- Energetic engines
- Excellent manual transmissions
- Reputation for reliability
- Swoopy styling cuts into headroom
- Backseat hard to enter
- Ride can get busy
The 2009 Honda Civic lineup rates well for safety, handling, and overall frugality, though those who plan to carry cargo or frequent backseat passengers should look elsewhere.
The 2009 Honda Civic lineup is one of the more extensive in the automotive industry and encompasses a base model, a sports-oriented version (the Si), a Hybrid, and a natural-gas version in the form of the Honda Civic GX. Both of the conventionally powered Civics come in either sedan or coupe body styles, while the Hybrid and GX are available exclusively as four-doors. For 2009, Honda expands the trim lineup with the LX-S and VP sedans, while all Civics get new exterior styling and an array of new available features, such as Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and a USB audio interface.
The 2009 Honda Civic lineup has been mildly restyled, but overall it maintains the futuristic styling on display last year. While it definitely stands out in a crowd, the deeply raked windshield on both the coupe and sedan leaves a lot of unusable room atop the dash. The two-tiered dashboard is also unlike anything seen on the Civic's competitors, with the tach and speedo separated vertically into two distinct recesses. The overall effect is it seems as though you're commanding the Civic through a video game, and while it's not very believable on the sedan, it does work somewhat better on the Civic coupe.
The base 2009 Honda Civic is powered by a 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that pairs with either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Either transmission delivers exceptional fuel economy, with EPA estimates for the manual of 26 mpg city, 34 highway for the manual gearbox and 25/36 mpg for the automatic. Honda offers a perfectly acceptable automatic transmission for the base Civic, but Honda is known for its light, quick-shifting manuals, and the latest iteration on the Civic is no exception.
For those willing to spend a little more money and trade fuel economy for a lot more horsepower, Honda offers the 2009 Civic Si sedan and coupe, which receive a 57-hp boost over the base model. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that sits under the hood puts out 197 hp and drives the wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. Si-exclusive features include a standard limited-slip differential, 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, and Si exterior trim, as well as synthetic sports seats.
The 2009 Civic is also offered in two especially green versions: the gas-electric Hybrid edition (covered separately) and the natural-gas-powered GX model. The GX edition is eligible for up to $4,000 in tax credits and can be teamed with a home refueling station dubbed "Phill." Honda says that natural gas is about 35 percent cheaper than gasoline, and the GX gets the gasoline equivalent of 24 mpg city, 36 mpg highway.
The 2009 Honda Civic, with its MacPherson struts up front and multilink rear suspension, offers crisper handling than its Hybrid cousin, but it doesn't quite reach the bar set by the supercrisp Mazda3. The Civic's power steering system is quick to respond, and the brakes inspire confidence with their solid pedal feel. However, the ride on the base Civic is a bit choppy, considering the Civic's longish wheelbase, though that is most likely the result of the compact suspension design. The sport-tuned Si is even harsher, with choppy roads inducing significant rattling.
Driving the 2009 Honda Civic is a pleasure, thanks to the generous support offered by the front seats. Even in base cars, the height-adjustable seats leave great headroom for tall drivers. The rear, however, is less rosy; the rear doors on the sedan are cut narrow at their base, so it's not easy for long legs to clamber in and out. Also, backseat passengers had better not be tall, or even average in height, as the curvature of the roof interferes with headroom.
Power windows and door locks and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel are standard on all models. The Civic LX has air conditioning, cruise control, power locks, a CD audio system with an auxiliary jack, and a folding rear seat. The EX sedan gets distinct alloy wheels, a sunroof, and an available navigation system with XM Satellite Radio. A new-for-2009 DX-VP model adds air conditioning and an audio system to the Civic DX sedan's standard features. The Civic EX-L edition picks up a leather interior with heated seats and mirrors. Options include a hands-free Bluetooth system and USB audio interface, as well as satellite radio and a navigation system on the Si, Hybrid, and EX.
Every Civic gets dual, side, and side curtain airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes, and the news is very positive on the safety front. The 2009 Honda Civic gets a "good" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. New for 2009 and now standard on the Civic EX-L, Hybrid, and Si is an electronic stability control system, which Honda dubs Vehicle Stability Assist.