Honda Civic CTDi Diesel 2002 Road Test

Fri, 14 Jun 2002

As far as the Swindon-built three and five door Civics are concerned, it’s been there, done that, got the T-shirt. You’ll find tests of them all elsewhere on this website: 1.4 and 1.6 five-doors; 1.4, 1.6 and rip snorting 2.0 Type R three-doors are all covered. But the new (in 2003) Civic CTDi is something of a departure for Honda.

It’s a first attempt at installing a diesel engine. 

Basically the same Isuzu unit as previously used in the Cavalier, Astra and early Vectras, it displaces 1,686cc. It has twin camshafts, sixteen valves, common rail direct injection and a variable nozzle turbocharger. That little lot churns out 99bhp at 4,400rpm and 162 lb ft torque at 1,800rpm. Not exactly class-leading. But not weedy either.

On first acquaintance it turns out to be a fairly gruff and rough little diesel; not smooth and refined like the Civic’s petrol engines. It’s noisy and nothing much happens below 1,500rpm, after which there’s a sudden catapult-like surge as the turbo wakes up and the torque piles on. Obviously you soon learn to manage this state of affairs, but you have to concentrate because if you boot it without having dialled in enough revs beforehand nothing happens for a horrible second or two. In that respect it’s highly reminiscent of the old Isuzu 1.7 litre turbodiesel in a Vauxhall Cavalier I once smoked about in for a while.

It’s quite noisy on the motorway too. You only get 25.7 mph for each 1,000 rpm, so cruising speeds aren’t silent, smooth and bang on peak torque – unless, of course, you cruise at around 50mph. But you get used to turning up the radio and blotting out some of the racket.

A and B road handling is so-so. The electric power steering is too light at speed and not very informative, but the front end will grip if you want it to. It just isn’t any fun like the Toyota Corolla turned out to be. It is, however, uncannily easy to reverse-park because, even though you can’t see exactly where the car starts and ends, your instincts somehow always get it right.

And all the many virtues of the Civic 5-door body remain. It’s very roomy and airy inside with lots of places to put things. It has limo like rear legroom. The cabin is walk through from side to side or front to back with no Ford console in the way like the Focus has. There are five proper lap and diagonal seatbelts to hold everyone in place. And, if you ever feel tired, you can quickly and easily recline the front seats completely to turn the inside of the car into two divan beds.

Honda claims 56.5 mpg on the combined cycle, which would be class leading if it was true. I got 44.4 over 242 miles driving at the same speeds as usual. Since ‘Auto Express’ only managed 42.7 mpg, against 45.8 mpg from the faster Focus TDCi, I don’t think many quicker drivers will manage the Civic’s published figure.

(Petrol engined Honda Civic 5-door and 3-door Road Tests are still on this website.)

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