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Honda Civic 2013 review: snapshot

Honda Civic diesel is available with a manual transmission only.

Honda launched its first diesel this week, the aptly named Civic Hatch DTi-S. Like other manufacturers before it the Civic diesel is available with a manual transmission only, at least for the time being there is no auto, we're told.

That's going to weigh heavily against the car's longterm chances of success, but you've got to start somewhere. Of note, Honda is one of the few makes to offer both diesel and hybrid versions of the same model (in the same market). Other players, notably Toyota, have placed all of their economy eggs in the one hybrid basket.

Value

The Civic Hatch DTi-S is priced from $26,990 plus on road costs. It's better equipped than the VTi-S petrol model, with features such as Magic seats, fog lights, daytime LEDs, 17-inch alloys, cruise control/speed limiter, auto lights and wipers, dual zone climate air, tyre pressure monitoring, auto start/stop, Hill Start Assist, ECON Mode and a Multi-Information Display.

Bluetooth with phone and audio streaming is also standard, but satnav is not included and not available as an option.

Safety

The Civic scores a maximum five-star safety rating from the ANCAP organisation, with six airbags and a full complement of safety systems including vehicle stability assist, hill holder, rear park sensors and a reversing camera.

Technology

The 1.6-litre i-DTEC turbo diesel engine is the first diesel in Honda Australia's range and delivers 88kW of power and 300Nm of torque.
It's not as powerful as some rivals with engines the same size, but mated to a 6-speed manual produces more torque which is more important anyway.

Fuel consumption is rated at a very low 4.0 litres/100km and it produces CO2 emissions of 105g/km. The diesel is also equipped with auto start/stop that shuts off the engine when the car is stationary plus an Eco mode button that is designed to reduce fuel consumption.

The new 1.6 litre engine is light, with individual components redesigned to minimise weight and size. A newly designed lightweight and compact six-speed manual transmission delivers class-leading transmission efficiency, a smooth and accurate feel when changing gears and a new reverse system which delivers improved operation load and quietness.

Competitors

It's chief competitor will funnily enough be its petrol self, because the petrol hatch is cheaper and offers the option of an auto. But if you're after a long distance commuter, this could be the one. It's cheaper than its hybrid siblings and manages to outgun all of them in terms of fuel consumption even the smaller Jazz hybrid.

Confining the field to Korean/Japanese rivals, you could also take a look at the Mazda3, Hyundai i30 and maybe the Kia Soul not to mention Ford Focus or Holden Cruze (plus a swag of Euros). The Mazda is manual only too, but the very good i30 offers an auto and takes some beating.

Driving

Likeable. Gets moving quickly after an initial hesitation and the shift, though manual, is extremely light and easy to use. A shift indicator prompts the driver to change gear at the appropriate moment to maximise economy.

If you're not stuck in traffic frequently, then changing gears shouldn't be a drama  but give it some thought otherwise. To take advantage of the the auto off function, you need to take the car out of gear. If you're lazy like me and keep the clutch pushed in, then it's not going to shut down. Also, lifting off prematurely in anticipation of the lights changing disengages the system.

The striking design of the European designed hatch sets it apart from others. It's quiet and comfortable, with cloth seats and big, easy to use controls. But the diesel is certainly noisier than a petrol engine even though it features active noise cancellation technology in the cabin just like a seat of headphones.

The car has a sporty feel with direct steering and suspension that has been tuned to accommodate the engine. And, with a 50-litre tank, it has a theoretical range of 1250km.

Verdict

Honda is one of the few makes to offer both diesel and hybrid versions in the same range. Nothing dull about the way it drives, but as good as it might be, without an auto in the mix  the car is likely to receive limited attention.

Pricing guides

$13,884
Based on 125 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$5,800
Highest Price
$16,995

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
DTi-S 1.6L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $8,800 – 13,200 2013 Honda Civic 2013 DTi-S Pricing and Specs
VTi-L 1.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $7,900 – 12,210 2013 Honda Civic 2013 VTi-L Pricing and Specs
VTi-LN 1.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $9,000 – 13,530 2013 Honda Civic 2013 VTi-LN Pricing and Specs
VTi-S 1.8L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $7,300 – 11,330 2013 Honda Civic 2013 VTi-S Pricing and Specs