Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Why the Honda Civic won me over

IT WAS in the wee small hours, long after you’d gone to bed, that a humdrum diesel hatchback stole my heart.

You would’ve found your petrolhead friend in unfortunate surroundings at precisely 00:32am the other Sunday night. A long drive across the country which had already started late was going from bad to worse, because while part of the M62 being closed off for overnight roadworks didn’t frustrate me a subsequent decision by another motorist to have a crash on the Highways Agency’s preferred alternative meant being diverted off the diversion, and what should have been a quick blast over the Pennines had turned into an agonisingly long crawl through Bradford city centre and then around Leeds at stupid ‘o’ clock.

Desperately needing to stay sharp and still the best part of 100 miles away from my destination, I pulled into what must qualify as Britain’s loneliest service station, somewhere near Pontefract. It was somewhere I’d suggest as a shooting location for anyone thinking of a filming a Brit adaptation of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, because it was just one semi-shut petrol station in a sea of unlit blackness, with a single, bored cashier and the distant rumble of a passing lorry every ten minutes to break up the inherent creepiness of my late night calling point.

Caffeine-crammed energy drink aside, I had just one weapon to hand should the road-horror-movie-in-the-making have got real. Fortunately, it was a good one; the 2.2 diesel version of Honda’s Civic.

Having driven one last year, I already knew the Civic had improved in quite a few crucial areas over the old one – namely, the redesign of the rear doors to stop people banging their heads as they got in and out – but at the expense of its wonderfully daring design being watered down a bit. A good car, then, but not as good as a Ford Focus. That was, however, until it decided to stop being a good car and start being a brilliant one, by using its turbocharged diesel whallop to devour the darkness over the rest of that journey.

Honda have always been good with engines but the 2.2 turbodiesel is, if munching through motorway miles is what you’re after, an absolute gem. Not only is it quiet, economical and smooth enough to win it friends in austerity-obsessed 2013 but it has so much mid-range whallop on offer that it makes easy work of overtaking just about anything.

With it being 1am on a quiet, unlit motorway, there wasn’t much call for being frustrated by the Civic’s chief niggle – the spoiler cutting right across your rear view – but the Blade Runner vibe of the digital dashboard, the build quality and the comfort completely won me over.

No, it wouldn’t be as much fun as a Focus on a windy country lane but in the freakishly early hours of the morning, when all you want to do is get home quickly and quietly, I know which one I’d rather have.

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