Most family hatchbacks these days make a big distinction between their three and five-door bodystyles.
The cars can look quite different in each guise, the three-door car setting out to be sleek and sporty while the boxier five-door car adopts a more practical approach. Honda’s Civic is a family hatch that counts its futuristic styling and sporty persona as big selling points whether in three or five-door form. To highlight the dynamic side of the five-door car more fully, Honda dreamed up the Si trim level which upgrades the visuals at an affordable price.
The three and five-door Honda Civic’s don’t look massively different but Honda differentiates the two lines with its trim level range. The three-door car is available in racy Type-S and high performance Type-R guises while the five-door comes in a selection of configurations that are more sedate, particularly at the lower end of the range. The Si models are an attempt to bring come of the sportiness that has proven popular with the three-door cars to the five-door line-up and they’re priced at a level that should pique the interest of hatchback buyers.
Si customers have the whole of the Civic engine range up for grabs. Things kick off with the 1.4-litre i-VTEC engine, a typically smooth and high-revving Honda petrol unit. With only 98bhp, it’s not the powerplant to give the Civic five-door the turn of speed to go with the Si trim’s energetic looks but it’s a good compact petrol engine.
The 1.8-litre petrol unit also carries the famous Honda VTEC branding denoting the presence of variable valve-timing technology. Peak power of 138bhp is generated at a buzzing 6,300rpm, so you need to hold the gears to squeeze out the best of the performance. Do so and the 0-60mph sprint takes 8.9s but change-up early without troubling the rev-limiter and the 1.8 i-VTEC stays pleasantly demure for everyday driving.
Honda resisted the urge to dirty its hands with diesel for a long time but when it did, the results took a lot of people aback. The 2.2-litre CTDi oil-burner in the Civic shares many of the characteristics of Honda petrol engines with its 138bhp maximum achieved at a relatively lofty 4,000rpm and refinement levels that very few diesel hatchbacks can match. The sprint to 60mph takes 8.7s, making this smooth and punchy engine the quickest in the five-door Civic range.
"The Civic is a unique proposition in the family hatch sector"
Handling is very smart with responsive steering and good body control. The Civic also has a tight turning circle but the ease with which the car can be manoeuvred is badly impacted by the rear visibility. The thick C pillars and split rear screen make what’s behind a bit of a mystery at times and if the rear headrests are raised, you’ve got no chance.
You couldn’t accuse the Honda Civic of being boring. The functional but dull image of this car’s predecessor has been well and truly shed. The Civic’s is a compact nugget of a shape with short overhangs and a wedge-like front that never looks less that firmly planted on the road. The thin headlamps join with the grille to form a slash across the nose and the triangular motif is repeated at both ends in the fog lights and the exhaust pipes.
Those attracted to the five-door Civic by the promise of extra practicality may need to tread with caution. Although access to the rear is improved by the presence of rear doors, the space available to back seat passengers isn’t as generous as in some five-door family hatch models. There’s plenty of space for children but the curvy roofline cuts into rear headroom for taller occupants. The plus side comes at the very rear where there’s monstrous boot with a wide aperture courtesy of the high lifting tailgate. 485-litres is the official capacity and that’s extremely large for the class.
Build quality on the Civic is generally robust, although there are questionmarks over some of the plastics and how well they stand the test of time. The dash is an unusual tiered affair with various digital displays feeding back the important information. Honda has been adventurous here and the layout might be too challenging for those with more conservative tastes. Shorter drivers might find that the steering wheel obstructs the speedometer display.
The Si trim level is predominantly about further enlivening the looks of the Civic five-door. The 1.4-litre cars get 16" alloy wheels with a Graphite finish while the more powerful engines get similar 17" items. There’s dark chrome detailing for the shapely door handles and the fuel filler cap, while body-coloured side mouldings make the car look lower and a special mesh front grille like that of the Type-R is installed. Inside, there’s half leather trim and a USB connector on top of the other Civic features like climate control, an MP3 compatible CD stereo and electric windows.
The Civic’s 138bhp diesel engine is one of the best of its ilk and it’s cost effective too, weighing in at either Group 10 or Group 11 insurance, dependent on trim level. With an average fuel consumption figure of 54.3mpg, it’s certainly not going to cost the earth in terms of ongoing running costs. The 1.4-litre petrol engine returns just under 50mpg while the 1.8-litre unit chips in with just under 40mpg.
The Civic isn’t the cheapest option to buy in the family hatch sector but its residual values are firmer than those of many of its rivals which keeps overall running costs competitive. There’s a 3-year / 90,000-mile warranty as standard.
Always one of the more adventurously styled of the family hatchback breed, the Honda Civic is popular with buyers seeking some sportiness from their next family car. The Si trim level was created to bring more of the vibrancy of the three-door Civic to the fine-door range with styling accessories borrowed from the range-topping Type-R model. It’s offered with the full range of engines and although Civic prices aren’t the cheapest, it looks good value considering the style and technology contained within this Honda.
The Civic is a unique proposition in the family hatch sector, designed to provoke a reaction both inside and out. The interior in particular may divide opinion with its creative control layout and rear seat accommodation that isn’t the most spacious. Rear visibility continues to be an issue but the Civic scores strongly with a huge boot, sturdy build quality and a clever engine range.