Thursday 18 October 2018

Why I had reasons to be 'tankful' with Civic diesel

Honda hatch shows 'diesel not dead'

Honda Civic 1.6-litre 5dr diesel
Honda Civic 1.6-litre 5dr diesel
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

My aunt had an old saying about people who always seemed to have some little thing wrong with them. "A creaking door lasts longest," she'd proclaim. I came to understand she meant they'd survive longer with their string of minor ailments, attentively tended to, than hitherto healthy folk stricken with serious illnesses.

I was reminded of her saying by the current controversy over the state of diesel's health. Some say it's dead and the door has closed. Others, who have taken its pulse, reassure us that, while it may have a touch of bad tummy ('dieselitis'?), it is not on its death bed.

Honda would be one of those figuratively supporting the creaking-door diagnosis. Otherwise, why would they bother going to enormous rounds to produce a healthier-than-ever 1.6-litre diesel for their Civic? In doing so they have reduced emissions while the powertrain has a new NOx Storage Converter (NSC) system. NOx, as you know, is the emission worry for health and a major reason for diesel's unpopularity in many quarters.

Mind you, the Japanese maker is not bringing in a diesel version of the next CR-V, so make of that what you will, too.

Anyway, in its previous incarnation the Civic 1.6-litre was a headline grabber with 60mpg+ consistently claimed and returned.

With the new one, the claimed figure of 3.5l/100km translates into 80.7mpg. I got 5.7l/100km, which is 50mpg, but let me honest here. With a little bit more, shall we say, 'patient' driving, 5l/100km (56mpg) or better is easily attainable. I just drove it hard and heavy (and loaded) because, frankly, it was enjoyable and I could do so legally. Cabin and boot were nearly always occupied, too. At the same time, I clocked some sections at 4.5l/100km (62.7mpg) - which underlines my point about how you drive.

However, there is more (and less) to the Civic than an engine. Let me get some criticisms out of the way first; in the overall scheme of things they are minor.

Unbelievably, I had to get someone to help me find where to connect the phone charger. The slot is the other (back) side of a console, totally out of sight; you'd need a metal detector to find it.

My Premium spec had leather and all that, but the lower down I went, the armrest/cupholder/console felt, looked and sounded cheap. It just lets the cabin down a bit.

And the super-duper damping system (on the test car) wasn't much to my taste; it added a minor thudding rigidity to the drive over moderately poor roads.

There are better (and better looking) connectivity/interface/touchscreens than the Civic's too - but the Voice Control worked well.

Such minor hiccups can irritate like a creaking door/gate, but I wouldn't dismiss the car for its minor ailments.

Real substance lies beneath the skin where there is an admirably reassuring spread of standard safety equipment under the umbrella of what they call 'Sensing'. And they've conjured a healthy colour for the cabin with some nice comfort touches.

Yet, there is an argument it looks a little start-up pricey against its key mainstream rivals (Golf, Focus, Auris, etc).

However, if you take a quick look at the spec sheet (Facts&Figures), you'll see why that's not really the case. Rather than tickle interest with a lower-specced 'entry' model, they have decided to start higher up the food chain - which can be where some rivals end up anyway once potential buyers start adding bits and pieces. Honda do complicate matters a tad by adding 'Packs' of additional equipment as well.

To drive, the car was swift and smooth. The engine was a bit noisier than I expected on start-up - it was so new I'd forgive, but mention, that. At cruising speeds, or in lower gears, the amount of torque (pulling power) was impressive; and there was a lovely, slick gear change (friction is reduced 40pc on previous).

I liked the drive set-up, small steering wheel, excellent seats - that's what you call taking the pain out of a long drive. There was a 'sporty' feel to the car, too but it was nothing to write home about.

Apart from me, the slowest mover in the cabin was the fuel consumption needle. Diesel, regardless of its drawbacks, is still a mighty fuel-sipper.

But is that enough? In the short-term it probably is, albeit on a declining scale. Longer term (whatever that means) who really knows? Technological advances can quickly change perceptions, though electric seems to be the way we're headed - for now anyway.

However, on the basis of this new Civic 1.6-litre, don't give up on diesel just yet... creaking doors/gates and all that.

FACTS & FIGURES

Honda Civic 1.6-litre 5dr diesel, 120bhp, 3.5l/100km, €180 tax. Prices from €23,750 for 1-litre turbo petrol; 1.6-litre diesel costs from €25,550 (entry-level Smart trim). €31,950 for Premium diesel on test.

Standard spec includes collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist/departure warning, road departure mitigation, intelligent speed limiter/adaptive cruise control, etc, climate control, parking sensors, 5ins Monitor audio (AM/FM/DAB), 16ins alloys, 8 speakers.

Premium adds leather interior, heated front/back seats, 11 speakers, adaptive damper system, glass roof.

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