Road Impressions

The Honda Civic

I find these days that I like little cars very little. The Honda CiVic is an exception for I thought well of it. It seems a long time ago that we were enthusing over the high-revving, watch-like Honda S800 sports-car. The N360 and N600 Mini-cribs which followed were noisy and unimpressive, nor was the also-air-cooled 1300 quite the right answer, Now Honda has thought again and retrieved past indiscretions With the acceptable water-cooled transverse-engined„ front-drive 70 x 76 mm. 1,170 c.c. CiVic.

The Specification alone is something to make the driver eager to be off—for £1,059 there is a light alloy overhead camshaft engine with belt-driven camshaft, a three-door estate-type body (which was the type tested-two-door saloons are also available, and Honda automatic transmission, if required), independent suspension front and back, very reasonable equipment, and good accessibility of all the items requiring regular servicing, which is called for at 6,000-mile intervals with

oilchanging every 3,0(X) miles, and a happy preference for two-star fuel.

That is quite impressive on its own and when I say that this CiVic will do 90 m.p.h., accelerate more like a lively 1)-litre than a 1200 and has an attractive chunky "bread-van" appearance, you can see why it represents a Honda come-back. In London Honda have the advantage of being in Power Road, which is a good send-off.

The CiVic has light rack-and-Pinion steering which is also accurate and quick, at just over three turns, lock-to-lock. The clutch is light and smooth and the gears are changed by a long, uncranked lever which also functions with notable smoothness. The clutch and gearbox are of normal type in spite of the transverse engine, which no doubt helps towards this likeable transmission. The brakes, servo disc-drum, are equally effective. The seats of little cars are, with a few notable exceptions, never big enough to be really comfortable but the neatly upholstered reclining front ones of the Honda are very reasonable, although the levers working the adjustable squabs are rather small. There is not over-much space for the rear-seat passengers but door-locks, interior door handles and the method of folding the back seat, opening the forward-hinged bonnet, lifting the back door and so on, are well contrived. There is a big outside mirror like a-shaving mirror. I did not like the off-set pedals at first.

The unobtrusive interior trim is good, although the simulated wooden wall of the fads contrasts a trifle oddly with the painted window sills. There are openable rear side-windows and through-flow or recirculating ventilation, with adjustable vents at the facia extremities but I never did get warm air and there was a slight draught on the legs. The CiVic is no more noisy than any other Small car, quieter than many, but where it does fall down is in the handiness of the suspension, which is by MacPherson coil-spring struts. On main roads this does not much affect a good ride, apart from some up-and-down oscillation, but along rough lanes the action is very harsh and loud—is Japan devoid of bad roads ? It also causes some vibrations to make themselves heard in the body shell. Otherwise the steering is free from kick-back and there is gentle castor-return action.

On the whole, however, this Honda CiVic is a very likeable small-car. It cruises nicely at 70 m.p.h., picking up speed eagerly, and although it has the usual under-steer of a front-driver, this is by no means pronounced and the cornering grip is very satisfactory. If power is used for a snap getaway the front wheels can be felt pulling at the steering, and only then is some lost of grip apparent.. The test car had 600 x 12 Bridgestone tyres-, and it may be that others would give even better grip, which may be -why one CiVic I Saw at Chiswick was Firestone-shod.

It will be noted that the engine is old-fashioned in having a slightly longer stroke than bore. Otherwise it is right up-to-date, with 5-bearing crankshaft, four-branch exhaust manifold at the front, light-alloy head and block, a twin-choke Hitachi carburetter, on which the change-over can be mildly felt, and the excellent output of 50 (DIN) b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. This is a smooth, comparatively quiet power unit to 6,000 r.p.m. It uses Ito coil ignition and the car has a fuse-box accessible by the driver's right leg, the Yuasa NS(:)0(S) battery has a transparent casing, and an exposed belt drives alternator and waterpump, the latter with a vintage-like Off-take pipe. The brake booster is a Nissin-KogyO, the washer's bag by Mitsuba, and the radiator is front-mounted, with an electric fan. Stanley lamps are used, with flasher repeaters on the wings but the flashers themselves, side lamps and rear number-plate lamps are untidily hung on.

Instrumentation is simple, with a big, easily-read speedometer incorporating trip and total mileometers (each of which has a tenths reading) and a fuel:heat dial before the driver. There are no other dials. A manual choke on the left and lamps and wipers two-speed washers knobs on the right of the facia are the only controls, apart from a slim rh stalk for lamps flick-dipping, and signalling. The horn pushes are on the steering wheel spoke, BMW fashion, but it would be nice to have the wipers switch on this stalk. A hazard warning control occupies the steering column. In the centre of the instrument panel are warning lights, lettered OIL, CHG and PKB. The sockets for the Kangol Magnet safety-belts protrude prominently between the front scats. Stowage is offered by a non-lockable drop-tray, an open central tray and the facia shelf. The side doors are of generous size.

In spite of its worthwhile performance the Honda CiVic is a truly economical car. It gave 37.9 m.p.g., of the least-expensive petrol remember, and after 700 miles had no need of engine oil. The fuel gauge showed empty with nearly three gallons in the tank; the filler of which locks, which could result in overfilling. The range in my case came out to 320 miles.

I am not a wildly screaming enthusiast for Japanese ears, too many of Which still seem to lag behind European models in respect of such things as ride, road-holding, handling and sometimes braking. But it is sensible to look the opposition straight in the face and the excellent Honda CiVic is an example of what the Japanese Motor Industry can confront us with. However, when all is said and done, on a long urgent journey I found it noisy, Cold, and uncomfortable, and the lack of an anti-dazzle mirror was a confounded nuisance.

W.B.