In the face of constant and loud messaging about going green and hybrids, Honda's Civic i-DTEC quietly steps up to the plate and delivers. David Taylor spent a week with one and didn't run out of fuel.
Honda engines are renowned for bulletproof strength and being rather eager in the way they zip around the rev counter. Many will recall the days when Civic Vtecs ruled the streets and with their screaming B-series, were more than a match for most sports cars. They were known for being able to redline at around the 9 000rpm mark and were infamous for a distinct lack of torque.
This Honda Civic i-DTEC is completely opposite to all of that. It has loads of torque and all of it can be found at the bottom of the rev range. It's a turbocharged engine and it runs on diesel. It's also become one of my favourite engines. What is the world coming to?
Honda Civic i-DTEC engine and outputsPowering the Honda Civic i-DTEC is a 1.6-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder. Power output is rated at 88 kW, while torque comes in at 300 Nm. Power is driven to the front wheels through one of those typically excellent and slick Honda gearboxes. The result is no racer, but rather a modest performer. Its strength lies in the overtaking department, where all 300 Nm can be called upon to hurl the car from 80km/h to 120km/h without any real effort. As far as diesel engines go, this one suffers from very little turbo lag and is quite responsive. If you feel there's no power, there's nothing stopping you from dropping down a gear...
Supreme fuel economyThe magic really happens when you drive this car ultra sensibly. Leave it in Eco mode, change gear at the right points and you're rewarded with superb fuel efficiency. How does 5l/100km grab you? What if I told you I wasn't really trying? To be honest, if I'd really tried and wasn't in a rush for meetings during my test period, I would think 4.5l/100km is easily achievable.
As far as looks go, I think the Honda Civic hatchback is one of the more interesting vehicles in its class. I look at similar hatches in comparison, and I feel for owners who take delivery and have to point out which is their new car in a sea of visual mediocrity. Given the test car's vibrant red paint and aggressive alloy wheels, you'd be fooled into thinking this was a Honda Civic Type R. It's an exciting design, but it does have its drawbacks which I'll point out to you.
Cleverly designed cabinInside the Civic's cabin, you're greeted with a myriad of oddly-placed buttons and to be honest, it's initially a confusing and unconventional layout. The quirky rear design may look unique, but it does restrict rearward visibility slightly. The cabin and boot feel rather spacious and only after some digging did I realise why. Firstly, there's no full-size spare wheel and the resultant space-saver wheel takes very little space, and secondly the fuel tank is nowhere near the boot. It can be found under the front seats, which is a clever touch.
Fully kitted in terms of featuresThe Honda Civic i-DTEC comes in Executive trim, meaning you get a wad of standard features fitted at no-cost. It's a well-equipped car and for your money, you're getting a quality radio with subwoofer, iPod connectivity, USB port, leather trim, heated seats, dual auto air conditioner, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control and a reverse camera. You get a feeling that the cabin and the car as a whole has been well assembled, and won't fall apart or rattle in a few years.
Honda handling and rideDespite my motoring hack peers crying out at the Honda's apparently primitive torsion beam suspension, I found the Civic's ride and handling to be borderline sporty. Perhaps this was a combination of suspension along with low-profile rubber fitted to the alloy wheels, but I found the car to be hands on and enjoyable to drive. Be it cruising or late-for-a-meeting tearing through traffic, the Civic never really feels out of place. For a commuting and sensible car, you'll be hard-pressed to beat the Honda Civic.
Honda Civic conclusionWe reach the part of the article where I decide whether a car is worthy of your hard-earned Rands. I think the Honda Civic, particularly in i-DTEC guise is worth investigating if you're in the market. The fact that it's quicker to 100km/h and more fuel efficient than some green flag-waving hybrids pleases me immensely.
It's comfortable, attractive and offers an abundance of standard specification. While the engine itself may not be the most refined and you'll hear that distinct diesel chug-chug noise, you can't help but ignore it when you see the trip computer readout. There's no pretentiousness and no attempts at being an eco champion here. This Honda is simply the result of clever technology and engineering working effortlessly together.
Honda Civic i-DTEC price in South AfricaThe Honda Civic i-DTEC retails for R324 500. Price includes a 3 year warranty or 100 000 km. Also includes 5 year / 90 000 km service plan, with 15 000 km service intervals.
We like: · Quirky looks . Terrific fuel economy . Great specification . Spacious cabin
We don’t like: · Quirky looks . Noisy engine
Honda Civic i-DTEC specifications
Engine: 1.6 litre turbocharged diesel Power: 88 kW @ 4 000 rpm Torque: 300 Nm @ 2 000 rpm Transmission: six-speed manual Wheels: 17-inch alloy 0-100km/h: 10.6 seconds (claimed) Fuel economy: 4.1 l/100 km (claimed on the combined cycle)
Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC photo gallery