Motorcheck Used Car Guide: Honda Civic

Years built: 2006 to 2012
Bodystyles: Three-and-five-door hatchback

What is it?

Motorcheck Used Car Guide: Honda Civic. It’s the space age one. Honda, stung by years of criticisms that its designs were too bland or boring on the outside, decided to come out swinging for a home-run with the sixth generation of Civic and wow, were we all shocked. From the front end with its plexi-glass grille to the rear with its two-step window, there was nothing else remotely like the Civic on the road.
And then you saw the inside. A mixture of dials and digital readouts arranged like the terraces of a hanging garden, the Civic was even more Starship Enterprise inside than it was out. An acquired taste, to be sure, but you have to respect the build quality.
Innovation was high on the agenda too. The Civic was given the same ‘Magic Seats’ in the back as the smaller Jazz, which means you can either fold them flat to make the boot bigger or, cleverly, flip the seat bases up vertically to create a tall load space for carrying bigger items. It sounds like only a small thing, but if you make regular trips to a leading Swedish furniture store, then it makes the Civic vastly more practical than most of its rivals.

Which one should I buy?

Sadly for those looking for a diesel, the Civic didn’t get one until well into 2008 and it was the big 2.2-litre engine taken from the Accord. Now, it does keep the emissions down (135g/km meaning a €280 annual motor tax bill) but many buyers will baulk at the sheer engine capacity. It’s well worth a try though – refined and with terrific performance. A smaller (and equally excellent) 1.6-litre diesel came on line in 2013 with the current Civic but that’s an all-new model.
So, for most of us, it’s going to be a petrol-engined car and that’s not the bad news you might expect. Honda makes exceedingly good petrol engines and the most common unit you’ll find in the Civic is the 1.4 VTEC with variable valve timing. It’s smooth revving and peppy (its 100hp power output is well ahead of most rival engines) and it’s very reliable. Better yet, according to the official figures, it’s only slightly more thirsty than the diesel (47mpg plays 55mpg) and its 139g/km Co2 rating puts it in the same tax band.
Civics are generally seen as being a cut above the hordes of mass-market hatchbacks, so it’s worth tracking down one with a bit of extra spec – SE or the sporty Type S are the ones to go for.
There’s also the Civic saloon, but this is actually an entirely different car, built in and largely for Japan (hatchback Civics are made in Honda’s UK factory in Swindon). The saloon is much quieter to look at inside and out, and mostly comes with Honda’s excellent 140hp 1.8-litre petrol. There’s also a hybrid option, using Honda’s IMA setup with a 1.3 petrol and batteries but it’s rather unsatisfying to drive and you’re probably better off with a standard car.

How much should I spend?

Around €12,000 for a 2011 1.4 SI, €13,000 for a 2010 2.2 i-CDTI diesel SE.
Here’s one we found:
2009 Honda Civic 1.4i SE 5-door, SIMI registered dealer main Honda dealer, 115,000km, one owners, €10,500

What goes wrong?

This being a Honda, precious little. The Japanese firm’s build quality and reliability record is generally second to none and the Civic does little to undermine that. Which is not to say it’s perfect; listen carefully for squeaks and rattles in the cabin – it’s not unheard of for cars to have entire dashboard sections replaced in an effort to get rid of a cabin rattle. Check the fuel filler cap too; it’s been known to stick shut. Make sure that a recall to correct an issue with the rear suspension has been done. Check those spacey looking headlights, and the plexi-glass panel between them, for condensation building up and if you’re buying diesel, make sure you check the dipstick; there’s no oil warning light on a Civic and the 2.2 engine is known to like a drink of oil, so it’s easy for owners to let levels drop too low, causing damage.

Anything else?

There’s no getting away from the fact that the Civic is quirky, and therefore not to everyone’s tastes, but its excellent reliability and quality should put it way higher up your shopping list than several rivals. You do need to be aware of some little foibles though. Such as the absence of a rear windscreen wiper. Honda designed the Civic so that the flow of air across the car when it’s moving would keep the rear screen clear. Which is clever and all, but doesn’t help much when you’re reversing out of your driveway on a wet morning… The ride is also quite firm, something that will be amplified if the car you’re looking at is on larger option tyres. The sporty 200hp Type-R is a little seen Civic model in this country, but may be worth tracking down for its Swiss-watch-like engine with its howling exhaust note and 9,000rpm rev limit.
And don’t forget: For ultimate peace of mind, whichever Civic you settle on, make sure you get its background checked out with