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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
Sedans take bumps in stride...coupes feel choppier on uneven surfaces
Nimble handling and maneuverability will win over city dwellers
Si is definitely fun to drive...but using the performance to the max can become wearing
Car and Driver
The 2009 Honda Civic offers performance versatility in the form of a natural-gas-powered variant, a sporty Si, conventional base, and fuel-efficient Hybrid (which TheCarConnection.com covers separately).
The base 2009 Honda Civic gets going on a 140-horsepower four-cylinder engine. That’s a lower power rating than most cars in its class, but research conducted by TheCarConnection.com shows it's enough to get the job done for commuters. Edmunds comments that this Honda Civic "won't overwhelm anyone, but it provides enough power for comfortable city driving." Cars.com, meanwhile, 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." Acceleration isn't phenomenal, though, and Motor Trend finds that "despite its relatively svelte 2786-pound curb weight, the Civic...consumed 0-to-60 in 9.4 seconds."
The more powerful Honda 2009 Civic Si, which boasts a 197-hp 2.0-liter four, fares much better with reviewers, and ConsumerGuide says that the "slick-shifting Si models crave high rpm and respond with terrific acceleration." 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." 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 base Honda 2009 Civic is available with two transmission options, though the Si and GX both offer just one shift type. 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 Honda 2009 Civic Si.
Among the Honda Civic's many great virtues is its commendable fuel economy, which is perennially near the top of its class. 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 relatively frugal as well, delivering an EPA-estimated 21 mpg city and 29 highway. Depending on the price of gas, the 2009 Honda Civic GX can offer some tremendous fuel savings. 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 2009 Honda Civic boasts handling that is noteworthy for its class and stands equal to or better than most competitors. The Honda Civic is "responsive and quiet with a firm, but not harsh, ride," Cars.com says. ConsumerGuide attests that "sedans take bumps in stride," although "coupes feel choppier on uneven surfaces, but even the firm-suspension Si never jars." In the handling department, Car and Driver remarks that the 2009 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."
Base 2009 Honda Civics are somewhat lacking in thrills, but the Civic offers a combination of fuel economy and precise handling that is hard to match.