LEADING Japanese car manufacturer Honda was rather late in developing a diesel engine but they have quickly caught up with the competition and their latest oil burner which has just won a major award for being the best in the business is also one of the best I have driven writes Bryan Longworth.
For some inexplicable reason Honda did not produce a diesel engine until just over 10 years ago which allowed their competitors to become well established but the company which has a top reputation for their engines has come up with a winner with the 1.6 i-DTEC that has just been rated as the best small diesel on the market by a prestigeous motoring website.
I have just been testing the 1.6 diesel which has been praised for being refined with an impressive performance in the Civic 1.6 i-DTEC SR manual that looked really good in its dark red paintwork and attracted quite a few favourable comments from admirers.
It is 40 years since the first Civic was launched and the latest model has just received exterior and interior styling enhancements that include piano black finishes plus re-tuned front and rear dampers and overall it is now more agile and responsive.
The test car, which is priced at ?24,360 on the road was shod with smart 17 inch alloy wheels and inside there was leather seating plus satellite navigation that included a very good rear view camera for safe reversing - some systems are not as easy to see.
With a top speed of 129mph and a zero to 62mph time of 10.5 seconds and CO2 emissions being a very tax friendly 94g/km the combined fuel consumption figure is 78.5mpg but the official real world average listed in the award was 66.2mpg and my test car consumption was around this figure despite plenty of press-on driving.
The new smooth and quiet diesel engine provided plenty of power for lively acceleration and the improvements to the handling made for very enjoyable motoring and it was quite clear why this light and powerful engine has been selected as the best small diesel.
There is an up market feel about the roomy interior and the futuristic fascia is extremely user friendly especially the digital speedometer which is immediately in front of the driver and easy to see at all times and in all light conditions.
The rear hatch is easy to open and close unlike some that are heavy and difficult for shorter drivers to reach and while there is no spare wheel there is a huge amount of load space both above and below the load area floor.
One of the main complaints about the previous Civic was rear visibility through the split rear window and while this has been improved with a wiper it is still split and rearward visibility is still a bit of a problem.
After a week with the car I appreciated why this diesel engine has won the top award because not only does it provide an overall excellent power output but it is also extremely frugal and those CO2 figures also reduce ownership costs.
As mentioned earlier Honda were surprisingly slow in developing a diesel engine but they should be congratulated on catching up so quickly because it has made this particular Civic very much a car for real world motoring.
My Verdict: A worthy award winner.
Model: Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC SR.
Engine: 1.6-litre four cylinder diesel
Transmission: Six speed automatic.
Top speed: 129mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 10.5 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 78.5mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: 94g/km.
Price: ?24,360 on the road.