Well, on thursday just gone, me and my girlfirend bought this:
its a Civic ES with the 1.8 in cosmic grey. this car didnt even make it to the forecourt as when we were looking it had just been traded in at boston honda and our dealer at grantham got it shipped over for us to look at. 06 plate with less than 20,000miles...it had to be worth a squirt, and it was! its immaculate! (apart from scratches on the perspex covering the rev counter). we were holding out for a bit nicer colour like vivid blue, but as with all second hand car buying, you never quite get what you want....finding a vivid blue, in the right spec was hard enough, getting one with such a low mileage and in such pristine condition even harder. its a smart colour though so we're quite happy.
anyway, on the Friday i picked up a pool car from work for this weeks exploits in Durham. Guess what? its a Civic ES but this time a 2.2 in milano red.
so i thought id do a pretty thorough comparison between these cars for anyone wondering petrol or diesel.
Note: the diesel civic is an 07 and has done over 80,000m and is essentially a hire car. its pretty beat up to be honest...the paint work is in particularly bad nick and the engine doesn't sound as sweet as some other 2.2's Ive heard. it had just been serviced though so i guess its ok. it also has a wheel imbalance and a really bad rattle from the boot area. not the perfect car to fight the diesels corner....but it will do.
right so on to the review/comparison:
Ill start with spec:
if you dont already know, the ES spec includes some nice additions: power folding mirrors, auto lights (work well), auto wipers (not so well), dual zone climate control and fog lamps. they have the standard stereo though in my car it sounds a bit more meaty.... both sound perfectly fine to me, yeah the bass isnt thick but it sounds taught and controlled and is really rather pleasant so i dont know what people were complaining about. Its on the standard 16 inch rims, which ok they dont fill the arches as nice as the 17's...but they do look good and they do give the best ride. last but not least... the glass roof. this really makes a difference as the car can be quite dark inside. open the blinds and the cabin is transformed. it instantly feels bigger and more airy. rear passengers love it because they feel less hemmed in by the thick C-pillars at the back.
so all in all the ES spec is very nice, a good compromise between SE and EX trims.
Engine: Start up:
Press the start button and with a few chirps of the starter motor the petrol bursts into life, before quickly settling down to a very subdued thrum. is it on? lol.... being used to VAG diesels i found it quite remarkable how quiet this engine is at idle. barely a whisper, and no vibrations.
press the button in here and its a bit more gruff....it clatters to life and its quite a bit noisier than the petrol. but thats just diesel for you, even with a lower than average 16:1 compression ratio...you still cant hide the noise of a diesel and its injection system. having said that, for a diesel it is pretty quiet and seems the thrum rather than bang. still it intrudes into the cabin more than the petrol, but again it does so without any vibrations.... its quiet surreal, you can hear it, you can definitely tell your sat only feet away...yet you can feel nothing at all. in my skoda you know the engines on coz you can feel it in the seat!!!
as with most DBW cars...there's some lag when you press the throttle, but you learn to drive round it. as for the engine itself...well i love it. theres nothing special about its 7000-ish rpm red line, most petrol's will go this high....however, most petrol's dont get there as easily as this thing! its like its been neutered, it feels like it could quite easily do another 2000rpm its so free revving. and unlike alot of engines it doesnt feel strained either. my old focus would get to 5000 and it would feel tight and like it was telling you dont push me any higher.
on the road you can really find that its got some legs this engine. it will do motorway speeds in second and it wont complain if you do. this is why the petrol isnt much slower to 60 than the diesel....you only need to change gear once! and it sounds rather quite good doing so... its got a nice throaty roar to it once you get past 4000rpm. just lovely
the petrol, has a quite almost Jekyll and Hyde character, in that below 4000rpm it doesnt appear or sound like its doing much...you almost dont notice the speed building rather steadily. but once you get to 4-5000rpm it really comes on song abit and the speed really picks up. if your not careful it can catch you out. that pre-4000rpm zone lulling you into a false sense of security about how fast its actually going. its not that its creeping along or anything its just that its so quiet and you feel sat quite high that without looking at the speedo, its kinda hard to gauge your speed.
so all in all very fun, and its a very rewarding drive on a country lane...you need to have some deft gear box work to hussle it and keep the engine wailing and when you get it hooked up, you feel very very good. thats not to say its a pain to drive slowly though...ill come on to this later.
the diesel is a surprise. most diesels i drive dont like to be revved... this one does. it will go to the red line without question, quite easily. because of this it doesnt feel as lethargic as some diesels do.
Floor it though and it couldnt be any different from the petrol. its very brash, very in your face with its speed. thanks to the turbo you get gobs or torque at low rpm and it just shoves you in the back with some quite serious thrust. subjectively it feels much faster than the petrol, it feels like its going to headbutt the horizon. but the usual diesel trait of running out of puff after only a few thousand revs means you need to change gear a bit more.
i guess it only feels faster because you are more aware of what its doing. as you get thrown back into your seat you know your giving it some stick, you get a gowly diesel sound track to go with it and a sprinkling of rushing air running through the boost pipe. where as the petrol doesnt let you know your booting it till your going at a fair rate of knots.
so what im saying is... its definately louder than the petrol here. i dont really like the sound of boost air intruding into the cabin, im more of a supercharger whine man myself, so i prefer the petrols characteristics more. still, if you dont mind the foundry noises coming from under the bonnet, you will never tire of the way the diesel just picks up and thumps you down the road. its a very easy car to drive fast because of the power being readily available so low down. any gear, squirt the throttle, away you go. the petrol feels a bit more sophisticated...its not brutish, you have to have to charm it.
