2008 Honda Civic

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Key Specs
Our Take
Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2008 Honda Civic. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    25-30 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    140-hp, 1.8-liter I-4 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain:
    Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    5-speed manual w/OD
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Fuel economy
  • Six standard airbags
  • Refinement
  • More-powerful drivetrains
  • Interior quality, quietness

The Bad

  • Hybrid's backseat doesn't fold
  • No manual Hybrid
  • Some headroom/legroom decreases

Notable Features of the 2008 Honda Civic

  • Mugen high-performance sedan
  • New leather package
  • Sedan, coupe, Hybrid and Si models
  • High-performance Si sedan
  • SULEV emissions
  • Tilt/telescoping steering wheel
  • GPS navigation option

2008 Honda Civic Road Test

David Thomas

The three years since the Honda Civic was last redesigned have been plenty of time for the competition to catch up to Honda's solid, fuel-efficient, entertaining daily driver, but after revisiting the Civic, it's really hard to think of any car that has managed the feat. The Civic still rules — in statistical categories as well as in the real world of commuting and soaring gas prices.

 

The Competitive Landscape
We'll get to what makes the Honda Civic so darn good inside and out in a bit. For now, it's important to understand what makes the Civic such a target. Its chief rival is the Toyota Corolla, which was completely redesigned for 2009 and is on sale now. My early estimation of that car — I've driven it only briefly — is that it isn't as well thought-out inside, gets nearly identical mileage and doesn't handle as well. The cars are priced roughly the same.

Other competitors include the Mazda3, Nissan Sentra, Kia Spectra, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Chevy Cobalt. While each competitor offers a relatively good value — and some, like the Mazda, also provide a good driving experience — none combine all the positive attributes of the Civic in one vehicle.

Lineup
The Civic is built in two body styles, Honda Civic sedan and Honda Civic coupe. Both come in DX, LX, EX and EX-L trim levels, all with different price tags and features. All models feature a five-speed manual or automatic transmission. Compare th...

The three years since the Honda Civic was last redesigned have been plenty of time for the competition to catch up to Honda's solid, fuel-efficient, entertaining daily driver, but after revisiting the Civic, it's really hard to think of any car that has managed the feat. The Civic still rules — in statistical categories as well as in the real world of commuting and soaring gas prices.

 

The Competitive Landscape
We'll get to what makes the Honda Civic so darn good inside and out in a bit. For now, it's important to understand what makes the Civic such a target. Its chief rival is the Toyota Corolla, which was completely redesigned for 2009 and is on sale now. My early estimation of that car — I've driven it only briefly — is that it isn't as well thought-out inside, gets nearly identical mileage and doesn't handle as well. The cars are priced roughly the same.

Other competitors include the Mazda3, Nissan Sentra, Kia Spectra, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Chevy Cobalt. While each competitor offers a relatively good value — and some, like the Mazda, also provide a good driving experience — none combine all the positive attributes of the Civic in one vehicle.

Lineup
The Civic is built in two body styles, Honda Civic sedan and Honda Civic coupe. Both come in DX, LX, EX and EX-L trim levels, all with different price tags and features. All models feature a five-speed manual or automatic transmission. Compare the features and prices here, or look at the 2008 Civic side-by-side with the 2007 version here. There's also a hybrid version of the sedan, which gets 40/45 mpg city/highway. A high-performance Si model is available in both sedan and coupe body styles with limited-slip differentials. (I reviewed the Si last year.)

For this review, I tested a 2008 Honda Civic EX-L with navigation.

Exterior
In the past, the Honda Civic was a very vanilla sedan, like many of its competitors. This latest generation, though, took a serious right turn at practical and went right to the race-inspired sci-fi section. The hood is radically sloped, and the headlights narrowly lead to a chrome bar over the trademark Honda "H."

The truncated rear end is stylish, not only dominating the rear of the car but also altering the profile. It makes for an odd stance that is very un-sedanlike. The Honda Civic coupe isn't quite as awkward in that regard; it features a rear that rises high behind the doors.

It's a little surprising that Honda took a chance with one of its biggest sellers, but it's a risk that has paid off.

Interior
There are two things anyone who steps into a Civic will immediately notice: The dashboard is very deep, punctuated by a radical two-tiered display that's straight out of a Star Trek shuttle pod. Then there's the interior quality. Nothing in its class has materials that are as nice to the touch, nor do any feel as solid as the Civic's do. The Nissan Sentra may come close on this front, but I'll take the Civic's friendly ergonomics and numerous bins any day.

My tester came equipped with leather, which was quite nice — though not on par with the new Accord or Odyssey's — but that's not a feature I think many economy car shoppers would necessarily choose. It brings the price of an EX model from $18,710 to $19,910. However, the one feature I don't like in the Civic is the standard cloth material on the seats. It's a "fuzzy" material, which to me seems like it won't wear well and is prone to generating static shocks. That said, fellow Cars.com reviewer Kelsey Mays prefers that material to other types of cloth. To each his own.

The seats themselves were both supportive and comfortable, and the cabin feels spacious for front passengers. There was plenty of footroom in back, but headroom was tight. Despite the specs indicating otherwise, the legroom was much better than in the new Ford Focus sedan I recently tested.

Performance
With just 140 horsepower, you'd expect the Honda Civic's efficient four-cylinder engine to be a dud, but it offers a lot of pep. That doesn't mean it has street-racing speed, but it can merge into highway traffic just fine and pass without causing panic. The Mazda3 is probably the only one of the Civic's competitors that's more fun to drive, but of course it's also thirstier at the pump.

The Honda Civic is nimble, with tight steering that also adds to the fun-to-drive factor. The ride is comfortable, but not as cushy as the Corolla's. I didn't mind it during highway commuting, though. Both road and wind noise were minimal for a car in this class.

Best of all for these days of sky-high gasoline prices, the Civic gets 25/36 mpg city/highway. That's near the top of the segment; the less powerful base Corolla is the only one that tops it, and even then it's only in city driving.

Safety
The Honda Civic received top scores in front-, side- and rear-impact crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Usually cars that achieve such a feat earn the organization's Top Safety Pick award, but the Civic doesn't come with electronic stability control even as an option, and that takes it out of the running. We'd like to see stability control added as an option to the Civic before the system becomes mandatory in 2012.

The Honda Civic does come with standard antilock brakes, active front head restraints, side-impact airbags for front passengers and side curtain airbags for both rows of seats.

Civic in the Market
What most impresses me about the Civic is that after nearly three years on the market it still holds up to extreme scrutiny in a very competitive segment. It's also priced well, coming in lower than the Nissan Sentra and about on par with the Corolla.

If you want someone to simply come out and say the Honda Civic is a better car than the rest, then I guess I'm your man. Even if all you want is hard numbers, the Civic wins on a lot of those fronts, too, especially those all-important mpg and MSRP numbers.

Send David an email  

 


Latest 2008 Civic Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.6)
Performance
(4.3)
Interior Design
(4.4)
Comfort
(4.3)
Reliability
(4.7)
Value For The Money
(4.5)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Good car to buy

by chungo from Covina Ca on October 10, 2018

This car was good and everything to drive and I would recommend it to family and friends and enjoy it. I would tell yo buy a Honda because is a reliant car and if you know mechanic is easy to change ... Read full review

(4.0)

Honda value

by Honda Value from orlando, fl on August 23, 2018

Good value for the money. Good looks, contemporary sport styling. Reliable, clean runner is great on fuel. The a/c isn't the greatest for Florida heat so be patient with that. Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2008 Honda Civic currently has 5 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2008 Honda Civic DX

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
acceptable
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
acceptable
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Civic received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker