Honda’s diesel to drive for

The Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC might just be the Honda diesel you’ve been waiting years and years for. With 118bhp under its belt, it’s got a bit about it, but will return 78.5mpg and 94g/km – better than the company’s Insight hybrid in other words.

Wouldn’t it be great if Honda built a diesel engine? I mean, really built a diesel engine? Until now, it feels as if the Japanese company has just been paying lip service to diesel. Prior to 2002, Honda didn’t have a diesel engine on its books. It had believed that the VTEC variable valve timing technology it used on its petrol engines was a better solution – and that the public would eventually come round to that view given a bit of time.

In 2002, it introduced a 1.7-litre Isuzu-GM engine that was so bad it seemed as if they’d chosen it merely to make their petrol engines look good. This situation wasn’t to last and, in 2004, we saw the Honda N-engine introduced. It had an aluminium block to keep weight down, common-rail direct injection and a variable geometry turbocharger. In 2004 it was a very good engine. In 2011 it was state of the ark. Time for a rethink.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

What we have instead is a new generation of Honda diesels, and this time it feels as if the Japanese brand has given the designs its full attention. Here we take a look at the 1.6 i-DTEC unit in the ninth-generation Civic.

Just as the 2.2-litre engine has been thoroughly revised, this 1.6-litre diesel requires some fresh perspectives. It’s been designed to offer high performance and low emissions and goes about its job in a very Honda way. For a start, it’s extremely small and light for a 
diesel lump, weighing in at fully 47kg less than the 2.2-litre engine. It makes 120PS at 4,000rpm, which is impressive enough, but perhaps more interesting is the 300Nm of torque it can develop at just 2,000rpm. That’s only 50Nm down on its (much) bigger brother.

The engine’s built in Swindon and designed for the European market, where one will roll off a specially-developed line every 138 seconds. This ninth-gen Civic features a mix of new and carry-over tech from the last car. The rear end is suspended by a simple yet space-efficient torsion beam. It uses clever fluid-filled compliance bushes to improve overall ride and handling. A lot of resource has been poured into improving ride and refinement on this car, with particular emphasis placed on reducing noise. A six-speed manual gearbox is the default transmission pick.

The designers of this ninth-generation Civic wanted to keep the sporty and advanced elements of the car’s character but tweak them to express a more dynamic feel. The car is 20mm lower and 10mm wider than its predecessor, giving it a squatter, more purposeful stance. This “blended body” features smarter aerodynamics, including a rear light cluster that works as an aerodynamic spoiler, managing air flow over the top and sides of the car.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Class-leading boot space and versatile seating boost its credentials for family buyers.

it’s not bargain basement...

Prices for this 1.6-litre diesel variant have been kept quite competitive, starting at just under £20,000 for the SE model, just over that figure for the plusher ES variant and a little over £23,000 for the top-of-the-range EX.

The specification for this trio of Civics is identical to the equivalent 2.2-litre i-DTEC cars, but with the addition of revised 16-inch alloy wheels. The range-topping EX has also been treated to a few more goodies in the shape of front and rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and DAB digital radio. Standard equipment that’s new to this generation Civic range includes Honda’s Intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) 5-inch dashboard screen which displays relevant driving details such as mpg, climate and audio settings. The entry-level SE trim also includes 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic air-conditioning and USB connectivity for compatible MP3 audio devices.

The ES specification adds cruise control with a speed limiter, rear view parking camera, keyfob-operated windows and door mirror folding, plus auto up/down electric rear windows.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Honda claims an average of 78.5mpg and emissions of just 94g/km. That means free road tax and London congestion charge exemption, should you feel the need to experience the joy that is driving in the middle of the English capital during working hours.

The engine’s the first to have been developed by Honda’s fantastically-titled “Earth Dreams Technology unit”, tasked with improving efficiency while keeping the engines fun to drive. It uses a latest generation injection from Bosch and variable nozzle turbo technology from Garrett. It’s bound to be popular with fleet customers looking for a vehicle with that winning combination of low day-to-day running costs, excellent reliability and modest depreciation.

The ninth-generation Civic as a whole is already a distinctly pragmatic vehicle, utilising technology that works. All right, so some feel that Honda was at its best when the engineers didn’t listen to the marketing people and just produced extreme vehicles nobody else was capable of. I’m not of that school.

While it’s true that this Japanese brand built some amazing cars as a result, these days that’s a recipe for financial ruin. So Honda’s become a bit more mainstream, a little more expedient. As this Civic 1.6 i-DTEC shows, sometimes there’s genius in exactly that.

Related topics: