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The conversation in the office caught me a bit off balance. “Ah, you were spotted in that smart boy-racer of yours last Sunday,” a friendly colleague and fierce motor-biker said as he accosted me at the water-cooler.

“Don’t think that was me, not last weekend any way,” I replied.

But he insisted, he had actually seen me get out of the car and go into a coffee shop. The penny dropped, the boy-racer tag had confused me. For, after all, hadn’t I been driving the latest Honda Civic at the weekend? A car usually bracketed with the Volkswagen Golf as the epitome of safe, middle-brow family motoring.

But that was then and this is now. The Honda Civic has reinvented itself as a very low and sleek family car with a couple of stonkingly good petrol engines and an awful lot of style, specification and safety.

In doing so, it has probably passed me by as a need for height and ease of getting into a car pushes me away from the new trend for taking a few inches off the roofline.

Yet I could not but admire the Honda Civic and did really delight in driving it for the week. This was especially so as I had the 1.0 turbo petrol engine on test which again showed just how good is this new era of small powerful engines.

It would be impractical to list all the safety equipment fitted to the Turbo Premium model I was testing. There were about 10 Honda Sensing systems with the words “warning, “mitigation”, “limiter”, “monitor”, “recognition” or “control” in them. It’s a part of Honda’s ‘Safety for Everyone’ philosophy.

Yet it is a pity that over here, price rules, and most people might be put off by the price tag of €30,150 for the test car.

However, for that, you are also going to get a lot of leather, an excellent navigation system, lots of comfort elements and some rather nice alloys as well as heated front and rear seats.

The infotainment system was a bit confusing, however, but there is the considerable cachet of having one of the greatest automobile engineering names behind you. Apparently this new 10th generation Civic is the biggest investment in model replacement ever made by the company.

I’d prefer a longer warranty rather than the three-year one, given Honda as a brand has always scored very highly in reliability surveys and finished top in the What Car? listing.

However, it did dip in the latest JD Power UK Vehicle Dependability Survey.

I haven’t tested the automatic version of the car but have heard reports of the CVT varying from absolute glowing to dire and one person told me it was the “worst thing since stale bread”.

In sacrificing some of the versatility of the old Civic, like the Magic Seats and flat floor, in favour of more sophisticated suspension and ride comfort, the Honda has taken a gamble. But there is no doubt it is a pleasure to drive.

The very complex infotainment system and the 7in touchscreen is annoying and had both my partner and I equally confused at first. She sorted it out better than me.

However, I thought the dash looked very good and modern, although there is still nothing to touch the Peugeot 3008.

The one-litre petrol engine will be enough for most people although a 1.5, which is very quick, will be available and a diesel is on its way by the end of the year. A very fast R version will also follow.

The rear view is far better than the old Civic, although you need all the on-board safety tricks when parking as rear-side visibility is poor. Economy is not class-leading, with the Golf and Octavia petrol engines doing better.

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The range starts at €23,750 and most of the safety kit is included but the comfort level isn’t nearly as great.

I think the new Civic is a head-turner and a class-leader in terms of safety. I hope it does well, but you are paying a premium. It probably isn’t for me but for a week, I was pleased to be in it.

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