Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “Civic”

Honda Civic Tourer 1.8 i-VTEC – Driven and Reviewed

Honda Civic Tourer sideCars in this mould come with a variety of monikers; there’s the good old ‘estate’, the glamour of the ‘shooting brake’, the Clark W Griswold American-ness of the ‘station wagon’, and in the case of the enlarged Civic we have here – the ‘tourer’.

Colour scheme is £200 option..........it's not really

Colour scheme is a £200 option……….it’s not really

Now, it might be down to the clever use of this shape for the factory Honda team’s current BTCC car, (albeit with a few less spoilers and stickers) but I’m inclined to think that this is one of those occasions that the darling of new parents and dog owners alike has more to offer in the looks department than the hatchback from which it was spawned. The way the roof-line seemingly dives down towards the D-pillar (it doesn’t, it’s just cleverly made to look that way), thus creating a sail shaped rearmost side window, is very reminiscent of both the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake and the Jaguar XF Sportbrake – neither of which are renowned for their hideousness.

The rest of the Civic Tourer looks exactly the same as its hatchback sister, even down to the hidden rear door handles which enhance that sportier ‘shooting brake’ image that’s so desired in this sector. Perhaps more pertinently then, what does the enlarged rump have to offer in the practicality department?

Honda Civic Tourer bootHonda Civic Tourer underboot storageQuite a lot it would seem. The Civic hatch uses clever cubby-holes and techniques such as moving the fuel tank towards the centre of the car to optimise its load-lugging abilities and the Tourer takes it up a notch. Doing away with the spare wheel means that the cavern-like under-floor storage compartment in the boot is honestly more spacious than some car’s whole luggage area. Add this to some clever seats and the Civic Tourer provides a class-leading 624 litres of boot space with the rear seats in place, and a whopping 1,668l maximum with them down.

Honda civic tourer rear lights

Tourer’s rear visibility is far superior to hatch’s

One other aspect of the Civic Tourer that deserves mention here is the added bonus of where the rear light-bar is positioned. One of my gripes with the Civic hatch was the way they dissected the rear windscreen, creating a dual-screen effect and not really inspiring confidence when you wanted to see what was lurking behind. With the Tourer this issue has gone. It admittedly may not look quite as nifty and original as the hatch, but the need to put the lights on a near-vertical boot-lid has resulted in a more conventional approach which, when coupled with the extra glass around the boot, makes seeing out of the Tourer far less of a chore.

Inside the Tourer, it’s the usual Civic high standards again, just with a slightly lighter, more airy feel thanks to the added windows and extra space to swing a cat around in, if that’s your thing. The leather seats in our SR spec car added a feel of luxuriousness that you just don’t get with cloth and they were easy to manipulate into whichever position you feel comfortable in. Like the hatch, there’s the multi-screen, dual-level dashboard effect going on. It does take a bit of getting used to at first, but I’ve always admired its originality – I just wish that the colours and fonts used on one of the fascia’s four gauges and screens would match at least one of the other’s.

When we tested the Civic hatchback in September 2013, it was equipped with Honda’s 1.6 i-DTEC Diesel unit, and it’s fair to say that we were pretty much blown away. The Tourer we have here is powered by their 1.8 i-VTEC petrol and, as much as it pains me to say it, you’d have to be pretty adamantly against Diesel to opt for this engine.

There’s nothing wrong with it per se, in fact it’s so smooth and quiet that it’s almost impossible to notice when the stop/start technology is doing its stuff, even with the slight ‘boom box’ effect that estate cars usually suffer with.

Anyone opting for the petrol would also save over £1,200 on the list price over the Diesel unit – not a figure to be sniffed at, but when you delve further into resale values and running costs, I can’t help but feel that that financial saving would soon be swallowed up. It’s a simple numbers game, you see; the equivalent SR spec Diesel Civic qualifies in tax band B (£20), whereas this petrol emits 149g/km CO2 and is therefore all the way up in tax band F (£145).

Honda Civic Tourer frontIf you’re not covering many miles, you may decide to go for the petrol’s added refinement over the Diesel, but if you’re quite keen to keep visits to the pumps as minimal as possible, it’s worth noting that this petrol variant achieves a claimed 44.1 mpg combined, compared to the Diesel’s 72.4 – and having driven it, I can verify that the 1.6l oil burner really is as economical as they claim.

The petrol Civic also achieves the 0-62mph sprint quicker than its counterpart (9.6s vs 10.5), but that’s presuming you haven’t activated ‘Eco’ mode to make your economy figures more respectable. Doing this will make the engine less thirsty, admittedly, but the way its stunts the car’s performance  takes away from an otherwise fun driving experience, especially around town or on long motorway hills where you might find yourself changing down a gear a little more often than you’d expect.

