2008 Honda Civic Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 13, 2008

The 2008 Honda Civic sedan rates well for safety, handling and green options, with only a few complaints about its rear-seat access.

The car experts at TheCarConnection.com studied a wide range of road tests of the 2008 Honda Civic sedan to compile this definitive review. TheCarConnection.com's resident off-roaders also drove the new Honda Civic to help you decide which reviews to trust where opinions differ, to add more impressions and details, and to provide you with the best information.

The 2008 Honda Civic four-door lineup includes a base model, an Si, a Hybrid, and a natural-gas GX. The base Civic sedan uses a gas-powered 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Either a five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic can be teamed to the frugal four, which rates from 26/34 mpg with a manual gearbox to 25/36 mpg with an automatic. The engine's willing and eager, with a touch of thrummy noise as it winds toward redline. The automatic is fine, but Honda's known for light, quick-shifting manuals, and this one's no exception.
Moving up the horsepower charts, the Civic Si sedan gets its kick from a 197-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. A limited-slip differential is standard. The Si models feature tweaked suspensions with 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, and Si badges, along with synthetic suede seats. The Mugen Si sedan carries an even tauter suspension and 18-inch wheels, with more body add-ons and a sport exhaust system. This is the powertrain of choice if you want to be entertained--it loves to zip to redline.

In addition to the standard gas-powered Civic lineup and the gas-electric Hybrid edition (covered separately), the Civic sedan also can be bought as a 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." It gets the gasoline equivalent of 24 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and Honda notes natural gas is a third cheaper.

Handling on the base version is superior to the Hybrid version (covered separately), but you won't mistake it for the crisper Mazda3. Conventional power steering is quick, as is braking response. The ride is a little busy for the longish wheelbase, probably because of a compact suspension design. The Si can be a bit much to endure on choppy roads, and the Mugen edition is recommended only for hardcore enthusiasts.

Review continues below

The 2008 Honda Civic's styling is pretty futuristic for a mainstream sedan. It has a deeply sloping windshield that leaves a lot of unusable room atop the dash. The dash itself has an unusual double-decker style; the tach lies in the usual spot framed by the steering wheel, while the digital speedo rides atop it on a recessed crescent. It makes you feel like you're piloting a video game, an effect that works better in the coupe and Hybrid models than on the sedan.

The front seats in base cars and more expensive versions offer good support. Even in base cars, height-adjustable seats leave great headroom for tall drivers. In back, it's less rosy; the rear doors are cut narrow at their base, meaning it's not easy for long legs to clamber in and out of the backseat. Six-footers will connect with the headliner.

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. The new EX-L edition adds a leather interior with heated seats and mirrors. Options include satellite radio and a navigation system on the Si, Hybrid, and EX.

Safety gear abounds: Every Civic gets dual, side, and side curtain airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes. The 2008 Honda Civic gets a "good" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

7

2008 Honda Civic

Styling

The 2008 Honda Civic wears a spacey suit that’s not to everyone’s liking.

The 2008 Honda Civic sedan wins praise for a cabin of well-designed amenities and a sportier exterior.

TheCarConnection.com notes that most reviewers of the 2008 Honda Civic eyed the more radical style of this year’s model immediately. Kelley Blue Book and Cars.com agree that the sharp windshield differentiates the 2008 Honda Civic sedan from its competitors. Cars.com comments on the futuristic style of the exterior and describes the front end of the design: "The hood is radically sloped, and the headlights narrowly lead to a chrome bar over the trademark Honda 'H.'" Edmunds calls it bluntly “the most radically designed Civic to date, inside and out.”

Not all reviewers think it’s a step forward. Car and Driver says “the Civic’s styling—the large, fast windshield, minivan-like front end, and UFO-style two-tiered dashboard—incites a bit of controversy, as these are all love-them-or-hate-them elements.” Cars.com feels that “certain elements of the Civic sedan…didn't sit right with me when it debuted in 2006. From certain angles it was a futuristic delight, from others (think the rear quarter angle) it looked badly proportioned. The new Civic design might be a bit too modern for some buyers, but in an iPod-ruled world it fits into pop culture and design surprisingly well.”

The interior of the 2008 Honda Civic sedan received similar comments. Autoblog raves about the ease of use of the display, and notes that it is complemented by the grippy driver's seat, steering wheel, and shifter, commenting that they are "as perfect as it gets in an economy-car-turned-corner-carver." Edmunds notes the “dramatic-looking interior that features a two-tier dashboard layout. A digital speedometer sits on top of the dash, while the tachometer sits underneath.” Kelley Blue Book lists the two-tier instrument panel as one of their favorite features of the 2008 sedan. Autoblog and Cars.com make science-fiction references with regard to the two-tiered panel, but TheCarConnection.com found that most reviewers still considered the display functional, stylish, and pleasurable to use, as did Motor Trend: “With its two-tier instrument display, highlighted by a top-shelf digital speedometer…the Civic presents a welcoming, airy cabin that's best suited to stand the test of time.”

TheCarConnection.com’s reviewers have spent time in all versions of the 2008 Honda Civic, and find its styling pretty futuristic for a mainstream sedan. It has a deeply sloping windshield that leaves a lot of unusable room atop the dash. The dash itself has an unusual double-decker style; the tach lies in the usual spot framed by the steering wheel, while the digital speedo rides atop it on a recessed crescent. It makes you feel like you're piloting a video game, an effect that works better in the coupe and Hybrid models than on the sedan.

8

2008 Honda Civic

Performance

The 2008 Honda Civic sedan handles well in all forms; in Si and Mugen editions, it’s a strong performer outright.

Reviews around the Web recognize the 2008 Honda Civic sedan's smooth acceleration, flat cornering, and good fuel economy.

Cars.com reviewers find that even though the four-cylinder engine generates a mere 140 hp, the 2008 Civic offers "a lot of pep." ConsumerGuide is less enthusiastic, saying only that the Civic sedans "have adequate power around town and for highway merging and passing." Motor Trend notes that “the Civic's meager 140 horsepower hampered it” in their tests. They go on to say, “Despite its relatively svelte 2786-pound curb weight, the Civic…consumed 0-to-60 in 9.4 seconds.” Edmunds adds that “the 1.8-liter engine won't overwhelm anyone, but it provides enough power for comfortable city driving.” They also note that the 1.8-liter engine provides above-average fuel economy for the small car class: "The 2008 EPA estimates are 24 mpg city and 36 mpg highway for an automatic-equipped Civic."

The 197-hp Civic Si is another matter entirely. “It's a high-revving affair,” reports Cars.com. “This is Honda's performance trademark. When you slam on the gas the tachometer flies to an 8,000-rpm redline—that's high—and it doesn't feel like it will stop there. The engine noise is decidedly different to anyone used to gruntier muscle cars or the low torque that Volkswagen aims for in its GLI.” Car and Driver says the Civic Si “offers a slightly larger and more powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 197 horsepower,” and “for those seeking an uncompromised, near-sports-car-like experience, the Civic Si Mugen sedan keeps the powertrain of the Si but features a multitude of chassis and exterior tweaks.”

Honda also offers a Civic Hybrid sedan (covered separately) and a Civic GX that’s powered with compressed natural gas. The natural-gas version, Car and Driver notes, gets a “113-hp, 1.8-liter CNG four-cylinder engine, two speakers instead of four, two-speed intermittent wipers, and an exterior temperature display.”

The base Honda Civic either comes with a five-speed manual transmission or an optional, “slick-shifting” five-speed automatic, according to Car and Driver. “The Civic Si is only available with a six-speed manual transmission,” they add. ConsumerGuide notes "the automatic is especially alert to throttle inputs."

The 2008 Honda Civic’s handling is noteworthy for its class. It’s “responsive and quiet with a firm, but not harsh, ride,” Cars.com says. “The Civic boasts accurate steering, strong brakes, a roomy interior, and a willing suspension,” Car and Driver agrees, while Edmunds says it’s “fun to drive, with great steering feel and impressive handling.”

TheCarConnection.com agrees for the most part with these reviewers. The 2008 Honda Civic’s power steering is quick, as is braking response. The ride is a little busy for the longish wheelbase, probably because of a compact suspension design. It’s the Civic Si that can be a bit much to endure on choppy roads; the Mugen edition is recommended only for hardcore enthusiasts.

9

2008 Honda Civic

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Honda Civic sedan continues its winning streak inside, where a roomy cabin is matched with high-quality fit and finish.

Reviewers from across the Web found that in terms of comfort and quality, there are few equals to the 2008 Honda Civic. Edmunds sums it up: “Its success can be attributed to its consistently high level of fit and finish and an impressive reputation for reliability and low running costs.”

Car and Driver boasts that the 2008 Civic offers "a roomy interior," while Edmunds hails the Civic as "one of the best small cars in terms of room, interior storage and refinement."

Cars.com notes that the 2008 Honda Civic's seats are both supportive and comfortable, and the cabin feels spacious for front passengers. "There was plenty of foot room in back," they conclude, "but headroom was tight," though overall it offered “a decent-sized backseat for the segment.” The Civic Si, Cars.com adds, has different “contoured and firm-fitting seats.”

There’s “surprising vastness” inside, by Motor Trend’s words, and “the Civic's storage solutions [are] impressive.” Cars.com notes “the trunk is huge (12 cubic feet), and it has 60/40-split, folding rear seats.”

In terms of quality, the 2008 Honda Civic has few peers. "This car seems to have a level of refinement among the others,” Motor Trend says. “It's a step up." Though Cars.com points out that the base seats in the Civic have a “strange feel” that’s “almost too fuzzy,” Car and Driver notes that a new EX-L version of the 2008 Honda Civic offers “a handsome leather interior.”

TheCarConnection.com has observed, in many test drives of the Civic sedan, that the front seats in base cars and more expensive versions offer good support. In even base cars, height-adjustable seats leave great headroom for tall drivers. In back, it's less rosy; the rear doors are cut narrow at their base, meaning it's not easy for long legs to clamber in and out of the backseat. Six-footers will connect with the headliner, too.

9

2008 Honda Civic

Safety

The Honda 2008 Civic scores very well in crash tests, and only stability control is left off the standard equipment list.

The 2008 Honda Civic performs well in crash tests and has a long list of standard safety equipment.

With this Civic, Honda scores a "good" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2008 Honda Civic received five stars for front impact protection; for driver-side impacts it earned four stars, and for rear-seat side impacts it earned five stars.

The Honda 2008 Civic sedan boasts numerous standard safety features. Kelley Blue Book also cites the anti-lock brakes and active head restraints as notable standard features.  Cars.com notes that the Honda 2008 Civic sedan doesn't come with electronic stability control as a standard feature, except on Si versions. Every Civic gets dual, side, and side curtain airbags.

10

2008 Honda Civic

Features

The Honda 2008 Civic sedan has good standard features; high-buck versions have high-end options like navigation systems.

Reviewers at TheCarConnection.com were impressed with the level of standard and optional features available on the Honda 2008 Civic sedan.

The Honda 2008 Civic sedan comes in DX, LX, EX, and EX-L trim levels. Price and features differentiate all of these, but Honda has included many standards for all Civics. Edmunds comments that the DX is good if you are on a budget, since it offers "power windows, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a height-adjustable driver seat," but for more options, you’ll have to move to a higher grade.

The popular midgrade Honda 2008 Civic LX, however, comes with a more impressive package of features. It has "16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control and a four-speaker CD/MP3 audio system with an auxiliary audio jack," according to Edmunds. The EX Sedan gets distinct alloy wheels, a sunroof, and an available navigation system with XM Satellite Radio.

The Honda 2008 Civic EX-L comes with leather upholstery and heated front seats. Edmunds notes that the Civic Si has most of the EX's features, "plus a high-output engine, sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels, a premium audio system and special interior trim."

While standard Honda 2008 Civic sedans get blue interior lighting, the Si version has “red-lit two-tiered gauges,” Cars.com reports. “These little touches are what makes Honda a winner among the set that buys high-performance vehicles like this,” they add.

Options on the Honda 2008 Civic include satellite radio and a navigation system on the Si and EX. Car and Driver points out that the “Mugen Si sedan [has] no optional equipment.”

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8.6
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Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 9.0
Features 10.0
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