1997 Honda Civic EX 1.6L from North America


Cheaply made, but cheap to own


The car needed new spark plugs at 60,000 miles. A buddy of mine had the same car, and his also needed plugs at nearly 80,000 miles. My car started developing a low end knock on startup as well.

General Comments:

I can't believe how people think Honda's are engineering gold. The seats & ride feel cheap. You forever hear about cheap plastics in American cars... yeah, come take a look at these cars. I've owned Saturns that had better fit & finish than this Civic, and I bought mine in near pristine condition.

It handles very ho-hum. The acceleration is sub-par. The best mileage I averaged was 28 MPG, being 80% highway and 20% city. The best I got on the highway was 32 MPG. My Buick Park Avenue with a 3.8L, twice as big and has more power, gets 31-33 MPG pure highway.

My main issue, is that this is the bread and butter car that Honda pegs its claim to fame on? I think it was a fairly meager showing on their behalf.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 22nd November, 2012

25th Nov 2012, 15:35

It's the Civics reliability and tuner market that make the Civic so appealing; otherwise they were just average budget cars.

29th Oct 2013, 09:00

The tapping on startup is normal, and I find it more pronounced with lower oil levels.

1997 Honda Civic EX 1.6L VTEC from North America


Practically perfect


Replaced all brake pads/shoes, rotors/drums at 111k because of terrible shaking. It's still here.

Replaced driver's side regulator at 115k, window was moving slowly and just got stuck in the middle one day.

Replaced both outer CV boots at 115k; they were completely torn.

General Comments:

I love this car. Prior to this I've had a Dodge Neon, 01 Civic, and 04 MX5 Turbo (still have it), and this is my favorite commuter by far, even more than the 01 I had.

Exterior: my car was painted before, but the paint that is original has held up well. Headlights were a bit yellow, but toothpaste did the trick on them well. There is minor rust developing along the inside of the door at the very bottom, but I've treated it already.

Interior: nothing rattles or squeaks. Everything is laid out very well, although I wish I had a 99-00 for the in my opinion, improved HVAC layout, but this one does fine. AC still blows cold. No cracks on the dash, seats are still in great shape; it's a basic but solid design.

Engine: mine has valve tap, but that's normal for them. My old Civic did the same thing, but 10x worse. I feel that the 1.6L in this car is much better than the 1.7L in the 01-05. Power, well, it's not really there. I have a short ram intake on mine, which I added mainly for fuel economy, and as a reminder that if I can hear the intake, I'm too heavy on the throttle, usually after I've driven my MX5. The engine at 123k has perfect compression on all cylinders, and runs like a top. No idea if the timing belt was done, but it's on my list of things to do.

Fuel Economy: lowest I've seen was 25mpg, which was a freak tank IMO. Otherwise, I get over 30mpg between city and highway. Typically ~32, highest tank was 40.4mpg all highway with the AC on going 70-75 the whole time, with some traffic. In other words, it's a real gas saver.

Comfort/Handling: my car sits on 185 65 14 Federal tires, but surprisingly can hang on in a turn. Forget about flicking the car around and being able to cut around traffic, but in a fast turn, if you steer it just right, it will hang on well. Ride comfort otherwise is pretty good for a car of this class and price range. Smooth pavement is great, I don't get much shake in my steering even at 90mph. Makes a bunch of noise going over bumps, but that's due to the spare tire cover in the trunk flapping around.

The previous Civic I had was a later generation, which was cheapened up, and in bad ways. On this 97, I feel that the suspension, build quality, materials, and the general feel of the car is better, and of all the cars I've owned to drive daily, this has been the best.

Forget a Prius, save yourself $20,000+ and the shame of driving around in a car the rest of the world laughs at; buy an older Honda, and enjoy fuel savings, practicality, and even have some fun!

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 10th June, 2011

11th Jun 2011, 21:42

Nice review.

Don't play Russian Roulette with the timing belt - replace it (and the water pump) ASAP. These engines crunch valves if the belt lets go.

If you think this generation is good, check out the Fifth generation (1992–1995) - EG, EH, EJ1, EJ2 - less refinement, but more quality. Still - your generation is a keeper.


1st Dec 2011, 12:28

I am the original reviewer, just passed 130,000 miles today, still running like a top.

Replaced 2 front tires since then, and need to re-align the sunroof, because when I close it, the front doesn't seat all the way down, and I am worried about it causing a leak, I've had to adjust this on my older cars, and it was easy.

Also need to replace the rear taillight gaskets, because as with most Civics of this age, they are dry-rotted and allow some water into the trunk during heavy rain, which results in a bad odor, and could lead to rust.

I love this car.

3rd Dec 2011, 16:34

This is an excellent review. I wish everyone writing reviews would be as informative and concise. Thank you for doing such an excellent job. Although our experience with Honda was horrible (our late 80's Civic self-destructed before 100,000 miles), I have to say I do see a lot of '97 models that seem to do very well. My best friend owns a '97 Civic that is now at nearly 220,000 miles. That year seems to have been the peak for Honda quality. It has certainly gone downhill ever since.

Lots of luck, and thanks again for a great review!!

4th Jan 2013, 08:29

145,000 and still going strong. MPG is a consistent 32-35 MPG city/highway mixed.

Replaced clutch slave and master cylinders at 140,000.

Replaced alternator at 143,000 miles.

4 new tires at 144,000.

1st Jul 2013, 17:11

Replaced timing belt, water pump, and accessory belts at 150,000 miles. All belts and water pump were still original. Clutch is still original with 150,000 miles and going strong.

20th Jul 2013, 16:18

Could be the tires. I changed my tires and the vibration went away.

Federal isn't known to be a 'great' tire.