The 1.4-litre i-VTEC model may be the least exciting Honda Civic on paper but it has most of what makes the Civic so good at the right price and looks good in racy 'Sport' trim. Jonathan Crouch reports...
Ten Second Review
The Honda Civic may be late on in its model life, but it still has appeal in affordable 1.4-litre Sport guise. If panache matters more than power in your family hatch, it might just be the kind of thing you're looking for.
All too often, entry-level cars are just depressing. Stripped of the desirable titbits that caught your eye in the brochure, devoid of the panache that marks out models from further up the range, their sole purpose, it often seems, is to provide a rock bottom entry-level price for the manufacturer to trumpet in their advertising. The only feature consistently included as standard on an entry level model is a tangible sense that you're missing out on something. Honda's 1.4-litre i-VTEC Civic could be a little bit different. This engine is the least powerful unit in the range but, crucially, it powers a variant that looks premium - this 'Sport' model.
The 100PS 1.4-litre petrol unit is the forgotten powerplant in the Civic's engine range, but it still has something to be said for it if you're an undemanding sort. 62mph from rest occupies 13.5s en route to 116mph, though the torque on offer to pull you through the ratios of the six-speed gearbox is a decidedly modest 127Nm. In regular use, the engine is quiet and competent but not particularly exciting, though with significantly more pulling power than its predecessor, something that you really notice in urban use or when overtaking. Indeed, this Civic is very at home in city areas where the light touch of its controls and its tight turning circle make it a pleasure to punt about. The thick C-pillar hinders visibility out the back as does the split rear screen but you get a good view around the front of the car.
Design and Build
The most recent styling tweaks made to this car (back in the Spring of 2015) gave what was already a good looking shape something of a new lease of life. The changes ran to revised headlight units with integrated daytime running lights and a more rakish front bumper assembly. If you own a pre-2015 version of this current generation model, you'll also notice a slicker design for the rear bumper, plus with this 'Sport' variant, you get a colour-coded rear spoiler, 17-inch alloy wheels and a couple of smart touches from the Type-R hot hatch model: namely a lower grille mesh to give the front end some attitude and a black roof lining for the cabin. The cabin of this ninth-gen Civic was never its strong point and again, there's quite a strange disconnect between a high-tech driver's pod and a rather cheap and bland-looking left-hand side of the fascia. It's almost as if the Honda designers ran out of budget 60 per cent of the way across and called the job a good 'un. Still, at least they managed to get to the Android-powered 7-inch touch screen with Honda Connect before the ATM said no. Compare to older Civic models, there are also better quality seat fabrics and stitching on the headrests, classier door trims with chrome door handles and a control panel finished in a metallic black. With this 1.4-litre engine, you don't get the option of the 'Tourer' estate bodystyle, but the five-door hatch variant that is on offer delivers a reasonable 477-litre boot.
Market and Model
Exect to pay just under £18,500 for this 1.4-litre petrol-powered Civic Sport hatch, the 'Sport' trim adding just under £2,000 to the asking price over what you'd pay for an entry-level 1.4-litre 'S' variant with the same engine. In return for that, you get a smarter rear end, a rear spoiler and 17-inch wheels. Is that enough? You decide. What is certain is that basic Civic equipment levels are pretty generous. Like its stablemates, this model gets LED daytime running lights, climate-controlled air conditioning, Bluetooth compatibility for your 'phone, clever flip-up 'Magic' seats, an 'ECON' mode to help you drive more efficiently and headlights that stay on at night to see you to your front door. More expected inclusions run to a multi-function steering wheel, driver's seat height adjustment, power windows and heated mirrors, an alarm/immobiliser and a four-speaker CD audio system with DAB digital radio, plus USB and Aux-in connectivity. If you're coming to this car from the old pre-2012 eighth generation Civic, it might also be worth pointing out that you get a rear wiper too. Almost unbelievably, that MK8 Civic model never had one, the designers talking of droplet-dispersing aerodynamics and forgetting how useless that is in slow traffic.
Cost of Ownership
Choose this Civic and you may find that its running costs are low enough for you not to have to consider paying more for the diesel version. The economical and torquey 1.4 i-VTEC powertrain returns CO2 emissions of 131g/km in 'Sport' guise and combined cycle fuel economy of 51.4mpg. On to the warranty, a three year/90,000 mile deal, which is a bit better than most rivals who tend to offer guarantees limited to 60,000 miles. There's also a fixed-price comprehensive aftercare package called 'Five' which includes five years' servicing, five years' warranty and five years' roadside assist. This gets incorporated into the monthly cost of a new Civic on some PCP packages, or it can be added to the purchase price of a new model for a one-off payment of just £500. In a world where a roadside assistance package might alone cost you over £100 a year, that seems like a wise investment.
Honda's Civic 1.4 i-VTEC Sport is an entry-level family hatch that doesn't constantly remind you of the fact. The engine is refined, economical and reasonably sprightly, build quality is good and there's a surprising degree of practicality to the interior. Its £18,000 price point is a shade above the base Focus, Megane and Golf models but in many ways, the Civic feels a more complete car. Specify some additions from the options list and your 1.4 will look nine tenths as good as a range-topping derivative. Looking good, after all, is what the Civic does best.