First off, it is a magnificent piece of engineering, there is no doubt about that! There are plenty of people who think they're ugly, and even I wasn't entirely convinced from looking at photos, but in the metal and in a good colour they are not ugly at all. I chose Rallye Red, and although I don't normally care for red cars, this colour totally suits the new model.
Next, you would never believe it's a 1 litre, 3 cylinder engine. It feels and sounds like something much bigger. Because I'd only been able to test drive the 1.5, I was slightly concerned that the 1.0 would be like a food mixer or your Grandmothers vacuum cleaner. No way is it. I have the CVT and the way it has been set up means that when you accelerate the revs hold at around 3,000 and you're off like a rocket with this snarl coming from the engine, then as you ease off the pedal, the revs fall away and you're back to almost silent running. Honda make reference to the "strong linear acceleration" from the new CVT and they're not wrong about that. A CVT is nothing like a conventional automatic and you do have to drive it differently to get the best out of it. It takes a bit of getting used to that's all. I've had CVTs before so I know what to expect, but this one is different again and I can see how it's been tuned to make the most of the turbo vtec engine.
The ride is, from my point of view, fantastic. Finally a comfortable car! After years of being bounced and bashed around in cars that have suspension that feels like it's made of wood, the new Civic rides kind of like a limousine, you're cocooned and isolated from the horrors of British road surfaces, and this is a very welcome relief. Most modern cars have suspension that it far too stiff for British roads. Absolutely fine for a mirror smooth, purpose built test track in Germany, but bring them over here and it's another story. Frankly I blame professional reviewers for that. They are mostly what one would call "enthusiasts" therefore if any car they test won't go round a hairpin bend at 90 mph with no body roll, they don't like it, say it's dull to drive, and give it bad reviews. The manufacturers then go into a blind panic and stiffen everything up to please the "enthusiasts" forgetting that the effect for a normal, everyday driver on British roads is not going to be pleasant.
Something that always irritates me intensely is when you read a review of a car and it will say something like "when you want to press on, it doesn't do this or doesn't do that" or "at the apex of the curve the obtuse tetrahedral angle of the roll bar does't quite cut it and frankly, this car falls way short of the class best and keen drivers will be left wanting" Press on, PRESS ON?? Have these guys ever driven a car in the UK? It takes me an hour to drive the 7 miles to work. I sit and look wistfully at the 20 mph zone sign and wish I could get up to that sort of speed on any road in the South East.
Now something I'm very concerned about. This "collision mitigation" system that slams on the breaks if it detects an obstacle that it thinks your going to crash in to. A road I have to drive along every day has a significant bend at one point, and at the "elbow" of the bend there is a very large, old oak tree, a reasonable way back from the edge of the road, and of no danger to anyone. So, I'm driving down this road in my new Civic and get to this bend. The car thinks the tree is an obstacle, and because I haven't applied the breaks at all, because I absolutely don't need to, the car slams on the breaks and starts screaming warnings at me and the bloke behind nearly drives into the back of me.
I recover my composure and carry on, thinking that I'll take it on the motorway and see how it does there. A little ways down there are some works going on, and everything is going down to one lane. It was quite late last night, so there wasn't much traffic, and everyone was gradually moving over into the outside lane well in advance. We were all slowing down gradually and appropriately but my Civic decided that I wasn't slowing down quickly enough relative to the car in front and slams on the breaks! Once again the driver behind nearly went into the back of me and there was some hooting and shaking of fists from him. I will be turning this particular bit of safety kit off. Having nearly had my brand new car written of twice before I've even got to 20 miles on the clock, as a result of it's own safety system, I think this is one bit of "essential modern technology" that I can do without! A friend of mine has a Golf with this same kind of system. She was driving on the motorway and a plastic bag blew off the back of this lorry she was behind. The bag comes towards her car, the car thinks it's an obstacle, slams on the breaks, causes a 15 car pile up and two deaths. This is "safety" kit. I don't think so.
Other than that I really like this car so far. It's solid, comfortable, quiet (once up to speed) the steering feels just right to me, not too heavy, not too light, it's got plenty of power, and it handles really well. This is only my experience of the first day, so I need to live with the car and get used to it, but initial impressions, apart from the collision system, are very good. I told the salesman who was doing the hand over that the first thing I'll be doing is turning off the idle stop/start function! He threw his hands up in horror, "think of the environment" he cried "all that fuel you'll be wasting" "poor cyclists and pedestrians breathing your exhaust fumes" I said okay, I will at least try it.
It works like this. Start engine, drive to junction at exit from dealership, engine stops for the fraction of a second that you come to a halt and then starts again when you move off. You get to the petrol station, stop the car at the pump, engine goes off, move the gear selector to park, the engine starts again, then YOU have to turn the engine off because you do actually want it off. Fill up with petrol, start the engine, drive to the exit from the petrol station. Engine stops. Split second later, you need to go, engine starts again. You get home, you have to pull in and then reverse into your space. You pull in and stop, engine stops, you put the car into reverse, engine starts again. You reverse into your space and need to move forward to straighten up properly. Move forward and stop, engine stops, put the car into reverse again, engine starts again. Then you get into your space and stop, engine stops, then you move the lever into park, engine starts again, then you turn the engine off again yourself because you've finished driving. NO NO NO NO NO! This is not how it's going to be. All that probably saved about 2 atoms worth of fuel and drove me totally mad.
From now on, engine will be started, override button will be pressed!