2010 Honda Civic Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
November 11, 2009

The 2010 Honda Civic has a level of sophistication and refinement not possessed by most other small car models, with good safety and overall frugality. But if you like to carry cargo or backseat passengers, you can do better.

After putting several different Honda Civic Coupe and sedan models through the paces, the car experts at TheCarConnection.com studied a wide range of road tests relating to the 2010 Honda Civic. Here, they bring you what you need to know, regarding when shopping and comparing it to other small-car models.

While Honda’s smaller Fit is only offered in a hatchback body style, with a single engine available, the larger Honda Civic has one of the most extensive model lineups among small cars. In addition to base and mid-level models, there’s a sports-oriented Si version, along with a natural-gas version in the form of the Honda Civic GX. And all but the GX are offered in a choice of coupe or sedan. There’s also a high-mileage Hybrid model, but that’s only offered as a sedan and it’s covered by TheCarConnection.com in a separate review.

As the 2010 model year arrives, the Honda Civic has now gone four years since its last major redesign, yet it still manages to look fresh. That’s because at the time of its introduction, the Civic was a little far out design-wise, with a swoopier, more ached roofline; a stubbier, yet more aerodynamic front end; and a bold, two-tiered video-game-like instrument panel that made other small-car dashes look plain. Now, several years later, several other small-car models have emulated some of the Civic’s cues so that it still looks quite fresh.

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The 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that comes in base DX, mid-level EX, and the best-equipped LX models is no penalty box. It’s smooth, quick-revving, and refined, and pairs well with either the five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. The manual gearbox is light and quick-shifting in the Civic and a step better than the linkages in most other small cars. 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.

If you’re willing to trade a little fuel economy for a lot more horsepower, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the Si makes 197 horsepower and drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. The Si package is completed with a tighter suspension, larger 17-inch alloy wheels, a limited-slip differential, a rear spoiler, Si exterior trim, and synthetic sports seats.

The environmentally friendly natural-gas-fueled GX version is offered in a single trim. It’s the most expensive model in the lineup, yet it’s eligible for up to $4,000 in tax credits and can be teamed with a home refueling station dubbed "Phill." Honda says natural gas is about 35 percent cheaper than gasoline, and the GX gets the gasoline equivalent of 24 mpg city, 36 highway, so you’ll pay off any premium quite quickly. It’s probably not the best choice for long-distance driving, however.

With MacPherson struts up front and multilink rear suspension, Honda starts with a very common small-car configuration but does a great job tuning it, delivering crisp handling (though not quite as good as the Mazda3) and responsive (though light) power steering. However, the ride on the base Civic is a bit choppy, considering the Civic's longish wheelbase. The sport-tuned Si is even harsher, with choppy roads inducing significant rattling. That said, the Civic does a good job isolating coarse road noise.

The better-than-average front seats in the 2010 Honda Civic afford good support and a great driving position, helping make the driving experience enjoyable. 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. It’s the penalty of the rakish roofline. Also, the deeply raked windshield on both the coupe and sedan leaves a lot of unusable room atop the dash.

Side and side curtain airbags are standard equipment on the Honda Civic lineup, along with anti-lock brakes, and overall the news is quite positive on the safety front. The Civic gets four- and five-star results from the federal government, along with all “good" ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It’s also an IIHS Top Safety Pick. And Honda’s VSA stability control system—still a relative rarity in small cars—is included with EX-L and Si models. The feature isn’t offered in more affordable versions, however.

Last year Honda significantly revamped the Civic’s feature list to make widely desired tech features more available throughout the lineup. Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and a USB audio interface, along with satellite radio and a nav system, are now offered—though in typical Honda fashion, you’ll need to step up to the most expensive EX versions to get all of it. The base DX is pretty basic, with no air conditioning, but 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. And although a leather-upholstered Civic seems a little odd, you can get exactly that, plus heated seats and mirrors, in the Civic EX-L edition.

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2010 Honda Civic

Styling

The space-age interior design is a little over-the-top for some, but it still looks fresh, and in all, the 2010 Honda Civic strikes the right chord.

As the 2010 model year rolls in, the Honda Civic has now gone four years since its last major redesign, yet it still manages to look fresh.

At the time it was introduced, the Civic was a little far out design-wise, with a swoopier, more ached roofline; a stubbier, yet more aerodynamic front end; and a bold, two-tiered video-game-like instrument panel that made other small-car dashes look plain.

By now, the Civic fits in with a crowd that has largely started to emulate it, while still managing to look fresh. Numerous reviewers like the look overall. Cars.com thinks that the Honda Civic is "instantly recognizable and much sleeker-looking than most of its competitors." Motor Trend reports that, "when the latest-generation Civic first hit the market, many were surprised by its unusual styling, but the Civic's looks have proven a hit with buyers." Car and Driver points to the “the large, fast windshield, minivan-like front end, and UFO-style two-tiered dashboard” as love-it-or-hate-it design elements.

