Review and road test of the Honda Civic e:HEV
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Honda's eleventh generation Civic family hatch embraces full-Hybrid tech. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review of the Honda Civic e:HEV
This eleventh generation Honda Civic switches to e:HEV full-Hybrid power in its mainstream form - and adopts a lower key look. It's slightly larger than its direct family hatch rivals and delivers everything its brand knows about petrol/electric technology. Which turns out to be quite a lot.
The Honda Civic, one of the global motor industry's most enduring model lines, has moved on. It's no longer built in Swindon. And mainstream versions of this eleventh generation version no longer use a conventional engine, instead adopting a 2.0-litre e:HEV full-Hybrid petrol powerplant. There's been a return to the more mature look of earlier generation Civic designs too; gone are the slashes and fake vents of the old MK10 model. Instead, the replacement liftback 5-door hatch design adopts a more conservative, but still sophisticated look.
This car completes the shift of Honda's entire model line to e:HEV Hybrid technology. Well, almost the entire model line anyway. The company, thankfully, couldn't quite bring itself to abandon the Civic Type-R hot hatch, so that continues with an evolved version of the previous model's 316bhp 2.0-litre turbo powertrain. But the Civic e:HEV is our focus here. Take a look before you sign up for the Toyota Corolla it's directly aimed at.
This Civic e:HEV uses a freshly developed Atkinson Cycle 2.0-litre full-Hybrid petrol engine with two electric motors and the total output is 181bhp, with 232lb ft of torque. Handling is supposed to be much improved thanks to new ball joints and bearings at the front that are there to improve steering feel. There's also a wider rear track to enhance ability. And this MK11 model features a 19% improvement in torsional rigidity, which brings with it enhanced ride quality and refinement. The 35mm longer wheelbase helps the damping too. This should be a much quieter Civic than its predecessor, thanks not only to the Hybrid system but also to new adhesive and installation methods, which in the cabin reduce noise, vibration and harshness.
The e:HEV system offers various driving modes - 'Eco', 'Normal', 'Sport' and 'Individual'. These allow the car to switch between fully electric, Hybrid and engine-only power. A word about the alternative Civic Type-R hot hatch. That retains a pure combustion engine - an evolved version of the previous 'K20C1' turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder unit producing 316bhp. That's still enough to make this super shopping rocket variant one of the most powerful front wheel drive cars on sale.
Design and Build
Clearly customers have told Honda that they want the Civic to look a little more conservative because that's what we've got here. The previous model's prominent rear wing disappears and this replacement car adopts a fastback style sloping silhouette across a rear hatch that's lighter and features smaller hinges for a cleaner roofline. Up-front, the A-pillars are set 2-inches further back than on the previous car and if you take a look in profile, you might notice that the wheelbase is 35mm longer.
Inside, Honda has adopted the minimalistic and 'human centred' cabin design approach it pioneered with its current HR-V and Jazz e:HEV models. There's a honeycomb-style trim panel with integrated air vents which runs the width of the dashboard and the company has at last upgraded its infotainment set-up, with a much more sophisticated freestanding 9-inch centre screen which of course incorporates 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' 'phone connectivity. Through the wheel, you view a 10.2-inch digital dial display.
On the back seat, passengers get 1.4 inches more legroom than was possible before and there are larger side windows to increase the feeling of spaciousness, while the different rear hatch design improves headroom. Previous Civic models always had spacious boots and this one continues that trend: it's not quite up to the level of a Skoda Octavia, but it's bigger than most other cars in this class.
Market and Model
Expect your Civic e:HEV to start from just under the £30,000 mark. That's a little more than you'd pay for Toyota's rival Corolla Hybrid. Here though, there's just a single 5-door body style. Honda has no plans to re-introduce the estate model of the MK9 Civic generation. There won't be a return for the saloon body style of the MK10 design either.
There are three trim levels to choose from - 'Elegance', 'Sport' and top 'Advance'. The flagship 'Advance' variant gets a 10.2-inch driver's display LCD panel and a BOSE 12-speaker audio system. All versions of this Civic get the latest version of Hondas 'SENSING' camera safety package. This gives you a 100-degree front wide view camera, enhanced recognition technology, blind spot information, low speed braking control and Lane keep assist.
Infotainment and connectivity benefit from a much improved voice command system, the Honda 'Personal Assistant', first seen on the little Honda e. This is basically a next-generation voice control system in that it can respond to multiple commands: for instance "OK Honda, find me an Indian restaurant with WiFi and free parking". With this car, Honda is also offering the latest version of its Honda+ smartphone app, which includes remote vehicle locking and unlocking, plus 'intelligent geofencing', which alerts an owner if the vehicle breaches a pre-set 'geofence' zone. Plus there's the ability to send journey information from the app to the car's navigation system.
Cost of Ownership
We don't yet have full efficiency figures for this MK11 Civic, but we can expect fuel consumption to be in the same ballpark as the returns you'd get from a 2.0-litre Toyota Corolla Hybrid in this segment - which means a combined cycle return of around 55mpg. Honda says it's targeting a CO2 reading of just under 110g/km. Basically, you're probably looking at the kind of real life running cost figures that you'd have got from the previous generation Civic diesel model. But without the kind of tax disincentives that apply to lap pump fuelled cars these days.
Many customers will want to budget ahead for scheduled maintenance with fixed-price scheme called 'Five'. It includes five years' worth of maintenance, an extended warranty for this period and roadside assistance breakdown cover should the unexpected happen. This can be transferred to a new owner if you sell the car before the service plan has expired.
The three year 90,000 mile warranty is better than the package you get from many competitors too. In addition, surface corrosion is covered for three years, exhaust corrosion is covered for five years, chassis corrosion is covered for ten years and structural corrosion for twelve years.
In half a century of Civic model line history, it's difficult to remember as much of a shift of emphasis as is evident with this eleventh generation design. It seems difficult to believe that this is the first Hybrid Civic hatch available in the UK - the sort of thing rivals Toyota have been offering for over a decade. Yet history suggests that when Honda does eventually catch up to a prevailing market trend, it does so in a way that introduces something new - something better.
Which might just be what we have here. The Civic e:HEV feels like a slightly larger, more mature car than its direct rivals. It's priced at the kind of level that with quite a few other brands in the family hatchback sector would only get you relatively ineffectual mild hybrid technology (think Focus or Golf). It promises to be safer too. All of which might be enough to allow this MK11 Civic to reach out beyond its traditional customer base. But will that happen? It'll be interesting to see.
Honda Civic e:HEV review by Jonathan Crouch