2011 Honda Civic Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 8, 2011

The 2011 Honda Civic is still a standout for its perky driving feel and responsiveness, but in most other respects it's no longer so impressive.

The Honda Civic used to be the entry model in Honda's U.S. lineup, but in more recent years the Honda Fit hatchback has replaced it. While the Civic is a little more upscale in its latest generation, it's still offered in several different models, to fit performance buffs, serious green shoppers, or those simply on a tight budget.

The current-generation Honda Civic looked pretty far-out when it was first introduced, five years ago, but it turned out to be a trend-setter. Its swoopier, more ached roofline, stubbier, yet more aerodynamic front end, drawn-forward, more rakish windshielf, and even its bold, two-tiered video-game-like instrument panel, which made other small-car dashes look plain at the time, have since been emulated by other automakers—serving to keep the Civic's look very contemporary.

The 2011 Honda Civic remains offered in quite a range of powertrains—and two body styles—but no matter which one you pick, the driving experience can be described as perky yet refined. 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, even though its acceleration numbers probably don't stand out. It's smooth, quick-revving, and refined, and pairs well with either the five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. While the automatic can be a little lumpy during gentle around-town driving, the manual gearbox is light and quick-shifting in the Civic and a step better than the linkages in most other small cars.

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Overall, the Honda Civic feels very peppy, with quick and precise steering especially in low-speed driving. On the highway can be a little too light on center, but when pushed hard the Civic feels like a more sophisticated, more expensive car whereas most other budget-priced small sedans start to show ragged edges.

If you're willing to trade a little fuel economy for a lot more horsepower, the Si is a blast; its 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes 197 horsepower and drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. This engine delivers a rush of power at the high end of its rev band, if and only if, you're willing to keep it up there. 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."

Better-than-average front seats in the 2011 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, though the seat cushions themselves are a bit short and drivers should make sure their knee doesn't rest against the hard handbrake lever. 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.

Through most of the lineup, except for the top EX-L, the Civic's equipment list is lackluster—and with no chance to get items like Bluetooth on lower trims, it's a bit of a throwback to the days of the 'economy car.' The entry DX model 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.

8

2011 Honda Civic

Styling

The Civic's design was truly trend-setting when it was introduced five years ago, and it still looks fresh from the outside.

The current-generation Honda Civic looked pretty far-out when it was first introduced, five years ago, but it turned out to be a trend-setter. Its swoopier, more ached roofline, stubbier, yet more aerodynamic front end, drawn-forward, more rakish windshielf, and even its bold, two-tiered video-game-like instrument panel, which made other small-car dashes look plain at the time, have since been emulated by other automakers—serving to keep the Civic's look very contemporary.

Inside, with the exception of that love-it-or-hate-it instrument panel, the Civic's design and materials look quite conventional. Civic Si models are more distinct on the inside than from the outside, with special badging and trims succeeding in bringing a sportier look.

9

2011 Honda Civic

Performance

No matter which model, the 2011 Honda Civic delivers satisfying performance and a perky, nimble driving feel.

The 2011 Honda Civic remains offered in quite a range of powertrains—and two body styles—but no matter which one you pick, the driving experience can be described as perky yet refined.

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, even though its acceleration numbers probably don't stand out. It's smooth, quick-revving, and refined, and pairs well with either the five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. While the automatic can be a little lumpy during gentle around-town driving, the manual gearbox is light and quick-shifting in the Civic and a step better than the linkages in most other small cars.

Overall, the Honda Civic feels very peppy, with quick and precise steering especially in low-speed driving. On the highway can be a little too light on center, but when pushed hard the Civic feels like a more sophisticated, more expensive car whereas most other budget-priced small sedans start to show ragged edges.

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. This engine delivers a rush of power at the high end of its rev band, if and only if, you're willing to keep it up there. 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."

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.

7

2011 Honda Civic

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Honda Civic offers a refined interior, but especially with its tight back seat it's far from the most comfortable among small sedans.

Better-than-average front seats in the 2011 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, though the seat cushions themselves are a bit short and drivers should make sure their knee doesn't rest against the hard handbrake lever.

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.

The 2011 Honda Civic Coupe is slightly shorter in wheelbase, and its roofline is slightly more arched, so the backseat is a step more cramped—in addition to being harder to get into.

