Test drive: Honda Civic e:HEV: half way between tradition and modernity

Discovering the latest Civic makes you feel like getting back in contact with an old acquaintance! In our ever changing world where everything moves on at supersonic speeds, it’s a pleasure to test a good old 5-door sedan car. Seems that many carmakers would like to consign these to a museum as they don’t generate enough profit any more.

Compared to what came before, this eleventh Honda Civic generation has been toned down. It is not even easy to set it apart from its predecessor, even though it became less peculiar. Some punters will like it. Wheelbase increased by 3.5 cm, tracks are wider and there’s a lower centre of gravity to boot. We particularly appreciate this, as we always favour a low driving position in order to be as close to the road as possible. The body was stiffened by 19% and lightened thanks to an aluminium bonnet and a plastic tailgate. However, there’s no real point in it as an electric motor adds 120 kg to the car’s weight. Fortunately, the new radical Type-R will benefit from the fitting of those lightweight parts !

I like it

The dashboard cleanliness seduced us. We hadn’t driven a Civic for a long while and remembered some pretty crazy dashboards designs that belonged to a spaceship rather than a car. This time, things are more restrained even though most of the instruments are digital. The whole dashboard is covered with small honeycomb-like holes that even integrate the air vents, something fresh and different that sets the Civic apart from its competitors. The airco still use some good old fashioned switches and fit and finish are truly impressive. The front seats were upgraded  and  are now better hugging. The driving position is quite good  but the passenger may regret the lack of height adjustment on his side. The three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel features the usual switches for the radio and cruise control.

Quite clever

The Honda Civic had to conform to stricter emission regulations.  That’s why it now uses an electric motor and self-charging hybrid technology. Honda always does things in its own way… in this case,  the  2.0 4-cylinder petrol engine never drives the front wheels.  It acts as a generator for the electric unit. Claimed maximum power and torque figures are 184 bhp and 315 Nm. Nothing that relevant but we almost never moved on in electric mode since the battery displays only 1,05 kWh. The transmission is connected to the electric motor and has no gears. However, software mimics the gearchanges through some timed periods. The drivetrain efficiency is quite astonishing. The new Civic is a less dynamic drive than we would have liked but its chassis is very well sorted, with a perfect balance between comfort and handling. The 2023 Civic is a breath of fresh air in a world full of grim and soulless SUVs.

I don’t like it

Driving the new Civic is a pleasant and relaxing experience. However, being an enthusiastic driver, I lament the lack of a good old manual gearbox and how yesterday’s Hondas used to rev up. Unfortunately, we can’t help it. Losing some of its quirkiness, Honda now stands out less among its competitors. The lack of steering wheel paddles prevents you from getting some pleasure shifting up or down the cogs. In Sport mode, the engine sounds just a bit louder through the radio speakers.

Why I buy it

We could definitely picture ourselves behind a Civic steering wheel if our Toyota GT86 gets too stiff on our neckbones. The perfect driving position, top grade fit and finish and handling tick all our boxes. All the usual driving aids will delight those who feel uncomfortable behind the wheel. It’s still quite affordable to boot. In Sport trim, it retails for €33,875 and features a decent standard kit list. Enough for me to shortlist it as a potential buy. Over our 1,091 km test drive, average fuel consumption was 6.6 l/100 km according to the on-board computer. However, it was more like 7.2 l/100 km judging by what we put it back in the tank. We never drive with a light foot, making this quite impressive.

Why I don’t buy it

The new Honda Civic e:HEV will not please punters who like sitting high up and being surrounded by massive windows. Outside visibility is not one of its assets but it’s got all the compulsory kit to manage parking manoeuvres without drama. Rear seat space is not the most generous, boot space is not class-leading, but these shortcomings are easily overcome. Some people might find the central screen design a bit old-fashioned… not a real flaw for us as we turned it off most of the time. (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)

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