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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
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
Sedans take bumps in stride...coupes feel choppier on uneven surfaces
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."
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.