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Since its launch in 1973, the Honda Civic has been one of the most popular compact cars sold in America. Its success can be attributed to its consistently high level of fit and finish and an impressive, long-standing reputation for reliability and low running costs. High fuel economy, environmental awareness and engaging performance have also played a large role in making the Honda Civic a top choice for many Americans.
The latest Honda Civic isn't really a no-brainer choice as its forbearers were, but it still comes recommended thanks to its clever interior, wide range of models and aforementioned strong reputation. For small car shoppers looking for a used vehicle, the Civic is certainly a smart choice, as its long production run and wide range of models make it easy to find what you want.
Although only redesigned a year ago, the Honda Civic was significantly refreshed again this year to address many of the new car's shortcomings and missteps. Chiefly, Honda has improved interior quality and design and added more standard features. It has also spruced up the car's exterior styling and retuned the suspension and steering for better handling. The Civic's crash-worthiness is also improved. The result is a car once again among the class leaders.
The Honda Civic is available as a coupe or sedan. Mainstream trim levels consist of the familiar DX, LX, EX and EX-L, with even the base model including an impressive array of items that includes Bluetooth phone and audio, a rearview camera and Pandora radio functionality. The equipment only goes up from there, eventually arriving at the leather-lined EX-L. There are also the Hybrid sedan, Natural Gas sedan and Si coupe/sedan. A "HF" (high fuel efficiency) version is also available, with gas-saving features such as low-rolling-resistance tires and subtle aerodynamic tweaks.
The powertrain for the DX, LX and EX versions is a 1.8-liter, 140-horsepower inline-4 matched to either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. The Hybrid has a more powerful electric motor than before (resulting in a total output of 110 hp) mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and boasting improved fuel mileage ratings (44 mpg in combined driving). The clean-burning Natural Gas model puts out 110 hp, while the Si sports a larger (2.4-liter) engine that provides greater output (201 hp) as well as the promise of a broader power spread. The Si is only available with a six-speed manual transmission.
The Civic's exterior styling is unadventurous but tasteful, boasting more visual pizzazz than this current generation was originally graced with for 2012. The cabin is likewise similar to before, with intuitive controls and a central multifunction display, but there are upgraded materials and switchgear that bring it in line with most competitors.
Overall, this Civic is a pretty capable small car. Its generous selection of engines and configurations should help it appeal to a wide variety of shoppers, while typical small Honda traits like nimble handling and high fuel economy remain intact. However, many other new small cars also offer these traits, and although this Civic is a solid pick for a small coupe or sedan, we suggest shopping other top competing models as well.
The current, ninth-generation Honda Civic was technically introduced for 2012, but a significant overhaul for 2013 means the first model year is substantially different and less desirable. The main problem was essentially that it seemed like barely an upgrade over the car it replaced (or worse), while other cars in the segment were making giant leaps forward. The biggest difference can be seen in the generic styling and subpar cabin quality. In the used market, we would avoid the 2012 Civic.
Prior to the current generation, Honda sold the eighth-generation Civic from 2006 through 2011. It'll be the most common used Civic you'll probably come across, and overall it should be a great pick for a used small car.
For this generation, Honda offered the Civic in coupe and sedan body styles with the usual base DX, well-equipped LX, loaded EX, leather-lined EX-L and sporty Si main trim levels. In addition to the mainstream trims, there were also the Hybrid and GX (natural gas) trim levels.
All trims had a broad range of safety features, such as antilock brakes, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags, although stability control could only be had on the EX-L, Hybrid and Si trims. The standard DX trim was pretty bare-bones in terms of premium features, so you'll have to jump up to the higher trims to get amenities such as air-conditioning and full power accessories.
Only minor updates occurred during this car's run. The Si sedan debuted for '07, while the following year saw a limited-edition Mugen Si model and the addition of a leather upholstery option. For '09, the LX-S and DX Value Package trims debuted along with a minor exterior refresh. For the final two years, the Civic continued on essentially unchanged.
All Civics but the Si had a 1.8-liter, 140-hp four-cylinder engine paired with a five-speed manual transmission; a five-speed automatic was optional. The Civic Si, offered in both coupe and sedan body styles, featured a high-revving 2.0-liter, 197-hp four-cylinder engine matched to a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission.
The Civic GX featured a 113-hp 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that ran on clean-burning compressed natural gas. The Civic Hybrid came with a 1.3-liter four-cylinder gas engine and a 20-hp electric motor. Total output was 110 hp. The Hybrid had an exclusive CVT and earned EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings of 40 mpg city and 45 mpg highway.
The coupe was tuned to feel sportier than the sedan, but both are fun to drive, with quick steering and impressive handling. The 1.8-liter engine won't overwhelm anyone, but it provides enough power for comfortable everyday driving. The Hybrid gets fantastic fuel mileage and the GX is impressively clean, but both suffer from slow acceleration.
In reviews and road tests, our editors found this Honda Civic to be a well-rounded car, and it should be a top pick for anybody shopping in this segment. Thanks to the wide array of configurations, it should also be easy to find a Civic that meets your needs. The only major downsides include elevated road noise and a controversial dash layout.
Previous to the 2006-'11 model was the seventh-generation Honda Civic, which was sold from 2001-'05. There were coupe and sedan body styles as well as a two-door hatchback. Honda offered its typical mainstream trims -- DX, LX and EX -- plus a few specialty trims such as VP, HX, SE and Hybrid. The hatchback came only in the Si trim. Most models had a 1.7-liter engine good for 117 hp or 127 hp (EX). The Civic Hybrid mated an 85-hp 1.3-liter four-cylinder gas engine to a 13-hp electric motor and offered the best fuel economy of the lineup. The Civic Si produced 160 hp from its 2.0-liter engine. At the time, we commented favorably about the car's fuel-efficient engines, roomy interior and top safety scores but were disappointed by the limited availability of antilock brakes.
Sold from 1996-2000, the sixth-generation Civic was in many ways a refinement of the style and technology found on the previous generation. Coupe, sedan and hatchback body styles were available. Sedans were offered in DX, LX and EX trim levels. Engine choices were a 1.6-liter good for 106 hp in the DX and LX or 127 hp in the VTEC-equipped EX. There was also a higher-fuel-economy coupe, the 115-hp HX. Honda didn't release an Si trim until 1999. Based on the coupe body style, the Si was powered by a high-performance 1.6-liter engine tuned to put out 160 hp.
Honda's VTEC technology first appeared in the fifth-generation Civic, which was sold from 1992-'95. The Civic VX featured a fuel-efficient 92-hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder with VTEC-E. More powerful was the 125-hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder VTEC engine found in the Civic Si and EX sedan trims. First sold only in hatchback and sedan body styles, the fifth-gen Honda Civic got two coupe trims in 1993, the DX and EX. The lower CX and DX trims each had a 70-hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine.
If you are looking for newer years, visit our new Honda Civic page.
For more on past Honda Civic models, view our Honda Civic history page.