Tuesday, 18 September 2012 8:35 AM
Over the past few years car manufacturers have tried to re-invent the handbrake. Step inside a Rolls Royce, Bentley, Jaguar, Range Rover or Renault and you’ll find that it has been replaced by a simple switch.
This is all very well if the vehicle is automatic as these have a helpful anti-roll feature. The difficulty is when they’re manual – they should all have anti-roll but it doesn’t always seem effective - requiring nifty foot work of the clutch and accelerator. Hence, I still prefer the traditional handbrake that can be found in Skodas and Hondas.
Even the brand new 2012 Civic has a proper handbrake as you can see by watching the video at testdrives.biz. The Japanese manufacturer realises that it gives more control to the driver. In the latest Civic it resides closer to the front passenger than the driver but nevertheless it’s in a good position – far better than the Land Rover Defender I tested.
The ninth generation Civic launched in February stays true to its predecessor with the addition of more accentuated rear lights that protrude from the bodywork and an eye-catching black front grille. But the cool triangular exhausts have sadly disappeared. As ever this Civic is aimed at those considering the bland Volkswagen Golf or Ford Focus. Compared to those two it definitely stands out from the crowd.
Its five-door design retains that essence of sportiness more akin to a three door by cleverly concealing the rear door handles in the same way as the old Alfa Romeo 156. The aerodynamic design sees a bar across the rear windscreen, which impedes vision somewhat and calls for careful reversing.
Inside it is spacious with a particularly good size boot. This 1.8-litre petrol is fairly responsive to drive as well with good low down torque although when worked hard it can be a little raucous.
It took me a while to discover how to operate the cruise control and speed limiter buttons found on the right of the steering wheel. They are engaged by pressing the ‘Main’ button, which to me is not logical. However, this system is reliable to within a few mph of the set speed, requiring extra concentration when approaching speed cameras particularly when they’re at the foot of a hill.
This cruise control, which can be used at speeds as low as 20mph, works best when the desired speed has been reached on a flat road - it happily maintains progress. Don’t whatever you do though, use cruise instead of the accelerator as progress can be sloth-like.
Its six speed manual box is generally decisive. To ensure greater efficiency there is ‘eco’ mode and a reliable automatic engine stop/start, both of which help this vehicle cover 500 miles on its 50-litre tank.
Parkers, the car experts, say: “One of the Civic’s strong points is practicality. The boot is far bigger than its competitors’ and there’s loads of room inside thanks to what Honda calls ‘Magic Seats’. The Civic has been awarded a five-star Euro NCAP rating thanks to its plethora of safety equipment including adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation – which applies the brakes if it thinks you’re about to crash.”
While it is disappointing that the road tax on this efficient British-built vehicle is so high it is the more fashionable alternative to the VW Golf or Ford Focus.
2012 Honda Civic 1.8-litre i-VTEC 5-door
New price range: £16,955 - £28,750
Top speed: 134mph
Road tax: £130 a year
By Tim Saunders
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