In The Cabin
From the minute you get into the Civic, it's clear Honda has worked hard to make this a quality car. Not that there was ever a question mark about the finish in the previous model, but there have been notable improvements throughout. Where some of the plastics in the outgoing car were a little hard, all the surfaces are now soft to touch, giving it a very upmarket feel. There are plenty of small details that will be appreciated by drivers too, such as the padding on the door handle where you rest your elbow. Overall, it feels like a premium car.
The interior layout has changed but we're not convinced all the 'improvements' are for the best. Many of the features that made the old Civic stand out have gone - such as the perspex covered 3D-style instruments which have been replaced by three conventional dials. The neat air conditioning controls that used to be close to the steering wheel have disappeared too, instead there are now standard buttons down in front of the gear lever. We think it's a step backwards.
On the plus side, it does seem more focussed toward the driver with a sweeping line that runs from the door handle across the top of the dash and down to the central console. One gripe is that taller drivers will find their knee bashing against this bit of plastic on the door, especially if you're a bit keen in corners. The seats are impressive though with plenty of support so that on long journeys you won't suffer from backache.
The neat engine start button is still in place and Honda has stuck with the digital speedo in a housing above the rest of the dash. Unfortunately, as before, some drivers will find it difficult to see because the steering wheel can obscure it. The screen alongside it has been improved though and looks more modern with useful information from the trip computer.
This Civic is hugely spacious in the front but even more so in the back. There's great legroom, plenty of headroom and even with three in the back it's comfortable enough. Like the old Civic, this model has a large boot - one of the biggest of any hatchback in fact - with 401 litres of space and a further 76 litres in the useful underfloor storage area.
It also retains the 'Magic Seats' which are the most versatile rear seats of pretty much any car around. They cleverly fold down - with the seat base sliding forward and down - to create a flat load floor and a space which according to Honda can carry three mountain bikes or three large golf bags. Usefully the seats can be folded down even if the front seats are slid back in their rearmost position. Unlike the majority of other cars, the bases can also be flipped up (against the seat backs) creating a large floor for carrying tall objects. Getting in the back is easier than before too thanks to the redesigned rear doors and a rear pillar that's been moved back by 100mm.
Standard equipment from launch (February 2012):
SE is the entry-level model and comes with climate control, engine stop/start (on manual models), 16-inch alloy wheels, USB port, LED daytime running lights, a rear wiper, electric windows, electric mirrors, hill start assist, an alarm and the I-MID information display.
ES models add Bluetooth, cruise control, dual zone climate control, a rear parking camera, front fog lights, automatic lights, rain sensitive windscreen wipers, a leather steering wheel, leather gear lever (on manual models only) rear armrest, auto up/down electric rear windows, ambient lighting and alloy pedals.
EX trim has leather upholstery, heated front seats, a premium audio system plus HDD sat nav.
EX GT is the top model and gets a panoramic glass sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, smart entry and start, 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights with high beam assist, driver and passenger seat power lumbar support, plus an auto dimming rearview mirror. As an option there is adaptive cruise control (ACC) along with Honda's Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) which costs an extra £1900.
The T Grade package is available on SE and ES models from March 2012 and adds Bluetooth plus an integrated sat nav with full European mapping and a touchscreen display It costs an extra £995.