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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For The Civic enjoys the sort of reliability that most car manufacturers can only dream about

Against It's not the most inspiring car to drive. Faults are rare but pricey to fix when they occur

Verdict It's incredibly well made and durable, but misses the twinkle of some rivals. Getting old now, too

Go for… 1.6i SE 5dr

Avoid… 2.0 TD ES 3dr

Honda Civic Hatchback
  • 1. The interior is spacious and well put together, but the plastics look plain compared to some rivals'
  • 2. Watch out for a rotten rear exhaust section, as these can be fairly expensive to replace
  • 3. The rear suspension is rarely faulty, but it needs regular maintenance to keep it working properly
  • 4. The boot is a good size, and versatile thanks to the hatchback
  • 5. Of the various engines, the best bet for daily driving is the 123bhp 1.6
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Honda Civic Hatchback full review with expert trade views

If someone were to finally invent a perpetual motion machine, it would probably look a lot like the Honda Civic. These cars have a hard-earned and well deserved reputation for reliability and toughness.

These three- and five-door hatchback are the most widely available model from this generation of Civic in the UK (there's also a coupe and an estate, but they're rare). The interiors are spacious and very well put together, though some of the plastics and trim finishes look plain compared to some rivals'.

The boot is a good size and all Civics came with decent levels of equipment - even the most basic models had air-con from early 1999.

The 1.4-, 1.5- and 1.6-litre petrol engines all do sterling service, but it's the more potent 1.6- and 1.8 VTi models that will set your pulse racing. They may not look like hot hatches, but they have more power and performance, along with even better handling, than the standard models.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Air-con is the key and it is the 1.4 and 1.5 that sell easiest

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The best bet for daily driving is the five-door Civic with the 123bhp 1.6-litre engine, built from late 1999. It's the most flexible of the petrol engines and will easily return fuel economy in the mid-30mpg bracket. It's also one of the more refined engines in the Civic.

The 1.4-litre engine has its work cut out shifting a car of this size and it's noisy, too. The same can be said of the short-lived 1.5-litre petrol engine, while the rare 2.0-litre turbodiesel models are also noisier than most contemporary rivals.

The VTi models in 158bhp 1.6-litre form or storming 167bhp 1.8 are real hot hatch sleepers, but don't expect much low-down pull, because they both use Honda's VTEC variable valve timing to produce their peak power high in the rev range.

That means you have to work these units even harder than the standard engines and there's a consequent increase in noise. And, like all Civics, they already suffer from considerable road noise.

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

Despite its reliability, running a Civic is not cheap if you want to keep it in the best health. Service intervals crop up every 9000 miles and the engine's complexity means you'll need a Honda dealer or a trusted specialist to keep the engine in tune.

A new cambelt is required every 72,000 miles or six years and, if you don't bother, the engine could go bang in a very expensive way.

Fuel economy is good on most of the engines, but if you often use their full power, the high revs you have to use will soon see the fuel consumption take a dive. This is even more prevalent in the VTi performance models that thrive on sky-high revs.

Insurance for most Civics is very reasonable and even the hot VTi models are not too high, with up to group 15 ratings to match their subtle looks.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Air-con is the key and it is the 1.4 and 1.5 that sell easiest

James Ruppert
Used car guru

A full service history is essential to prove that it has had the tender care of someone who knows what they're doing. Look for a receipt to prove the cambelt has been changed at 72,000 miles or six years, whichever is sooner.

Warranty Direct reports the only major problem with the Civic is the clever rear suspension. It's not likely to become faulty, but needs regular maintenance to maintain the Civic's superb handling.

Also watch out for is a rotten rear exhaust section, which is easy to replace, although Honda parts are fairly expensive.

Unusually, one thing to watch for is an engine that hasn't been revved high enough. The engines are designed to do this, but many owners are too easy on the throttle. A few high revs now and again are good for the Civic's motors - they can become sluggish without it.

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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