Review: Honda Civic (2001 – 2005)


Roomy and practical interior, tidy looks, refined petrol engines, rear seats fold flat to add to usefulness, well built and reliable.

Not as sporty as a Focus to drive, the 1.6-litre can be too noisy at motorway speeds, potential faults with electric power steering, seems dull compared to the new Civic.

Honda Civic (2001 – 2005): At A Glance

This 2001 Honda Civic may be a world away from its quirky and adventurous replacement, but it does share some similarities. It's just as well built, reliable and well engineered, making the Honda Civic an ideal used car buy that will give you trouble free ownership for many years.

Okay, so it's not the most bold of designs, but it's neat nontheless and three-door Sport models look very much-like the renowned Type-R hot hatch, but without the high running costs. All the engines in the line-up offer reasonable economy too, from the 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre VTEC petrols to the 1.7 CTDi diesel.

But perhaps the best area of the Honda Civic is the clever and well-thought out interior. It feels more like a people carrier with plenty of space and some useful family-friendly features. There's plenty of attention to detail too such as the high-placed gear ever right next to the steering wheel which frees up space. There's also plenty of storage and a big boot.

It's unlikely to get your pulse racing, but the Civic is definitely a car you buy with your head. Cheap to run, durable and reliable, it has plenty to recommend it.

Honda Civic 1.4 and 1.6 5-door 2001 Road Test

Honda Civic Type R and 3-door 2002 Road Test 

Honda Civic CTDi Diesel 2002 Road Test

What does a Honda Civic (2001 – 2005) cost?

List Price from £19,805
Buy new from £17,114
Contract hire from £155.22 per month

Honda Civic (2001 – 2005): What's It Like Inside?

Sit inside the new Civic and the first thing that strikes you is its spaciousness. Then you notice that the gearshift lever sprouts from the dash and that there's no 'console' or central tunnel. As a result you can easily slide across to get out of the passenger door. A boon when parked against the kerb on a busy road.

Or you can nip easily between the front seats to attend to children strapped into the back by the three three-point seatbelts. Terrific for young mums. And the front seats will slide forward far enough to recline the seatbacks to horizontal, so that, with the rear seats, they form a bed. There are also loads of places to store oddments, including bottles, but thankfully no hideous pop-out cupholders. Driver's seat and steering wheel are both height-adjustable.

The car comes with driver, passenger and side airbags and is constructed in such a way that Honda is confident of achieving a four star rating in NCAP crash tests, which is another comforting thought.

Child seats that fit a Honda Civic (2001 – 2005)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Honda Civic (2001 – 2005) like to drive?

So what's it like to drive? The answer is "very Honda Civic". Anyone familiar with the current Japanese model or its predecessors will feel right at home with no nasty surprises. The 1.6 litre VTEC engine is perky; the 1.4 less so, but with the benefit of being virtually inaudible at idling speed.

The gearchange works snappily; better than the floorshifts on some current model German cars and easily on a par with the good shift quality of the Citroen Xsara Picasso. The variable power steering is less successful, robbing the driver of any road feel through the wheel. Ride quality is good; much better than previous Civics. But, though safe, the handling isn't remotely sporty like that of a Focus or Astra. I'd put it in the same league as a VW Golf Mk IV.

On the motorway, the 1.4i did not disgrace itself and actually felt the smoother of the two with less harmonic resonance feeding through to the cabin via the flat floor. Wind and tyre roar was evident, but not to a severe degree. And the low gearing of 20 mph per 1,000 rpm left plenty of punch to get out of danger when cruising at the legal limit.

Spec for spec, prices are reasonable because even the £11,995 1.4iS comes with ABS and air-conditioning as standard. The £12,495 1.6iS is probably the bargain of the range. The mechanical warrantyis an excellent three years or 90,000 miles, whichever comes first. And Honda hasn't made the mistake of extending service intervals to 20,000 miles, though as an owner I'd have my oil changed every 6,000 miles rather than the specified twelve.

