The Honda Civic has been around for a long time and whilst never a class leader, it's been a solid and dependable feature of the hatchback class for four decades. A model having spent that long evolving must be good though, let's take a look.
Eighth Generation (2006 - 2011):
With its space-age styling and an already strong fan base the eighth generation sold well globally. It was the hatchback variant that did best in Europe, and our reviews are primarily dealing with these models.
The sensible engine selection for which Honda is renowned was firmly on show for the Civic Eighth Gen, The 1.4 litre, 1.8 litre VTEC and the 2.2 litre turbodiesel cover most bases with the world-renowned Type-R being given a tuned 2.0-litre i-VTEC setup. The engines are reliable and perform well, though its often the little touches that count. One such little touch was the organ accelerator that depressed in intervals allowing you to control the rev count with greater ease. Handling in the regular Civics could have been a little tighter, the suspension setup was slightly too soft in the eighth generation. The braking was class-leading though, one of the best braking systems of any stock hatchback in fact.
The Civic has always had a very mediocre reputation when it came to the interior, but this edition changed all that. The ergonomics were spot-on and the two tier instrument panel a pleasure to work with. Whilst the ride was a tad too soft the space saved in comparison to US models has meant that Honda has been able to retain a roomy interior. Overall the Eighth Generation Civic is a good car and can often be found at a reasonable price.
Ninth Generation (2011 - Present):
The space-age theme stayed put in terms of the exterior styling, though the nifty split exhaust has gone. The engine selection too has remained static with the same lineup as the previous generation. Don't be fooled though, the Ninth Generation Civic is certainly a different model to the last.
That soft suspension has gone, the gearbox is now even more invigorating, fuel efficiency has increased and the interior is looking more refined. There was a small addition to the engine range in truth, the presence of the new hybrid model a sure sign of Honda's commitment to keeping up with Toyota in the environmental stakes. Overall the Ninth Generation is an improvement but not a huge one. Some of the small things like the split exhaust have gone, as has the effort-saving organ accelerator.
The current generation of Civic is a good car, but one must bear in mind that it's also in the most competitive car class of the European market. As things stand, it doesn't do enough to be considered a class leader. The VW Golf is more refined, the Ford Focus has better handling, the Seat Leon is more exciting and even the offerings from Mazda and Peugeot have nicer interiors alongside comparable performance. There's no real reason, other than the Type-R, to choose Honda over the other offerings on the market. In summary, the Civic is a good car... but these days good simply isn't good enough.