March 2009. The 2009 Honda Civic gets accolades for its relatively roomy, comfortable interior; above-average fuel efficiency; and strong safety ratings. The Civic is available in sedan, coupe, hybrid and clean-emission GX natural-gas-powered versions, as well as a high-performance model called the Honda Civic Si (*est. $21,905 to $22,105). The most expensive is the Honda Civic Hybrid sedan (*est. $23,650), covered in our report on hybrids. The clean-emissions Honda Civic GX sedan (*est. $25,190), which runs on compressed natural gas and can be fueled at home via a special hookup, is available at select dealerships in New York and California only.
For 2009, the Honda Civic gets a few minor styling updates and some revisions to its rather complex model line. New trim levels include the LX-S, with a few sporty features, and the DX Value Package. Most Honda Civic compact cars are powered by a 140-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder, with either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Fuel economy ranges from 25-26 mpg city and 34-36 mpg highway, and 0-to-60 mph acceleration takes about 9.6 seconds with the automatic, according to Edmunds.com. The sportier Civic Si has a 197-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder, matched only with a six-speed manual gearbox, and reaches 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. EPA estimates are 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway for the Civic Si, but reviews report average mileage as high as 30 mpg (note, however, that premium fuel is recommended).
The 2009 Honda Civic's good crash ratings help it earn a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. All Honda Civic models include front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, front-seat active head restraints and antilock braking system. Electronic Stability control is standard on EX-L, Si and hybrid models, but unavailable on other trims. Reviews also point out that Bluetooth, navigation systems and some other options are only available on a few upper-level trims. Many reviews mention the Honda Civic's firm ride, and some find it jarring over rough roads -- especially the Civic Si models, which feature a stiffer, sport-tuned suspension.
A few critics also have quibbles with the Honda Civic's split-level dash design, which places a digital speedometer higher in the driver's line of sight, separate from the analog tachometer. Still, many reviewers find the design pleasing, functional and futuristic-looking. In general, reviewers like the upscale look and feel of the Honda Civic's cabin design, with few complaints about tight accommodations in the compact sedan. The rear seat of the coupe, as you might expect, is less user friendly. There are many economy sedans in this class, but the Honda Civic is recommended most often. Worthy alternatives include the 2009 Toyota Corolla (*est. $15,350 to $18,860), said to be less engaging to drive, and the 2009 Mazda3 (*est. $14,690 to $20,895), which has a sportier flair but not the same smooth overall execution as the Honda. One highly rated alternative to the Honda Civic is Honda's own 2009 Fit subcompact (*est. $14,750 to $16,260), a five-door hatchback with more practical utility.
Motor Trend has a very good comparison of four compact sedans, in which the 2008 Honda Civic finishes second. Edmunds.com also has a 2008 economy-car comparison test, where the Civic places first among a panel of six consumers. Because there are few significant changes to the 2009 Honda Civic models (the front and rear appearances have been mildly tweaked, and new trim levels have been added), these still are excellent sources for opinions and ratings. Among many good reviews are comprehensive evaluations by About.com and Cars.com, both of which test drive standard 140-horsepower sedan versions of the Honda Civic. Edmunds.com also gives a well-rounded summary of the Civic model line, with a list of pros and cons. Consumer Reports provides reliability information along with a road-test review, while ConsumerGuide.com evaluates four different Civic models in its thorough evaluation. Edmunds Inside Line has a 2007 Honda Civic GX long-term tester, which it chronicles in its Long-Term Road Test Blog -- giving an interesting look at what life with the natural-gas-powered Civic sedan is like.
1. Motor Trend
Motor Trend's comparison measures the Honda Civic EX against three similarly equipped competitors: the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza. Judges conclude that the Honda Civic, while more than satisfactory on the road, simply lacks the fun quotient of this test's top finisher, the Mazda3. Editors say the second-place Honda Civic has "a level of refinement above the others -- it's a step up." Its 25 mpg average was best of the group.
Review: Comparison: 2008 Honda Civic vs. 2008 Mazda3 vs. 2008 Subaru Impreza vs. 2009 Toyota Corolla, Ron Kiino, May 2008
About.com's cars guide, Aaron Gold, test drives a Honda Civic LX-S sedan and says it is "simple, reliable and economical, and while I'd stop short of calling it perfect, it's pretty darn close." Among only a few disappointments is that electronic stability control is not available on most Honda Civic sedans -- only on the EX-L, Si and Hybrid. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: 2009 Honda Civic LX-S Sedan Test Drive, Aaron Gold
Cars.com's well-balanced review of the Honda Civic EX-L sedan gives an excellent summary of how the car is to drive, along with its strengths and weaknesses. Writer Mike Hanley says the engine feels better in city traffic, while "getting up to highway speeds takes a little time." He says the Honda Civic is "one of the better small cars available today," and it ranks as a Cars.com Best Bet. Dislikes include a "spongy feel" to the brake pedal and a firm ride that can be jarring on rough roads.
Review: 2009 Honda Civic, Mike Hanley, Nov. 14, 2008
Edmunds.com editors say the Honda Civic "sets the bar for the small-car segment," and name it among their Top Recommended Sedans and Coupes Under $20,000. In this summary review, they say the Honda Civic's strengths are "high build quality, sporty driving dynamics, rock-solid reputation for reliability and impressive fuel economy." Drawbacks include some styling quirks, such as the split-level gauge cluster design, and that Bluetooth and stability control are only available on higher trim levels.
Review: 2009 Honda Civic Review, Editors of Edmunds.com
Editors of Consumer Reports have a good summary review of the Honda Civic with a road-test evaluation and reliability history as compiled in large owner surveys. You must be a subscriber to access this report.
Review: 2009 Honda Civic, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
ConsumerGuide.com names the Honda Civic a Best Buy among small cars and test drives several versions including LX and EX sedans, Si coupe and Hybrid. Editors say the base Civics "are lazy away from a stop, but have adequate power around town and for highway merging and passing." The Honda Civic Si is much stronger and more fun to drive. Fuel economy averages 26-28 mpg with the base engine, while the Si actually did better, averaging around 30 mpg.
Review: 2009 Honda Civic Full Review, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com, Feb. 11, 2009
7. Edmunds Inside Line
Inside Line invites six "regular consumers" to evaluate three popular economy cars: a 2009 Toyota Corolla XLE, 2008 Mazda Mazda3 Touring Value Edition and 2008 Honda Civic LX, each priced around $18,000 as tested. After test driving on public roads and on a race track, consumers ranked the cars and provided feedback. The Honda Civic was the best-rated car for five of the six test drivers. One says, "The Civic is better than any so-called 'economy car' has a right to be."
Review: Consumer Comparison Test: 2008 Economy Sedans, James Riswick, June 3, 2008
8. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Top-rated vehicles in crash tests are honored by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety with a Top Safety Pick award. Each of the vehicles must earn Good ratings in frontal, side-impact crash tests, plus evaluations of head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts. In addition, each winning vehicle must offer electronic stability control. The 2009 Honda Civic sedan is one of the few small cars to earn this honor.
Review: Top Safety Picks 2009, Editors of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety