to bring in the petrol engine, so hums in the background if extra urge is needed before switching to the internal combustion engine for longer motorway journeys.
Honda has incorporated regenerative braking so energy is pushed back to the traction battery when slowing. It all works very well and without the concern of range anxiety of pure evs..
Everything comes together very well from a driver' viewpoint with good minor controls, clear instruments, responsive powertrain and well weighted steering, compliant suspension and strong brakes. There is little to dislike.