HONDA CIVIC DTI-S DIESEL REVIEW
What's hot: Refined drive, plenty of shove, excellent efficiency
What's not: Manual only, spaceship styling polarising
X-Factor: Bursting with classic Honda engineering prowess
Vehicle Style: Small Hatch
Engine/trans: 88kW/300Nm 1.6 litre turbodiesel | six-speed manual
Fuel economy claimed: 4.0l/100km | tested: 5.0l/100km
Honda’s new Civic Hatch DTi-S is the first diesel-fuelled model to wear the ‘H’ logo on Australian soil, but it won’t be the last.
Yep - the company renowned for its high-revving, sewing-machine smooth, naturally-aspirated petrol engines has joined the flock of brands with a slower-revving efficient turbodiesel among its small car range.
And it's a good first outing for Honda; the new 1.6 litre i-DTEC engine boasts some pretty impressive numbers.
Sitting between the recently-updated VTi-S and VTi-L 1.8 litre petrol Civic Hatches for specifications, the $26,990 DTi-S is visually identical to the VTi-L and VTi-LN and priced $1500 north of the auto-only VTi-L.
Available in six-speed manual only, the Civic DTi-S joins a growing list of small hatches with sub-2.0 litre diesel options, and its 4.0l/100m combined fuel figure betters all but the 3.8l/100km of Volkswagen’s Golf BlueMotion.
TMR was among the first to sample Honda’s new diesel Civic Hatch at its national press launch in Sydney.
Honda's new Earth Dreams Technology sits behind the engineering philiosophy of the new 1.6 litre i-DTEC engine.
By minimising friction and rotational mass (a similar approach to Mazda’s SkyActiv technology), Honda's intent is to address the coarseness inherent in diesel engines. It's also built 'light'; the Civic DTi-S' all-aluminium 1.6 litre i-DTEC diesel tips the scales at just 170kg - claimed to be the lightest diesel currently fitted to any passenger vehicle.
Also promising are its outputs. From just 1.6 litres, the new engine develops 88kW at 4000rpm, and an impressive 300Nm from 2000rpm.
Helping generate this thrust are 1800bar diesel injectors and a variable nozzle turbocharger capable of 1.5bar of boost pressure.
Of the Peugeot 308, Citroen C4, Hyundai i30, Volkswagen Golf, and Renault Megane sub-2.0litre diesel variants currently on offer, only the 94kW i30 1.6 beats the Civic’s 88kW, and the Honda’s 300Nm defeats all by at least 30Nm.
The Civic and Golf are alone in being limited to a manual transmission however.
ON THE ROAD
We took the opportunity to put the new DTi-S through its paces over a few hundred kilometres of mixed open road driving, including some steep climbs through NSW’s Blue Mountains.
Honda’s efforts to deliver petrol-like refinement from its new diesel have certainly paid off, with the 1.6 litre spinning more freely and smoothly than most, with minimal diesel groan even under load.
The DTi-S comes equipped with Honda’s Active Noise Cancellation system, aiding this perception of refinement with its automatic cancellation of low-frequency sound through the audio system’s speakers.
Off the mark, the immediacy of all 300Nm (from 2000rpm) gives the impression of a larger-capacity unit, and the new six-speeder delivers typically Honda well-defined shift feel and throw when moving up through the ratios.
Cruising at 100km/h on the highway, the DTi-S ticks over at just 1750rpm in sixth gear, putting it almost squarely in the 2000rpm max torque zone at 110km/h freeway speeds.
This enabled the DTi-S to manage most highway inclines in sixth gear, and consistently impressed on steeper climbs with its ability to maintain a higher gear.
Like all Civic Hatches, the most efficient gear selection is advised through an indicator light in the instrument binnacle, while the Eco Assist feature varies the speedometer illumination from blue to green according to driving style efficiency.
The switchable Auto Stop stop/start function activates when the DTi-S is stationary, and ultimate efficiency is available via the dash-selectable ECON mode, which softens throttle response and the effectiveness of the climate control system.
Incidental in-gear acceleration (to overtake, for example) will remind you of the i-DTEC’s relatively small 1.6 litres; there's a momentary lag before the turbo picks up its skirt and gets going.
Once it does, the Civic diesel accelerates comfortably with less fuss than a higher-revving petrol alternative.
Despite adding around 100kg over a comparable petrol manual Civic’s kerb weight, the DTi-S remains a nimble handler through the bends, and its electric power steering offers consistent assistance and feel.
The DTi-S’ ride quality also impressed on test, maintaining its composure on rural roads despite riding on 45 series 17 inch tyres.
INTERIOR AND FEATURES
The excellent interior design of the DTi-S differs little from the petrol VTi-L Civic Hatch, with comfortable cloth seat trim, 18-way rear Magic Seats, and its futuristic-yet-ergonomic dash layout.
There's also a useful level of features, with leather steering wheel and gearknob, dual-zone climate control, auto headlamps and wipers, hill start assist, reversing camera, multimedia display and trip computer.
There's also Bluetooth audio and telephony, tyre-pressure monitoring system, and cruise control with speed limiter.
Some will be surprised by the DTi-S’ key ignition, but we found it a perfectly sufficient key storage and ignition solution.
The Civic Hatch DTi-S carries a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating, and features front, side and curtain airbags, along with Vehicle Stability Assist, Anti-lock Braking System, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
Nice package, the Honda Civic DTi-S. We already like Honda’s current Civic Hatch in petrol guise, but the new diesel option brings a depth of engineering beyond its $26,990 sticker price.
The combination of impressive outputs, refinement, and excellent efficiency mark the engine as befitting of Honda’s engineering pedigree.
The lack of an automatic transmission option will limit its appeal to Australian buyers somewhat, but the flexibility afforded by its 300Nm minimises the need to reach for the gearstick anyway.
Yes, Honda can confidently add diesel engines to its list of specialties. This is definitely one to consider.
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