We owned a Ford Mustang, a Ford Taurus, a Buick and two Cadillacs at various times of our lives. It is true we had a lot of mechanical problems, especially with the Fords, but we never experienced the "roughness" of suspension as much as with our new Civic. The Civic seats seem "glued" on the road (not bouncy at all), something that creates enormous strain on your back. Trips to Vancouver from Calgary and back used to be a breeze and not an agonizing experience like now with the Civic. The worst part of our trip was outside Edson, where the highway is made out of gravel chips (to increase friction in the winter). Those 40-50 Ks of road are a torture! Once I had to read my whole power point presentation from my chair not being able to move comfortably around after a long trip! And I quit making shoulder checks, my neck aches too much. I phoned Honda and they told me that the "car is made for the medium driver and does not fit MY needs". I wonder why all the other cars I drove fit my needs, but this particular one is a pain.
From the college days I remember the Civic as the little bug with just the absolute necessities, stiff suspension, no power-steering and no whistles. Well, it does not seem to have gone very far from that point, sorry Honda!
It appears that some people get into a Civic and then start comparing it to various more expensive cars they previously owned. I believe you simply cannot compare apples with oranges, and that you should judge a car for what it is in its totality. Overall, I feel Honda is doing its utmost to provide maximum possible performance, comfort, economy and reliability for the price. I'm happy; If you are not, try a Rolls Royce if you can afford it!
Tires may be the promblem:having good tires and rotating tires every 6k to 10k will make a very big difference in the ride of any vehicle. I have michelins on my '03' civic it has a very good ride. I have been around tire shops for over 20yrs.
I don't find Civics really cheap. If you add the insurance costs on your monthly payments (and they ARE expensive to insure given the high theft payouts), you may be spending quite a lot on this car without having the performance. For the same amount of money, you can buy a car without softer ride and better suspension and avoid the dreadfull back pain and neck strain from Honda's stiff ride!
My 2003 Civic EX coupe is my 5th Civic, and coming into the Civic fold after years of constant problems with domestic compacts, I have no serious gripes about any of them.
My Coupe is comfortable on long trips. I happen to like a tight suspension on a car so bumps do not bother me.
The styling seemed radical when I bought the car, but after 5 years it seems tamer than some newer offerings, and now is pleasing to the eye.
Gas mileage has improved with age from 32-33 mpg new to 35-36 now, this with a 5-speed standard transmission.
Handling seems to improve on Civics after original equipment tires are replaced, which was the case with this 2003.
When new the car seemed down on power, and it took me a year to figure out that if I was directing interior air flow onto the windshield, the air conditioner was engaged. Changing air flow to the dashboard or to the floor restored the car's responsive edge. Running the air conditioner does cut into acceleration.
Interior plastic (black) does seem to scuff easily, usually at the bottom of door panels in my case. Applying a bit of quality interior protector improves things.
There have been no major problems with the car either in or out of warranty. I just have it serviced when needed and drive it.
The Coupe's sound system, while not cutting edge, incorporates a pair of tweeters mounted on the upper door panels inboard of the mirrors, which add a nice brightness to the overall sound, a bonus feature not found on 4-door sedans.
The included CD player is rudimentary - one disc at a time - but it keeps on playing with no problems yet.
The cassette player does a great job finding high frequency sounds off cassettes. With a good cassette it is hard to tell the difference from a CD when driving. I know cassettes are falling from favor, but I have had Honda players in each of my 5 Civics, and have not had any die in service as long as I have been able to keep track of the cars.
My '03 Coupe has been fun to drive, comfortable, easy on gas, and dependable. So far I don't regret buying it.