Monday, January 31, 2011

Canadian Driver: Used Vehicle Review: Honda Civic, 2006-2011

By Chris Chase
The eighth-generation Honda Civic hit the market in 2006, and made a bit of a splash when it did, with its wedgy exterior and modern interior, including a controversial split-level dashboard. Nevertheless, the Civic remained one of the most popular cars on the market and largely retained its reputation for being a dependable form of transportation.

If you bought a Civic in 2006, you got a compact sedan or coupe powered by a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine making 140 horsepower in all trims save the Si coupe and Hybrid. The Si got a 2.0-litre, 197-hp motor, while the Hybrid used 1.3-litre engine paired with an electric motor for a net horsepower power rating of 110. Regular-grade Civics came standard with a five-speed manual transmission that could be optioned to a five-speed automatic. The Si used a six-speed manual exclusively and also got a limited-slip differential; the Hybrid came with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) as the only one available.

In 2008, an Si sedan was added to the line-up. Some upper trim models got stability/traction control in 2009.

Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption ratings for the 2006 Civic were 7.8/5.7 L/100 km (city/highway) for the 1.8-litre model with manual transmission, or 8.2/5.7 with the automatic. The Hybrid was rated at 4.7/4.3, and the Si at 10.2/6.8. These figures would remain the same through the eighth-gen Civic’s run, to 2011.

Reliability on the whole has been good, earning the Civic inclusion on Consumer Reports’ list of used car “good bets.” It’s not without fault, however, particularly the hybrid model.
Consumer Reports’ data on the Civic shows electrical system problems with the Hybrid powertrain. These include the IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) warning light turning on, indicating a problem with the battery or the software that manages the IMA system. Here’s a thread talking about how high ambient temperatures and hot weather can negatively affect the Civic Hybrid’s battery pack. The battery packs themselves appear to be pricey; I’ve seen figures upwards of $3,000 for replacement (including labour) mentioned in more than one forum.
There’s also an IMA software update mentioned frequently that apparently causes driveability issues after it’s installed in the car’s CPU. Apparently, this is due to the system needing to recalibrate itself, but kills the electric assist function in the process, making the car slow, and dangerously so, say some owners.

If the check engine, IMA and battery light come on and the car loses electric assist (runs on the gas engine only), a common, and simple, cause is a weak 12-volt battery (just like the one every car has). If this battery is bad, it frequently causes the car’s sensitive electronics to go haywire.
Here’s a Civic Hybrid FAQ from

I’ll go out on a limb and say that the Honda Civic Hybrid is one to approach with caution, especially used, and even more so if the hybrid system warranty is close to expiry. A couple of posters in this thread call their 2007 Civic Hybrids the worst cars they’ve ever owned.

With that out of the way, non-hybrid Civics have fared much better, suffering only from relatively minor problems.

There’s a common problem with the Civic Si’s transmission that causes grinding and hard shifting into third gear, and a shifter that pops out of third. This prompted the folks at to draft a (poorly written) petition in an effort to get Honda to acknowledge the problem. The company eventually did, by issuing a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) advising dealers on how to fix the bad transmissions.

A popping sound from the front suspension, a problem that appears to affect mostly 2006, 2007 and a few 2008 Civics, is caused by an incorrectly manufactured bump stop. Honda addressed this in 2007, with the TSB that can be found here.

Read this thread for a few details about a rear suspension problem – bad upper control arms – that seems to affect only the Hybrid.

This thread indicates that some Civic owners have experienced head gasket failures. There’s no evidence of this in Consumer Reports’ data, though.

The two-door Civic earned a “good” rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) frontal offset crash test, and an “acceptable” score in side impact testing, with the IIHS citing a possibility of rib and pelvis fractures for front seat occupants. The four-door model scored “good” in both tests, but the IIHS noted that there was still a small possibility of rib fractures for front-seat riders.

From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave Civic two- and four-door models five stars for driver and front passenger protection in its frontal crash test, and four and five stars for front and rear seat protection in side impacts, respectively.

Used Civic pricing, from Canadian Black Book (CBB), shows these cars have held their value well, as is the Honda way. At the low end is a 2006 DX coupe, at $8,150, or $8,625 for a DX sedan; for bigger budgets, a 2010 sedan in top EX-L trim is worth $20,200. The Si’s values range from $15,525 for a 2006 coupe, to $21,300 for a 2010 sedan (the coupe is a bit cheaper), and the Hybrid starts at $10,750 for a 2006 and ranges up to $17,075 for a 2009. (CBB doesn’t have pricing info for the 2010 Hybrid.) For middle-ground shoppers, a 2008 LX is worth $14,450.

As stated above, the Civic Hybrid is a car to avoid, or at least, consider very carefully when shopping for a fuel-thrifty vehicle. The rest of the Civic line has held up well, earning consistent above-average used vehicle reliability ratings from Consumer Reports, with few, if any, serious trouble spots. Regardless, look for a car with detailed service records and have it checked out by a trustworthy mechanic before buying.


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