In anything other than bonkers Type R guise, the old Honda Civic was not a car that interested me. Its tall, awkward proportions were strangely odd yet dull at the same time, making for the sort of car stereotypically linked with the older generations.
But the new, tenth-gen Civic? Crikey, it’s one strikingly-styled son-of-a-gun. It’s awash with all sorts of lines and angles, and I totally get it if you’re not a fan. I’m certainly still on the fence, and what I think of it changes dramatically depending on the colour or the angle I’m looking at it. But crucially, it’s emphatically not boring in the styling department, which is more than you can say for a lot of the Civic’s jelly mould-spec rivals.
It’s vastly different than the old car under the skin, too. That torsion beam rear suspension setup has been ditched for a fully independent, multi-link system, the torsional stiffness has been increased massively, and there are even adaptive dampers available.
So, bearing in mind the Sport Plus version we were handed the keys to in Barcelona (despite the presence of ‘Sport’ in the name it isn’t intended to be a Type R warm hatch), what’s it like to hurl down a windy, undulating back road?
Since it’s not the SI nor the Type R (we won’t be getting the former in the UK), it’s not a car that eggs you on to drive like you’re the getaway driver for a bank job. But if you do choose to drive it like that, the Civic Sport feels light and chuckable, with a torque vectoring system nicely keeping the front end in check. And even with the adaptive dampers (fitted to the Sport Plus only) in the ‘normal’ setting, body roll is never excessive.
The steering rack is one of those variable ratio jobbies - which tightens the more you turn the wheel - but it never feels unnatural, and on particularly bendy bits of tarmac you’ll be thankful for it. There isn’t much in the way of feedback, but that’s not exactly unusual in this corner of the market.
The 1.5-litre engine’s a peach, too. It puts out a useful 180bhp and 162b ft of torque, making 0-62mph possible in 8.3 seconds. Not the most exciting figures, but it’s a revvy, eager thing, and pulls nicely at anything above 2000rpm. It even makes a decent noise for a turbo four-pot - a surprisingly muscular din that’s more impressive than the disappointing exhaust note of the outgoing Type R.
The icing on the cake is the gear change, tweaked for the new Civic and gloriously short and slick. You’d be mad to go for the lethargic, slow-to-respond CVT option.
The incredible roads north of Barcelona certainly helped, but I haven’t enjoyed driving a ‘normal’ car quite so much as the new Civic for some time. Even the 127bhp 1.0-litre three-pot is a fun thing to steer.
That’s all well and good, but the really important stuff for a car like this is practicality. Thankfully, the Civic does well for itself here. The massive boot is the largest in class and could easily swallow two or more Alex Kerstens, it doesn’t feel as tight in the back seats as a VW Golf, it’s well equipped and it rides smoothly.
Worried about fuel economy? You’re looking at 55.4mpg combined for the 1.0-litre (starting at £18,335) and 46.3mpg for the 1.5 (starting at £22,470). That’s according to the usual over-optimistic lab figures, of course.
The Garmin-sourced nav is better than before (while still not the best system out there), and the trip computer display - now integrated below the speedo/rev counter - can actually be operated without having to press a million buttons to do the simplest of tasks. I’m not a fan of the steering-wheel mounted buttons though - they’re like something that’s been pinched off a TV remote. Some of the interior materials do feel a little drab and cheap, too.
Overall though, it’s a fine package, and a damn good alternative to something like a Ford Focus or VW Golf. And when Honda takes that package and whacks a whole load more power through it to make the Type R, it’s going to result in one hell of a car.