Aerodynamic shape of the body is a feature of all Honda Civic models, the aero package is now complemented by a very economical turbo-diesel engine

Aerodynamic shape of the body is a feature of all Honda Civic models, the aero package is now complemented by a very economical turbo-diesel engine

The modern automobile story of better fuel economy with sparkling performance just keeps being told. Now Honda adds a new chapter to the tale with the Civic Hatch DTi-S diesel.

Born of Honda’s Earth Dreams Technology philosophy ‘to balance environmental efficiency with the dynamic performance expected of a Honda’, the made-in-Britain, 1.6-litre engine produces 88 kW of power and up to 300 Nm of torque. The latter is 126 Nm more than the equivalent 1.8 litre non-turbo petrol engine.

Mated only with a six-speed manual transmission – ruefully, there is no auto on the horizon – Honda calculates the Civic diesel uses a miserly four litres of fuel per 100 kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle.

Honda_Civic_rearAnd, boy, does the small-capacity i-DTEC walk the torque. On an introductory foray into the Blue Mountains west of Sydney the Civic diesel came up with a relaxed drive, eating up the steep ascents with ease – and minimum gearshifts – thanks to the 300 Nm on tap from 2000 rpm.

The MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension ironed out all but major blemishes in the bitumen while the steering, with a ratio sharpened from 15.5 to 14.5 compared with the standard Civic Hatch, provided better response and a more positive feel to driver input through the many twists and turns of the mountains.

Disc brakes all round, the front ventilated, hooked up to an anti-lock braking system with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, pulled up the Civic confidently on steep descents, while hill start assist had the car setting off on inclines without rolling backwards.

Honda_Civic_engineAll this was accomplished with a minimum intrusion of engine and road noise into the comfortable cabin. With the humans ‘refuelled’ at a delightful lunch stop at Leura, it all added up to a particularly pleasing day out.

The Civic diesel hatch is not lacking in quality additions and adornments, taking on a majority of the features of the good looking petrol model, plus technical innovations from its hybrid stablemates.

Like the standard Civic hatchback the DTi-S shape is predicated on optimal aerodynamics with a low-drag design reinforced by a full-length bumper-to-bumper under-tray with flared leading edges to direct the flow of air efficiently under the car

The Civic diesel rolls on 17-inch alloy wheels.

A spoiler is integrated into the tailgate too, while daytime running lights increase visibility to oncoming traffic.

The underbody changes still leave room in the cabin for Honda’s clever Magic Seat system which allows for 18 different configurations to carry passengers and cargo.

A six-speaker audio with AM/FM radio and MP3/WMA CD player has speed-sensitive volume compensation, auxiliary jack and USB and iPod connectivity with i-MID integration, plus Bluetooth hands-free phone with audio streaming, all operated through steering wheel-mounted controls.

However, Honda believes drivers operate best in quiet surroundings and engineers have come up with active noise cancellation which works on low frequency drivetrain and road noise entering the cabin.

Microphones pick up the noise and send a signal to the ANC control unit which in turn responds by creating a reverse phase audio signal that is sent to an amplifier powering the door speakers and the subwoofer on the rear parcel shelf.  Honda says this result in as much as a 10 decibel reduction in interior noise.

The dashboard incorporates a version of the Honda Eco Assist function, which uses ambient lighting of the speedometer to tell drivers how their driving style is impacting on fuel economy. Green indicates efficient driving; blue not so.

For added efficiency there is also the Econ mode, which is brought into operation by pressing an Econ switch on the dash. The result is a gentler accelerator map to ensure smooth increases in torque for a more relaxing drive and greater fuel efficiency. It also detunes the air-conditioning system slightly, though we didn’t notice any difference during our drive in relatively mild conditions.

As a member of the latest Honda Civic family, the DTi-S has earned a top five-star safety rating and includes Honda’s pedestrian protection system featuring windscreen wiper pivots designed to break away on impact, energy absorbing front wing mounts and bonnet hinges, as well as an unobstructed area beneath the bonnet allowing greater space for deformation.

Available in one extensive specification level, albeit without sat nav, Civic DTi-S is on sale now for $26,990, plus on-road costs. Honda Australia says potential buyers are mainly expected to be male and in their 40s, while the closest rivals look to be the Ford Focus and VW Golf. Volkswagen is particularly strong in the diesel market in Australia and it will be interesting to see how the Japanese brand fares against it.

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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