Honda Civic Tourer rear and sideIf you opt for the SR or EX spec Civic, you get their new rear Adaptive Damper System included in the price (it’s a £500 option on SE Plus and SE Plus-T models), and it really does make a difference to the whole driving experience. The Tourer shares the hatch’s feather light gear-changes and steering feel that could do with a touch more feedback from the road but, also like the hatch, it actually sticks to the tarmac very well. Switch the dampers to ‘dynamic’ and you could argue that it’s rather fun – it’s never going to be a Lotus, obviously, but you can certainly feel an improvement in how the car responds and reacts to any changes in direction. Just don’t try throwing it around in Eco mode – the responsiveness of the ‘dynamic’ dampers and the listlessness of Eco mode are worlds apart in their aspirations. At the other end of the spectrum – ‘Comfort’ mode is so well suited to a long motorway schlep. It transformed the Civic Tourer and seemingly ironed out our less than perfect roads, making journeys of any real distance more relaxing – usually the preserve of far larger cars.

To conclude, then. The Civic Tourer, is beautifully built like most Hondas, is class leading in many aspects including interior space and, in my opinion, looks great. As is usual with Japanese cars – the standard equipment is plentiful, even on base models, but I would be inclined to either pay for the Adaptive Damper System or go for a model that comes with it included as it’s a very clever piece of kit. Having driven both engines available in the Tourer – I’d advise you forego the petrol engine we have here and go for Honda’s excellent 1.6 Diesel – it’s just too good to overlook.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications;  Honda Civic Tourer SR, Engine 1.8 i-VTEC, Transmission – 6 speed manual, Layout – Front Engine, FWD, Power – 140bhp, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 9.6s, Maximum Speed – 130mph, Torque174Nm, Economy44.1mpg combined, Emissions – 149g/km CO2, Price – £24,355 OTR, £24,855 as tested

for full details, go to: http://www.honda.co.uk

Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC – Driven and Reviewed

Civic certainly couldn't be mistaken for anything else

Civic certainly couldn’t be mistaken for anything else

Within the last decade, Honda‘s ever-so-popular Civic has gone through something of a transformation, particularly in the identity department. It wasn’t so long ago that the Civic moniker was seemingly plonked on just about any size or shape of Honda, as if they’d actually exhausted the world’s supply of car names. Seriously – just Google ‘1990s Honda Civic‘ and the range of images that appear is strangely reminiscent of a bag of pick and mix – they may all be sweets, but no two are the same.

Not any more though. The modern-day Civic is definitely a mid-size hatchback in the Focus/Golf/Astra mould, which means it’s picking some pretty brave fights with some serious competition. This particular Civic is equipped with Honda’s much-lauded new 1.6 litre Diesel engine, dropping it right in the middle of what must surely be the bloodiest of fights, as families and businessmen alike strive to achieve as much bang for their buck as possible, either on the forecourt or in the tax office.

Exaggerated wheel- arches and hidden rear door handles add a certain sportiness

Exaggerated wheel- arches and hidden rear door handles add a certain sportiness

This generation of Civics has been with us for a while now and yet it still manages to stand out as something a little bit different. It could be said that it’s styling was deemed a little controversial upon launch and some of the previous generation’s charm had been sacrificed in favour of a flurry of awkward angles and design features. Personally, I find the Civic’s quasi-futuristic appearance and apparently absent rear door handles increasingly appealing, especially when set against the backdrop of some of its competition, many of which seem to be morphing into the same, staple shape.

Dual level instruments offer a slightly unusual sensation

Dual level instruments offer a slightly unusual driving experience

The theme continues inside the Civic with a multitude of eye-catching shapes and features that set the car apart from, well, anything else. Sit in the driver’s seat and the first detail of note is the two-stage digital dashboard, adorned with near day-glo illumination. This dual-height approach to the information one requires when driving could initially be described as a little unnerving; just as the perfect driving position is achieved and one feels very much ‘in’ the car, rather than ‘on’ it, a glance at the lowermost dials completely alters one’s perspective, encouraging more fettling of the seat and steering wheel to feel less upright. The answer is to overcome this urge to modify and stick with it, it doesn’t take long for the whole experience to feel completely natural with an engaging driving position.

Multimedia buttons are small and plentiful - strangely reminiscent of a Casio Calculator Watch

Multimedia buttons are small and plentiful – strangely reminiscent of a Casio Calculator Watch

An easy trap to fall into with the Civic’s interior, in particular it’s slightly lairy dashboard and Casio-calculator-watch-esque multimedia system, is to start wishing that the whole thing were a little more, well, German. This fondness for the subtle, understated approach to things, that certain manufacturers such as Audi have adopted is entirely understandable, if a tad unfair. Honda are proud to be Japanese and are quite rightly doing things their way. It’s good to see this approach every now and again as life would be so boring without individuality. I say – if you want a car with a Germanic approach to interior fittings, buy a German car.

