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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For You'll like its clever design, cabin and boot space and bomb-proof reliability

Against It's not the sexiest car in the world, and refinement isn't great/ It's expensive to buy, too

Verdict The Civic should reward you with many years of hassle-free motoring

Go for… 1.6-litre SE five-door

Avoid… Diesels

Honda Civic Hatchback
  • 1. Road noise is the biggest problem for the entire range
  • 2. Air-con wasn't standard on the Type-R, but many were fitted with it as a cost option, so look out for it
  • 3. Entry-level 1.4-litre petrol is a little gutless so we'd plump for the 1.6-litre every time
  • 4. The boot is enormous when the seats are folded down
  • 5. Cabin space is excellent thanks to Honda's super-clever packaging
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Honda Civic Hatchback full review with expert trade views

Super-clever engineering means there's almost enough room in the five-door Civic to play swingball. There's huge head- and legroom, and getting in and out is a doddle, too. Fold the seats away and you're left with a cavern of a boot.

Three-door models aren't quite as enormous, but there's still enough space for four adults to emerge smiling at the end of a long journey.

Plenty of thought has been put into the cabin layout as well, so it's an easy car to live with. The dash-mounted gear lever and other controls are within easy reach, while the seats come with enough adjustment for anyone to get comfortable at the wheel.

The hot Type-R is an absolute hoot to drive, but even run-of-the-mill models are enjoyable. Road noise is the biggest problem for the entire bunch.

Trade view

James Ruppert

More in circulation now but all models sell well especially Type-R with air-con

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The entry-level 1.4-litre petrol is a little gutless for hauling the Civic around, so we'd plump for the 1.6-litre every time. Although Honda has since developed an excellent diesel of its own, the Isuzu-sourced 1.7-litre unit used in this car isn't really any great shakes.

Every model has electric front windows and a CD player, but spending a little more on an SE is recommended. You'll get air-conditioning, alloy wheels, remote central locking and rear electric windows, which we think are well worth the cash.

Above that, there are Executive cars, which are trimmed with leather and have an electric sunroof.

For a bit of practical fun you might want to try the five-door Type-S warm hatch, but for real thrills it's got to be the revvy 197bhp Type-R – still one of the best hot hatches money can buy.

They've all been around for some time now, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding a good few examples to choose from, whether you're hunting through private ads or touring the dealerships.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Low failure rates but higher than average bills due to suspension and brake problems

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

Honda dealers are known for asking high prices, so private sellers might have the best bargains for you.

Once you've forked out for a car you won't be throwing money at the Honda to keep it going. Running costs are very much on a par with rivals such as the Ford Focus or Toyota Corolla. The 1.6-litre petrol, for instance, gives nearly 43mpg on the combined cycle, but won't give you a heart attack when it comes to getting insurance either.

The same can't be said for the racy Type-R, so make sure you can afford those premiums before you snap up this bargain pocket rocket.

On average, main dealers charge pretty reasonable labour rates, but parts can be pricey and drive the cost of service and repairs up. Find a good independent specialist and you could save yourself a few quid.

Trade view

James Ruppert

More in circulation now but all models sell well especially Type-R with air-con

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Check that any car you're looking at has been serviced according to Honda's schedule. If they have, they should run and run.

Honda outshone every other marque in the 2005 What Car? reliability surveys – you don't get much better signposts to peace of mind than that.

Consistently good showings in JD Power satisfaction polls are yet more evidence that Honda knows how to bolt a car together exceptionally well.

Remember, though, that air-con wasn't standard on the Type-R. We reckon most buyers will have fitted the option, but it's probably best to avoid any examples without chilled air. It's not why the hatch should be hot.

As with all performance hatches, it's worth checking Type-Rs for signs of a hard life and abuse, such as noisy exhausts, notchy gearboxes, thumpy suspension or lots of stone chip damage around the front.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Low failure rates but higher than average bills due to suspension and brake problems

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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