Honda UK is preparing to launch the diesel version of the latest-generation Civic hatch, and Honda UK managing director Dave Hodgetts told Motor1 he is not expecting any significant slowdown in sales – because for many people, diesel still works.
Indeed, he says, it would almost be unethical of dealers not to suggest diesel to people whose driving demands suite the under-fire fuel. Which basically means anyone who covers more than 10,000 miles a year.
'We know there is an anti-diesel feeling in the UK, without a doubt – our dealers are very aware of this. But it’s still important that we inform drivers: if you cover 20,000 miles, 30,000 miles a year, there really is only one choice – it’s going to cost you a shed load of money otherwise, in all sorts of ways.'
Hodgetts admits the 10,000 mile a driver, who can make a judgment either way, is perhaps not so clear on which way to go, and 'the lack of government direction doesn’t help. You don’t know if you can drive your diesel into Birmingham in five years’ time. You probably know you can’t drive your diesel into London in five years’ time.
'There is a tendency to say, "I won’t take the risk, then," and that’s not a very good situation for the industry to be in.'
Hodgetts is thus hopeful the lack of clarity can be resolved quickly, not least because diesel remains a vital part of car makers’ medium-term plans to reduce CO2 emissions. The longer the lack of clarity goes on, he warns, the more car makers risk missing the mandatory 95g/km range-wide CO2 emissions target – and face big fines as a result.
Honda has been without a diesel-engined Civic since the launch of the current generation car; although it’s built at Swindon, UK, the new hatch is a world car, with launch priority given to the U.S – where diesel still barely registers. Petrol thus dominates, with the top-line 1.5-litre turbo currently taking 7 in 10 sales.
When diesel returns next March, Honda expects the mix to move back towards historical levels: 45 percent diesel, 55 percent petrol. The revised 1.6-litre engine should return a real-world 76mpg, claims Honda – and will also be later offered with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, making it the first-ever front-wheel drive nine-speed self-shifter.
There is already strong corporate interest from businesses who want to run the Civic Diesel as a fleet car: business sales make up one in two of all UK new car transactions.