The only aspect I felt was slightly lacking is that, unlike almost every other car in the category, including the Citroen Xsara, the body is not electro-galvanized and the no-rust-through body warranty is restricted to six years rather than the 8-12 years of the competition. Not a big worry, though. Just a minor niggle.

Honda reckons the car will sell in double the numbers of the previous Swindon, Japanese and American Civics combined. I see no reason to doubt this. Nor to doubt the company's assertion that in two years time it will be the biggest car manufacturer in Britain.

As far as the Swindon-built three and five door Civics are concerned, it's been there, done that, got the T-shirt. You'll find tests of them all elsewhere on this website: 1.4 and 1.6 five-doors; 1.4, 1.6 and rip snorting 2.0 Type R three-doors are all covered. But the new (in 2003) Civic CTDi is something of a departure for Honda. It's a first attempt at installing a diesel engine.
Basically the same Isuzu unit as previously used in the Cavalier, Astra and early Vectras, it displaces 1,686cc. It has twin camshafts, sixteen valves, common rail direct injection and a variable nozzle turbocharger. That little lot churns out 99bhp at 4,400rpm and 162 lb ft torque at 1,800rpm. Not exactly class-leading. But not weedy either.

On first acquaintance it turns out to be a fairly gruff and rough little diesel; not smooth and refined like the Civic's petrol engines. It's noisy and nothing much happens below 1,500rpm, after which there's a sudden catapult-like surge as the turbo wakes up and the torque piles on. Obviously you soon learn to manage this state of affairs, but you have to concentrate because if you boot it without having dialled in enough revs beforehand nothing happens for a horrible second or two. In that respect it's highly reminiscent of the old Isuzu 1.7 litre turbodiesel in a Vauxhall Cavalier I once smoked about in for a while.

It's quite noisy on the motorway too. You only get 25.7 mph for each 1,000 rpm, so cruising speeds aren't silent, smooth and bang on peak torque - unless, of course, you cruise at around 50mph. But you get used to turning up the radio and blotting out some of the racket.

A and B road handling is so-so. The electric power steering is too light at speed and not very informative, but the front end will grip if you want it to. It just isn't any fun like the Toyota Corolla turned out to be. It is, however, uncannily easy to reverse-park because, even though you can't see exactly where the car starts and ends, your instincts somehow always get it right.

And all the many virtues of the Civic 5-door body remain. It's very roomy and airy inside with lots of places to put things. It has limo like rear legroom. The cabin is walk through from side to side or front to back with no Ford console in the way like the Focus has. There are five proper lap and diagonal seatbelts to hold everyone in place. And, if you ever feel tired, you can quickly and easily recline the front seats completely to turn the inside of the car into two divan beds.

Honda claims 56.5 mpg on the combined cycle, which would be class leading if it was true. I got 44.4 over 242 miles driving at the same speeds as usual. Since ‘Auto Express' only managed 42.7 mpg, against 45.8 mpg from the faster Focus TDCi, I don't think many quicker drivers will manage the Civic's published figure.

What have we been asked about the Honda Civic (2001 – 2005)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

What's the best used car for under a £1000?

I'm looking for a used car and have £1000 to spend. I want something with a bit of power, motorways at weekends and city driving during week, any suggestions?
Nothing for under £1000 is guaranteed to be problem free or to stay that way, so best to look for something like a Ford that can be repaired reasonably cheaply. If it it was me and I could get one for the money, I'd go for a Honda Civic 2.0 Type S from 2003/2004. It's like a 4-door Civic Type R with the engine detuned to 160PS.
Answered by Honest John
More Questions

What do owners think?

Our view gives your our opinion, based on driving hundreds of cars every year, but you can't beat the views of someone who lives with a car day-in, day out.

  • 5 star 67%
  • 4 star 33%
  • 3 star
  • 2 star
  • 1 star

See all owners' reviews