Almost 5 months in, and 3,500 miles on the clock I thought I'd share my impressions.
What I like;
The ride - this car is so comfortable that I find myself actually going for a drive just for pleasure which is something I've not done for 30 years. The handling is crisp enough to handle the twisty back roads where I live with ease, but at the same time, it copes with all manner of nasty road surfaces with ease and truly does make driving a pleasure again. I'm no enthusiast or expert, all I know is, it's just very nice to drive.
The engine - what a marvel this 1.0 3 cylinder is. If I'd got in and someone told me it was a 2.5V6 I'd believe them. Personally, I never feel short changed or that I'm driving an under-powered car, and it sounds like a V6, never harsh or strained, vocal yes, but I enjoy the sound. I'm now getting 42.5 mpg according the the computer which is amazing for an automatic petrol car I think, particularly as I mainly drive in heavy traffic.
The CVT auto - now that I "get it" I love it, but it took some practice. For anyone who has driven a conventional auto, if you jump in this car and try and drive it like a conventional auto, you won't have a very satisfying experience. I took my test in an automatic and have never driven manuals, so I've a lot of experience with autos and CVTs too. Honda has given the European market special software that makes the CVT respond differently to others I've driven. It's designed to give you maximum acceleration away from rest or below 22-23 mph. From rest or at low speeds as mentioned, anything other than a feather light touch on the accelerator will give you an engine roaring up to 3,500 rpm and rocket ship acceleration. This is fine when you have open road in front of you, not so fine when you have a Ford Transit in front of you.
To avoid it, you have to maintain a feather light touch on the accelerator until the speed goes above 23 mph at which point you can apply a little more pressure to the pedal to get going. This does mean that to avoid screaming engine and blistering acceleration you have to make do with very lethargic performance, almost embarrassingly so at low speeds. I've got used to it now and I can accomplish entire journeys without any screaming engine if I want to, which maintains the refinement of the car. Having said that, the sound of the engine at 3,000 plus is not unpleasant, it reminds me very much of a turbo fan jet aircraft engine on take off, if you sat forward of it, you get this buzz-saw grind and it's very similar in the Civic. That combined with the CVT and the seamless wall of power delivery that just doesn't stop, it certainly is exhilarating, and you just leave everything else in your dust!
Despite Honda saying that it is a "7 speed" CVT with defined gear changes that you can perceive, this only happens under certain circumstances in normal operation. If you have the selector in S mode and use the paddle shifters, then yes, you get defined gear changes, however, with the selector in D and driving normally, the gearbox operates in pure CVT mode most of the time with no perceptible "shifts", just smooth power.
As mentioned earlier though, the gearbox is speed sensitive. Lets say you are going along doing 30mph and you then want brisk acceleration. The engine RPM will be around 1,500 at 30 mph but a firm throttle input will cause a "kick down" effect and the revs will instantly go to 2,500 and stay there while the car accelerates. If you ease off gently on the accelerator, the revs will just fall away with no "change" of gear felt, but, if you ease off a little more quickly, you will get a gear shift feeling like a conventional auto changing up. It takes some practice to get used to, and to get to know what response you're going to get. The overall principal is that modest throttle inputs will give you the best results.
The looks - Love it. Some people say they're ugly, but I would say that photos don't do them justice. In the metal and in the right colour, I think they're stunning. Only seen a few others on the road, but I think they are real head turners.
What I don't like so much;
The seat fabric - I don't doubt that it is durable and hard-wearing, but there is nothing remotely luxurious about it. I've given up wearing short sleeves and resting my elbow on the centre armrest because the fabric shaves your skin off it's so rough. Not nice. Shame that you can't even choose leather as an option. Honda might say that if you could, nobody would by the EX or Prestige, but personally, I wouldn't get either of those because I don't want a sun-roof, eats into head room too much for me, but I'd really love to have leather trim.
Gloom! - the interior is relentlessly dark and funereal. Everything is black or very dark gray, all the internal pillars, the roof lining, everything. I crave some relief from it. Again no choice of fabric colour.
Equipment - on my SR grade, instead of larger alloy wheels that do nothing really except degrade ride quality because of having thinner tires, I would far rather have had an auto-dimming rear view mirror and a sensor that tells you when the windscreen washer is getting empty. As it is, you don't know the washer is empty until it is and that can be a pain sometimes. A dimming rear view mirror is just good sense and I can't understand why only the top trim levels get them. The touch screen has frozen up completely a few times and I do find it a fiddle to use. Please just give me proper buttons to press that actually work first time! Hate the "collision mitigation" system. Gives false or unnecessary warnings often and I just find it a pain frankly, similarly that dreadful "idle stop", I just deactivate it as soon as I've started the engine. By all means have these things, just let people choose them as a pack if they want them.
Zizzs and rattles - mine has a few, but they only happen when the weather is warm and/or on certain road surfaces. They come from deep inside the facia and I can't get to them to have a poke about. Things like that kind of spoil the impression of a high quality product, particularly when you've owned much cheaper cars that didn't rattle at all!
Overall though, I love this car to bits and I'm happy with it. With the benefit of hindsight, if I have another one when the PCP ends, I will go for the 1.5. I test drove one, and it just mates better with the CVT, you don't have to concentrate on not having screaming engine if you don't want it, it was just an easier car to drive with the CVT.