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Honda Civic diesel tested

2008-08-15 07:45

The Civic's unusual design might not quite be everyone's cup of tea but it works for us.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Honda
Model Civic
Engine 2.2-litre i-CTDi common rail turbo diesel
Power 103 kW @ 4 000 r/min
Torque 340 Nm @ 2 000 r/min
Transmission 6-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 8.6 seconds
Top Speed 205
Fuel Tank 50 litres
Fuel Consumption 6.5 litres (combined)
ABS Yes, with BAS, EBD and VSA
Airbags Six
Service Plan 5 years / 90 000 km.
Warranty 3 years / 100 000 km
Price R255 000
Rivals VW Golf 2.0 TDI

Wilmer Muller

What’s it about

The Honda Civic hatchback is aimed slap-bang at established hatches such as the VW Golf, Opel Astra and Ford Focus. But it’s different… radically different - and the rebel on the hatchback block.

With a band of lights and reflectors dominating its nose, and a similar light treatment at the back the Civic looks as if it is from outer space. Other striking design elements include raked screens, short overhangs and triangular detailing.

Overall the Civic's daring design oozes a confidence that none of its competitors can come close too. We think it looks amazing and it is a car for those buyers looking for something distinctive.

Also, with the Civic hatch Honda is taking aim at premium hatchback drivers and younger buyers, whereas its sedan sibling should appeal to the older folk.

But the Civic isn't only about looks, it is also a showcase of impressive engineering and good build quality. And what is more, the 2.2-litre turbodiesel, which we tested, kicks butt in its segment too.

On the inside

The Civic's unusual design might not quite be everyone's cup of tea but it works for us.

Its futuristic theme continues on the inside and the dashboard design would have looked equally at home in the Starship Enterprise.

Again, some people might not be at ease with the digital dials, but it works well. The interior also appears top notch and most surfaces have a quality feel to them. Ergonomics are good, too. Oh, and a nice racy touch is a red starter button and aluminium-finished pedals.

The diesel model gets all the bells and whistles and its premium appeal is complimented with leather trim as standard. This model is also fitted with satellite steering controls for audio and cruise controls and climate control among other features.

Space is plentiful too and the Jazz's trick of locating the fuel tank under the front seats means that the Civic offers plenty of leg and headroom. Another plus is the Civic’s big boot space at 485 litres.

But the small rear doors, thanks to the Civic’s daring design, means access for rear passengers isn’t too good.

Under the skin

Constructed using a solid casting process, the lightweight all-aluminium four-cylinder common-rail unit uses direct injection and produces 103 kW at 4 000 r/min. Peak torque of 340 Nm is on tap at 2 000 r/min. It is identical to the unit used in its CR-V stablemate.

Honda claims it will accelerate to 100 km/h from a standing start in 8.6 seconds and it has a top speed of 205 km/h.

As with the CR-V, this turbodiesel only runs on ultra-low sulphur diesel with a sulphur content of 50 ppm. The car gets a 50-litre fuel tank.

Suspension sees MacPherson strut featuring a high castor setting and a quicker electric power steering ratio at the front, while at the back there's a torsion beam configuration.

Excellent damping performance is provided by high-response mono tube dampers, with coil springs that are totally independent.

There are antiroll bars back and front.

On the safety front there's ABS braking with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist, as well as front and side airbags and curtain airbags front and rear.

There's also switchable VSA traction control, remote central locking with rolling code immobiliser, plus ISOFIX rear child seat attachments.

Driving it

With the addition of the turbodiesel powerplant, the Civic ups the ante for diesel hatchbacks.

This gem of an engine is free-revving, very refined and enthusiastic. Furthermore its performance is flexible, relaxed and punchy in the 2 000 to 4 000 r/min rev range. What is more is that it is a superior cruising engine.

Also worth mentioning is how tractable it is - hauling in virtually any of its six available gears - with excellent fuel consumption at a claimed 5.3 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.

The engine also pulls with confidence and is quite responsive to the slick six-speed manual gearbox. Steering is sharp too and the smooth, fast shifts means changing gears is a pleasure at all times.

Furthermore the diesel Civic does without the typical diesel annoyances such as a shuddering idle and rumbling soundtrack thanks to several adjustments beneath the metal to ensure favourable NVH levels.

In general the car feels secure on the road while its cornering grip is impressive. And as everyday wheels, it is only a pleasure to drive.


The Civic 2.2 i-CDTi sets the benchmark for diesel hatchbacks and it deserves a thumbs up. Oh, and dare we say that we prefer it above the Type R? Just a thought…

The Civic is a crucial model for Honda and again we can’t help but endorse it. This is not only a hatchback with character, but also a vehicle that offers state-of-the-art engineering, a reputation of quality and excellent road manners.

Its eye-catching styling ensures that it doesn’t go unnoticed either!

Also, there's no doubting Honda's ability to make cars which are quick, well-built and reliable. Every customer survey from around the world tells us that.

- Distinctive design
- Build quality
- Class-leading engine and drive

- Styling not to everyone’s taste
- Pricey


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