2013 HONDA CIVIC HATCH REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small hatchback
Engine/trans: 96kW/320Nm 1.6 turbodiesel 4cyl / 6sp manual
Price: $26,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.0 l/100km | Tested: 5.1 l/100km
If we had one criticism of the Honda Civic hatch, it was that its standard 104kW /174Nm 1.8 litre petrol engine lacked the responsiveness to make it a truly cracking drive.
Honda solved that problem in April this year when it commenced sales of the diesel-drinking Civic DTi-S, its first diesel passenger car in the Australian market.
We loved it at the launch and lauded its torque and refinement.
But it's a manual-only model. That raises a couple of questions: how easy is it to live with? And, can it achieve in real-world driving Honda's claimed fuel efficiency? We borrowed a Civic DTi-S for a week to find out.
Besides a tachometer that redlines at 5000rpm and a button on the centre-stack that disables the auto start-stop system, the cabin of the Civic DTi-S is indistinguishable from the petrol-powered VTi-S.
We like it that way. It’s a quality cabin that feels like it will outlast humanity itself.
Though the dash is constructed of harder stuff, there’s plenty of soft surfacing on the leather-upholstered steering wheel and gearknob - not to mention the velour-clad centre console lid and door trims.
The driver’s seat is a little high even at its lowest position, but there’s adequate headroom.
The back seat could use better under-thigh support, but the trade-off is the exceptionally versatile Magic Seat system that dramatically boosts the Civic Hatch’s utility as a load-carrier.
NOTE: This is a 'snapshot' review of the Civic. For more detailed reviews, see our Honda Civic page.
ON THE ROAD
What immediately strikes you about the Civic DTi-S is just how quiet it is.
The stereo system pumps opposite-phase sound through its speakers to combat the diesel's low-frequency thrum, and there's none of the gravelly clatter that we commonly associate with diesel engines.
Stand outside with the engine idling and you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for a petrol engine - albeit a slightly-louder-than-usual petrol.
When you factor in the the satisfyingly vibration-free characteristics of this 1.6 litre diesel, the Civic DTi-S has all the refinement of many European luxury diesel engines - and then some.
With just 88kW the 1.6 litre Earth Dreams turbo diesel has a modest power output, but makes up for it with a hefty 300Nm of peak torque.
All that torque is on hand at 2000rpm. The result is strong performance, even at lower revs, enabling taller gears to be used even when lugging around town.
In terms of driving, it's the polar opposite of the doughy, but rev-happy, 1.8 litre petrol Civic.
In this market where automatics rule, the DTi-S Civic's greatest weakness is that it is not offered with an auto.
That said, with a manual trans as slick and user-friendly as this, it might not be such a deal-breaker for buyers who 'give it a run'.
With such generous mid-range torque you're not as busy with the shifter, and the widely-spaced gear ratios work well with the engine's output.
The DTi-S is also quite eager to rev for an oil-burner, and doesn't mind spinning right up to its 5000rpm redline.
There's evident turbo lag and a big drop-off in torque below 1500rpm, but keep revs above this number and you're laughing.
You'll also be laughing as you sail past fuel stations. A hefty amount of urban driving meant we couldn't equal Honda's claim of 4.0 l/100km, but our average of 5.1 l/100km is still a figure to be proud of.
Such frugal fuel consumption is due in part to the Civic’s start-stop system (shutting down the engine when stopped).
The steering is light but accurate, and although the diesel engine is weightier than the petrol, there is no sense that it's nose-heavy.
There's plenty of body roll if you corner really hard, but it's difficult to break the grip of the tyres.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Is the Civic DTi-S a fuel miser when out in the stop-n'-go bustle of real-world driving? Absolutely, but that's what most among the new generation of diesels do.
What surprises is just how refined and enjoyable this car is to drive. The Civic DTi-S really is a cut above other diesel small cars when it comes to drivetrain polish and NVH suppression.
If you’re not averse to manual transmissions, it’s the pick of the current Civic Hatch range. Diesel economy with petrol refinement... the Civic DTi-S has both.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Civic Hatch VTi-S - petrol manual - $20,650
- Civic Hatch VTi-S - petrol automatic - $22,950
- Civic Hatch VTi-L - petrol automatic - $25,490
- Civic Hatch DTi-S - diesel manual - $26,990
- Civic Hatch VTi-LN - petrol automatic - $29,590