2016 Honda Civic S 1.4 petrol from UK and Ireland
A good city car, but has to work hard on the highway
I've just rented and returned a Honda Civic 1.4 S petrol in the UK. I've clocked up about 1,600 miles (2,574 km), driving in a mixture of cities (including London), towns, motorways, A roads and country roads of varying quality.
The steering is numb, but the handling is stable and predictable and it's actually kind of fun throwing it through the corners of those narrow, twisting lanes of the UK countryside. It copes with those bends well. What it isn't is fast; it's a 1.4 petrol and it's not a turbo so it's set up for economy above all else. It's slow off the mark and it can struggle up hills at highway speed, often needing to go down from 6th gear to 3rd. I hate to imagine how much it would struggle if it had more than just me and my two bags on board. Driving the manual transmission is a pain; you're constantly changing gears because of the lack of power. Though it can struggle, it doesn't sound as thrashy as other cars in its class (hello GM Cruze!) and most of the time the cabin remains a fairly quiet, refined and civilised place to be.
The interior of the car is a very nice and comfortable. The driver's seat has good lumbar and lateral support, plenty of legroom and the steering wheel has a good range of height and reach. The quality of the cabin materials and fit and finish is of a high standard and everything is where you would expect it to be. The downside of the cabin is that the car sits very low; I'm 6' 1" (185 cm) and have a bad back. Every time I got into the car, I felt the strain, particularly if I was in a car park and could not open the door all the way and so had to twist as well as lower myself. That was very uncomfortable. It hurt! Another annoyance is that there are no cup holders. There are sort of pseudo cup holders in the door map pockets, but they are awkwardly placed down low and under the arm rests, and don't really securely fit your drinks anyway.
The stereo sounds very good for a budget model, but Bluetooth is not intuitive to set up; you'll need the manual if you don't want to sit there for twenty minutes scratching your head. The indicators are annoying, because they're the kind where if you give them a soft touch, they blink three times then turn off. You can easily accidentally trigger this to indicate the other direction when turning the proper mode off, and once it's triggered it can't be cancelled manually, so people behind you have no idea what your intention is. I also don't like that the headlights don't have an auto-off function. Instead, an alarm beeps when you open the door. I prefer to just leave them switched on, so I don't have to remember to switch them on every time I get in the car (I always drive with my lights on).
The car has several major blind spots and there are no parking sensors on this model (the base model). It desperately needs them. The front of the car is invisible from the driver's seat, so entering a parking space involves considerable guess work, which is quite nerve wracking when you're driving a hire car! Yes, I did end up scratching a corner of the bumper. The windscreen slopes a long way down and the A pillars (like most newer cars) are very thick, so it's easy to miss someone coming from the side. The B pillars are also difficult to see around when you are tall and have to have the seat back. The visibility out the back window is appalling. It's one of those split screen windows, like the Toyota Prius. It's already a low-sloped, tinted window. The horizontal bar through the middle means you can't see much at all.
Overall, except for the visibility issues, it's a good city car that can fit plenty of junk, but with the 1.4 engine, it's not exactly the best highway cruiser, though it is very comfortable to sit and ride in. I personally wouldn't buy one because it's too low for me and I do a lot of highway commuting for work (at home in Australia, I drive a 2011 Toyota RAV4 with a 2.4 petrol engine, which is a good fit for my needs).
Another commenter wrote that you should only review cars after a few years of ownership, so you've got a history of reliability to report on. I don't think that's necessary, as long as you make it clear in your review that you haven't had the vehicle a long time. Others say that reviewing a rental is not valid; you need to own the car. I'm really not sure the logic behind this, other than being able to comment on long-term reliability. If you don't own the car, you don't have the financial commitment to colour your perception of the car. At the same time, if you drive the car every single day for a couple of weeks or longer, you get a good idea of the car's pros and cons. You certainly give it more extensive testing than professional car reviewers, who also have to be very careful what they say, lest they upset the manufacturer, who can take their free test cars and large advertising budgets elsewhere if they get bad reviews.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 4th July, 2016
24th Jul 2016, 23:44
Hi, I have test driven the Touring edition Civic. I missed some of the points that you mentioned as I kept the car away from other cars, so I totally missed the point about the low seats and tight parking.
Cheers, my back thanks you!!!
4th Mar 2017, 13:03
I don't know what car makers are thinking when they make product development choices for the European market. A 1.4 non turbo petrol engine in a 2017 car? We get here in the US a base 2.0 petrol engine for the same vehicle and we feel it lacks a bit of torque. Don't say North America is used to powerful engines, we are talking here about economic cars. Previous model had a 1.8 engine here and while adequate in power, it's nothing sporty or enthusiastic feeling driving such engine. While for you guys in Europe, they would sell a 1.8 petrol engine like it's a sports car.
5th Mar 2017, 05:15
Why wouldn't we have higher expectations for performance in the US, when as you said yourself, we tend to get more powerful engines?
24th Dec 2018, 09:03
I didn't mean US has higher expectations. I rather meant Europe has too low expectations. Their engines are on the anemic side.
25th Dec 2018, 23:38
We had very high expectations and Porsche exceeded them.
26th Dec 2018, 11:11
It isn't that Europe has low expectations - they are PENALISED these days for engines that exceed CO-2 emission limits via road taxes. Hence, no more VW Golf V5 2.3, the BMW 320i is now a 4-cylinder, the large Skoda Superb sedan's base engine is a 1.4TSI - things that would never have happened 20 years ago. You can buy a car with a larger engine, but can't afford to run it.