Car Test   R0282
  See also R0148 
November 2002
Brief Test Honda Civic
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 1.7CTDi SE 5door
Honda has always been half-hearted about diesels until now. But with a range of petrol engines of high calibre, one can understand the reluctance – especially as most Honda engines love to rev.
   The typical present-generation diesel performs very differently, of course. Most of the accelerative urge occurs around 2000rpm and is all over by 4000rpm, where the real action starts on most Hondas.
   Nevertheless, the demands of the market-place and the Inland Revenue are driving more and more company car reps into diesel – and they’re learning to enjoy it. Honda seems to have got the message, too – the new Accord will have a diesel of in-house design in 2003 and this Civic uses a bought-in (but significantly reworked) unit from Isuzu.
   With a burly five-door body to propel, the 1.7-litre engine can’t boast startling acceleration, but it’s no sluggard, doing its stuff from about 1700rpm upwards. It’s a bit growly in the way it delivers, and there’s also a harsher edge to its exhaust note when cruising at about 60mph. It’s quiet at 70, however, and less vibrant than some at half that speed in top, as well. Gearing is a modest 26mph per 1000rpm in that top slot, but is a well judged compromise for the conflicting demands of accelerator response, mechanical refinement and economy.
   And talking about economy, the Civic's is on the right side of average for the car’s size and type – but doesn’t offer any significant fuel cost savings, either, compared with Astra, Focus, Golf and so on. Expect over 60mpg in gentle touring, however. The gearchange continues to surprise and delight – its looks belie it's excellent shift quality.
   This Civic diesel had the latest (slightly smaller) steering wheel – it felt more meatier in its response than the over-light 1.6’s we tested previously; however, that inert stickiness from straight-ahead, when only fractional correction is required, is still apparent on a straight road.
   Otherwise, this Civic diesel continues to display stolid but safe cornering but a rather jittery, disturbed ride, that puts it in an indifferent light compared with a Ford Focus or even a Toyota Corolla. However, the seats go a long way to make amends for the suspension’s shortcomings – it’s both exceptionally spacious and supportive, sitting anywhere in the Civic.
  considering size, price and rivals
Safety Euro NCAP
Security, theft of
theft from
  • air-con no longer comes on with screen position
  • rear foglamp goes off with headlamps
  • key and latch for tailgate
  • smarter satin-finish facia, improved seat trim
  • proper rotating knobs for radio setting
  • one fixed intermittent wipe internal
  • heated door mirrors easily left on (obscure warning lamp)
  • wiper blades miss upper part of windscreen
  • tardy initial pull-away below 1700rpm
‘Competent’ and ‘workmanlike’ are the words that come to mind in describing this diesel Civic’s attributes. It neither excites nor soothes in a manner that might establish a new class-standard, but then, it doesn’t seriously disappoint, either. And it manages a 10mpg improvement over the (already frugal) 1.6 petrol version. There are sound reasons for preferring a Civic to the competition, but worthy though it is, this engine isn’t one of them.

engine 1686cc, 4-cylinder/turbo-diesel; 100bhp at 4400rpm, 162 lb ft at 1800rpm; belt-driven single overhead camshaft, 8 valves
drive 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 26.1 in 5th gear, 21.1 in 4th
suspension front: independent damper/struts with integral coil springs
rear: independent double wishbones with coil springs
wheels/tyres 6in alloy with 195/60R15H tyres (Bridgestone Potenza RE88 on test car); full-size spare (steel wheels on S version)
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear with ABS/brake assist standard
CO2 emissions 134g/km
0-62mph* 11.5sec AA 30-70mph - 12sec
official mpg 56.5

AA typical mpg overall - 52.5
* maker's figures

HOW THE CIVIC 5DOOR 1.7CTDI COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
Honda Civic 1.7CTDi 4/1686/100 2670 12a 16/22a 52.5/134 16/26.5 107 102/76 2.8/11.6 429
Ford Focus 1.9TDCi 4/1753/115 2420 10.3 12.6/20.6 51/145 19/25.5 105 99/70 2.9/10.6 418
Citroen Xsara 2.0 HDi 4/1997/110 2450 10.7 13.7/19.0 51/141 17/26 109 97/72 3.3/10.8 419
Skoda Octavia 1.9 TDi 4/1896/110 2540 10.7 15.5/21.3 54.5/135 27/24 112 97/72 3.1/10.5 451
Peugeot 307 SW 2.0 HDi 4/1997/110 2370 12.8 18.1/25.6 45/143 20/26 106 94/69b 2.9/11.0 442
  a approximate-wet weather precluded precise results  b mid row (fully back), 72 with picnic table up
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