Both these cars are powered by diesel engines and have trick front differentials to provide immense traction. The Skoda Octavia, in fact, has all the ingredients to excel here - a powerful 2.0-litre diesel engine, a quick dual clutch transmission and good amount of grip. The Honda Civic’s diesel engine, on the other hand, displaces just 1.6-litres and has a manual gearbox to contend with (though more fun isn’t the best way to set fast laptimes). Even in terms of power, the Civic sits below the Skoda by 22 bhp and is just 42kg lighter. Will it be an easy victory for the Skoda then? Let's find out.
In theory the Skoda Octavia diesel, thanks to a much more powerful engine, launch control and dual clutch transmission should have it easy up against the Civic in the 0-100-0kmph test. Unfortunately for the Honda, the Octavia proved to be even quicker than anticipated. It reached 100kmph almost three seconds quicker and this is also thanks to the launch control system which kept the engine at optimum revs, to allow just the right amount of wheel spin. Even during braking, it held on to its advantage and finished 2.67 seconds clear of the Honda.
The Civic on the other hand is no slouch. The 1.6-litre engine has strong pull, but the gearing is on the taller side and though a manual gearbox is more fun, it is a handicap in terms of outright acceleration times. Though both these cars recorded similar braking times, the brakes on the Civic offered more bite and even the ABS felt well calibrated.
If you have already dismissed the Civic by now, please hold on to your horses. When I drove this Honda sedan on the road I came away really impressed by its agility and now having driven it flat-out around MMST, it felt even better. The more you push the Civic to its limits the better it feels. The chassis has a wonderful balance, where the front feels pointy and the rear is mobile enough to help it carry immense speed into corners. The Octavia, on the other hand, was a bit too soft and also the ESP was more intrusive. As a result, the Civic, which is the underdog on paper, drew out a surprising result, as it posted a lap time that was quicker than the Skoda. When we dug deeper into the Vbox data, it was clear where the Civic was making up time for what it lost on the straights. In almost every corner, be it slow, medium or fast, the Honda was able to brake later, carry more speed to the apex and thanks to the neutral chassis, it was also able to get on the power earlier.
The lap time result shows, you should never judge a car by the figures it produces on paper. The Octavia’s power advantage does show in the 0-100-0kmph test where it recorded a time that was massively faster than the Civic. On the other hand, the Civic’s well calibrated suspension gave it great poise through corners and what helped its cause further was the more sophisticated independent rear suspension, which gave it more compliance over the bumpy MMST circuit. Then to top it all, was the manual gearbox. Although you lose time changing gears manually, it just made the Civic a hoot to drive around the circuit. Driving this potent standard car brings home the realisation as to why the Civic Type R is the fastest front wheel drive car to lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife.