For over four decades, the Honda Civic has been the go-to choice for a dependable and economical car. Tell someone you’re buying a Civic, and whether they are an expert or know little about cars, their likely response is, “Oh, good choice.” Here’s an in-depth look at what makes the Civic great, and one surprising Civic you should avoid.
Honda Civic reliability is absolutely stellar, in the league of the most reliable vehicles you can buy. It ranks with the Honda Accord, Toyota Corolla and Toyota Camry as standouts for reliability. If you buy a Civic, odds are you can still daily drive it a decade from now.
Consumer Reports loves the entire ninth generation Civic, running 2012 to 2015 model years. This car scored a perfect 5 out of 5 for reliability every year. The 10th generation, 2016 to present model years, averages 4 out 5 for reliability, an above average score. It’s not that there’s any particular problem compared to the previous car, but CR is cautious about predicted reliability in the 2016’s “clean sheet” design over a more cautious evolutionary design.
Repair Pal awarded the Civic a 4.5 star rating for reliability, earning their Excellent rating, and above the class average. “The average annual repair cost is $368 which means it has excellent ownership costs. The severity and frequency of repairs are both much lower than other vehicles, so the Civic is one of the more reliable vehicles on the road.” Repair Pal found that Civic owners have half as many unscheduled mechanics visits compared to the average vehicle owner.
iSeeCars collects driver’s information for their annual vehicle surveys, showing what vehicles commonly reach 200,000 miles. The top 10 is mostly trucks and SUVs, kept on the road for their work (profit generating) ability. However, the Honda Civic is on their list of passenger cars most likely to reach 200,000 miles, along with four other Toyota models in the top 10, saying “Known for its reliability, Toyota provides cars for consumers seeking a long-lasting vehicle across all vehicle types.”
Despite the accolades, the Civic warranty is pretty much the industry standard. Full bumper-to-bumper warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. The powertrain receives a longer five-year, 60,000-mile warranty. With over 300 Honda Civics available, odds are you’ll find dozens of Civics in Carvana’s inventory with plenty of warranty left.
The Civic model range covers a wide variety, leaving out only wagons and convertibles. Everything else is here, from economical commuters to blistering performance and a thrilling drive.
Starting with the base LX, this Civic has a 2.0-liter four cylinder making 158 horsepower, attached to either a six-speed manual or Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The CVT is the way to go for higher gas mileage, but the six-speed is slick shifting and fun. The Honda Sensing suite of active safety features is standard even in the LX since 2019, whereas before it was optional. The LX has a five-inch infotainment screen with multi-angle backup camera and Bluetooth streaming audio powering four speakers. The exterior features LED daytime running lights and 16-inch wheels rounding out this base model. The LX is for the buyer that just wants a reliable A-to-B car that will last them years without fuss.
Sport (since 2019)
If you’re looking for some fun and visual punch, check out the new Sport trim. Exterior features include 18-inch wheels, fog lights, and a rear spoiler. Inside, you get keyless entry, push-button start, a seven-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (available in higher Civic trims since 2017), a leather wrapped steering wheel, and the CVT gains paddle shifters that mimic an automatic with sport shifting. The Sport buyer wants a good looking car with fun interior features.
The EX trim is probably the most common trim level you will find when searching used Civics, simply because it comes standard with a large number of desirable features. EX takes everything above and adds increased power from the turbocharged 1.5-liter borrowed from the Honda Accord. You also get a one-touch power moon roof, eight-way power driver’s seat, SiriusXM satellite radio, remote start, and heated side mirrors. The EX takes the Civic upmarket, appealing to most drivers and their families.
Honda doesn’t say what the “L” is for in EX-L, but it’s probably more Limited than Large. There isn’t a large list of additional features for the EX-L, but it does feel a bit more exclusive here. High quality leather seats are standard at this price point, joined by an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. Also standard is Honda’s HomeLink system that can wirelessly control whatever you want, from the garage door to the house lighting or gate. Shop the EX-L if those additional features appeal to you, especially the great leather seats.
Touring is the high-end, near-luxury trim of the Civic lineup. Think of it as an entry-level Acura. The Touring trim gains exclusive 18-inch machined and painted alloy wheels, LED headlights, a 450 Watt sound system with 10 speakers and subwoofer, and satellite linked navigation system with voice commands and real-time traffic alerts. If you drive a lot for work, or often have family or passengers in back, look into the Touring trim for arguably the best Civic you can buy.
The Civic Si was the top sport model of any given generation, with a few exceptions when the rare Type R made an appearance. For example, think of the Si as the Civic’s version of the Mustang GT. A regular performance model, as opposed to the Type R and its limited availability, like the Mustang’s GT500 trim. The Si gets a revised exterior with more aggressive front end and spoiler, along with lowered ride height and black 18-inch wheels. The 1.5-liter gets bumped to 205 horsepower, matched to the enjoyable six-speed manual. The Si is absurdly fun, a driver’s car with no compromise.
If you hadn’t guessed already, the R is for Race. Honda does race their Civic, Accord, and NSX in various competitions around the world, and makes the Type R as the track-ready versions of the cars in their ultimate form. The Civic Type R was only a legend in the USA, forbidden fruit sold only overseas, until it’s hugely hyped release in North America in 2017. This model looks downright hostile, with huge air extractors, cooling vents, and a gigantic rear wing. Black 20-inch wheels cover huge Brembo brakes, and under the hood snarls a 306 horsepower 2.0L-liter paired exclusively with the six-speed manual. The interior gets a red-stitched and carbon fiber theme, with supportive sport bucket seats. If you find a Type R for sale and you’re interested, jump on it. You won’t regret it.
There’s a lot to like in the Civic’s large lineup. You really can’t go wrong with any trim level. However, there are three standout values that should satisfy most buyers.
Civic LX – $13,000 to $17,000
The LX trim gets you the standout car of its class, for the minimum expense. This model is plentiful in Carvana’s inventory, with the lower price usually a five-year old model with 40k to 50k miles, while the higher end of this price range can get you a two-year old model with around 25k miles.
Civic Hatchback – $17,000 to $21,000
The Hatchback is a great value, in any trim level. It’s crossover-sized, without the gas mileage penalty of the larger and heavier body style. Think of it as a lower, sleeker Honda CR-V. This price buys a great value at only one or two years old, often with very low miles.
Civic Si – $21,000 to $24,000
The Si offers the super-fun driving experience of world-class steering, handling, and manual transmission, but without the sticker shock of the much-hyped Type R. This price range buys a Civic Si only a year or two old, and with low miles. If you’re a budget sporty shopper, you can get an Si for under $17,000, but it will be about five years old, with 50,000+ miles.
The Civic is a compact, chock full of great features and cool options. From tech to safety features, here’s a look at the best of Civic.
Choose Your Own Adventure
What kind of car do you want? No matter what you’re looking for, the Civic can do it. If you need an economical sedan, the Civic’s high gas mileage and large and quiet interior space will reward you for years of commutes or in ride share service. Are you into camping/hiking, or have a hobby that requires lots of supplies? If you’re renovating homes on the side, or just pack a car full of stuff for weekend adventures, the Civic Hatchback is for you. Or if you’re into sports cars, but want something more subtle, look into the Si and Type R trims in Coupe and Hatchback form. There’s the perfectly weighted steering with excellent feedback, a wonderful six-speed manual transmission, and a choice of two turbocharged engines, making these Civics the ideal part-time sports car.
Connect with the Tech
Honda Connect is a much improved infotainment system available in the Civic. It’s a good sized screen in a car this size, and is sharp and bright enough to read under any conditions. It’s fast and fairly intuitive, and Bluetooth connects seamlessly. Fortunately it also avoids endless menu scrolling frustration by including a volume knob and a few buttons, to keep quick audio and HVAC tasks quick. Other interesting features include a digital version of the owner’s manual, the ability to see recall notices and schedule service appointments, and summon 24-hour roadside assistance. A dubious feature is the ability to have Amazon packages delivered right to your car, but that could be useful when away from home.
