It’s not that many years ago that Honda took the decision to develop its own diesel engines.

And judging by the success of that first 2.2-litre unit it was clearly a wise move, especially as it laid the groundwork for its latest incarnation the new 1.6 iDTEC engine – a real master which delivers brilliant economy with impressive performance in the new Honda Civic.

This is definitely the car to check out if you are looking to keep your running costs down as it will average 78.5 miles per gallon and runs so cleanly you don’t even have to pay any road tax.

And while everyone knows it’s very difficult to replicate the average fuel consumption that manufacturers claim I did manage, with very careful driving, to achieve 73.2 mpg on one long drive – and that’s impressive.

It’s particularly notable when you bear in mind that (a) the Civic is no small car – it’s a good sized, five-seater family hatchback – and (b) it offers the sort of performance to satisfy most drivers, with a lively 0-62 miles per hour acceleration time of 10.5 seconds.

The engine has proved to be so good that Honda has recently started to offer it in its much larger and much heavier CR-V model, to widespread acclaim.

Economy is helped by a stop/start system on both cars and the option to press the ECON button which gives more relaxing drive and greater fuel efficiency.

Both the Civic and the CR-V are built in Britain, at Honda’s plant in Swindon. Perhaps even more surprisingly so is the new engine.

On the road this home-grown Civic offers nice blend of refinement and good pulling power. Inside the cabin it’s particularly quiet as Honda engineers reasoned that a quieter car felt safer at high speeds, reduced driver fatigue and imparted a feeling of premium luxury.

They focused not only on reducing overall noise levels, but also on minimising the contrast between the different frequencies of noise reaching the driver’s ear from outside the cabin.

Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC SE
Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC SE

By using a clever system called Active Noise Cancellation, signals are created and sent to the car’s door speakers and subwoofer which cancel out external noises to keep the interior impressively silent.

The Civic offers a good blend of space for both passengers and luggage. This is particularly evident with Honda’s unique Magic Seat system which has a multiplicity of seat configurations.

The rear seat backs can, for example, be folded down completely to give a flat boot space large enough to carry three mountain bikes.

If you want to load something across the car you can flip up the rear seat cushions like cinema seats and put a bike in that way.

Inspiration for the Civic’s dashboard area came from the control panel layout of the cockpits of both jet fighters and racing cars to ensure everything is intuitive.

The dash is split into two levels, with the digital speedometer immediately in front of the driver at the higher level making it quicker to read and the rev counter and supplementary dials at the lower level.

Build quality is good, so much so that you barely have to put any pressure on the doors to close them.

I’m still not sure about the split rear window which affects your rear vision but that apart the new Civic 1.6-litre diesel is a package which takes some beating.

Fast Facts

Model: Honda Civic i-DTEC ES-T

Price: £21,590

Mechanical: 1597cc, 4 cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6spd manual gearbox.

Max speed: 124 mph

0-62mph: 10.5 secs

Combined mpg: 78.5

CO2 emissions: 94 g/km

Warranty: Three years/90,000 miles