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2019 Honda Civic Diesel Manual First Drive Review

What is it?

Why I would buy it?

Striking exterior design, long equipment list, ride quality 

Why I would avoid it?

Low seating makes it difficult to get in and out of, expensive diesel variant

A few weeks ago, we reviewed the petrol version of the eighth generation of Honda Civic and came away quite impressed. Now with the prices out for the Civic, we will have a better perspective, as to where it stands in the pecking order and whether this car was worth the long wait. For this review, we drove the diesel version of the car and on paper it seems to have what the petrol version lacked – engine punch and a manual gearbox to lure the enthusiast. .  

As far as looks are concerned, the Civic looks sporty and well-balanced from every angle you look at it. The car's silhouette looks really nice thanks to the coupe-like swooping roofline, stubby boot, short overhangs and the tastefully designed 17-inch alloys. Upfront, the well-detailed LED headlamps with the daytime running strip outlining the lower portion look striking. The signature Honda grille is more protruding here than in some of their other cars which adds to its dynamic appearance. At the rear the new Honda Civic looks distinctive thanks to the stubby boot section, heavily raked rear windscreen and the boomerang-shaped tail lamps. 

Based on Honda’s new global platform which also underpins the tenth generation Accord, the new Civic is not only 22kg lighter than the previous generation car, thanks to the use of high strength steel it also boasts of a 25% more rigid body. 

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How is it on the inside?

We will only briefly dwell upon the interiors as we have covered it more in-depth in the petrol variant's review which you can read here. The Civic’s dash looks modern thanks to the flurry of asymmetric cues. It is well thought-out with most controls falling to hand easily. It's not perfect as the placement of USB, HDMI and 12V charging ports, that are hidden behind the centre console, are extremely difficult to locate. Overall plastic quality is quite good but lower down, the hard plastic around the gear lever isn’t great and fit and finish is a notch or two down on the standards set by cars like the Octavia. 

The large seven inch infotainment system comes loaded with features like two USB sockets, one HDMI jack, Bluetooth, reverse camera with zoom function, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a sweet sounding eight-speaker audio system. The system also houses aircon controls, which actually you don’t end up using as you also get conventional physical controls that are easier to use. What could have been better is the display quality which looks out of place on a Rs 20 lakh plus car. What you won’t complaint about is the digital instrument cluster. The sporty fonts and the colours are easy to read and with the help of the steering mounted buttons you can see and control music, Bluetooth telephony, phonebook and trip computer. 

Like the old Civic the new car too is low slung and as a result, getting in and out isn’t an easy affair. Once inside, the driver seat is a comfortable place to be in and thanks to the electric adjust its easy to find the ideal driving position. Visibility from the driver seat is good and except for the heavily raked rear windscreen, it is easy to judge the car's extremities even in heavy traffic. The rear seat is surprisingly comfortable. There’s adequate amount of knee-room for rear-seat passengers with decent thigh support and a comfortable backrest angle. The same can’t be said about the headroom though, as the sloping roofline makes it tight for anyone above average height. 

Like most Honda cars, the Civic’s cabin is very practical with loads of bottle and cup holders present for both front and rear seats. Special mention must also go to the large storage bin under the front armrest that is big enough to swallow large items and it also houses two cup holders. The boot at 430litres is not particularly big and is just about enough for your family’s weekend luggage.  

As far as equipment goes, the Honda Civic in the top ZX comes loaded with features. This includes premium features like electronic parking brake with auto hold, sunroof, auto dimming rear view mirror, electric driver seat adjust, dual zone climate control, keyless go amongst others. Honda hasn’t skimped on safety equipment and comes with six airbags, ESP, ABS, ISOFIX child seat anchor points as standard. Like in the recently launched CRV, this car too comes with Lane-Watch function that activates the left mirror mounted camera to let you know if there are any cars in your blind spot when you are changing lanes or turning at junctions.

How does it drive?

The Civic diesel is powered by a 1.6-litre turbo diesel engine. Although the basic architecture is more or less the same as the one found on the Honda City, they differ quite a lot in terms of materials used and this engine also employs a VGT turbocharger which helps it produce 20bhp more. 

The first thing one notices when the motor starts is that it feels significantly more refined than the smaller 1.5-litre engine found on the Honda City. Step on the gas and the immediate responses of the engine are impressive and the Civic accelerates in a linear manner. Out on the highway it is deceptively quick, whisking you forward from as little as 1800rpm and it’s only when you look at the speedo that you realise that you’re going much faster than you anticipated. The strong midrange also makes overtaking easy and this makes for a good long distance car. On the downside, the gearing on the diesel Civic is very tall and you end up shifting a lot especially at low speeds. Thankfully the manual gearbox is one of the best we have experienced in a long time. The position of the gearlever is perfect, the throws are short and the shifts are smooth. Where the tall gearing helps is in terms of highway cruising and fuel efficiency. Even when you are doing 120 kmph the engine is at a peaceful 2000rpm which makes cruising a cinch and the 26.8kmpl fuel efficiency claim believable. What makes it even more soothing is the superb sound insulation as one can hardly hear the engine clattering under normal driving, 

Similar to what we experienced on the petrol version, the ride quality of the Civic is one its biggest strengths. In fact, the diesel Civic feels even more planted thanks to the additional 50kg in weight. At town speeds, the Civic simply excels thanks to its absorbent low speed ride, delivered despite the low profile 17-inch tyres. Well-judged spring rates helps this sedan feel supple yet well controlled. Even over rutted surfaces, the suspension has a surprisingly good level of crash-free bump absorption, and one doesn’t feel most imperfections. The car also does an excellent job of cutting wind noise, but at higher speeds, a fair bit of tyre noise seeps through in the cabin.

When it comes to handling, the Civic changes direction eagerly. The steering is fast, smooth and accurate and even when you push the car hard it retains its composure really well. The engines punchy power combined with the slick manual gearbox makes the diesel variant much more engaging to drive than the petrol powered car.

Should I buy one?

With the prices just out, we can now give a more definitive opinion on the new Honda Civic. The Civic is priced in between Rs 17.7 lakh to 22.3 lakh for the top diesel variant. This makes it the most expensive D-segment sedan behind the mighty Skoda Octavia. We feel Honda has just missed a trick here, as a more competitive price would have made the new Civic an alluring buy. Although the diesel gets only a manual gearbox, it is still much more expensive than the petrol CVT. But for the enthusiast, the diesel is the car to buy as the engine feels more eager and the manual gearbox just makes the driving experience more exhilarating.

Where does it fit in?

The new Honda Civic goes up against the Skoda Octavia, Toyota Corola and the Hyundai Elantra. It also has to contend with SUVs like the Hyundai Creta, Tata Harrier and the Jeep Compass.

 

Pictures by: Kapil Angane

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Honda Civic Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Mumbai₹ 21.21 Lakhs onwards
Bangalore₹ 22.26 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 20.73 Lakhs onwards
Pune₹ 21.08 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 21.43 Lakhs onwards
Ahmedabad₹ 19.91 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 21.57 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 19.86 Lakhs onwards
Chandigarh₹ 19.56 Lakhs onwards
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