This class of car simply wouldn’t work if its interior space were significantly inferior to the competition and this possibly explains the Civic’s expansion over the previous model. I felt comfortable and well accommodated in every seat, my only slight wish would be for a touch more headroom in the rear for long journeys.

Rear light cluster may look pretty but it does nothing to aid visibility

Rear light cluster may look pretty but it does nothing to aid visibility

Sit in the driver’s seat of the Civic and a glance in the rear view mirror presents something of a fly in the car’s ointment – a large bar dissecting your view of what’s being left behind. It may look pretty from the outside but the truth is that this dual-screen effect which Honda are so keen on utilising does, in reality, irritate. All but the lowest spec Civics come complete with a rear view camera and I’d say it’s almost essential to assist when reversing. Our top of the range EX test car was also blessed with parking sensors, I’d tick this option every time to counteract the compromised view and hopefully save a few trips to the bodyshop.

Civic is covered in fins - here's a sharky one.......

Civic is covered in fins – here’s a sharky one…….

So, that’s the living space covered, what about the oily bits? Honda’s new 1.6 Diesel engine has been received with much fanfare and is destined to find its way into as many Honda products as is reasonably possible. So what’s all the fuss about? Cold start-ups – traditionally the leveller of oil-burners due to unrefined rattles, present very little in the way of noise or vibration, even on the outside. Once thoroughly warmed however, you’d be hard pressed to hear which fuel you were burning, the noisiest aspect at civilised revs being the car’s air-conditioning fans.

The manual ‘box in the Civic is a joy and seems so well suited to the torquey nature of this Diesel lump. Changing gear can become something of a novelty, as the engine’s 300NM of torque pulls the car along across the entire rev-range with little complaint, even at lower revs where one might usually expect some labouring.

.........here's a not so sharky one

………here’s a not so sharky one

Honda claim that the Civic, when mated to the 1.6 Diesel will achieve 78.5mpg and 94g/km, making it VED exempt. These economy claims are sometimes unattainable though and history has taught us to take them with a sizable pinch of salt. Apparently not so in the Civic though; when brimmed with Diesel, the range is a predicted 650 miles. After two days of care-free driving with little thought for conserving fuel, the needle on the Civic’s fuel gauge was still stubbornly clinging onto ‘Full’ like a long, thin limpet, the range had also somehow crept UP to 850 miles. Have Honda secretly achieved perpetual motion? Hmmmmm…..

Handling in the Civic is civilised and reassuringly predictable. It flows through corners with constant communication through the steering wheel so that any understeer is expected and easily corrected. The power steering is massively assisted though, so don’t expect handling to be quite up to the standards of the eminently impressive Focus.

The engineering expertise that Honda are so renowned for simply screams out of the Civic in a way that belies its sub £20K starting prices. Driving one is a pleasure, with a sensation of quality that would put many, far more expensive products coming out of Bavaria to shame. All this, mated to Honda’s  excellent new engine and the usual extras found as standard, results in a package that’s very hard to argue against.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC EX, Transmission –  manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 120ps, Torque – 300Nm, Emissions – 94g/km CO2Economy – 78.5 mpg combined, Acceleration – 10.5s 0-62mph, Price – £23,175 OTR, £23,675 as tested.

Honda CR-Z GT-T, Driven and Reviewed

Honda CR-X 1987 model

Honda CR-X 1987 model (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in the 1980’s, before imagination in car design went through an age of prohibition, when Honda were producing some of the finest F1 engines ever seen, a distinctive silhouette emerged from the rising sun in the form of a quirky little fastback called the CR-X.

Although not miles apart from the omnipresent Civic (it was marketed as the Civic CR-X in some regions), it offered an air of originality and panache that simply weren’t an option on any available hot-hatch, a breed that was all-conquering at the time.

Skip forward a few decades then, and what we have here is the spiritual successor to the CR-X, in the shape of the Honda CR-Z – Honda wisely chose to leapfrog the CR-Y model, for obvious reasons.

The 2013 Honda CR-Z

The 2013 Honda CR-Z

The styling is unmistakably similar. With its characteristic roof-line flowing seamlessly into the, near horizontal rear hatch before deviating dramatically south to form part of the flat rear end. There are yet more familiar styling cues elsewhere, in particular, the sweeping nose and long bonnet which share nearly the same gradient as the windscreen, cutting through any annoyingly resistant air like the proverbial hot knife through butter.

So, the family lineage is undeniable, they even both sport a fairly uncommon 1.5 litre engine, so can we assume that the CR-Z is simply another retro reproduction? I delved further in, to find out.