Bumbling about town
not going to do a vs here, both engines will potter you about town with ease. thanks to the worn clutch on the diesel being much like the very worn clutch on my skoda, i found the diesel easier to drive smoothly about town. with the petrol being so, err, not worn... some of my changes are quite jerky and there is that little dip when the cam switches (either at 50% throttle or 3500 rpm). but once i got my feet tuned in, the petrol is just as smooth and again quieter.
its no surprise that the diesel will simply coast around in 6th at 30mph...but it was a surprise that the petrol can also cruise around in 6th at 30mph. i was quite shocked, i thought it would start to choke and kangaroo about when you try accelerate...but it doesnt, it will accelerate from 30 in 6th. just not as good as the diesel, but proves its actually a very flexible engine in its own right.
both seem to cruise well and at 70mph both seem to be just as loud/quiet as each other so i dont think theres much of an argument there. to me they are both pretty quiet on the motorway. not as good as the golf, but easily the same as a focus or something. in other words its not bad. the main source of noise is road noise, thanks to the hard suspension. wind noise really doesnt play a part and engine noise is also a none issue in both cars. (unless your booting the petrol past 4000 rpm).
the diesel wasnt the best for this because of the rattle and because of the wheel imbalance. the incessant vibrations set up a pretty horrible jittering motion in the car and this was accompanied by its own little sound too. you could hear it, you could feel the pulsing in your ears from the vibrating wheel.
in the petrol i think u might have to change down to overtake from 70mph but of course in the diesel you just put your foot in it and you build speed like no bodies business. in gear acceleration on the diesel is quite spectacular and easily has the petrol beat. so if you are a motorway mile muncher man then diesel is the way to go because its just an easier motorway drive. leave it in 6th and forget about it.
i cant quote this with much reliability but the diesel, according to the trip computer managed about 52mpg on my 160mi trip to durham yesterday. this was at around 75-80mph the whole way with the cruise on. this is pretty standard to be honest, my skoda will easily do the same.
the petrol...well i reset the B trip counter when we got and since then its done 36mpg according to the computer. this has been 100% town and spirited country driving though. i just cant help myself in second gear! however, the A trip counter reveals that over the last 5000 miles (done by previous owner) that the car has done around 45mpg average. if this is true that is very very good for a petrol.
just a quick note on handling. the suspension in both cars is pretty stiff, but most of the time it gives a pretty nice ride...unless you are on a particularly poorly kept road. the steering is perhaps the cars best bit, its very very direct and the small diameter of the wheel makes it feel very pointy and precise and chuckable. it weights up nicely through bends and you feel 100% connected to the road at all times, it really is the best steering ive used, even better than my old ford focus. thanks to the stiff springs, theres not alot of body roll either so cornering is nice and flat (at least compared to my skoda superb which handles like a boat). brakes in the petrol are a bit more confidence inspiring than in the diesel, the diesels feel a bit underpowered at times but both have great modulation. gear changes in both cars are nice too, they give good feedback through your hand, so you know youve engaged the gear properly. thumbs up here.
overall then its horses for courses.... when booting it both cars are fast, but in their own ways. the diesel is very "look at me, look at me" with its progress, the big dollop of torque firing you down the road in a very obvious fashion. and the petrol...well its almost 2 faced, if you dont pay attention you wont be aware of its progress below 4000rpm and then all of a sudden your going at a fair lick when its mr Hyde side shows up.
around town, once you get tuned in, they are both pretty nice to cruise around in. the petrol more so because its quieter and you dont really miss the explosion of torque from the diesel because theres never usually any space to use it. the diesel is much louder, especially when cold (it does quieten a good bit after its warm tho), and alot of its mechanical noises transfer into the cabin abit too easily, such as the whooshing boost air.
both have good road manners on decent roads, though they get very bouncy on bad roads and a bit crashy at times. road noise isnt an issue really, theyre quieter than my skoda and i think thats pretty acceptable as it is so i have no qualms there. its not super quiet on the road or anything but its easily on a par with alot of other cars in its class (bar the new golf, a3 and i reckon the new astra will be quiet on the road too)
for me the petrol is the best choice... it wont be doing lots of miles, and certainly not lots of motorway miles so it made sense to stick with the petrol as i already have a diesel for those duties. and if you drive it right, it will give good mpg around town. plus i just miss the linear response of a petrol and the way you have to work the gears to go fast.... its definitely a car that rewards the keen driver and for me thats perfect.
i hope this has been informative. if you have any other questions please ask.... i have the diesel untill the end of the week so can report back with more findings as, when or if i find any.