2004 Honda Civic
This 2004 review is representative of model years 2001 to 2005.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Honda wants to keep its Civic the top-selling small car in America, so it's given this auto revised styling and such things as a new Value Package trim level.
The Civic outdoes high-volume small autos such as the Chevrolet Cavalier, Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla partly because of its solid design, high refinement, economical operation and—not least—the illustrious Honda nameplate, which contributes to good resale value.
It doesn't hurt that the seventh-generation Civic is offered in a wide variety of trim levels and that most come as a coupe or sedan. They begin with the $12,810 DX coupe with a manual gearbox and go to the $20,650 Hybrid sedan with a gasoline-electric powertrain and continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
The Hybrid is exceptionally fuel-stingy, and the Si is a junior hot rod with its 2.0-liter 160-horsepower engine, special suspension and its own hatchback coupe body style.
The new $13,410-$14,660 VP (Value Package) version is based on the DX trim level and adds air conditioning, a CD player and center console with armrest and storage area on coupe and sedan body styles for a savings of about $500.
There's too much small car competition from mostly South Korean and other Japanese automakers to let Honda offer a stripped, price-leader version of the Civic. Thus, even the DX is at least moderately well equipped. Its standard items include a tilt wheel, an AM/FM radio, remote fuel-door and trunk lid releases, intermittent wipers, theft-deterrent system and a rear defogger.
Some versions have slightly larger wheels, which enhance handling and braking a bit by putting more rubber on the road. The EX now has standard 15-inch alloy wheels, although the 16-inch alloys on the Si would be even better.
With the Civic, you get the Hybrid or HX for the best fuel economy and the Si for the best performance.
I tested the popular EX sedan, which is generally the best all-around version of the Civic for most buyers of the car. It costs $17,260 with a 5-speed manual transmission and $18,060 with a conventional 4-speed automatic transmission.
The EX is far better equipped than the DX, with items including air conditioning, power sunroof, cruise control, an AM/FM/CD sound system, a height-adjustable driver's seat, remote keyless entry and power windows and locks.
The EX also has a rather upscale look with its dual body colored power side mirrors, door handles and side moldings. It has standard anti-lock brakes, which aren't available on some Civics.
The EX has a 127-horsepower version of the small 1.7-liter 4-cylinder engine found in other Civics—except in the Si and Hybrid.
Larger Engine Needed
The best performance is gotten from all Civics with a manual gearbox, although the car's regular automatic transmission shifts smoothly. (The CVT automatic is even smoother because it has no specific "gears.")
High Fuel Economy
The earlier smaller, lighter versions of the Civic were sportier, although less roomy and refined.
In fact, the current Civic is virtually as large as the old Honda Accord, which now is a midsize auto. The Civic sedan has decent room for four tall adults, but the coupe's rear seat is more confining and harder to reach.
Fun to Drive
The Civic is assembled and painted in the best Honda tradition, but the underside of the trunk lid has an unfinished look that can be noticed each time the lid is opened. It should have some sort of covering.
The nicely shaped trunk is roomy for a small car and has a low, wide opening, although manual hinges steal space. The Hybrid's battery pack is put ahead of the trunk and reduces volume a bit, besides eliminating folding rear seatbacks. On the other hand, the Si provides hatchback versatility with the folding rear seatbacks found in most Civics.
The reliable Civic should continue to do well despite more competition because it's a picture of refinement, comfort and thriftiness.