WITH a constant eye on the economy and soaring fuel prices, car designers and engineers really have their work cut out trying to meet consumer demands.
But somehow Honda has managed to produce an incredibly frugal diesel engine that can power its Civic model with plenty of punch but still return really impressive fuel consumption figures.
The new 1.6 engine will be available in Civic models in three trims levels priced at £19,400 for the SE, £20,595 for the ES and £23,175 for the EX.
But the figures that really count are the combined fuel efficiency of 78.5mpg which equates to 863 miles on a full tank of diesel and CO2 emissions of just 94g/km which makes this Civic exempt from road tax and congestion charges.
Other manufacturers have tried to achieve such economical figures but often compromise on performance – not so the Civic.
We tried out the top-of-the-range EX model on a range of roads in southern France and it was up for any challenge thrown its way.
It may sound too good to be true, but it's all part of Honda's new Earth Dreams Technology and this philosophy will gradually be introduced across the company's range of models.
Basically, the 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel engine is the lightest in its class weighing in at 47kg less than Honda's established 2.2-litre i-DTEC engine.
In addition, the designers have looked at the vehicle's aerodynamics and suspension, along with a new lightweight and compact transmission system.
All this new technology equates to improved ride and handling and an engine that features 120PS and delivers plenty of get-up-and-go.
All models are manual and there are no plans at this stage to introduce an automatic transmission into the mix.
The car featured six gears and the transmission proved smooth, responsive and very clean and that engine had plenty of bite offering a seemingly endless supply of power as and when needed.
The Civic looks great from any angle thanks to sleek streamlining, neat light clusters , tinted windows, body-coloured door handles and mirrors, new 16-inch alloys and that distinctive split rear screen that makes every Honda stand out in a crowd.
Inside, there are techno treats galore and the central stack faces the driver and houses features such as the climate control, sat nav and seat warmers.
The interior styling is very classy with a clear digital speedo and controls housed under a sweeping hood.
Metal sports pedals add to the Civic's chic appeal too.
There are a whole host of efficiency settings including ECO assist which advises on driving styles, ECON whereby the air con is minimalised to save fuel and Idle Stop which turns the engine off when at a standstill – once again saving on fuel.
Inside the car, there is ample room for two rear seat passengers to stretch out and the boot offers class-leading storage space of 477 litres which can be increased to 1,378 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
Tom Hains, of Honda Europe explained: “With this new engine we hope to set the benchmark for high performance and low emissions.”
And after several hours testing out this new engine it's fair to say there has been no compromise on performance when striving to achieve such challenging targets.
Of course, the car has received the maximum safety marks in the Euro NCAP ratings too.
The hatchback market is highly competitive with the Ford Focus and VW Golf always offering tough opposition, but the stats that accompany this particular Civic put it ahead of the chasing pack.