- Energetic four-cylinder
- Manual transmission shift quality
- Reputation for reliability
- Futuristic styling robs room
- Back seat hard to enter
- Ride can get busy
The 2008 Honda Civic sedan rates well for safety, handling and green options, with only a few complaints about its rear-seat access.
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.
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.