The best place to start is with the powertrain. There’s an all-new 2.0-litre petrol engine, specifically a direct-injected, Atkinson cycle four-cylinder, that’s paired up to an electric motor which drives the wheels and lithium-ion battery, and it’s the only powertrain available. Why? Because the system has more power than the old 1.5-litre turbo, is more economical and produces less CO2 than the old 1.0-litre turbo, and dumps more torque than the old 1.6-litre diesel. It’s a lovely set-up, actually, as Honda’s engineers have sacrificed ultimate fuel economy by programming the engine to rev as if it were attached to a gearbox in something called Linear Shift Control. So while the HR-Vs engine meanders around the rev range and stays constant when you floor it, the Civic’s sounds more traditional. In terms of enjoyment, it’s miles nicer, and goodness gracious is this 2.0-litre so much quieter than the 1.5-litre in the HR-V. That is unless you put the car into Sport mode (there’s Normal, Sport, Eco and Individual for the first time), in which case there’s some not too bad synthesised engine noise pumped into the cabin. What’s more, on start up you pull away with EV power only, and the switch from electric drive to the engine is incredibly smooth, with a minor delay on kickdown if you’re at low revs and suddenly need to get a hurry on. The only let down is that there’s no way to keep the revs high if you’re on a decent section of road, the engine preferring to drop back down the range until you get on the gas again – the paddles you’ll find behind the wheel are to decide how much regen you’d like, of which there are four levels.
The electronic power steering lacks feedback but is direct and responsive, more so than the 10th generation Civic thanks to a system that can process six times the level of information than before, and mechanicals that offer 28 per cent less friction. That being said, turn into a corner with a tad too much speed and it doesn’t take much for the front tyres to let go. The suspension has a nice, controlled travel, although the roads on which we were driving were so smooth a ruffled bed sheet would have provided more of a damper workout, so a decent assessment of how the car rides will have to wait until we can get behind the wheel in the UK. The brakes, meanwhile, like those on the HR-V, are very good indeed – the feel through the pedal is consistent at all times, which is largely not the case in most hybrids.
As an aside, it’s interesting to note torsional rigidity has gone up by 22 per cent compared to the old car. There's more reinforcement in the floor and various other structures around the car, and more adhesive in the car’s construction, putting it on a par with the old Type R. Also worth noting is that while the lovely people at Honda will talk about how the boot lid is now made of resin and is 20 per cent lighter, and the bonnet now made of aluminium and therefore 43 per cent lighter, no one mentioned the overall weight, which has gone up. The old Civic, with the 1.5-litre motor, weight 1,341-1,396kg, but with all its fancy new tech this car tips the scales at 1,517-1,533kg.