I purchased my Civic with it's small 127HP 1.7L for my excessive commuting and the need for a gas economy car. After installing a cold-air intake, strut tower brace, stage 1 clutch, lightweight racing flywheel, iridium plugs, and gator belts it flies like a rocket and has an improved gas economy of 30CTY/43HWY. Although the cabin noise is very loud, it is well worth the 400-500 miles per $24 tank of gas. Plus, besides the mods I have only had to change fluids in this car and the periodic check over under the hood. The only exception was an O2 sensor. It is extremely LOW maintenance. Overall, it's modern styling and economy are the best I have experienced between Honda/Acura over the years.
I enjoy that this vehicle can be easily modified with performance parts under the hood. Gas economy too!!!! 40+ MPG is really hard to beat. I researched many newer compact cars that offer a lot less for more money. The 04-05 Civic EX is where you are going to get the most bang for your buck!
Cabin noise is very loud compared to most cars. Especially on the highway. It is like the difference of when you ride on one of those loud commuter planes with propellers (Civic) vs. a large passenger jet (most other cars). A consumer fix might be to install dynamat on the floors and inside the hood