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Click to view picture gallery“Honda’s striking new
  Civic 3-door models
  are badged S, Type S
  and Type S GT.
  Are they as sporty as
  they sound, or are they
  just warming up for
  their eagerly-awaited
  Type R big brother?”

BRITISH BUILT at Honda's Swindon manufacturing facility alongside the 5-door models, the new Civic 3-door models — Civic S, Civic Type S and Civic Type S GT — go on sale in the UK in January with the options of a 1.8-litre petrol engine or a 2.2-litre diesel unit. Prices will range from 14,000 up to 19,800 for a fully-specified model.

Honda's current focus is on driving down the average age of UK Civic customers, so instead of logically calling this new addition to the range a Civic 3-door, their thinking is to use S or Type S badging to generate a sportier image. With their three-door design the new models do look more sporty, although this is not yet the 'proper' sports version of
the Civic. For that — the new Civic Type R — we have to wait a little longer. Confusing, I know, but logic does not always apply when it comes to naming new models.

The base model Civic S hardly rates a mention in Honda's press mater-ial as so few of them will be sold. Instead, the spotlight is on the Type S and Type S GT versions — even though they all have the same two engine options and, consequently, the same performance.

In fairness, the radical and bold styling of the new 5-door Civic has already driven down the average age of the UK owners — from 61 to 54 years; and to 51 years of age for diesel models. The number of 35- to 50-years-olds buying Civics is increasing all the time and Honda UK is confident that the new 3-door additions will accelerate this trend.

That's good news for British Honda workers in Swindon as it will in-crease total Civic sales in Europe to 100,000 units a year, of which 35,000 will be sold in the UK. Already this year, with just the new
five-door models on offer, Civic's UK sales have reached 30,000 units which equates to a 30 per cent rise over the previous Civic range. Clearly the radical styling has worked, and new younger converts as well as traditional older Civic buyers like what they see.

In 2007, Honda UK says it will sell in the region of 12,000 Civic 3-door models of which 4,500 will be the petrol Type S, 5,000 will be the yet-to-be-announced petrol Type R and 2,500 will be the diesel Type S.
So the overall Civic sales split next year is expected to be one-third
3-door models to two-thirds 5-door.

In its 3-door Sports guise, the Civic is exactly the same in length —
14 feet — as the 5-door models. The rear track, however, has been widened by 20mm. The front doors are also longer to facilitate access to the rear seats and there is a more pronounced 'kick-up' to the rear window line. The front and rear bumpers are lower and there are side sill skirts to complete the more sporting 'wedge' look. With the 60:40 fold-flat rear seats there is between 485 and 1,352 litres of luggage space. Rear passenger room is the same as that of the 5-door Civics. Not the biggest in the C-segment, but adequate.

As the base S version is only listed as a price entry model for fleet
sale purposes, I will concentrate on the specifications of the Type S and Type S GT variants.

At 15,250 for the best-selling 1.8 i-VTEC petrol model and 16,550
for the 2.2 i-CTDI diesel version (a steep 1,300 for the privilege of opting for a diesel engine), the Civic Type S is well equipped and well priced. Both units produce 138bhp and both petrol and diesel cars
have the same 127mph top speed with the diesel engine, according to official figures, returning a welcome 11.5mpg more than its petrol counterpart — 54.3mpg. Both petrol and diesel models make use of a slick 6-speed manual transmission. However, should you want the auto 'box you have no choice but to buy a petrol-engined Civic.

If you feel the added specification of the Type S GT is worthwhile, then the petrol models start at 16,250 and the diesel versions at 17,550. I must point out again that there's no difference in perform-ance between S, Type S and Type S GT models — only specification. All have anti-lock braking, electronic power steering and vehicle stab-ility assist. The base S models have steel wheels, no air conditioning and less interior sports trim.

The Type S grade of specification includes automatic air conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, stereo radio/CD unit, curtain airbags, alloy pedals and footrest, leather steering wheel, an intermediate boot load shelf, upgraded speakers, remote audio controls and a glovebox cooler.

The Type S GT grade adds a panoramic glass sunroof, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, fog lights, alarm, automatic lights and wipers and power folding door mirrors.

Inside the Type S and S GT models you will find all the hints of a real sports hatchback, but whilst the front seats are different from the Civic 5-door models and with more support, they are still not true sports seats. The excellent two-tier dashboard with its cockpit-style instrument layout is carried over from the 5-door models, and very good it looks too.

As the petrol models are going to be the best sellers — despite the demand for diesel power in this C-segment increasing from 8 to 27 per cent — for the media first test drive event I drove a Type S GT
1.8 i-VTEC petrol model. I wouldn't normally go for this GT variant as
I believe the Type S 1.8 i-VTEC version is the best buy. In this particular Honda model the high-revving petrol engine is just that bit more refined than the 2.2 i-CDTI diesel unit. Interestingly, the same diesel unit installed in the new Swindon-built Honda CR-V on/off-roader (which we cannot write about until November), works much better than the petrol engine. So it's horses for courses.

While the free-revving petrol engine is willing, it does require frequent use of the gearbox unless you're cruising on motorways. The maximum torque of 128lb ft is produced at a high 4,300rpm, so the engine speed has to be kept correspondingly high if you are to get the best response from this model. During the test drive over a combination of roads,
the Civic 3-door returned a reasonable 34.8mpg — but still markedly less than the official quoted figure of 42.8mpg.

The 3-door Civic handles well, with plenty of grip leading to the usual front-wheel drive understeer if pushed really hard. The steering res-ponse is fast and accurate, but with the lowered sports suspension the ride is harder than the 5-door models. Over poorer road surfaces the Civic can become quite choppy and some drivers will feel it enhances the sporting aspect of the car.

Plus points are styling, smart interior design, good build quality, a high equipment level and desirability. However, I felt that the choppy ride just misses the point of S for 'Sport'. Overall I got the impression that the performance and driveability of this Civic is a mid-term solution. Yes, it is sharper to look at and to drive than 5-door models. But it comes nowhere close to what the future Type R should be. For my money, it's more of a 'warm' hatchback than a sporty one. When it finally arrives, the Type R version should deliver the performance to go with the looks. I look forward to driving it! — David Miles

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Honda Civic Type S GT 1.8 i-VTEC
| 17,650
Maximum speed: 127mph | 0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 34.8mpg | Power: 138bhp | Torque: 128lb ft

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