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.
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