Published on Sunday 7 February 2016 08:29
Despite their predilection for splash headlines, car manufacturers are, for the most part, deeply conservative. Winning formulas are rarely tampered with. Stunning motor show cars usually arrive in dealerships having taken several passes through the bland filter. Honda is an unusual case. On occasion it can produce some of the safest, least adventurous vehicles on the market, vehicles which appeal to its largely mature clientele. Then, in a flip reversal of polarity it can bring us utterly extreme and jaw-droppingly fresh ideas. The eighth generation Civic is probably the best example of the latter. Here we take a look at buying a used version of the facelifted 2010-2011 model.
5-door family hatch (1.4, 1.8 petrol, 2.2 diesel)
The recollection is still fresh in my mind. The buzz was the first thing I heard from the throng of journalists, clamouring to be the first to file copy and pictures of the eighth generation Civic at the 2005 Geneva Show. Normally a new Civic makes a solid supporting story, but not anything to get excited about. When I arrived at the stand, I felt my heart sink. There stood your typical motor show prototype, all crazy detailing and space-age fascia. It was undoubtedly an arresting shape but in no way was this ever going to make production. And then I sat in it and realised that this was no show stand lash up with a cardboard floor and decals for headlights. This was the real thing.
It arrived in dealers in January 2006 and sold surprisingly well. I say surprisingly because at that stage the Civic's typical buyer was 58 years old and the radical eighth-generation car looked more like something that would tempt a teenager. In 2010, the car enjoyed a facelift. The distinctive five-door got a revised black front grille, inspired by the then-deleted Type-R performance version. This replaced the clear plastic section that distinguished the car when it was first launched. Other re-styling changes included revised side skirts. The Civic in 1.4-litre form was equipped with a different design of 16-inch alloy wheels while the 1.8-litre petrol engined models got freshly-designed 17-inch rims.
March 2011 saw the introduction of the Civic Ti model. Based on the 1.4 and 1.8 i-VTEC SE variants, the Civic Ti was fitted with 17-inch 'Pro Race' wheels from Team Dynamics and a 'GP' body kit finished in Crystal Black, which provided a stark contrast to the exclusive Premium White Pearl body paint and body coloured trim. Inside, the Civic Ti got a Pioneer Navigation Multimedia System, which offers full-scale sat nav, entertainment and communication with a 3D graphic touch screen. It was almost recompense for deletion of the racy Type-R from the range. Almost but but not quite. The range was replaced at the end of 2011 by an ninth-generation which reprised the general look and feel but with improved efficiency and refinement, more space and a slicker finish.
What You Get
The 2010 facelift didn't change the basic proportions of the car, instead tweaking just some minor trim parts. You still get that compact, slightly bulbous shape that seems to be made up of a riot of crease lines and sharp angles, with a repeating triangular theme appearing on the front fog lights, exhaust pipes and rear trim. The cleaner front end is a welcome touch, and the grille replaced a plastic part which could look tired after a few years exposure to UV rays. Although the five-door car has a coupe-like roofline, look carefully and you'll spy blade-thin door shutlines and a handle concealed into the glass. Yes, this is a full five-door. Whereas the old Civic five-door was a rather frumpy thing, this model is far sassier.
The adventurous styling doesn't stop on the outside either. Where the previous generation Civic introduced a lot of new ideas when it came to packaging, the eighth generation Civic again offers a novel approach. The dashboard is designed on two levels, the main instruments housed on the nearer one with a surrounding 'tier' that includes auxiliary functions like stereo, heating, ventilation and trip meter. This sophisticated, three-dimensional feel to the fascia is backed up with improved quality trim materials, more resistant to a scrape from a key or jewellery.
While the eighth generation Civic is significantly smaller than its predecessor on the outside, the company claims that room inside is just as generous as before. Instead of trying to understand how Honda have warped the time-space continuum, it's easier to spot the simple engineering solutions they've employed. Like the Jazz, the Civic features a fuel tank that's centrally mounted along the cross member below the front seats. This means that the seats in the rear can fold flat and there's no intrusion into the cargo bay floor. Borrowing technology from the innovative FR-V, the Civic also features seats that fold and flip with one smooth action. The fact that its 2012 model year replacement chose to continue many of these styling and design features is testament to their perceived durability.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
You tell us. The Civic has consistently been the UK's most reliable used car in recent years and the 2010 facelift ironed out one of the few customer grouses, namely that the interior trim quality wasn't what it should have been. The specialist Type-R model was deleted from the line up due to it not being able to pass future emissions regulations so you won't even have to watch out for trackday emigres. The handsome alloy wheels on the Civic Ti are very prone to kerbing so budget in the cost of a refurbishment if you're looking at one that's carrying a bit of kerb rash.
(based on a 2011 5-door 1.4 VTEC SE - ex VAT): A full exhaust system (excluding catalyst) is around £210 and a full clutch assembly around £175. Front and rear brake pads are around £45 and £40 respectively per set. A starter motor is £240, a radiator around £150, and an alternator around £275.
On the Road
For all its futuristic styling, the Civic is, in some ways, a retrograde step from the old car. The expensive and beautifully-engineered multilink rear suspension of the seventh generation Civic has been ditched, replaced by a far more utilitarian torsion beam arrangement. On the plus side, there is now an ESP stability control system to keep you on the straight and narrow should ambition outweigh talent.
The range was pared back to three engines. The entry level powerplant is an 100bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, with a 142bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine offering a bit more punch. The most popular engine in the range is the 150bhp 2.2-litre diesel unit. All are mated with a six-speed manual gearbox, which made the Civic the first car in the family hatch sector to be equipped with six-speed gearboxes across all of its range. The 1.8-litre petrol units are assembled in Swindon (as is the diesel), while the 1.4-litre engine hails from Japan. Track down a Civic Ti if you want a bit of fun behind the wheel. Its retuned suspension offers a little more in the way of driver communication but it never gets over the bugbear of this eighth generation car, namely poor traction off the line in the wet.
If you're after a bombproof used buy in the family hatch sector, it's hard to look past the eighth generation Honda Civic. By the time it had been treated to its 2010 facelift it had been developed to a well-honed sharpness and looks anything but old hat, notwithstanding its 2012 replacement. If you like razor sharp styling with reassuringly Honda build values, this late shape Civic is the prime pick.