Vehicle Overview
Honda's popular coupe and sedan earned a face-lift for 2004 that included restyling of the hood, bumpers, grille and headlights. A new Value Package became available. For 2005, a new Special Edition package that features a rear spoiler and an MP3-compatible six-CD stereo is offered on EX models.

Redesigned for the 2001 model year, the front-wheel-drive Civic was made to look more like its larger Accord sibling. Honda introduced the Civic Hybrid for 2003; it is powered by a gasoline engine that's augmented by an electric motor. Honda also offers the performance-oriented Civic Si hatchback.

Except for the Civic Hybrid and Civic Si, all Civics carry a 1.7-liter four-cylinder with outputs that vary from 115 to 127 horsepower, depending on the model. All Civics but the Si earn at least an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle rating.
(Skip to details on the: Civic Hybrid | Civic Si)

Measuring 175.4 inches long overall, the four-door Civic is nearly 3 inches shorter than the Toyota Corolla and about the same length as a Ford Focus sedan. Both the Civic coupe and sedan ride a 103.1-inch wheelbase, but the four-door model is 1.6 inches taller than the coupe.

Coupes and sedans have a similar hood, front fenders, front bumper and headlight styling, but the coupe's rear pillars, rear bumper and taillights are different, and it features a swept-back windshield.

All Civics seat up to five occupants and offer a more spacious feel than some other compact models. A shoulder belt is provided for the center rear seating position. Rear legroom is ample because of the Civic's compact rear suspension. The sedan's trunk offers 12.9 cubic feet of space, and the split rear seatback folds down for additional cargo room.

Under the Hood
When installed in DX and LX models, the Civic's 1.7-liter four-cylinder makes 115 hp. In EX models, this engine uses Honda's variable valve timing technology and produces 127 hp. Both engines are available with a standard five-speed-manual gearbox or an optional four-speed-automatic transmission. The HX coupe uses a 117-hp lean-burn engine that operates with reduced emissions and is available with a continuously variable transmission that has no gears. This transmission is standard in the 100-hp GX sedan that runs on compressed natural gas.

Side-impact airbags for the front seats are optional on all models. Antilock brakes are standard on EX models.

Driving Impressions
Civics are solid, quiet on the road, and easy and pleasant to drive, but they're a bit on the bland side in appearance and performance. Those aspects may be overshadowed easily by Honda's reputation for quality and dependability. The Civic EX is about as good as compact sedans get.

Throttle response in the 127-hp EX is good, but its automatic transmission reacts a bit slowly. Honda's manual gearshift, however, is precise, and the clutch performs expertly. The only minor drawback is its inability to move suitably at low speeds in higher gears due to a lack of low-speed engine torque.

Steering requires only modest effort. This car delivers excellent ride quality and is wholly capable during tight maneuvers. Civics are appealing and undeniably sensible, though they're not overpowering or alluring.

Civic Hybrid
Honda introduced a gasoline/electric hybrid powertrain in its conventional Civic sedan for the 2003 model year.

Honda's Integrated Motor Assist system in the Civic Hybrid makes the gas engine dominant. The electric motor provides additional power when needed. While yielding impressive fuel-economy figures and reduced emissions, the Civic Hybrid drives like any other automobile. The batteries never need to be connected to a power outlet because they're recharged while driving. An automatic idle/stop feature shuts off the engine when the car comes to a stop as a means of conserving fuel.

The Civic Hybrid is available with either a five-speed-manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission that uses no gears. It's powered by a 1.3-liter four-cylinder and an electric motor/generator that produce a combined 93 hp. Compared with its gasoline-engine sibling, several exterior revisions give the Civic Hybrid a distinctive look. Dunlop tires promise low rolling resistance, and electric power steering is installed. Side-impact airbags and antilock brakes are standard.

Except for the powertrain and various details, the Civic Hybrid differs little from a regular Civic sedan, so the driving experience is similar. Handling falls well short of sporty, but you get all the other virtues of Honda's compact car, including a smooth ride. The idle/stop feature operates as promised by shutting off the gas engine when the car comes to a halt and then starting up instantly when it's time to take off again. Some manual-shift models, however, have failed to restart immediately. Acceleration is wholly adequate from a standstill and at highway speeds. The car operates very quietly, but road noise is slightly greater than usual due to the low-rolling-resistance tires. Back to top

Civic Si
The current Civic Si went on sale late in the 2002 model year. Built in Swindon, England, the Si is a three-door hatchback. Featuring a double-layered mesh grille and a subtle rear roof spoiler, the Civic Si has a firmer suspension and larger wheels and tires than other Civics.

Electric power steering features variable gear ratios. The front disc brakes are larger than usual, and a moonroof and rear wiper are standard. Up to five occupants get sport seats with open head restraints, and the driver faces performance-oriented gauges and a leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel. Cargo capacity is 15.7 cubic feet.

Honda's high-output i-VTEC 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 160 hp and 132 pounds-feet of torque; it drives a close-ratio five-speed-manual gearbox. A rally-style gearshift lever is mounted at the dashboard center, near the steering wheel. All-disc antilock brakes are standard. Side-impact airbags are optional.

On the highway, the agile and exuberant Civic Si steers with precision and handles with conviction. At the racetrack, the hatchback responds pleasantly through demanding curves. The energetic, nimble Si delivers a welcome combination of confidence and joy to anyone who wishes to push the car toward its limits. The gearshift's position and operation are excellent, though smooth takeoffs require a little practice.

Honda's electric power steering works magnificently and with natural reactions. An aggressively taut suspension transmits bumps, but it reacts so rapidly and with such control that the ride is actually pleasant. Bigger obstacles are undeniably jarring, however. The Si's seats are super, but the lack of grab handles is a drawback. Back to top