Typically, an econobox is intended to be basic transportation, not to stir your soul. For many drivers it’s just another appliance, like a four-slice toaster. A dishwasher merits no emotional investment – unless you’ve got a thing for stainless steel.
In creating the eighth-generation (2006-11) Civic, however, Honda went beyond building a competent economy car and injected dollops of character into its entry-level sedan and coupe.
“I want to move further away from work so I can spend more driving time to and from,” reads a passionate post by a Honda Civic Si owner. “I am like a kid, can hardly sleep.”
With the eighth-generation Civic, theThe lawnmower maker was keen to reward those repeat Civic owners (there are legions of them) with a truly new car bristling with advanced technology, safety features and high fashion.
Is it any wonder the Honda Civic has been Canada’s bestselling car for 17 years? or that it's one of the most searched vehicles on Canadian Black Book's website?
Features and powertrains
The front-wheel-drive Civic was rebooted for 2006 with Jetsons-inspired styling, more punch and stouter, safer construction. While larger outside, it was smaller in some inside dimensions compared to the outgoing model; rear legroom shrank by 4 cm, but at least the floor was as level as a regressive flat tax.
The unibody sedan and coupe benefited from a 35% increase in torsional rigidity. The suspension consisted of McPherson struts up front and a multi-link control-arm rear setup. In an effort to democratize safety, front, side and head-protecting curtain airbags were standard on all models.
Drivers faced a two-tiered instrument panel with an analog tachometer behind the steering wheel and a digital speedometer near the windshield to help keep eyes focused on distance. The rear bench was deeply contoured, but occupants sat a little too close to the floor.
The chain-driven SOHC 1.8-L i-VTEC four-cylinder was good for 140 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque, matched with either a manual or automatic transmission, both with five gears. The Si borrowed the Acura RSX’s DOHC 2.0-L i-VTEC four making 197 hp and 139 lb-ft of torque, tied to a six-speed manual tranny.
The Civic Hybrid featured a stingy 93-hp 1.3-L four banger mated to a 20-hp electric motor and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). There was not enough muscle to coax the Civic from a standstill by electric power alone, however.
Nothing much changed until 2009, when the Civic earned a slight nose job and revised rear fascia, new wheel designs and high-tech enhancements, including available Bluetooth. Surprisingly, the same engines soldiered on unchanged.
Driving the Civic
Despite gaining 80 kg during its redesign, the eighth-generation Civic remained a fleet-footed grocery getter, taking 7.7 seconds to reach 97 km/h (the automatic added almost a second).
With its well-sorted chassis the Civic was an accomplished road car, generating 0.81 g of lateral acceleration (grip). Braking was undistinguished, however, taking 58 metres to scrub off 112 km/h.
Unfortunately, the Civic’s less-than-kind ride quality tested some drivers. “The rear struts are basically non-existent if I have two adults in the back seat. The car bottoms out on small bumps,” reads a post.
The single-most common grievance described the tiresome din that accompanies long trips: “Lots of road noise intruding into the cabin at highway speed,” one owner observed online.
Fuel economy is mostly good, although there are Civic owners who have complained the diminutive motor sips more gas than advertised – especially the Hybrid. Californian Heather Peters, ook Honda to small-claims court over her Hybrid’s touted fuel savings, and lost.
The Canadian- and U.S.-built Civic is immensely popular for reasons your neighbour will gladly recite to you over the fence, so let’s look at the lesser-known weaknesses of this best-seller.
It starts with a few drips of antifreeze on the pavement. Then the coolant starts running more freely, burning on the hot engine and smoking with a distinct odour. The driver notices the temperature gauge rising out of the normal range, often very quickly.
A number of Civic 1.8-L four-cylinder engines were cast so poorly, the aluminum engine block can reportedly crack near the exhaust manifold, turning the engine into an effective boat anchor.
The surprising thing is the reception owners get when they bring their wounded cars to dealers. The engines are replaced with no questions asked in many instances, under technical service bulletin 10-048. A hidden warranty covers the block for eight years.
“New short block, no charge. They pulled and inspected the oil pump and head. Both spec'd okay, so they reused them,” reads one online account. “Still going strong at 260,000 kilometres.”
Beyond the unknown number of porous engine blocks affecting model years 2006 to early 2009, there’s lots of online chatter about uneven rear tire wear due to poor suspension geometry resulting from faulty upper control arms. Honda has issued a technical service bulletin (TSB 08-001), but not all owners have had the revised arms installed.
Another common complaint identifies premature brake wear. Other maladies include short-lived a/c condensers – dealers blame “road debris” and won’t repair under warranty – as well as broken sun visors, clearcoat delamination, problem prone rear wheel bearings and abundant interior rattles.
The 2009 and newer models are largely unaffected by leaky engines and bad control arms, making them the recommended buy among eighth-generation Civics.
> Refined drivetrains
> Balanced chassis
> Genuine gas sipper
> Highway buzzbomb
> Rear seat mounted too low for comfort
> Expensive to buy used
Watch out for:
> Rapid and uneven tire wear
> Broken air conditioners
> Cracked engine blocks (extended warranty has expired on early models)