Honda Civic ES-T - iDrive
Who knew they made spaceships in Swindon?
Engine capacity: 1.8-litre i-VTEC
Power output (PS @ rpm): 142 @
Top speed (mph): 134
0-60 mph (seconds): 9.6
Fuel economy (mpg): 46.3
emissions (g/km): 145
Five hundred new employees clocked in for their first shift at Honda's plant in Swindon this week, and this little hatchback is the reason why. Honda has shifted 20,000-plus Civics a year for most of the last decade and the latest model - its most futuristic design yet - is proving popular enough for another shift to start work. The Civic may have started out as a cheap little hatchback, but now it looks more like a family car that's been fused with a jet fighter and is ready to enforce a London Olympics no-fly zone at a moment's notice.
Honda pulled out of Formula One racing several years ago, and if its shape is anything to go by, some of its engineers used some of their new-found free time tinkering with the new Civic's space-age design. It is an inch lower and just over an inch longer than the model it replaces and retains the continuous curve from the sleek front bumper to the squat rear end.
Inside, the dashboard display is cluttered with dials and coloured hues that would look at home on the Virgin Galactic spaceship. This does make them rather hard to decipher though, and they are aligned in such a way that it is tricky for the front-seat passenger to use them without leaning across towards the driver, which is borderline unsafe. The rest of the cabin is well-constructed though, the rear seats roomy and the boot huge - mine was fitted with a clever sub trunk giving it more depth.
A stop/start system is standard across the range, which starts at £16,495, along with an Eco button to moderate throttle mapping and reduce aircon wastage, but it comes with a rather annoying red flashing light which dominates the display every time you come to a halt. And the eco-gearshift indicator is among the worst I've tested. Following it religiously for several long drives, I found it often had me struggling in sixth gear at 20mph in town, and not once suggested I shift down. Chugging away in too high a gear is no more economical than slamming to the red-line, so the Civic's dash display should remind you to drop a cog when needed.
On the road, the 1.8-litre petrol paired with a new six-speed manual gearbox is sparky enough, though perhaps not as powerful as its 142bhp should suggest. The steering is agile and fluid and on winding country road it is almost fun to drive. But most of the time it's just a little dull - if dependable.
The company has had setbacks. Its sales are still below 2006 levels and it was hit badly by last year's Fukushima disaster and floods in Thailand. The new Civic was the hope for recovery, and judging by the output from its Swindon factory, it's done just enough to get Honda back on the road.
Life & Style blogs
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers
Airline food across the classes: Ever wondered what the other half are eating?
Coachella Festival 2015: from Kendall Jenner to Alexa Chung, stars and festival-goers parade their boho best
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
Huawei P8 review: best phones nobody's seen from the biggest company nobody's heard
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Driving while dehydrated can be just as dangerous as drink driving, study suggests
- 4 Ben Affleck asked TV chiefs to hide slave-owning ancestry, new hacked Sony emails published by Wikileaks claim
- 5 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...