While the Civic offers some features that aren't at all usual in this class—like heated leather seats—don't expect anything close to luxury-car comfort or top-grade materials. The leather is very stiff, almost like vinyl, and the front seat heaters didn't appreciably heat the backrests, just the lower cushions—which seemed to be the case on both sides. And although there are soft-touch inserts in top EX-L models, and a padded armrest, the rest of the door panels, center console, and instrument panel was covered in rather hard, thin-feeling gray plastic.

Ride quality in the base Civic is a bit choppy, considering its 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.

6

2011 Honda Civic

Safety

The 2011 Honda Civic earns top ratings from one safety agency, but the rest of its safety credentials foster unease.

Depending on which major safety agency you trust, the Honda Civic Sedan is either one of the safest small cars or one of the riskiest, for occupant protection.

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests, the Civic earns some of the best ratings in its class, with 'good' ratings in every category and the agency's Top Safety Pick accolade for 2011. But in the federal government's thoroughly revised (and now more stringent) NCAP testing, the Civic Sedan earns only three stars overall, including a respectable four stars for frontal impact but a dismal two stars for side impact. That side impact rating is punctuated by a two-star showing in front-seat protection for an average-sized male test dummy, however with a smaller occupant, the Civic aced the fed's new side pole test, which simulates a side impact with a tree or pole. It's complicated, but it's also apparent that Honda needs to put some work into bolstering the Civic's protection.

Equipment-wise, most of the safety features are here, including front and side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and active head restraints, though electronic stability control is still woefully missing from base models, while it's standard on most other small cars, including Honda's smaller, lower-priced Fit.

Also depending on the height of the driver, outward visibility can be an issue in the 2011 Honda Civic; the long, rather wide roof pillars can make parking and lane-changes a bit harder than in other small cars, and the front corners of the vehicle are hard to judge with the long dash and low, blunt nose.

6

2011 Honda Civic

Features

The 2011 Honda Civic does have some impressive possibilities, but they're only offered in top-of-the-line EX-L models; otherwise the feature list is unimpressive.

Especially if any tech features are must-haves, Honda still leaves much to be desired in the Civic's feature set—unless you're willing to step up to the top EX-L model. There, you can get Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and a USB audio interface, along with satellite radio and a nav system.

On the rest of the lineup, the Civic's equipment list is lackluster—and with no chance to get items like Bluetooth on lower trims, it's a bit of a throwback to the days of the 'economy car.' The entry DX model 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.

The sporty Si gets a significantly different look, with front and rear spoilers, special interior trims, its own wheels, and a low stance, but actual equipment is about the same as the EX.

The available navigation system includes voice recognition, but the system in general feels dated at this point, with the screen appearing dull next to the latest high-contrast displays, a clunky menu structure, and a very limited voice-command system. We also failed to pair two popular cellphone models in our latest driving experience with a Civic EX-L.

8

2011 Honda Civic

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Honda Civic is a solid pick for the environmentally conscious; but the Civic Hybrid is in the top tier, and one of the most fuel-efficient 'normal' cars you can get.

Up until this year, the Honda Civic was one of the most fuel-efficient non-hybrids you could get, but it's been passed by several 2011 vehicles, including the Hyundai Elantra, Ford Fiesta, and Chevrolet Cruze—all of which get 40 mpg on the highway in at least some of their trims. But with city ratings of up to 26 and highway ratings of up to 36, the Civic is still very frugal, and a good green pick on a budget.

For those who like the Civic Sedan's packaging but want top-tier fuel economy—and maybe have a slightly larger budget—the Civic Hybrid is the pick of the lineup; with Honda's IMA mild-hybrid system, it achieves an EPA-rated 40 mpg city, 43 highway.

Civic Si models aren't nearly as good. Because of their deeper-breathing engine and lower gear ratios, which keep the engine revving, the Civic Si returns numbers in the low to mid 20s, according to our driving experience. That's not particularly green, even compared to other sport coupes.

There's also a limited-production natural gas version of the Civic, the GX. Honda says natural gas is about 35 percent cheaper than gasoline, and the Civic 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.

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August 12, 2015
2011 Honda Civic 4-Door Automatic DX

Great everyday car!

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Styling 8.0
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