1997 Honda Civic DX 1.6 D16Y7 SOHC non-VTEC
A classic drivers' car made frugal and easy to live with
Leaky clutch master cylinder.
Broken hood prop rod.
Hood release handle broken.
I bought this car when my 271,000 mile Toyota Echo finally conked out.
The Civic basically built Honda's reputation. Fit and finish is quite excellent; even to this day it has only a minor rattle, which as best as I can tell comes from the driver's door lock assembly. Materials are generally good: the dash is topped with an excellent soft-touch grained plastic which surpasses much of today's equivalent materials, and the shift knob feels similarly nice in the hand (though I wish for a ball-type knob, but that's subjective preference). Seat velours are similarly nice, and much of the trim elsewhere is obviously plastic, but far from nasty and with fine gap controls. Control stalks flanking the steering wheel, however, feel fairly cheap, as do the HVAC sliders and the door panel materials near where your elbow might rest.
Because my DX Coupe was Spartan in terms of content, it's likewise very simply laid out. Gauges are easy to read, but not terribly comprehensive, with only fuel, coolant temperature, and speed. LX and EX trims add a tach. Controls all basically fall to hand and are logical to operate. Gripes are few but present: the seating position is low and owing to a lack of telescoping steering wheel, forces you to choose between a good relationship between your feet and the pedals, or between your arms and the wheel. Once you dial in the best position, however, the seats are at least middlingly comfortable, obviously cheap but serviceable.
Room in the Coupe is at a premium; the trunk is fairly small but usable, provided you can shove your cargo through the less-than generous opening. The rear seat is best left to pre-adolescents, both because of smallish quarters and because climbing in there is best left to small, agile bodies. Up front, however, room is quite adequate. Visibility all around is excellent despite the low seating position, aided by a large glass area and unobtrusive roof pillars all around.
Driving the car is perhaps its most defining characteristic. Neither fast nor, in the end, particularly sporty, it nevertheless gives the driver a classic "slow-car-fast" feeling. It's light on its feet, with excellent steering, and body motions are kept in check nicely. Quick directional transitions are handled deftly, and the car feels like it wants you to push it around. Taken closer to its limits, though, and grip isn't remarkable, and understeer is the order of the day, though trail-braking is effective; lifting the throttle less so. The clutch is similarly light, but shifter feel is less remarkable than some make it out to be. The engine only punches out 106hp and has acceleration to match, but reserves for itself a light, smooth, sweet character which beckons you to use all of what it has. It's also fairly quiet inside for its era, and if the low seating position leaves you feeling vulnerable out on the road, then its slick profile pays off in very high stability, finding its way forward straight and true with little to no effect from sidewinds or wind buffeting from passing trucks. It leaves the impression of being a drivers' car in a very classic sense, being fun without really standing out in any performance metric.
It should be noted that Honda's of this era do require periodic maintenance; timing belts and valve adjustments chief among these things.
Fuel economy is excellent; around 34 MPG when I was driving and not really thinking about it, to 44 MPG driving disciplined on the highway.
Overall, it's a machine which was engineered better than it had to be for its era. Gearheads will appreciate its slick feel, while those of a more practical bent will still appreciate a commodious cabin and excellent fuel economy, even if it's perhaps only passably practical. Averaging around $2500 for decent examples, I can't think of any cars in the Civic class today, some priced 10x more, which are actually 10x better.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 5th September, 2017