Honda Civic 1.0 EX Sport Line 2020 Road Test

Tue, 17 Dec 2019

Honda’s tenth generation Civic still seems like a relatively new car, but here we are experiencing the revised 2020 model for the first time. Certainly at the mild end of the facelift scale, the new Civic receives a number of small but significant enhancements designed to sort a few niggles and boosts its appeal.

In addition, the range has an extra model called Sport Line, based on the high specification EX model but taking inspiration from the much-loved Type R. Think of it as a Type-S for the ‘20s and you won’t be far wrong.

The updates that apply to the whole range are tweaks rather than wholesale changes. On the outside there are revised LED headlights and daytime-running lights, while the front end gets a redesigned bumper and intakes. It’s sufficiently subtle that, at a distance, the changes might not be immediately obvious, but this is still a handsome, modern-looking car - especially in the new Obsidian Blue paint option.

The Sport Line model goes a step further on the outside with a discreet bodykit that is clearly inspired by the Type R, a substantial diffuser and lower spoiler at the rear as well as 17-inch alloy wheels. In doing so it gives buyers the option of the sharper look whilst spending considerably less and having a much more sensible engine option, although currently Sport Line is only available in top-spec EX trim.

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Inside there are updates on all 2020 models as well as a couple of specific Sport Line extras, including minor changes to some cabin materials, but the most important news is the changes to the infotainment system. Where the outgoing system could make accessing certain functions hard work, the new system has a series of hard keys for quick switching between the main screens as well as - bless my soul - an actual volume knob.

There are new graphics in the system too and Apple CarPlay is easier to get hooked up. It might not be up there with the best of systems but it is far easier to use than before. The climate control system now has two hard keys to control the fan speed too so there’s no need to go into the infotainment system to change it.

The Civic’s cabin remains exceptionally spacious and comfortable, whether you’re sat up front or behind. The actual material quality may not be the best in class, but the build is as good as anything else; it feels solid and good for a lifetime of family duties. The same goes for the boot space, which is 478 litres with the seats up and 1267 litres if you fold the backrests and pack to the roof. This EX spec brings a ton of kit with it too, including leather heated seats, a wireless charging pad, blindspot monitoring and a cross-traffic monitor, all on top of the strong SR spec.

The engine choice in EX Sport Line trim is restricted to the thankfully-excellent 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder unit, with a choice of six-speed manual or CVT automatic. The latter is at least better than most of the breed, being smooth and unfussy in normal driving. Demand strong acceleration and while the revs rise, it takes a concerted effort to get the engine spinning at high revs for any length of time. It’s unlikely to be the choice of keen drivers but if you must have an auto it works sufficiently well. 

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But the manual is the one to go for, not least because the shift itself is pleasingly slick and rapid. The 1.0-litre’s outputs of 126PS and 180Nm might not seem all that sparkling, but the three-cylinder unit is refined, willing to rev and more sprightly than the 0-62mph time of 11.2 seconds would suggest. There’s enough torque at low revs that you rarely have to think too much about what gear you use, and should you be in more of a hurry it is happy to get on with making progress.

The Civic’s behaviour on the road is similarly impressive, striking a good balance between comfort and engaging handling. EX models come with adaptive dampers, but the truth is in standard mode they are well-judged for a typical British B-road - the stiffer setting is best saved for the smoothest of roads.

It might not deliver the full Type-R experience but you can sense the shared genes, with precise steering, roll-free cornering and a refusal to be bothered by road imperfections. Ultimately the Focus might shade it for driving pleasure, but it’s a close-run thing. 

The 2020 Civic is marginally improved, but that’s mostly because the pre-facelift car was so competent in many areas. The high-spec Sport Line pack adds a welcome visual lift, and what changes there are certainly make the Civic easier to live with.

The Honda Civic 1.0 EX Sport Line is on sale now.

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