Last year Honda added, according to Car and Driver, "new head- and taillights and a new grille and front bumper design," along with "some new colors and alloy wheel designs.”

The unusual two-tier instrument panel layout definitely causes a stir, but Honda sticks with it through last year’s styling touch-up. According to Motor Trend, "all Civic sedans now feature a sporty three-spoke steering wheel." Overall, the dash design has more positive than negative comments, with Cars.com saying, "though the design is very different than most instrument panels, it doesn't take long to get used to and see the logic in it." ConsumerGuide reviewers feel that the dashboard design "works to good overall effect" in both the sedan and coupe, but they lament the fact that "the navigation system takes time to master, has undersized buttons, and absorbs too many audio functions."

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2010 Honda Civic

Performance

Even if you opt for one of the base 2010 Honda Civic models, you probably won’t be disappointed. But if you’re more of a performance enthusiast, you might be able to get your kicks with the Civic Si while saving a lot of gas money.

Whether you go for the sporty Si, the natural-gas-powered GX, or any of the base-engine versions of the 2010 Honda Civic, the Honda Civic is perky yet refined.

Coming in at 1.8 liters and 140 horsepower, the base engine is at the low end of power in its class, yet according to a wide range of reviewer comments, it has plenty of strength to get the job done whether you go with the manual or the automatic. Cars.com reports that "getting up to highway speeds takes a little time" in the standard Civic, but "once you reach a cruising speed, the engine doesn't feel taxed maintaining it." Edmunds comments that this Honda Civic "won't overwhelm anyone, but it provides enough power for comfortable city driving." Motor Trend finds that "despite its relatively svelte 2786-pound curb weight, the Civic...consumed 0-to-60 in 9.4 seconds." That’s not tremendously impressive, but acceptable for a car you buy more for fuel efficiency than performance.

The 197-horsepower Civic Si is an often overlooked performance gem, according to several reviewers. But as it only offers a manual transmission, the 2010 Honda Civic Si certainly isn’t for everyone. Cars.com declares that "it's a high-revving affair... 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 "slick-shifting Si models crave high rpm and respond with terrific acceleration," according to ConsumerGuide.

For those living in New York or California, Honda offers the 2009 Honda Civic GX, which boasts a 113-hp natural-gas engine. Despite the power drop compared to base Honda Civics, The Detroit News remarks that the Civic GX "chugged along at highway speeds with ease" during their test.

The Si and GX both offer just one shift type, though the rest of the lineup allows a choice of two transmissions. According to ConsumerGuide, "all 140-hp Civics come with 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission," while "GX models are automatic only" and the "Si only comes with a 6-speed manual." Both the manual and the automatic earn praise from reviewers; ConsumerGuide testers find that "the automatic is especially alert to throttle inputs," and Edmunds reviewers love the "close-ratio six-speed manual transmission" on the Civic.

Fuel efficiency is, of course, one of the main reasons for considering the 2010 Civic, and by the numbers, it does well whether with the manual or automatic. The EPA estimates that base Honda Civics with the manual transmission will return 26 mpg city and 34 highway, while the automatic translates to 25/36 mpg. The Honda Civic Si is also relatively good on gas, delivering an EPA-estimated 21 mpg city and 29 highway.

The natural-gas-powered Honda Civic GX is a little more complicated to assess. While the EPA rates the Honda Civic GX at a 24/36-mpg equivalent, ConsumerGuide says that "the only way to compare 'fuel economy' of a Civic GX with gasoline cars is to calculate cost per mile...with gas at $4.00/gallon, we got the cost equivalent of 71.3 mpg on the test Civic GX." The Detroit News also drives the Civic GX and reports that, while the engine is a little rough when cold, once warm it “chugged along at highway speeds with ease.” The reviewer makes clear that the performance of the GX “won’t blow you away, but it’s not designed to do that.”

Handling has always been a strength for the Civic, and the 2010 model continues to have surprisingly crisp handling without the overly hard ride often characteristic of small cars. Cars.com says that the Civic is "responsive and quiet with a firm, but not harsh, ride," Car and Driver remarks that the Honda Civic "boasts accurate steering, strong brakes, a roomy interior, and a willing suspension," while Edmunds calls the Civic "fun to drive, with great steering feel and impressive handling." ConsumerGuide attests that "sedans take bumps in stride," although "coupes feel choppier on uneven surfaces, but even the firm-suspension Si never jars."

9

2010 Honda Civic

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Honda Civic is well built, with more refinement and isolation than you might find in a small car of its price, but backseat space is problematic.

