UK Drive: Is the new Honda Civic the new family hatchback benchmark?

What is it?

This new 11th generation Civic marks 50 years of the model. (Honda)
This new 11th generation Civic marks 50 years of the model. (Honda)

Fifty years is a long time in the automotive world, and few cars have managed to exist continuously for that sort of timeframe. One exception is the Honda Civic, which celebrates its fifth decade in 2022 with a new 11th-generation model arriving at the same time.

But at a time when the family hatchback market is being squeezed by crossovers, is there still a place for a family hatchback like the Civic? Let’s find out.

What’s new?

The new Civic is available exclusively with a hybrid powertrain, known as ‘e:HEV’. (Honda)
The new Civic is available exclusively with a hybrid powertrain, known as ‘e:HEV’. (Honda)

Honda has moved the latest Civic into the present-day by only selling it with a hybrid powertrain in Europe, and it’s a new system that promises performance comparable with a petrol, along with the efficiency of a diesel.

Honda’s latest infotainment system has also been introduced – and it’s a welcome good riddance to the rubbish old touchscreen the previous car used – while the styling has been revised to give the model more of a ‘coupe’ appearance.

What’s under the bonnet?

Honda promises the performance of a petrol engine with the efficiency of a diesel. (Honda)
Honda promises the performance of a petrol engine with the efficiency of a diesel. (Honda)

The Civic’s new hybrid powertrain pairs a 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine with an electric motor, with the combined result of 181bhp and 315Nm of torque. There’s no conventional gearbox as such, while, unlike other hybrids, the engine primarily acts as a generator to power the battery, rather than the wheels.

Getting from 0-60mph takes a zippy 7.7 seconds, with the Civic able to accelerate to a top speed of 112mph. Its efficiency impresses too, with Honda claiming 56.5mpg (a figure easily achievable) and CO2 emissions of 113g/km in the case of our Sport test car.

What’s it like to drive?

The Civic is a great all-rounder behind the wheel. (Honda)
The Civic is a great all-rounder behind the wheel. (Honda)

Hybrids can often underwhelm when it comes to the way they drive, with the complex powertrains sometimes sapping power, or screaming under harsh acceleration. But Honda has nailed the driving experience with the Civic. The hybrid system works fantastically well; being able to potter around town mainly in electric mode, and the engine quietly wakes up if you ask more from it.

There’s a strong burst of performance on offer too, while in the ‘Sport’ setting, Honda has integrated in a noise from its legendary high-revving VTEC models. It’s a neat nod to its past in this forward-thinking hatch. The ride quality and handling balance are near perfect too, with our only real gripe being the fact there’s quite a bit of excess tyre noise at higher speeds.

How does it look?

The Civic offers a smart, fuss-free design. (Honda)
The Civic offers a smart, fuss-free design. (Honda)

The previous Civic looked a touch aftermarket with its fiddly front-end treatment and rear bumper, and though this new Honda doesn’t look tremendously different, it’s a noticeable improvement.

It features a longer wheelbase and a lower roofline, helping to give it more of a ‘coupe’ look, and in our Sport test trim, which featured black alloy wheels and detailing, it looked particularly smart. The smart LED headlights that run into the honeycomb grille are a neat touch, too.

What’s it like inside?

The new Civic’s interior is a big step forward. (Honda)
The new Civic’s interior is a big step forward. (Honda)

The Civic might not offer the largest of screens or the glossiest of materials, but what it has is one of the most ergonomic interiors in the business. The new touchscreen and semi-digital dials are brilliantly simple to use and help to modernise the cabin compared to its predecessor, yet it retains physical climate switches that are far less distracting than others on the market – a Volkswagen Golf, for example. The quality throughout easily feels on par with the more premium end of this market as well.

In terms of space, the boot size remains broadly similar to before with 400 litres of cargo space. There’s a decent amount of room in the rear seats too, though headroom might be a bit tight for taller adults because of the sloping roofline.

What’s the spec like?

The latest touchscreen system is a major improvement compared to the old car’s system. (Honda)
The latest touchscreen system is a major improvement compared to the old car’s system. (Honda)

Honda is offering three well-equipped trim levels on the Civic, with the entry-level Elegance trim coming with LED headlights, keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and a reversing camera.

There’s very little need to upgrade, but if you do, the Sport version brings larger 18-inch black alloy wheels, part leather seats and wireless charging, while the top-spec Advance brings a panoramic glass roof, 12-speaker Bose sound system, full digital instrument cluster and a heated steering wheel.

With prices starting from £30,595 it’s competitively priced next to its main hybrid rival, the Toyota Corolla, with prices rising to £34,650 for a top-spec car.

Verdict

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The latest Civic arrives as one of Honda’s best cars in years. It’s good to drive, generously equipped and offers a really well-built and ergonomic interior.

Combined with its excellent, efficient hybrid system and good driving experience, the Civic becomes the new family hatchback benchmark. If you’re looking at a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf – or any small crossover for that matter of a similar price – it’s definitely worth swinging by your local Honda showroom first.

  • Model: Honda Civic

  • Base price: £30,495

  • Model as tested: Honda Civic e:HEV Sport

  • Price: £31,795

  • Engine: 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid

  • Power: 181bhp

  • Torque: 315Nm

  • Max speed: 112mph

  • 0-60mph: 7.7 seconds

  • MPG: 56.5mpg

  • Emissions: 113g/km CO2