Such was Honda’s obsession with achieving aerodynamic excellence with its new ninth-generation European Civic, it called on its F1 experts to help out. The result is a hatchback that manages an unofficial Cd of around 0.27 compared to the last model’s 0.30 through a host of clever eco design details.
There are distinct small and edgy additions to the front and rear wheel arches, an even more extreme version of the old model’s controversial windscreen-splitting rear spoiler and a full under floor cover. The last model had only a half cover – made of thick and heavy plastic – while the new version uses a full-length part made of a very thin textile and plastic composite. As well as being a lighter material, the ‘all-over’ underbelly has the bonus feature of increasing the car’s stability when coping with high wind speeds from angles other than straight-ahead (thank the Honda F1 wind tunnel boffins for figuring that out too).
That new engine line-up is also more eco-aware than previous Civic product. Thank the president of Honda himself, who delayed the final sign-off of the global car project in the midst of the global financial meltdown by 12 months in order to fix perceived shortcomings in CO2 and economy performance he thought would be deemed unacceptable by a post-recessionary public. One of the fruits of that re-think is a new version of the 2.2-litre diesel, able to call on 150hp but still achieve 110g/km of CO2 and 67.3mpg in calmer driving moments. Two hidden bits of tech help its cause: a grille shutter that automatically closes to further boost airflow around, rather than through the car when the engine is cool enough to allow it, and the standard stop/start feature, which cuts the engine when idling in traffic. Refined and powerful in equal measure, it should account for half of all UK sales from its February 2012 launch until a sub-100g/km 1.6 diesel comes along in autumn 2012. NB Because of the eco ability of these two units don’t expect a hybrid Euro Civic.
Inside, the Civic shares much of the wonderfully spacious package of its predecessor with a standard variable height loading floor in the boot and great rear room with its ‘magic seat’ feature that allows the rear seat bases to fold up to vertical to help stowage of awkward items like tall pot plants (see picture) or to create a space to shelter a small child when changing their wet clothes at the seaside, say. Almost six years since launching in the mk8 Civic, it’s still a highly unusual feature for a passenger car.
Interior material quality has been upped too – the old model’s fake metal paint had a nasty habit of scratching too easily – and the troublesome driver-view obscuring spoiler is now placed a little further down the rear windscreen to make the upper half bigger, although the addition of a wiper attached to the spoiler causes more vision issues when sitting in its vertical ‘at rest’ position.
But these are mainly quibbles. The only – but dare I say biggest – stumbling block for the new (and younger) Civic buyers Honda seems to want, might be the mk9 Civic’s exterior. To these eyes the less radical and slightly clumsy front face and over complicated side profile feature lines and wheel arches make the mk9 look older than the mk8 it replaces (see the yellow and red car group photo for evidence). If the old model’s wonderful integrated headlamp, grille and logo wrapped in a single clear perspex cover is still one of the most recognisable and modern car faces on the road wouldn’t you want to keep it, or at least something very like it?
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