2009 Honda Civic Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
April 24, 2009

The 2009 Honda Civic lineup rates well for safety, handling, and overall frugality, though those who plan to carry cargo or frequent backseat passengers should look elsewhere.

The car experts at TheCarConnection.com studied a wide range of road tests of the 2009 Honda Civic to compile this definitive review. TheCarConnection.com's editors also drove the new Honda Civic to help you decide which reviews to trust where opinions differ, to add more impressions and details, and to provide you with the best information.

The 2009 Honda Civic lineup is one of the more extensive in the automotive industry and encompasses a base model, a sports-oriented version (the Si), a Hybrid, and a natural-gas version in the form of the Honda Civic GX. Both of the conventionally powered Civics come in either sedan or coupe body styles, while the Hybrid and GX are available exclusively as four-doors. For 2009, Honda expands the trim lineup with the LX-S and VP sedans, while all Civics get new exterior styling and an array of new available features, such as Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and a USB audio interface.

The 2009 Honda Civic lineup has been mildly restyled, but overall it maintains the futuristic styling on display last year. While it definitely stands out in a crowd, the deeply raked windshield on both the coupe and sedan leaves a lot of unusable room atop the dash. The two-tiered dashboard is also unlike anything seen on the Civic's competitors, with the tach and speedo separated vertically into two distinct recesses. The overall effect is it seems as though you're commanding the Civic through a video game, and while it's not very believable on the sedan, it does work somewhat better on the Civic coupe.

The base 2009 Honda Civic is powered by a 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that pairs with either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. 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. Honda offers a perfectly acceptable automatic transmission for the base Civic, but Honda is known for its light, quick-shifting manuals, and the latest iteration on the Civic is no exception.

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For those willing to spend a little more money and trade fuel economy for a lot more horsepower, Honda offers the 2009 Civic Si sedan and coupe, which receive a 57-hp boost over the base model. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that sits under the hood puts out 197 hp and drives the wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox. Si-exclusive features include a standard limited-slip differential, 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, and Si exterior trim, as well as synthetic sports seats.

The 2009 Civic is also offered in two especially green versions: the gas-electric Hybrid edition (covered separately) and the 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." Honda says that natural gas is about 35 percent cheaper than gasoline, and the GX gets the gasoline equivalent of 24 mpg city, 36 mpg highway.

The 2009 Honda Civic, with its MacPherson struts up front and multilink rear suspension, offers crisper handling than its Hybrid cousin, but it doesn't quite reach the bar set by the supercrisp Mazda3. The Civic's power steering system is quick to respond, and the brakes inspire confidence with their solid pedal feel. However, the ride on the base Civic is a bit choppy, considering the Civic's longish wheelbase, though that is most likely the result of the compact suspension design. The sport-tuned Si is even harsher, with choppy roads inducing significant rattling.

Driving the 2009 Honda Civic is a pleasure, thanks to the generous support offered by the front seats. 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.

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. A new-for-2009 DX-VP model adds air conditioning and an audio system to the Civic DX sedan's standard features. The Civic EX-L edition picks up a leather interior with heated seats and mirrors. Options include a hands-free Bluetooth system and USB audio interface, as well as satellite radio and a navigation system on the Si, Hybrid, and EX.

Every Civic gets dual, side, and side curtain airbags, as well as anti-lock brakes, and the news is very positive on the safety front. The 2009 Honda Civic gets a "good" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. New for 2009 and now standard on the Civic EX-L, Hybrid, and Si is an electronic stability control system, which Honda dubs Vehicle Stability Assist.

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2009 Honda Civic

Styling

The 2009 Honda Civic offers sleek exterior styling, though the interior might carry the space-age theme too far.

The extensive Honda Civic lineup gets a minor refresh for 2009, as well as two new trim levels for the 2009 Honda Civic sedan. Although the exterior styling on the Honda Civic is generally praised, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com reveal that the interior is much more polarizing.

The sheetmetal adorning the Honda 2009 Civic is unique among entry-level sedans and coupes in that it actually stands out from the crowd. ConsumerGuide reports that Honda Civic "sedans and coupes come in DX, LX, EX, EX-L, and sporty Si trims," and "new for 2009 are DX-VP and LX-S sedans," while the natural-gas-powered Honda Civic GX is available only as a sedan. All variants of the 2009 Honda Civic share the same distinctive, futuristic styling that Cars.com says makes the Honda Civic "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." Honda, accordingly, hasn't changed much for 2009, as Car and Driver cites "new head- and taillights and a new grille and front bumper design," along with "some new colors and alloy wheel designs," are all that identify the latest model from the 2008 Civic. However, Car and Driver is also quick to point out that the Honda 2009 Civic's "styling—the large, fast windshield, minivan-like front end, and UFO-style two-tiered dashboard—incites a bit of controversy, as these are all love-them-or-hate-them elements."

