While the 2007 Audi Q7 4.2 TDI admittedly lived at the higher end of the impossible-to-get-in- the-US diesel market, todays review subject is a far more attainable unattainable. The 2007 Honda Civic 2.2 i-CTDi doesn't just have a power train we all lust after—it's a platform we don't see in the domestic market. We're going try to limit direct comparison against our domestic version and consider this car on its own merits. Those merits will have to stand up at the premium compact price-point, though, since if the U.S. market did get this car, it would certainly be planted firmly in that segment.
The Euro spec Honda Civic 5 door we got looks like nothing on the road. Slightly alien, a little bizarre, suspiciously exciting, it's a mix and match of gentle curves and ridiculous angles that all work together to form something that really stands out. Park this at your local Wally World and you're not going to have a hard time finding it. We got comments after pulling into a Taco Bell at two in the morning. Not that the swoopy shape doesn't have it's drawbacks. The giant C-pillars take some getting used to, and while they aren't as bad as the black holes on the Toyota FJ Cruiser, it's advisable to get used to looking twice. The steep, sloping A-pillars do their part to block vision at intersections, but they don't present to much opportunity for trouble. What we don't like at all is the spoiler bump in the rear hatch. It would block headlights at dusk and at night, and it also imposes a claustrophobic feeling when checking the rear view. That said, it's not too hard to adjust to it.
The rest of the interior is a home run. The seats offer reasonable bolster, but are covered in a nice, grippy sort of perforated micofiber. They're adjustable up and down to accommodate drivers of all sizes. The tilting and telescoping steering wheel allows the instrumentation to comfortably accessed. The shifter is very similar to the uniball design Volvo introduced in the S60 a couple of years ago, but it fits nicely with the decor. We're truly smitten with the gauge cluster, however. The layout is shared with the U.S.-version Civic, featuring analog informational gauges down low and a redundant digital speedometer at the base of the windshield. What's different here is the gauges: They're a softly lit, dramatic blue concentric set with a small, square digital LED readout in the center. Not only is it gorgeous, it works great in operation. One unfortunate bauble is the gimmicky start button, which needs to be pushed, in addition to turning the key in the ignition, which is annoying in operation. We want to do one or the other, not both. Back seat? Comfortable, folds really flat for huge pass through storage. Nothing more to say there.
All right already, on to the driving. We want this engine. It does it all: delivers great mileage, supplies torque out the wazoo, has really fun engine response, and boasts a turbo whistle, to boot. At idle, the engine is a bit clattery—moreso than we would expect from a Euro offering—but once you tap the pedal things smooth out. It's a very Honda-like two engines in one: If you treat it gently, the 2.2L 138hp diesel is tame enough for Grandma; but step on it and the rush of torque is smooth and delightful. Redline comes quick at 4,500 rpm, but shifting the six speed manual keeps things in a glorious meaty chunk of 251 lb.ft. of torque. Putting the power to the pavement overwhelms the traction control and you find yourself reaching for the defeat button. Steering feedback is a couple ticks tighter then the U.S. Civic, and cornering is adequate, but the tires give up earlier than the suspension does. Road feel is perfectly acceptable, serving up a comfortable ride, not too harsh, not too soft. Sort of the Goldilocks of suspensions.
This Civic puts a whole new spin on a car we've routinely panned as boring and pedestrian in the U.S. The rare combination of unique styling, magical engine, and very nicely put-together interior has us pining for the car even more now that we've driven it. Despite the flaws, this is a really fun car which spits in the face of the diesel stereotype while embracing its most valuable asset: incredible mileage. Just how good was the mileage? You'll have to come back and find out tomorrow.
Photography by Chris Doane