2009 Honda Civic

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Review: 2008 Honda Civic

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2011.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Many still consider the Civic, which adds several new trim choices for 2008, the gold standard of compact cars.
Pros:
  • Refined
  • Fairly roomy
  • Fun to drive
Cons:
  • Confusing number of trim levels
  • Average highway performance
  • Small radio controls

Some have long considered the Honda Civic to be the top compact car. But a confusing array of trim levels must be hacked through to find the one you most desire — or can afford. For 2008 several new versions have been added.

Trim Choices
The front-wheel-drive Civic was redesigned for 2006 and is sold as a racy 2-door coupe or slick 4-door sedan, including a gasoline-electric hybrid version. Sedans and coupes are sold in DX, LX, EX, Si, Hybrid and GX trim levels. Added for 2008 are EX-L and Mugen Si sedan trim levels. The EX-L is more upscale and the Mugen is for real driving enthusiasts, with such items as a sport suspension and higher-performance tires.

Under the Hood
The GX NGV has a 1.8-liter 113-horsepower 4-cylinder engine that runs on compressed natural gas, but is only sold to fleets and in several "ultra-green" states such as California. The entire country is offered 1.3-, 1.8-, and 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engines. The 1.3-liter is a 110-horsepower gas-electric hybrid. The 1.8-liter provides 140 horsepower, while the 2.0-liter engine has 197 horsepower and is in the hot-rod Si trim levels.

The DX, LX, EX and EX-L use a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 5-speed automatic transmission. The GX trim levels come only with an automatic, while the Si is sold with just a 6-speed manual. Hybrids are equipped with the CVT automatic.

Inner Space
Civic sedan doors open wide for easy entry and exit, and feature decent storage pockets. The supportive driver's seat could move back a few more inches for tall drivers with long legs. Legroom is adequate in the sedan's rear-seat area, which has a fold-down armrest with dual cupholders. The coupe's rear seat is small and can be difficult to enter or leave if you're not limber.

The sedan has a large trunk, with a low, wide opening, although the lid hinges eat into stowage space. The Coupe has a slightly tighter cargo area, but rear seatbacks flip forward in all trim levels except the Hybrid and GX NGV, and sit fairly flat to enlarge luggage capacity.

The Civic’s quiet interior features a two-tier instrument panel with a digital speedometer above an analog tachometer, both positioned directly in front of the driver. They're easy to read, but the peculiar design looks as if it’s from an old science-fiction movie.

Interior materials are above average, and there's conveniently positioned console cupholders that can be hidden with a sliding cover. Climate system controls are large, but sound system controls are small and the navigation system screen absorbs too many audio system functions.

On the Road
My test 140-horsepower EX-L had lively acceleration in town, but average 65-75 mph passing ability. The Hybrid is slower, and the GX NGV is no fireball, but the Si is quick. All engines are small and thus require high revs for the best performance, but they hum with sewing-machine smoothness.

The manual transmission shifts smoothly, and the automatics are responsive, although the CVT automatic takes some getting used to. The brakes provide effective stopping power, with a pedal that has a soft-but-linear action. Anti-lock brakes are standard.

Estimated fuel economy with the 140-horsepower engine is 24-26 mpg in the city and 34-36 on highways. The Si delivers 21 and 29, with the Hybrid providing 40 city, 45 highway. Figures with the natural gas engine are 24 and 38. The Si calls for premium gasoline, but the other gas engines can use regular-grade fuel.

The Civic is fun to drive. It has light, quick power steering, although some may feel that straight-ahead driving calls for too many small steering wheel movements. The ride is supple and handling is fairly athletic, especially for a nose-heavy, front-wheel-drive car.

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BB01 - 8/27/2014 8:09:27 PM