Honda Civic 1.8i SES 4 door 2006

It’s seems like forever that Honda has been around, in the late 40’s Soichiro Honda who was as self taught engineer started the Honda motors. He started with motorbikes, and even worked on a piston design that he eventually sold to Toyota, it was so successful he has to build a factory to build the pistons. So when you think of Toyota reliability, remember that Honda pistons once powered the cars. Post world war two, Japan was starved of fuel and there was huge over crowding so Mr Honda decided to make a motor powered bicycle, he picked up some army surplus two stroke engines and attached them to bicycle frames, and from these humble beginnings the Honda name took shape. They still make motorbikes by the bucket load, but who can forget the chicken chaser, the immortal Honda 50.

In the early 70’s the US was going through an energy crisis, all American cars were big fuel guzzling V8’s, but there was no fuel for that kind of car. Honda released the first Civic and it couldn’t have come at a better time, it was small, fuel efficient, cheap to fix and most important cute.

Way back in 1990 the VTEC engine was put into the new NSX, eventually making its way into the whole of the Honda line up. With very few changes the same VTEC engine is in the car I’m driving today, the Saloon Civic. The model I’m driving is the 8th generation of the Civic lineage; the model came out in 2006 and has had a slight face lift in 2009.

It had a striking look in 2006, and it’s still striking now. There’s something very space age about the front, the long slender side gives way to a sharp boot line. Some people (mainly the older generation) shrieked and ran away looking for a Toyota brochure, but most thought it was something different. If you want to stand out in the crowd of euro-boxes then the Civic is for you. The boot is on the small side at 350ltrs and has a little intrusion from the wheel arches, but it can be forgiven that because the cabin is large.

The first thing you notice is the dash board, it’s from the future, there’s sloping lines and curving parts. There really isn’t any other car to compare it too; it’s in a world of its own. The thing is everything is where it should be, it’s intuitive and ergonomic. There’s plenty of room up front, the interior feels bright especially with the sunroof as standard. The back seat is big enough for 3 adults but the centre seat squab is a little high, hence the centre passenger might find the head room a little tight.

When you start up the engine the whole dashboard comes to life, lots of LED lights, you can’t help but notice the speedo right at the top of the dashboard, above the rev counter. It’s a much nicer place to have it than the Toyota or Renault who have it in the middle. In the same section there’s a temperature and fuel gauge, just below there’s a big rev counter with a red line at 7800rpm, that’s a full 1800rpm over most anything else on the road. As soon as you pull away you can notice the difference, being able to hold a gear longer means you spend less time changing gears and that means your going faster sooner. The 1.8 puts out 140bhp and does away with 60mph in 8.6 seconds, that’s impressive for a mid-sized saloon car. The power is delivered right throughout the rev range, the engine fizzes when you get up around 7000rpm even then the power is smooth, and then you change gear and begin all over again.

Once you get over the ability to drive in any gear you can settle down and cruise along. In normal driving the Civic is supple and polite; the engine quiets down to a whisper. But once you reach the back roads, that urge to let that engine rev comes again. The steering is weighty enough to give good driver feedback, and the rev range means you never feel like you’re in the wrong gear. There is a little under steer, but that’s common in front wheel drive saloon cars. At low speed around town the steering is light as is the clutch and gearbox, there’s good visibility from all sides so it’s easy to park.

When I returned from my test I noticed the millage, 130,000kms. It’s testament to the Honda build quality that this Civic felt like a new car, so I was offered a drive in a 2010 model and I have to say it was the same, I couldn’t believe that a 4 year old car with that much millage could be so tight and fresh feeling.

Aside from the small boot and a look that doesn’t suit everyone this is a great car, the VTEC engine just buzzes along making for a fun drive, and the cool dash layout and Honda reliability make for a great package.

The car I drove is available for test in John Adams car sales, Ballymacken, Portlaoise. You can view it on Carzone too.