Take the Civic, a fairly substantial hatchback with a signature smiling face. It has premium pretensions and carries more than a hint of sporty menace.
So you might imagine a 1.6 litre engine sits behind the grinning grille. Or even a 2.0 litre.
But, no. It squeezes all the power and economy out of a tiny motor which you might imagine would struggle to move a lawn mower. Fear not. It manages 60mph in 10.9 seconds and returns 45.6mpg on a combined run, yet never feels or sounds out of breath.
Civic has been part of our motoring landscape since 1972, when it was a two-door coupe and later a three-door hatchback. In fact it was one of the first hatches and helped popularize this form of transport. Success in motorsport followed and together with famed Honda quality, it has won an army of fans across all ages.
It somehow manages to be sensible enough to be a pensioner’s wheels, while at the same time cool enough to be a trendy urban sports car among younger folk.
This car seems to me to be very under rated. Take a look around for a Civic and you might see what I mean. There are some, but fewer than you would imagine for a car which has so much going for it.
It is well balanced, reliable and good-looking. Some versions appear to be purposefully overstyled with body kit, which is not my cup of tea to be honest. But tamer looking versions like this one are great. They also don’t tend to date much, either.
Honda carried out a series of upgrades for the most recent version including
styling enhancements, improvements to the infotainment system and materials used in the cabin to give a premium feel.
Refreshed Civic builds on the car's distinctive silhouette and muscular appearance. I admire the grille, smooth surfaces and sleek styling blades.
Upgrades to the Civic’s face also include full LED headlight clusters, and redesigned LED daytime running lights. New 16in alloy wheels are available for the entry-level model, while mid- and top-range models can be styled with sporty ‘Shark Grey’ 17in alloys for some customers – those dudes who wear baseball caps back to front, for example.
The interior has been upgraded with the inclusion of new textured panels that reinforce the sophisticated ambience. Civic continues to combine class-leading versatility and practical usability, now with the added benefit of an electric eight-way adjustable driver’s seat available on top-of-the-range models.
The difference between good and great cars is often down to the computer packages. I must say Honda used to lack in this area, but it has caught up well.
The intuitive, connected infotainment system connects the driver with the car seamlessly and incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Honda has enhanced usability by adding physical buttons and dials for the infotainment and climate controls, in response to customer demand.
But the engine is the star of the show. Civic retains its range of highly-efficient and powerful engines, with CVT or six-speed manual transmissions. The 1.0 litre VTEC Turbo unit, with 126PS, is fine. If you demand more power there is a 1.5 litre 182PS version.
The car retains a sophisticated chassis set up that delivers outstanding handling and comfort. It has a lightweight, highly rigid bodyshell – the product of innovative new engineering and construction techniques – which complements the lower centre of gravity and the sophisticated suspension system. It makes the car engaging and sporty.
There is an industry-leading suite of active safety technologies that helped the model earn top ratings in the Euro NCAP tests. The passive safety features of the Civic are complemented by Honda SENSING active safety and driver assist technologies, installed on all grades.
It includes Collision Mitigation Braking System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System and Traffic Sign Recognition.
For a compact hatch, it is spacious and it has a deep and wide boot which holds 478 litres rising to 828 litres with the seats down.
All Civics have features such as electronic parking brake, power steering, dusk-sensing automatic lights and parking sensors front and rear.
The SE adds a better infotainment system with Garmin navigation, rain-sensing wipers, better climate control, leather trim and alloy pedals, plus a reversing camera.
The test EX adds leather seats and trim, powered driver’s seat, premium stereo with 11 speakers, panoramic sunroof, wireless charging and technical features such as devices to stop blind spot dangers. It is a smart, functional car with plenty to impress.
Honda Civic 1.0 Turbo EX CVT
Engine: A 998cc four cylinder petrol engine generating 126ps
Performance: 0 to 60mph in 10.9 seconds
Economy: 45.6mpg combined
Insurance: Group 15
Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles