Britain builds a world car: New Honda Civic can be a source of pride in a post Brexit era, says RAY MASSEY
Honda may be Japanese, but the new 10th generation Civic is, in fact, an all-British affair.
Not only is this striking new five-seater hatchback built in Swindon for the British market, the plant also supplies the U.S., Europe and even Japan.
So, in a post-Brexit era, the Civic should be a source of pride, rolling off a production line on our doorstep.
Pride of Britain: Honda flies the flag, with launch colours of the new Civic in red, white and blue
It's visually sharp and sporty with almost coupe-like styling; lower, wider and longer than its wedge-shaped predecessor.
The design of the first Civic, which launched in 1972, varied from region to region. The new model is more of a 'world car', with a common design engineered on a new platform in the biggest development programme in the company's history.
New Honda Civic
Honda has re-configured its production mix at Swindon to be less reliant on the European market and to increase export sales to other world markets including the USA and even japan.
Before the launch of the new 10th generation Civic, some 40 per cent of its UK-built cars were exported to Europe, 40 per cent to the rest of the world (but not the USA) and 20 per cent to the home British market.
Now, with the new car, half (50 per cent) of production is being exported to the USA, Japan and the rest of the world, with just 35 per cent to Europe and 15 per cent to the UK.
Last year Honda sold a total of 59,141 cars in the UK last year of which 17,300 – more than a third - were Civics.
The Swindon factory currently employs a workforce of 3,750 having recently taken of 600 new people as a result of the £200million investment in the new car.
Price: £18,235 to £27,480
On sale: late March
Honda chief engineer, Mitsuru Kariya, reckons it is 'the sportiest Civic ever' — a bold, but probably fair, claim.
The car has good poise and balance. It takes corners with aplomb, thanks largely to its lightweight, but highly rigid, body shell. Though no sports car, it's fun to drive.
It's a flexible, practical, family hatchback with more boot space — 478 litres.
The driver's seat position is lower and more cosseting than on the outgoing model, but still comfortable, and there's plenty of room for front and rear passengers. Visibility is much improved.
The interior is stylish and practical without being boring, a complaint levelled at some of the previous Hondas. Handy thumb-pad buttons on the left spoke of the steering wheel resemble a video-game controller.
At launch, there are two turbocharged petrol engines: a frugal one-litre, three-cylinder, and a beefier 1.5 litre, four-cylinder, linked to a slick, six-speed manual gearbox.
There is also a less engaging continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic. A diesel option will follow.
The one-litre, six-speed manual drives well, with fair gusto, given the efficiency of its relatively small 129 bhp turbocharged engine.
It will cut your fuel bills to a claimed 55.4 mpg, with CO2 emissions — on which road tax is largely based — of just 106g/km.
The more powerful 1.5-litre, 182 bhp manual is particularly silky smooth with plenty of oomph, but still manages 46.3 mpg with CO2 emissions of 133g/km.
The one-litre Civic comes in three trim levels: SE, SR and EX, while the 1.5-litre's line-up is Sport, Sport-Plus and Prestige.
The international launch of the new British-built Civic took place in Barcelona –fitting since so many will be going for export
Test: Ray Massey behind the wheel of the new Honda Civic at its international launch in Barcelona
All rounder: The latest Civic is a flexible, practical, family hatchback with more boot space — 478 litres
Value for money and running costs are important, especially as four-fifths of buyers will be private.
So it's good to know that, according to the CAP vehicle valuation service, the car will hold 37 per cent of its value after three years and 60,000 miles — 9 per cent up on the ninth generation.
Safety feat-ures and sensors help prevent coll- isions by automatically braking, and there are lane departure warnings.
A seven-inch colour display screen dominates the dashboard and offers sat-nav, connectivity and audio control.
Handling: Though no sports car, the new Civic is fun to drive. It has good poise and balance and takes corners with aplomb, thanks largely to its lightweight, but highly rigid, body shell
Top tech: A seven-inch colour display screen dominates the dashboard and offers sat-nav, connectivity and audio control
Choices: At launch, there are two turbocharged petrol engines: a frugal one-litre, three-cylinder, and a beefier 1.5 litre, four-cylinder, linked to a slick, six-speed manual gearbox
Anything but the standard Rallye red metallic paint will add £525 to the price.
The one-litre petrol automatic struggled and was less engaging. At higher speeds, it was noisy and felt laboured; at lower speeds, it wallowed, especially on bends. I'd go manual.
Honda's reputation has been built on its engineering excellence over decades, but it has suffered from somewhat staid styling.
This goes some way towards addressing those concerns, but some critics call the styling 'too American'.
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