This car is reliable but.... I just strongly dislike it. I run into many small repairs on this cheaply built car. I hate manual windows. Defrosters are terrible. The car shakes if you drive faster than 65 mph. I had it for 18k from 102 to 120k. Iam about to sell it. Although, I only paid $1,500 for it.
At this point I am passing my 1998 Civic with 218k miles to my younger sibling since I bought a newer Japanese car. This car has been really good to us. We owned a '96 LX sedan, but that was totaled by a woman, so we bought a '97 LX sedan, which was also totaled by a woman some years later. That brings us to our current Civic, a '98 DX, I've put about 80k on it. All are 5-speeds and I can tell you that all three have basically driven identically.
If you're looking for a really cheap car that gets decent mileage, you can get one of these for next to nothing and you probably won't regret it at all. It's a great car, and very reliable (assuming you avoid the auto tranny...it's a Honda).
This thing, in its prime, regularly cranked out 40 MPG around town, on the highway...wherever. Now the engine is a little worn out, but I still rarely see a single tank below 35 MPG. These cars are a lot of fun to drive around town. The acceleration is decent if you really rev it up, although still pitiful under normal circumstances. The clutch is extremely light and barely takes any effort to push in and operate compared to every other car I've ever driven. Transmission is buttery-smooth even at 218k.
The HVAC controls are great. You can run the defrost with recirc on and A/C off, unlike every other car ever made.
Drives great in the snow, too. You really have great control.
This car would not be my first choice for a long road trip at any reasonable speed. At 75 MPH, the engine is screaming along at 3500+ RPM. The noise can be annoying at times (granted I've been in noisier cars that were 7 years newer). It also isn't very stable in windy conditions and gets knocked around like the lightweight car it is.
My Civic is the Australian GLi model. She had made it to 185,000 km before a complete moron took it out in an accident. 60 kph front on and I got out with a scratch to the knee. In the three years she was with me, I had not one breakdown or a time that she didn't start. I did many road trips, in hot Australian Summers, anywhere up to 10,000 km a trip. I've often got fuel usage down to 5.5 L per 100 km as well, highway. I'll miss her, and will likely end up buying another Civic. :(
Reliability, looks, handling, fuel consumption.
Fair amount of road noise, but this is a trade off from being light weight. Also, Honda Australia needs to look at its part pricing. Much more expensive than everywhere else.
I had this car since it was brand new. I drove it myself for +6 years and I had ZERO problems with it, in it's 10th year it ran better then most cars that are less than 5 years old. The one negative - people kept trying to break into it (I never kept anything in my car) and finally, dec 08' someone successfully stole it and was written off. This problem is typical of older Hondas. This car was great but it's a hot car for theft (and is apparently really easy to steal) and this is what makes me hesitant to return to a Honda since dealing with getting windows fixed etc. from thieves turns into a big pain. :(
Reliability, handling (great in snow too), gas mileage
In the last winter I had it, the car seemed to have trouble keeping the interior warm when it was -40 C. Definitely buy a club and alarm if you get this car.
Though the 1.6 litre engine is not as good as the newer 35 m.p.g. civics it still delivers a good 25-30 m.p.g. While maintaning enough power to deliver high altitude performance at even 15000 feet above sea level. That said however stay away from cheaper low grade corn based alchohol fuels they can cut fuel efficiency by one-third so you refuel more often and you will spend more hard earned $ in the long run.
The handling as well as the power response is excellent and for long drives of two hours plus I find the seat comfort superior. No back aches even for 8 hour drives.
The improvements are minor like higher grade metals for the body.paint longevity also but these have all been improved in the newer higher quality 2006 models with much better interior sealing all air leaks from window and door seals but alas that is also reflected in the 30 percent cost increase.