Safety Built In
Honda is serious about safety, to the point that they have videos on their website about slowing down in bad weather, avoiding drowsy driving, and watching for pedestrians. This mindset is also foremost when building the Civic. Active safety features include: vehicle stability assist with traction control, antilock braking, electronic brake distribution, and a multi-angle rear-view camera. Honda Sensing is the brand name for Honda’s driver-assist technologies that make driving safer. They include; collision mitigation braking system (senses a stopped car and automatically applies the brakes), road departure mitigation system (corrects when you leave your lane), lane keep assist system (helps stay centered in lane), and traffic sign recognition (notifies you of speed limits). Passive safety features include the Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure that directs collision energy away from the passenger compartment, six airbags, and of course seat belts. Whether it’s your teen’s first car or your tenth car, the Civic is a safe choice.
Honda says the sedan and hatchback models of the Civic seats five. Unlike most compacts, Honda actually means five adults here, as the middle rear seat offers enough room and comfort for urban trips. Going on a road trip? You’ll probably want a maximum of four adults in the real world, and at most, a grade school aged kid in the middle. Looking at the Civic Coupe? The smaller dimensions and sporty focus pull the rear middle seat, so you’re looking at a maximum of four occupants.
The Civic delivers front headroom of 37.5 inches (the same as a Lexus ES350), with legroom at 42.3 inches (equaling a Cadillac CT6). In back, the sedan has 36.8 inches of headroom, and legroom is 37.4 inches. Rear passengers should top out around 6-feet tall for maximum comfort back there. The Coupe is tighter in back, with headroom at 34.5 inches, and legroom 35.9 inches. It’s a good looking ride, but not the best choice for hauling people back there. On the other hand, the Civic Hatchback scores high with 37.4 inches of headroom and 36 inches of legroom.
The Civic Coupe’s trunk measures 12 cu-ft, while the sedan pushes it up to 14.9 cu-ft. The hatchback is the clear winner though, at 25.7 cu-ft, and becomes a crossover with the rear seats down, with a cargo capacity of 46.2 cu-ft. That’s a bit more than the Hyundai Kona crossover. Here’s what this means in real-world utility: the Civic can take six foot 2x4s from the lumber yard with the rear seats down, and the trunk will still close. Reviewers call this generation’s cargo space “startling” and “revolutionary.”
The Honda Civic earns consistently high reviews, with some going as far as to call it the perfect small car. Just because you’re looking to save some money on gas, Honda proves you don’t need to be punished for it with a bouncy ride, cramped interior, or lack of fun driving dynamics. Here’s what the pros think.
Consumer Reports awarded a 5 out of 5, liking the handling, interior design, and economical engine choices. “Both engines are refined and economical, and the CVT automatic works well. Handling is spry and responsive, and the ride isolates against most road bumps. Road noise is subdued, addressing a longtime Civic vice.”
Cars.com rated a 4.9 out of 5, which rounds up. They liked the 2016 model’s return to the Civic’s strengths, with plenty of room and a premium feel for a small price. “The Civic remains a fuel-efficient choice that’s more entertaining to drive than the class norm.” Cars.com also praised Honda for making Honda Sensing features standard at all levels for the 2019 model, as well as the new affordable Sport trim.
Car & Driver gave a 5 out of 5, and further awarded it with their 10 Best List, and Editor’s Choice awards. C&D likes the Civic’s fun to drive nature, powerful turbocharged engine, and comfortable ride. They did gripe about the “heavy handed styling,” and noted how the manual transmission is limited to the lower trims. “The Honda Civic epitomizes compact-car excellence with its mix of practicality and a fun-to-drive personality. While the affable compact isn’t perfect, it excels everywhere and ranks near the top of its class.”