The 2010 Honda Civic lives up to Honda’s legendary standards of build quality and is surprisingly refined, but it’s not all good news. The Civic’s interior is tighter in back than many other small cars its size because of the curvy, rakish roofline.

Beginning with the front, ConsumerGuide reviewers find that "the seats astutely blend support and comfort," and the Honda Civic "Si's seats are further bolstered for a glued-in-place feel in fast cornering." Cars.com is less enthusiastic, noting that "the leather bucket seats in front have firm cushioning, but they didn't initially seem to fit my back that well...I adapted to the seat in time, but it still wasn't ideal."

In the rear seats, ConsumerGuide says that "sedans have adequate adult headroom" and "a flat floor aids overall comfort," but on the coupe, the "tiny, hard-to-access rear seat is best left to toddlers."

Car and Driver describes the Civic’s interior as roomy overall, while Edmunds hails the Honda Civic as "one of the best small cars in terms of room, interior storage and refinement."

If the backseat space is a little disappointing, the 2010 Honda Civic excels in both cargo space and in storage for smaller items. Cars.com agrees enthusiastically, claiming "the trunk is huge (12 cubic feet), and it has 60/40-split folding rear seats." Motor Trend reports "surprising vastness" inside the cabin and coos that "the Civic's storage solutions [are] impressive." ConsumerGuide also says "interior storage is very good" and notes that "sedans have a wide, tall trunk with a generous opening and low liftover" and "the coupe's trunk has the same attributes, but slightly less volume."

In terms of build quality and materials, the Civic is pretty much at the top of its class. ConsumerGuide reviewers claim no competitor can match the Civic's "reputation for reliability and strong resale value," and they praise the "laudable mix of high-grade plastics and fabrics" inside the Honda Civic. Car and Driver takes note of the EX-L version and its “handsome leather interior"—an unusual feature in this class.

Wind noise is minimal within the 2010 Honda Civic, especially in sedan form. ConsumerGuide, which tends toward the conservative side, proclaims that "sedans are near the top of the class in suppression of road and wind noise," although "coupes do not isolate nearly as well as sedans."

According to Edmunds, the Civic’s "success can be attributed to its consistently high level of fit and finish and an impressive reputation for reliability and low running costs."

9

2010 Honda Civic

Safety

Safety credentials in the 2010 Honda Civic are very impressive, though there’s a little room for improvement.

Simply put, the 2010 Honda Civic is one of the best small cars for safety. The Civic not only performs extraordinarily well in crash tests but also includes a very strong set of standard safety features.

Looking at crash-test results from either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the federal government, the 2010 Civic does very well. It earns the highest possible rating of "good" in both frontal offset and side impact tests from the IIHS. The IIHS also grants the Honda Civic its Top Safety Pick Award for 2009, citing its "good performance in front, side, and rear tests and optional electronic stability control." The news is also good but not perfect from the federal government; NHTSA reports four- and five-star results.

Front side and side-curtain airbags are standard on all Civics for 2010, along with anti-lock brakes. Kelley Blue Book lists the Honda 2009 Civic's "active head restraints" as another noteworthy feature, while Cars.com reports that the "EX-L, Hybrid and Si models also have an electronic stability system."

Driver visibility is a drawback in the 2010 Honda Civic, particularly in the Civic Coupe. ConsumerGuide reviewers are somewhat disappointed that the Honda Civic's "long front roof pillars impede [the] outward view to the corners," while the "long dashtop shelf and sloping nose complicate judging distance in close quarters."

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2010 Honda Civic

Features

The 2010 Honda Civic offers some truly standout features, but getting some of them—like the nav system or Bluetooth—requires stepping up to the most expensive models and a slew of features you might not need.

DX, LX, EX, and Si versions of the Honda Civic (along with GX) cover all the bases. You can get what you want on the 2010 Honda Civic—even leather seats—provided you’re willing to step up to the more expensive trims and pay quite a bit more.

The base 2010 Honda Civic DX is pretty basic, with no air conditioning, but 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. And although a leather-upholstered Civic seems a little odd, you can get exactly that, plus heated seats and mirrors, in the Civic EX-L edition.

Car and Driver notes that "the Si model is essentially outfitted the same as an EX," and the Honda Civic "GX is equivalent to the LX trim level."

Last year Honda significantly revamped the Civic’s feature list to make widely desired tech features more available throughout the lineup. Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and a USB audio interface, along with satellite radio and a nav system, are now offered—though in typical Honda fashion, you’ll need to step up to the most expensive EX versions to get all of it. The nav system in particular is a feature you won’t find on most other affordable vehicles in this class.

The navigation system "includes voice recognition and steering wheel-mounted controls," according to Cars.com.

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