With a lap time of 1:12.6, the 118bhp Honda Civic diesel is just shy of the 248bhp BMW X4’s lap time. The humble Honda is, in fact, rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty at our annual Mega Test – the only relatively affordable car in the midst of these more powerful and expensive machines.
The secret to the Civic’s performance here is its chassis and suspension setup. The front end of this car just feels immediate, and organic, and this allows you to be very precise with the steering. You sit nice and low in the car, and it’s a whole lot of fun to point the car in the desired direction and pin the throttle.
Doing this at the BIC can be a lot of fun, for the way this car attacks corners is just impressive – the ride stays absolutely flat as you enter high-speed bends, change direction, and power out of them. The handling and balance of the Civic is something to be admired, and it just urges you to push harder-and-harder.
Also, you can extract maximum performance from the 1.6-litre diesel engine on a racetrack by keeping the turbo spooling through the short-throw manual gearbox – it ensures that the engine keeps spinning between 2,000 and 4,000rpm. And this is where this engine makes the most power, making the Civic feel quite determined in terms of performance. It is, in fact, the prime operating window for this engine. But it has a lot of turbo lag below 2,000rpm, meaning that you have to constantly change gears to keep up with traffic. It’s also worth noting that NVH is fairly high post 2,000rpm.
The Civic feels more at home on the track than on our busy city streets. It’s a brilliant nameplate for Honda, and this chassis certainly lives up to its driver-focussed reputation, but, out in the real world, the new Civic isn’t as well rounded as we would have hoped.