J.D. Power rates hard, with the Civic earning a 78/100. The quality and reliability rating earn a Great rating, at 82/100. The driving experience and resale value scores are slightly higher, at 83 and 85, respectively. In their review of the Sport, “It looks sporty, has a manual gearbox, promises reliability, and gets decent fuel economy. My parents would’ve approved such a purchase, too, because the Civic is exceptionally safe and holds its resale value well over time.” The reviewer liked the Sport, but noted he would rather have the more dynamic Si.
US News & World Report gives an 8.3 out of 10, with an impressive critic’s score of 9.5. Like other reviewers, they enjoyed the driving dynamics, high-end interior, generous cargo room, and superior gas mileage. “The 2019 Honda Civic finishes near the top of our compact car rankings. It delivers better performance than most class rivals, and it boasts an upscale interior with comfortable seating.”
Note that there is one Civic you might want to avoid. The 2012 model is unique in its poor reviews. Designed during the recession, Honda figured buyers would want less content for a lower price. This came when competitors like the Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus wanted to increase their sales numbers, and thus upped their features for the money. The 2012 Civic simply didn’t have the value edge anymore. Car & Driver said, “it’s certainly an unadventurous effort. Aside from being quieter and more efficient, the new Civic doesn’t represent improvement as we define it.” However, if you don’t care about content, the 2012 model makes for a really affordable commuter.
Most American car buyers have an assumption that bigger vehicles are inherently safer. The Civic consistently proves that theory wrong, earning high safety scores year after year.
The NHTSA gave the 10th generation Civic a perfect five-star crash score in every category. The front crash test simulates hitting an oncoming vehicle, and both front occupants (test dummies) showed minimal potential for injuries. Side impact barrier and pole tests also showed five-star results. The rollover test simulates an emergency loss-of-control, and how likely the vehicle is to rollover in that situation. The Civic breezed through, with less than a 10% chance of rollover. The NHTSA couldn’t get their Civic to roll.
The IIHS gave their best Good score in every category for the ninth generation, with the 10th generation receiving tougher scrutiny in the additional categories of child seat anchors (rated Acceptable), and headlights (rated Poor). Those ratings keep the Civic from earning the coveted Top Safety Pick+ award, but know that it is a safe car. The IIHS tested categories are: small overlap front: driver-side, small overlap front: passenger-side, moderate overlap front, side impact, roof strength, and head restraints. Crash prevention also rated the highest score, thanks to the abilities of Honda Sensing. The active safety features have been available since 2016, but became standard equipment at all trim levels in 2019. The IIHS rated the Civic’s headlights Poor, saying that they deliver plenty of visibility on straight roads, but noted visibility through curves is inadequate. “High-beam assist compensates for some limitations of this vehicle’s low beams on the straightaway and all four curves.”
Since the Civic sells nearly worldwide, other regions also crash test the car. Europe’s NCAP tests are slightly different, offering additional insight into the Civic’s safety. The NCAP shows the Civic earned four stars, but five stars for adult occupant safety. The loss of a star comes from the pedestrian impact test, so don’t hit anyone with your Civic. The NCAP review also heaped high praise on the Civic for its active safety features.
Great fuel economy is one of the Civic’s calling cards, nearly as much as its reputation for reliability. The current Civic continues that trend, with nearly hybrid numbers for its gas mileage.
The most fuel efficient Civic has the 1.5-liter engine paired to the CVT transmission. This combo returns 32 MPG in urban environments, and a whopping 42 MPG on the highway. Fueleconomy.gov reports this car will save you $350 a year in fuel costs compared to the average new vehicle. Opting to shift gears yourself, the six-speed manual takes a slight hit to the numbers, scoring 28 MPG city, 38 MPG highway. And of course, the least fuel efficient Civic is the one with the most horsepower, the Type R earning a still-respectable 22 MPG city and 28 MPG highway.
With a 12.4-gallon fuel tank, you’ll have a maximum range of a little over 500 miles between fill-ups. Cleveland to NYC on one tank is doable for the 1.5-liter/CVT Civic. Most trim levels can get by with the cheap regular low octane gas, including the Civic Si and Type R. However, Honda recommends premium for the Si and Type R, noting that power and gas mileage will increase with the use of higher octane fuel.