NICE TRY, BUT CAN'T YOU JAZZ IT UP A BIT?

THE INDEPENDENT ROAD TEST: HONDA CIVIC 1.6LS

The restrained, play-safe looks of the new five-door Civic belie the significance of Honda's latest model. This is the unassuming British- made car that will spearhead Honda's burgeoning attack on European markets.

Honda is dismissive of the five-door's main rivals, cited as the Ford Escort, Citron ZX, Peugeot 306, Vauxhall Astra and VW Golf. The new Civic will have "a perceived engineering value and image above these cars", says the blurb, which refers to "a premium quality without a premium price".

Quality there undoubtedly is. Plenty of equipment, too - twin airbags, a powered sunroof and electric windows are standard across the range. But despite claims about "upmarket and prestigious looks" there is nothing adventurous about the styling or engineering of the most important Honda yet sold in Europe. Visually, it lacks the bold, cute, look-at-me lines of the smaller three-door "hunchback", never mind the beguiling prettiness of the Civic Coup - both smaller, fifth-generation cars that will be replaced later by variants of the new five-door. Confusion about the newcomer's role and identity might have been avoided had Honda not called it a Civic at all, but Concerto after the model it supplants.

On test the 1.6LS has a typically frenzied, vroomy engine that sounds out of place when extended in a staid family hatch. Exploit the engine's smooth, top-end brio by making full use of the gears, and performance is lively. Cruising in long-legged top, noise levels are low and economy exceptional. All the new Civics are good motorway cars.

Despite the racy mien of its motor, the 1.6LS is no hot-hatch, barely a warm one. Handling is safe, reassuring and predictable but it will not quicken the pulse of keen drivers. You can rely on the suspension to do everything expected of a modern mainstream family five-seater, but no more. The composed LS does not display the exceptional cornering fluency of, say, a Peugeot 306, though it does ride smoothly over dips and bumps.

The finish of this new Civic is excellent, like that of all Hondas, no matter what their source. Comfort gets high marks, too - unless you are lanky and sitting in the back. The front seats embrace supportively, and the driving position is first class. As safety was a design priority, anti-lock brakes are standard.

Prices start at £11,495 for the 1.4i. The most economical is the 1.5i VTEC, for which Honda claims a diesel-like 45.7mpg composite consumption - a 25 per cent improvement on the class average.

SPECIFICATIONS

Honda Civic 1.6LS five-door, £13,145 Engine: 1590cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, 113bhp at 6200rpm. Transmission: five-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive. Performance: 110mph, 0-60mph in 9.5 seconds, consumption 38.8mpg (ELA average) unleaded.COMPARISONS

Citron ZX 1.8i Aura, £12,175 Goes well, handles keenly - though can be twitchy when cornering hard. Practical all-rounder displaying French flair but few idiosyncrasies. Strong, keenly priced contender.

Ford Escort 1.6 Ghia, £12,865 UK's best-selling car has smart new interior, quieter engines, smoother ride and sharper handling. Cheaper versions available with less equipment.

Ford Mondeo 1.8 LX, £12,700 Half a size up on the Civic. Punchy engine better suited to family-hack work than Honda's screamer. Performance stronger, economy not so good.

Peugeot 306 1.6i XR five-door, £l1,980 Notable for good looks, fluent handling and smooth ride. Not so lively all out as Honda. Beaten for economy, too. Also available as three-door hatch and four-door saloon.

Vauxhall Astra 1.6GLS five-door, £12,795 Latest fresh-faced, vee-grilled model, much improved. Engine more flexible than Civic's. Economy excellent, too. Safe, well-made, civilised car, but not one to enthral keen drivers. The Honda Civic 1.6LS is a quality car, good for motorway driving, but lacks look-at-me appeal Photograph: Dillon Bryden

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

    £35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most