Love it or loathe it, the styling of the CR-Z is impossible to ignore. With its squat stance and more lines and folds than an origami swan, it gets attention wherever it goes. initial reaction from people I asked was roughly 50/50 for the love/loathe camps but this swung heavily towards love once the ‘Energetic Yellow’ aspect of our test car was hypothetically removed. I’m inclined to agree.

Near-horizontal rear windscreen is a familar CR-X trait

Near-horizontal rear windscreen is a familar CR-X trait

That said, the look of the CR-Z isn’t for everyone, but it’s great to see a car spark debate. Our roads are jam-packed with generic automobiles that are best described as ‘quite nice’. This isn’t one of them.

Assuming that you like the taste of  Honda’s Marmite car then, what else does it have to offer, apart from being a great initiator of discussion at dinner parties? Well, this is where things get a little paradoxical. If we were to judge this particular book by its cover, we could assume that it was a thrill-seeker, pure and simple, on a mission to rid the world of fossil fuels. Not true. You see, the CR-Z’s 1.5 litre petrol engine has a support band in the shape of an electric motor which throws its own 20bhp, and, perhaps more importantly, 78Nm of torque  into the equation.

2013 Honda CRZ FrontBetter still, there’s a little blue button on the steering wheel, marked S+. This stands for Plus Sport and is linked to the CR-Z’s 15KW electric motor (up from 10KW for the 2013 model). One press whilst accelerating and all of a sudden you’re Jensen Button, using his KERS facility to overtake Vettel on his way to a Grand Prix victory. It does take a while to recharge if it’s used to it’s full extent but it’s certainly more than just a gimmick and can quickly become very addictive.

There is, of course, a price to pay for the extra help the batteries provide and, as usual, it’s weight. The CR-Z does an admirable job of disguising its additional mass and rarely gets ruffled, even on rapidly altering roads. Gear-changes are neat and precise with a very satisfying ‘clunk’ between each ratio. I personally prefer a little more weight behind my ‘box but the CR-Z’s light, clinical, short-shift approach will undoubtedly appeal to many.

17'' alloys are standard on GT models

17” alloys are standard on GT models

What no car can do though, even one this clever, is totally rewrite the laws of physics; push the CR-Z hard and the electronic assistance will disappear fairly quickly, leaving the 1.5 litre engine to singlehandedly lug around a pretty-heavy coupe with no help from the now redundant, weighty batteries. When this does happen, performance suffers greatly and economy figures will rapidly tumble from Honda’s claimed 54.3 mpg combined.

Quite a distinctive view from the driver's seat

Quite a distinctive view from the driver’s seat

A very pleasant surprise in the CR-Z comes by way of its innovative interior. Japanese cars have long been dogged with a reputation for blandness and a lack of quality in this department but the CR-Z brings a whole host of new toys to the table. If, like me, you’re sick of dull grey plastics and those generic LCD clocks that have cheapened Japanese cars for years then this will surely be a breath of fresh air. With its neon bright, 3-dimensional driver’s gauges that forcefully grab one’s attention, the cabin could possibly be described as ‘busy’ and I imagine that it could become slightly irritating on a long journey. I, for one, appreciate its originality though, it reinforces that this car is a little leftfield and quirky, just like it’s CR-X ancestor.

2013 Honda CRZ BootOne aspect of the CR-Z that should be made perfectly clear is that this is no family hatch – it’s a true 2+2. The rear seats are only large enough for the youngest of children – and even then I’d recommend short journeys only. Getting aforementioned small children in and out of the rear seats will quickly prove irritating too, as the front seats don’t return to their original position after access to the rear has been gained. This, and the lack of boot space due to the position of the Lithium Ion batteries, reinforce the assumption that Honda weren’t aiming at the family market when the CR-Z was pencilled. Anyone who wants a little more in the way of practicality should possibly hang on for the return of the Civic Type-R that’s recently been announced.

2013 Honda CRZ BadgeSo, just what is this little car then? Is it a sports car or an eco-warrior? A ’80s throwback or a glimpse of the future? The truth is, it’s a bit of everything and Honda have admirably provided a bit of eye-catching glamour without the usual associated guilt. At nearly £25k though, this top spec GT-T model is sailing dangerously close to some tasty competition, in particular the Toyota/Subaru GT86/BRZ. Look at the cheaper Sport spec models however and for just over £20k, you could have a desirable little coupe with some very impressive numbers – 56mpg and 116g/km CO2. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Honda CR-Z GT-T, Price – £24,045, Engine – 1.5l petrol + 15KW Electric Motor, Layout – Front engine,  FWD, Power – 137bhp, Acceleration – 0-62mph – 9.5s, Maximum Speed – 124mphEconomy – 54.3mpg combined, Emissions – 122g/km CO2

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