I traded in my 2008/9 Focus AT/SES for this Civic, as it was on a 6 year finance deal, and I was about to be really upside down on the loan.
I didn't hate the Focus, but I did have some issues with it, such as the less than spectacular handling feel and the poorly spaced transmission ratios, and thankfully the Civic succeeded on improving both areas.
This little car feels quite nimble in the turns, and while it doesn't handle quite as well as my Milan that I had earlier, it's definitely a taut-er feel than the cushy Focus. This is with 16" steel wheels and A/S tires.
The transmission benefits from having an extra gear (5 speed auto vs. 4 speed), but unfortunately, as it seems is being done with most automatics nowadays to get CAFE points, the overdrive gear is simply too tall for the car, and unlike the Focus, there is no way to lock out 5th gear on the highway. Sure, you *could* put it in D3, but the engine is turning around 3800rpm at 55mph in 3rd, so that's not much of a solution.
As such, the little 1.8 is turning about 2050rpm @ 65mph in 5th, which means even moderate highway grades cause the annoying 5-4 shift just to maintain speed, or at best, a shift out of lockup. I suppose this is great if you live in a flat, open area, as it will allow you to cruise at high speeds without noise, but here in the Northeast US, it's just annoying.
Otherwise, the acceleration gears (1-3) are very well staged to make the small engine feel peppy, and around town, I can't say I really lust for more power. Engine pulls very nicely to the redline, downshifts are generally smooth.
Seats are much more supportive than the Focus, and I didn't find the two-level speedo/tach to be much of an adjustment at all. The radio in my LX though, is pretty awful --- the CD player refuses to read my mp3 discs, and the sound quality is pretty poor. Muddy bass and poor stereo imaging abound.
As for fit and finish, I don't get why the Honda gets brilliant marks from that certain consumer magazine, and the Focus gets trashed for it --- I really didn't notice any significant difference between the two in regards to trim and build quality. If anything, the Focus interior was more interesting and less drab (higher trim level (SES vs LX) of course, but they ended up being around the same price).
Overall, a good car with a couple of annoying issues.