Honda Civic 1.8i V-TEC petrol 2009.
I have written car reviews before, but usually after only a few months of ownership. In this instance, I wanted to give it longer in order to be thorough. I have only just traded-in my Honda after three years, so can now give you an insight into my long-term experiences and my overall impression.
Reason for initial purchase: In 2009, I was looking to replace my much-beloved Mazda 3 2-litre Sport. The Mazda had been a replacement for a dog of a Ford Focus C-Max, which in my view, should never have been allowed on the road. So unimpressed was I with that piece of junk, I determined Ford would never again be in the frame when it came to choosing a new car.
Good-looking and reliable as the Mazda was, the practicality of a five-door was a positive advantage, and would have to figure highly in the replacement criteria. Having looked at numerous 5-door hatches, and narrowed my selection down, I finally took a test drive in the then latest version of the Honda Civic (recently up-dated).
Looks: Outwardly, the Honda seems modern and futuristic, but looks are only skin-deep, and so it is with this car. The engine doesn’t even have the anticipated hydraulic tappets. Some might ask, ‘so what?’ and so did I at first, but I could hear these rattling after about 10,000 miles, although to put that into context, only slight noise was evident at tick-over.
Driving: I immediately liked the seats, and the driving position. Long journeys were subsequently found not to be at all tiring. Everything is well laid-out and to hand. The six-speed gearbox seemed silky smooth. Braking is measured and positive, gentle, but astoundingly good in an emergency.
Putting the gearbox to good use, it is possible to reduce engine noise to a minimum. By being light with the accelerator to avoid labouring the engine, but running in a higher gear (maybe 5th instead of 4th), RPM can be brought down, which is easy on the ear as well as the pocket.
On a motorway, I found it difficult to keep a constant speed. The model I owned didn’t have cruise control, but that gadget might have been an advantage. Gently accelerate to 70 MPH, and it wants to go on past that figure, take your foot off ever so slightly, and the speed soon drops to 60 MPH. A bit frustrating in this regard.
Visibility: A lot has been made in the press of the Civics’ rear window. It is said to drastically reduce rearwards vision. Reduce it, yes, but after three years of ownership, I feel it isn’t the huge issue others have made of it. The door mirrors are big, and adequately compensate for any loss incurred by the in-built aerofoil. Near-side front visibility could be better, as it seemed easy to lose sight of the kerb stone when negotiating a tight left-hand bend.
Road holding: More than competent. I have pushed the Honda through tight bends at fast speeds (legally of course), and never once has it broken away. I’d say it was even better than the Mazda, but then, the Mazda used the same floor pan as the C-Max, so no surprise there!
Ride: The front suspension is McPherson strut, but the rear goes back in time and is of the torsion-bar type. Consequently, bumps and uneven surfaces are very noticeable. If you’re looking for the very smoothest ride, the Honda isn’t for you. The front air dam/skirt is a bit on the low side too, and it’s easy to ground the thing if one isn’t too careful.
Economy: Honda’s own fuel figures for the 1.8 are pretty accurate. I could get 50 MPG on a run with five adults if driven very carefully without encountering traffic jams. Around town, that fell to around 32 mpg - not far short of the stated 34 mpg. But I couldn’t get the overall quoted figure of 44 mpg, and I know how to drive economically.
Acceleration: The makers claim it will do 0 - 60 in around 8.9 seconds, but it doesn‘t feel that quick, although it IS nippy. If you push it, the engine sounds noisy and harsh.
Equipment: The Honda has most if not all of the usual things found in most cars in this class. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, lots of airbags, power steering, electric windows all-round, air con, trip computer. But the radio is absolutely naff for the 21st century. I’d probably get a better reception with a crystal set. Some stations sound as if there’s somebody rustling a bag of crisps next to the microphone!
Dash board and instruments: Very futuristic and well laid-out, but not to everyone’s taste. Personally, I loved it. It felt like being in a spaceship. One curious anomaly though. Put your lights on during the day in conditions of poor visibility, as required by law, and some indicators, such as the light for the heated rear screen, dimmed to such an extent, they became difficult to see, even with the panel light illumination turned up to it’s maximum.
Luggage and space-saving: Very innovative. For a medium-sized car, the space was impressive. With the rear seats folded flat, and the rear parcel shelf removed, it was very useful, but Honda cleverly had another trick up their sleeve. The rear seat cushions can be rotated to give a large area in which to stow big, bulky items.
Reliability: On the whole, the Civic was very reliable, but it had a new cylinder head fitted under warranty at just 1500 miles due to a manufacturing problem which, as I understand it, scored the valve guides and let oil pass by.
That cursed dashboard and side-window rattle nearly drove me mad, and seemed to get worse with age and in cold weather.
The paintwork has to be cleaned of any bird-droppings as soon as they are deposited, otherwise it permanently affects the finish.
Tyre wear is good, having done 25,000 miles on a set without the need to change, but this model didn’t come with a spare. Instead, it had a tyre repair kit and an electric pump that is plugged, when needed, into an electrical socket either inside the boot, or the cigarette lighter in the front.
Replacement: Latest Vauxhall Astra 2.0 litre SRi diesel. Although the Honda did its job well, and was a good servant for three years, the Astra absolutely blows the Honda away in every respect! Car design has moved on, but I don’t think the new version of the Civic has kept pace with the changes.
Conclusion: The Civic is much better than an ‘average’ car, considering the fact it doesn’t use many revolutionary features. But there are better cars around these days if one is buying new.
Cambridge @ April 2012.