Honda adds a diesel model to the tenth-generation Civic line-up, finally plugging an important gap in its C-segment offering. Impressive economy and low CO2 emissions, leading to inexpensive tax, makes the i-DTEC a sound ownership proposition, especially since this iteration of Civic is a talented hatchback anyway.
In the Metal:
There are no specific signifiers for the diesel model that would mark it out as different to any other Civic, so the only stumbling block here is whether you like the Honda's divisive styling or not. We do happen to approve of its fastback appearance. Inside, it's much the same story - only a rev counter that's redlined at 4,500rpm and topped out at 6,000rpm really gives the i-DTEC diesel's game away, so you have a spacious, well-finished cabin with a nice blend of textures and materials to pore over, plus a healthy roster of toys.
If you're looking at the i-DTEC's output and eco figures and thinking not much has changed from the old Civic's diesel engine, Honda will tell you otherwise. It says it has 'comprehensively revised' the 120hp/300Nm unit, with the chief differences being additional cast ribs in the engine block to better manage noise, vibration and harshness while also improving structural rigidity; forged steel pistons in place of the old aluminium items to reduce cooling losses in the block; friction-reducing technologies including 'super plateau honing' to create an ultra-smooth surface between the pistons and the cylinder bores; and a dual-overhead camshaft cylinder head made of thinner - and therefore lighter - aluminium alloy, taking the weight of this component down by 280g, or two per cent.
All minor detail changes, then, that you might not notice when you're behind the Civic's wheel, but Honda thinks they're worthwhile. Slim improvements in CO2 emissions (down 1g/km to 93g/km overall) and economy (up from 78.5mpg to 80.7mpg) are the result, yet it's indisputable that the diesel model is crucial to the Honda Civic's sales success or otherwise in this country.
In typical Honda fashion, the drivetrain of the Civic i-DTEC is impeccably smooth and refined, making this a deeply impressive new addition to the hatchback's line-up. If you ever need it to, the 1.6-litre engine will rev out to 4,500rpm with little complaint or feeling that it's losing puff, but - as with all turbodiesels - you're much better off riding it out on the chunky 300Nm midrange torque. Do so, and the Civic diesel feels decently brisk, capable of enacting fifth- and sixth-gear overtakes on two-lane roads with reasonable ease.
In truth, little else about the Civic Mk10's dynamic character has changed in the shift from petrol to diesel power, so it remains one of our favourite C-segment contenders, made even more appealing by the low tax implications of its 93g/km rating. The ride's good, the noise suppression is superb, the Honda's roomy interior is a good place to spend some time, the driving position is spot on and in general it's a fine family conveyance.
However, there's one weak point here and it's the beefed-up six-speed manual's action. It's baggy when it's in gear (there's masses of play in the lever in such situations), too long of throw through the gate and gritty in feel as it moves about. It's not a particularly good shifter by any company's standards, never mind Honda's - a company that has a history of making some of the best transmissions in the world for tight, precise and pleasing throws. Certainly, if you jump from the 1.0-litre VTEC model into this one, you might very well wonder if there is something wrong with the diesel's gearbox. Most odd. Perhaps right-hand-drive cars will be better.
What you get for your Money:
The Civic i-DTEC comes in a four-trim line-up, which runs Smart, Smart Plus, Premium and Premium Plus. Prices start at €25,550, an €1,800 uplift on a basic 1.0-litre Civic petrol, and run to €33,450 for the Premium Plus. All models in Ireland get items such as the Honda Sensing suite of semi-autonomous driver assist systems and LED daytime running lights, while further up the range are luxuries such as adaptive cruise control and the seven-inch Honda Connect touchscreen infotainment, including DAB, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support and satnav. Like the petrol models, the Civic diesel has an impressive 478-litre boot, made up of 414 litres above the floor and the rest in a hidden cubby underneath, so you're buying a decent wodge of practicality if you choose the Japanese machine.
Inevitable and essential to the Honda Civic's sale sheets here in Ireland, the execution of the new i-DTEC diesel model is excellent. The engine feels suitably smooth and strong, while the emissions numbers make it the most financially sensible variant in the line-up. Strangely sub-par manual gearbox aside, there's very little reason to avoid the Civic i-DTEC... although we do absolutely adore the two VTEC Turbo engines elsewhere in the range. Unless you do tens of thousands of kilometres per year, the diesel's not really necessary, but, by the same token, it's nice that Honda has finally given us the choice of fuels in the latest Civic hatch.