New Honda Civic, the 11th series of Honda’s entry-level family hatchback, has arrived in the UK ahead of customer deliveries starting in October. Prices range from £29,595 to £32,995 depending on the three trim levels you choose.
At 4.55m it is the longest car in its class and the shortest at 1.41m. In a segment that’s under pressure from crossovers and SUVs (to the extent that it registers the Ford Focus), the Civic feels like a very conventional old-school hatchback.
It is made for the world, but mainly designed in Europe and according to our demands they are the highest in the world.
Anyway, it’s very old, it has a petrol engine and what Honda calls e-CVT. But not so fast: “I’m not very happy with that name,” says Honda product planning manager Andrew Winfield, “because there’s no gearbox.”
The new Civic only comes as a hybrid, with a single powertrain option until the hot Type R arrives – most of the time it’s powered by a 181 hp electric motor powered by a diesel engine. A 141-hp 2.0-liter naturally aspirated unit drives a generator that produces power for that engine.
A similar system is used in the Jazz and HR-V, but here the engine is more powerful, so the mechanical impact of the engine is reduced. In most cases, the engine is completely disconnected from the front wheels. Only at constant high speeds does it apply to the wheels – and only at a constant rate.
But what do you do to keep the engine quiet and idle when it’s producing power (heat and noise) but not connected to the wheels? If you’re a Honda, you accelerate a little bit, under the throttle, up and down, with a few fake gear shift points along the way, and as the speed increases, it spins through the rev range like a regular car shifting gears, even though there are no gears. If you pull a paddle on the steering wheel, it adjusts the strength of the rebound reduction without affecting the missing gear. There is also a rev counter and sport mode.
This is very strange – and electricity from the battery alone cannot be plugged into the car to provide range. But if you’re one of the 80% of people who still buy a plug-in car in this class, that shouldn’t bother you. It is very useful. And, it does 60mpg without even trying.
Perhaps obviously, since the driving force is electric, it’s very smooth. I couldn’t tell when the engine was sticking to the wheels to provide traction (despite the graphic on the infotainment). It’s slick as an EV, because most of the time it’s boosted like one. It’s quick enough: power is delivered smoothly, but it does 0-62 mph in 7.8-8.1 seconds, depending on trim level.
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