Review: Honda Civic Diesel

Better late than never, right? At least that’s the mantra Honda is singing when it comes to its latest offering – the Civic Hatch DTi-S Diesel.

After 44 years of selling cars in Australia, the Japanese brand has finally introduced its first diesel, and we have to admit, it’s a strong debut.

For a company renowned for its high-revving, sewing machine-smooth petrols, the new 1.6-litre turbocharged ‘Earth Dreams’ oiler represents a decidedly different approach to chasing efficiency, performance and refinement.

Claimed fuel economy is 4.0L/100km – and even spirited driving at the launch saw us get 5.0L/100km – making the DTi-S more frugal than Honda’s own Civic Hybrid and more efficient than its small-car rivals, save for Volkswagen’s Golf Bluemotion (3.8L/100km) and the Mini Cooper D Hardtop (3.8L/100km).

Power and torque delivery are impressive too, with the diesel offering 88kW and 300Nm – almost twice the torque found in Honda’s 1.8-litre 103kW/174Nm petrol.

It’s certainly not what you’d call fast, but with maximum torque available from 2000rpm, there’s more than enough grunt for daily driving. But it’s the refinement, not the power or efficiency, that’s the new diesel’s real party piece.

Honda has gone to extreme lengths to make the diesel as quiet and refined as its petrol offerings, fitting thinner cylinder walls and lighter pistons and connecting rods. The result is a surprisingly smooth and quiet engine that’s mated to a bespoke six-speed manual.

No automatic option is available, a fact Honda admits will limit sales. “Look, obviously we’d sell more if we had an automatic available,” said Honda Australia Director, Stephen Collins. “And we’re working on getting one. But for now, there’s just no automatic option available to us.”

The diesel retains the petrol Civic’s ‘jet-fighter’ inspired interior, mixing a pleasing blend of soft-touch plastics and fabrics with a neat, ergonomic design.

But it’s underneath the car where Honda’s engineers really got to work. Adjustments to the Civic’s front suspension, including a 24 percent increase in the front spring rate, and a new steering rack ratio are designed to increase responsiveness.

Although it’s here the DTi-S begins to fall short.

Light steering provides minimal feedback, while the Civic’s ride, although quiet and composed on smooth surfaces, can’t match the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf.

So, while the DTi-S mightn’t be a driver’s car, there’s still much to like about it.

The punchy new oiler is a gem, and with a $26,990 price tag, the Civic diesel looks set to deliver on that promised compromise between efficiency, refinement and value for money.

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