The unconventional interior design of the 2009 Honda Civic gives rise to strong opinions both for and against the look. Despite the 2009 refresh, Honda "is sticking with its controversial two-tier dashboard," although upgrades to the interior mean that "all Civic sedans now feature a sporty three-spoke steering wheel," notes Motor Trend. 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." Also favoring the new dash is Cars.com, which says that "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." TheCarConnection.com's own editors differ, however, and feel that the layout is ungainly, especially on the Honda Civic sedan.

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2009 Honda Civic

Performance

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.

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."

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2009 Honda Civic

Comfort & Quality

The Honda Civic isn’t the most comfortable, but with its near-bulletproof reputation for reliability, expect to see the 2009s on the road decades from now.

When consumers think of Honda, the words "reliability" and "quality" usually spring to mind. These associations are far from accidental, as Honda has built a reputation on the quality of its vehicles, and the 2009 Honda Civic is no exception. Edmunds sums it up nicely: The Honda 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."

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com rave about what Car and Driver calls the Honda Civic's "roomy interior," while Edmunds hails the Honda 2009 Civic as "one of the best small cars in terms of room, interior storage and refinement." Beginning with the front seats, 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."

The 2009 Honda Civic packs an impressive amount of cargo space into its tidy dimensions; 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." Cars.com agrees enthusiastically, claiming "the trunk is huge (12 cubic feet), and it has 60/40-split folding rear seats."

When it comes to build and materials quality, consumers will be hard-pressed to find a vehicle to top the 2009 Honda Civic. Motor Trend simply says "it's a step up," while Car and Driver notes that the EX-L version of the 2009 Honda Civic boasts "a handsome leather interior." ConsumerGuide reviewers claim no competitor can match the Honda 2009 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.

Wind noise is minimal within the 2009 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."

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2009 Honda Civic

Safety

The addition of a vehicle stability control system rounds out an impressive list of safety credentials on the 2009 Honda Civic.

If you're looking for a weakness in the 2009 Honda Civic, research conducted by TheCarConnection.com reveals that you won't find it in the safety category. The 2009 Honda Civic not only performs extraordinarily well in crash tests, but it also adds to the 2008 Civic's list of standard safety features.

The latest Honda 2009 Civic is a true standout in crash tests, earning the highest possible rating of "good" in both frontal offset and side impact tests from the IIHS. The IIHS also awards 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." NHTSA also reports solid results for the Honda 2009 Civic sedan and coupe: perfect five-star ratings for front and side rear passenger impacts, along with four stars for side driver impacts.

In addition to its strong crash-test ratings, the 2009 Honda Civic boasts numerous standard safety features. Car and Driver says that the Honda Civic "is pretty well equipped with standard safety features, including front, front side, and curtain airbags on all models, along with four-wheel 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."

It seems that the only safety criticism of the 2009 Honda Civic arises when the discussion turns to driver visibility. 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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2009 Honda Civic

Features

The 2009 Honda Civic is available in a variety of trims to suit a variety of budgets and tastes, but the trade-off is that options are limited.

The sheer variety of options on the 2009 Honda Civic ensures that nearly all consumer demands can be met by this versatile line of sedans and coupes—provided they’re not looking for more versatility in a hatchback or wagon body style.

Base features on the 2009 Honda Civic vary widely across trim levels, but all Honda 2009 Civics come standard with a "tilt/telescopic steering wheel...front bucket seats, height-adjustable driver seat, folding rear seat, [and] power windows," according to ConsumerGuide. Car and Driver reviewers prefer the Honda Civic LX, "which adds cruise control, power door locks and mirrors, an AM/FM radio with a CD player and four speakers, 16-inch wheels with covers, a folding rear seat, air conditioning, and remote entry. (The LX coupe has a six-speaker audio system)." Stepping up to the Honda Civic EX brings "satellite radio, steering wheel radio controls, power sunroof, [and] outside-temperature indicator," while the EX-L includes "heated front seats...heated power mirrors" and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, according to ConsumerGuide. Car and Driver notes that "the Si model is essentially outfitted the same as an EX," and the 2009 Honda Civic "GX is equivalent to the LX trim level."

Rather than offer a lengthy list of optional features, Honda simply produces the Honda Civic in a variety of trims. In fact, the only major optional feature for this Honda 2009 lineup, according to TheCarConnection.com's research, is a navigation system that Cars.com says "includes voice recognition and steering wheel-mounted controls." Motor Trend adds that "nav-equipped cars feature a Bluetooth HandsFreeLink mobile phone interface."

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