In the USA, the Honda Civic has been a big hit for decades. In this country, however, the golf opponent only drives in the niche. With a new design and ambitious technology, the eleventh generation of the long-running favorite now also wants to inspire the masses in Germany. But can this work?
No golf class! From a German point of view, this designation for the compact segment may still work. But if you ask Honda, they would probably speak of the Civic league. And for a good reason. Because the Japanese already had their compacts at the start when the Beetle was still crawling out of Wolfsburg. And with ten generations so far, they have renewed it more often. Too bad that hardly anyone here noticed.
Because while the Civic is a big hit, especially in the USA and on this side of the Atlantic it only gets a lot of attention in England, in this country it has disappeared deep into the niche and is at best a supporting actor on the golf course. But that should soon be over. Because when the Japanese bring the eleventh generation to the market in autumn after almost 30 million sales worldwide at prices from 31,900 euros, they finally want to attract a little more attention.
Above all, they rely on a pleasing design. However, this is comparatively unconventional because the Civic, at 4.55 meters, is very large for the compact class. In addition, it is only available as a four-door hatchback instead of with a steep end like the Golf
This also applies not least to the cabin, which is pleasantly spacious given the proud format and a lush wheelbase of 2.73 meters with enough space for all seats and a solid 410 liters of luggage space. In the cockpit, with the first digital display for their bestseller and the touchscreen next to it, the Japanese have found a good balance between analogue and digital operating worlds and at least the ventilation is a feast for the eyes: instead of many individual vents, they have placed a continuous grid in the dashboard, behind which there is no draught, but effectively the climate control blows.
While the Japanese are crawling back into the middle of the market, they are immediately sidelined again, at least by German customers. Because the only engine for the Civic is a hybrid that follows the same principle as in the Jazz. Most of the time he drives electrically with a 184 hp and 315 Nm engine on the front axle, while the four-cylinder that has grown to two liters with its 143 hp only drives a second electric motor as a generator.
Only under load does the petrol engine also take over its share of propulsion. That sounds complicated and sometimes sounds like it, because speed and sound do not always match the driving experience. And unfortunately, the wind tunnel-polished and well-insulated Civic is otherwise so quiet that these discordant tones penetrate directly. In the end, the interaction works surprisingly well - and leads to extremely reasonable everyday consumption not far from the 4.7 liters from the WLTP cycle, which actually makes a diesel superfluous.
It's just a pity that the hybrid, in contrast to markets that are less regulated by subsidies, quickly falls through the cracks, at least with the current subsidy policy, because it doesn't have a plug. And because the buffer battery has a capacity of just 1.05 kWh, it only moves a few hundred meters electrically - and only at a moderate speed. In times of advancing electrification, Honda makes it unnecessarily difficult for its bestseller.
The Civic certainly deserves a chance. Because for such a sensible car, it's gratifyingly enjoyable. The chassis is tight, the steering precise and the brakes biting-proof, the country road becomes a pleasure mile. Especially in sport mode, when the drive keeps the speed longer because the electronics recognize the curves, and when a sound module turns the asthmatic sound of the four-cylinder working on the Atkinson principle and the whirring of the Stromer a bit into those times when Honda still had them was Japanese answer to BMW.
It's just a pity that the fun is already over at 180 km/h, because then the reason of the engineers and thus the control electronics gains the upper hand.
Reason or pleasure - in the effort to reconcile both and to please everyone with one model, the Civic cannot fully convince in either discipline. But what is not, can still be: Later this year, a new Civic Type R in the fast lane will take up the fight against mediocrity. And if Honda is serious about accelerating electrification, the Civic should soon be able to stream better.