2004 Honda Civic
This 2004 review is representative of model years 2001 to 2005.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Honda knew when it last redesigned its long-running Civic car a few years ago that women were important buyers. Indeed, automaker officials had a female name—Jennifer—to help describe the average Civic buyer. Officials said she was young and single.
How right they were. Fully 64 percent of today's buyers of the Civic coupe alone are women. Sixty-six percent are single, and the median age of 34 makes them "one of the youngest" buyer groups in the auto industry, said Honda spokesman Andy Boyd.
These are enviable statistics in an industry seeking ways to attract the large numbers of Gen X and Y Americans joining the ranks of new car buyers each year.
It's also the breath of customers that make the Civic models so intriguing. While coupe buyers are young, sedan buyers are older, with median age of 38. Many have families, and most have college degrees.
Meantime, shoppers wanting a more performance-oriented machine can opt for the 160-horsepower Civic Si hatchback.
The Civic Hybrid gas-electric sedan attracts environmentalists and technology buffs. It reigns as the most efficient compact car sold in the States, with a fuel economy rating of 48 miles a gallon in city driving and 47 mpg on the highway when equipped with a continuously variable transmission.
Minor updates for '04
In addition, there's more sound insulation to reduce noise inside the car, stereo speakers are upgraded for better audio quality, and some features have been made standard on some Civic models.
There's also a new-for-2004, bright Fiji Blue Pearl paint job for the 2004 coupe. It looks like a deep royal blue and is a color you don't see often on the road.
Goes back to 1973
There's even a fuel-thrifty gasoline-electric Civic Hybrid sedan which starts under $20,000.
So, it's no surprise that many Civic buyers come from middle-class households. For example, Boyd said the median household income for the relatively young Civic coupe buyers is $51,000 annually.
The Honda Civic dates back to 1973 in the United States, when it was a viewed as a plucky, economical, little car—far smaller than its compact size today.
In calendar 2003, with approximately 300,000 sales, the Civic was the only compact auto to rank among the 10 bestsellers in the country.
Its last major redesign was for the 2001 model year, and coupes account for about 25 percent of Civics sold.
Youthful, yet practical
The tester had the new-for-2004 front and rear bumpers, hood, headlights and grille. It also had Honda's typically clean styling and the Fiji Blue Pearl paint.
This two-door car sat low to the ground. I had to drop down into the form-fitting and well-bolstered driver seat as I got inside. The seats have a quality, not cheap feel, to them.
Unfortunately, there's no way for a Civic driver to see around and beyond minivans, sport utilities and trucks on the road.
The Civic coupe's main three gauges are eye-catching and jazzy at night. The bright red needles in the gauges seem to glow, and each gauge is surrounded by a bright red circle. The tachometer has a red line.
Knobs and buttons on the Civic dashboard are good-sized and easy to reach. Even the latch to open the glovebox is oriented over toward the driver's side of the car so it's easy for the driver to get at.
I liked that the two cupholders in the Civic center console have a black, plastic door that can cover them when not in use. This allows their use for storing small items out of view and helps keep crumbs and dust from gathering inside.
The sporty-looking front-seat head restraints, which have cut-out open space in the middle, provide an airy feel, especially for back-seat riders who have to sit by windows that don't open. Their heads also rest under the rear window glass, and three passengers back there are a very close fit.
Note the additions of some new, standard items for 2004. On LX, EX and GX models now, floor mats are standard. Keyless remote entry is standard now on LX and GX models.
Four-cylinder power only
The test coupe had the 1.7-liter single overhead cam inline four cylinder with Honda's variable valve timing or VTEC. It generates a maximum 127 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm.
This is not as much torque as the base, 2004 Ford Focus ZX3 with 130-horse four-cylinder engine that can generate 135 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. The Focus offers an even more powerful, 145-horse four cylinder, too. The Civic's top engine also is not as powerful as the Saturn Ion coupe with a 140-horsepower four cylinder capable of generating 145 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm.
The lightweight, 2,500-pound Civic coupe still moves sprightly down the road, and power.
The 5-speed manual shifter and clutch pedal in the Civic test car didn't need a lot of force to operate. There were muted shock points in the shifter, and there was a satisfying feel in moving through the Civic's gears.
Acceleration was brisk—the car was peppy enough that I could dart around stopped traffic easily. Yet, fuel economy for this EX coupe is commendable at 32 miles a gallon in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.
I could readily hear the engine just about all the time. Road noise seemed to overtake the engine noise as I approached and reached highway speeds.
The base Civic gasoline engine is a 115-horsepower 1.7-liter four that doesn't have VTEC. The Hybrid uses an 85-horse 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. It's mated to a 13.4-horsepower electric motor that never needs to be plugged in.
Civics are available with manual as well as automatic/CVT transmissions.
Good fit and finish
Rack-and-pinion steering has a mainstream feel.
In the test Civic coupe, road bumps could be felt via vibrations that came through to passengers, and there was some bobbing up and down on irregular road surfaces.
Wind noise is at a minimum in the Civic coupe, and fit and finish was excellent on the test car where seams and body panel gaps were consistent throughout.
Rear seatbacks split into one-third and two-third sections in the Civic coupe EX and can flop down onto the seat cushions, revealing a sizable oval-shaped pass-through from the trunk to accommodate long items.
Note, though, that it can be awkward to reach the keyholes on the rear parcel shelf that unlatch these seatbacks. Also, the seatbacks don't lie flat, and the trunk floor material is thin and cheap-feeling.
The Civic is among the top three compact cars in J.D. Power and Associates' most recent dependability study that measured fewest problems reported by original car owners over the first three years they had their vehicles. Power isn't alone. Other organizations have bestowed accolades for reliability, too, over the years.
Equipped with side airbags, the Civic also has been awarded the National Highway Traffic Safety's top, five-star ratings for front- and rear-seat passenger protection in frontal and side impact crash tests.