Some good engines but the steering, ride comfort and noise levels all disappoint
Confusing display and too many ergonomic issues
Plenty of protection for occupants - and for pedestrians
Honda has an excellent reputation
Plenty of space for luggage, but there's not enough headroom, front or rear
Decent enough entry-level kit but it's worth paying extra for more
The 1.6 diesel engine is the best choice - it's nippy and responsive as well as being very efficient - and would make the Civic quite fun, given that the car stays nicely upright and composed bends; it's also reassuringly stable on the motorway. However, the vague and overly light steering undermine your confidence, while the car always feels slightly jiggly, even on smoother surfaces, though the diesel models are a bit smoother. The 2.2-diesel accelerates quickly in any gear, and the 1.8 petrol is nippy too, but the 1.4 petrol needs a lot of revs to get to speed. The 1.6-diesel is the quietest engine of the lot, but they're all pretty vocal and the Civic always generates a fair bit of road noise too.
The futuristic wrap-around dashboard looks very striking, but it's an ergonomic nightmare. Many drivers will find the steering wheel gets in the way of the instruments behind it, and those who can see them will be confused by the messy layout. To make matters worse, the brightly coloured instrument panels reflect in the windscreen at night, obscuring your view of the road ahead. Meanwhile, the driver's seat doesn't go low enough, rear visibility is awful, and there's not enough headroom wherever you sit in the Civic, but particularly in the back seats.
All this is a shame, because in other respects the Civic is one of the most practical small family hatchbacks. There's plenty of legroom for everyone, and the boot is big - you can make it bigger by folding down the back seats, which go completely flat. The facility to fold up one or both of the rear seat bases, cinema-style, also brings another handy option for carrying larger items, such as bicycles. The Civic is also well equipped. Even entry-level SE cars get alloys, climate control and a USB socket but it's worth upgrading to ES for cruise control, Bluetooth, a reversing camera and automatic lights and wipers. EX models include heated leather seats and sat-nav; EX GTs get a panoramic glass roof, front and rear parking sensors, and keyless start. There are also 'T' versions of the lower trims, which add sat-nav. All models have Isofix on the outer rear seats.
Honda has an enviable reliability record, so there should be no worries here. Safety is also impressive: every version has stability control, six airbags (including curtain 'bags that take in the rear windows) and active anti-whiplash front head restraints. Pedestrians are well protected, too, by energy-absorbing front wing mounts and windscreen wiper pivots designed to break away on impact. When Euro NCAP tested the Civic it received the maximum rating of five stars, with 94% for adult safety and 83% for child safety. That's very good though it isn't quite as safe as a Volkswagen Golf.
Cars with the 1.6 diesel and petrol engines are competitively priced, and while Honda dealers offer only very small discounts, the Civic holds its value pretty well so you'll get back a decent whack of what you paid for the car when you come to sell it on. Fuel consumption and emissions are reasonable at the very least - and they're exceptional in the 1.6 diesel, which Honda claims can achieve 78.5mpg with just 94g/km CO2. This engine, and the Civic's load-carrying abilities, give it some appeal, but when it comes to everyday driving the Honda will be hard to live with. Servicing costs are likely to be high for all models.