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Driven: Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC. Image by Honda.

Driven: Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC
Diesel power is added to the Honda Civic Mk10 line-up.

   



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Honda Civic i-DTEC

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It's taken almost a year but, with two VTEC Turbo petrols and the storming Type R already in the fold, now the tenth-generation Honda Civic family has a diesel in its midst. On paper it looks exactly the same engine as the Civic Mk9's diesel lump, but Honda insists this one has been 'comprehensively revised' and, as such, the Civic 1.6 i-DTEC is well worth checking out.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC
Pricing: Civic from 18,890; 1.6 i-DTEC from 20,120, rising to 24,925
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 93g/km (VED 120 first 12 months, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 80.7mpg
Top speed: 125mph
0-62mph: 9.8 seconds
Power: 120hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 300Nm at 2,000rpm

What's this?

A tenth-generation Honda Civic, but don't go straining your eyes looking for a facelift - it's far too new a car for that, having only been launched last year. So you should already be familiar with the Japanese hatchback's swoopy shape, rich with detailing (or, if you're not a fan, you'd say the overly fussy bodywork), and the vastly improved cabin finishing, which nevertheless still doesn't quite feel up to the current class-leading standards - courtesy of the unusual Honda Connect infotainment, some questionable plastic here and there, and those hard-to-read 'part-octagon' ancillary dials either side of the rev counter in the cluster.

Take particular note of said rev counter, though, and you'll notice it has a redline at 4,500rpm and a maximum figure of 6,000rpm. Yes, this is the Honda Civic diesel, or i-DTEC in the company's own parlance, and it joins the 129hp 1.0-litre VTEC Turbo and 182hp 1.5-litre VTEC Turbo petrol models in the regular line-up for the compact hatchback. Outputs for the diesel are 120hp, less than either of the petrols, and 300Nm, which is 25 per cent more twist than even the 1.5 can muster up. On paper, performance looks good; 0-62mph in sub-ten seconds and a 125mph top whack are not to be sniffed at. But the reason you buy a diesel is parsimony, and claimed figures of 93g/km CO2 and 80.7mpg combined are the real show-stoppers here.

In the UK, the i-DTEC is available in four specifications, starting with S (20,120) and running SE (20,220 - yes, only 100 more than S...), SR (22,065) and EX (24,925). The necessity of a diesel variant of the Civic could be called into question, given the backlash against the fuel in recent months here in the UK and the falling sales figures for diesel vehicles. But if you're going to sell any of this size of hatchback car to fleets, you need a version that drinks from the black pump in order to make decent headway.

Just a quick note on the 'comprehensively revised' engine: while its outputs stay the same as in the old car, Honda cites many key detail changes that have supposedly improved the oil-burning motor. If you're not a geeky engineering type, you might want to look away now... still with us? OK, so there are additional cast ribs in the engine block to better manage noise, vibration and harshness while also improving structural rigidity, forged steel pistons in place of the old i-DTEC's aluminium items to reduce cooling losses in the block, friction-reducing technologies including 'super plateau honing' to create an ultra-smooth surface between the pistons and the cylinder bores, and a dual-overhead camshaft cylinder head made of thinner - and therefore lighter - aluminium alloy, taking the weight of this component down by 280g, or two per cent. Phew! That means the quoted economy for the new 1.6 has gone up by 2.2mpg, while emissions are trimmed back by 1g/km over the old motor. Not dramatic changes, then - so can you actually discern the new engine's improvements from behind the wheel?

How does it drive?

Like any tenth-generation Civic: brilliantly. The i-DTEC has more weight over its nose, but you wouldn't know it from the way it corners cleanly and crisply, and that rock-steady cruising attitude all versions of this Honda hatch possess is retained by the diesel model. It's not a particularly thrilling car to drive quickly, but it is tremendously refined, with superb noise suppression and a cosseting ride quality that makes it easily capable of soaking up the worst that some ludicrously bad road surfaces can throw at it. The i-DTEC is also keen to rev, too, as it will spin around to 4,500rpm without vibrating to all holy hell and going wheezy on you, but there's little need to go chasing paint on the tacho when you've got 300Nm available to you at just 2,000rpm. As run-of-the-mill compact diesel hatches go, Honda has executed this Civic excellently.

Apart from one extremely strange exception, especially for this company in particular. And this is something of a bombshell, but... the Honda Civic i-DTEC has a rather clunky manual gearshift. No, please do not refresh your browser - this is not some errant copy from another web review that has somehow ended up in the wrong place. If you drive a petrol Civic Mk10, you'll know the manual box is a delight to use; if you then jump into the i-DTEC and give it a whirl, you might half-wonder if there's a broken linkage somewhere down in the depths of the transmission tunnel. It's baggy, for starters, the lever wobbling around noticeably when the car is in gear. It also has a very long throw and it feels unpleasantly gritty and glitchy as you move the shifter around the gate. It's probably average for a turbodiesel's uprated-for-torque gearbox if you take the wider automotive industry to set the standard, but by Honda's own performance in this field over the years, it's way off being one of the Japanese firm's finest pieces of engineering.

Verdict

Unusually sub-par gearshift action aside, there's no reason to avoid the Honda Civic i-DTEC. It's a smooth, refined and appealing operator, and while it won't get anywhere near the almost-81mpg quoted economy, you'll most likely be getting 60-70mpg out of it on a steady motorway cruise - an area where the Civic diesel feels at its most imperious. Prices are competitive and kit levels generous, so if you're after a good all-rounder of a family five-door, you could do much worse than the new Civic i-DTEC.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 26 Jan 2018



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2018 Honda Civic diesel drive. Image by Honda.2018 Honda Civic diesel drive. Image by Honda.2018 Honda Civic diesel drive. Image by Honda.2018 Honda Civic diesel drive. Image by Honda.2018 Honda Civic diesel drive. Image by Honda.

2018 Honda Civic diesel drive. Image by Honda.2018 Honda Civic diesel drive. Image by Honda.2018 Honda Civic diesel drive. Image by Honda.    







 

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