2004 Honda Civic Si sedan; photo by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge
By Chris Chase
The seventh-generation Honda Civic, which arrived for the 2001 model year, was perhaps most significant for being the first Civic to not offer a hatchback body style. Significant because the original Civic, which helped establish Honda as a builder of quality cars, originally only came as a hatch.
Okay, so there was a seventh-gen Civic hatch, but it was the too-little-too-late SiR model, imported from Europe to fill the gap, that was deemed mostly unworthy of the highly-regarded badge that it wore.
But while the Civic has long been a staple of the import tuning crowd, it remained very popular among the bread-and-butter buyers who chose the Civic for its sensible design, low fuel consumption and strong reliability.
Power came from a 1.7-litre engine making 115 horsepower in basic models and 127 in the VTEC-equipped Si models. The SiR, which arrived in 2002, had a 2.0-litre, 160-horsepower motor shared with the Acura RSX. Transmissions were a five-speed manual, with an optional four-speed automatic (except in the SiR, which was manual-only). A gas-electric Civic Hybrid joined the lineup in 2003; it used a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that has been less reliable than the transmissions used in other Civics, according to a few posts I found in Civic Hybrid forums (Consumer Reports notes transmission troubles in 2003 Civic Hybrids). Interestingly, it looks like the Civic Hybrid also came with a manual transmission in the U.S.
If this post at CivicForums.com is any indication, noisy clutch throw-out and transmission input shaft bearings are common afflictions in seventh-gen Civics with manual transmissions.
Consumer Reports notes suspension issues in 2001 and 2002, but I suspect this has more to do with drivers complaining of a too-harsh ride, something that Honda addressed in mid-2002 or 2003.
A number of Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs were issued for this generation Civic in the U.S., for items ranging from squeaky clutch pedals, inaccurate fuel gauges, noisy/stiff steering and noisy front suspensions. Here, a few recalls were issued, but none are major.
2002 Honda Civic SiR (top) and 2001 Honda Civic LX coupe. Click image to enlarge
Generally speaking, the most popular threads in many Civic forums are either about aftermarket modifications (Civics are very popular with the tuner crowd) and contain statements like “when I’m racing” or “I’ve driven this thing hard and am surprised it still runs.” Therefore, you won’t find much info on troubleshooting, but I think it’s fair to say there’s not too much to worry about. Well, except the risk of buying a used Civic that was flogged by a previous owner. As good as these cars appear to be, definitely get a prospective purchase checked for signs of abuse.
Fuel consumption is nothing to sneeze at, with Natural Resources Canada figures ranging from 5.5 to 7.1 L/100 km on the highway, and 7.3 to 9 L/100 km in the city; the low numbers represent a base model with manual transmission, while the high numbers are for the SiR; choosing an automatic transmission means increased consumption in both base and Si models. The Civic Hybrid’s official figures are 4.9 L/100 km (city) and 4.6 L/100 km (highway).
2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (top) and 2004 Honda Civic Si sedan (Si photo by Greg Wilson). Click image to enlarge
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the seventh-gen Civic five stars all around in frontal impact protection, and a coupe with side airbags scored five stars too for front and rear seat side impact protection. Without the side airbags, the coupe scored three stars for front seat and four for rear seat protection, while sedans scored four stars all around in side impact protection. The SiR earned five stars all around up front and four stars all around for rear seat protection.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2001-2005 Civic its “good” rating in frontal offset crash tests, but didn’t conduct side impact tests.
Note that while the NHTSA tested Civics with side airbags, these weren’t available in Canadian models.
2004 Honda Civic Si sedan (top; photo by Greg Wilson) and 2003 Honda Civic SiR. Click image to enlarge
Used values, as you’d expect, have held up well. Canadian Red Book prices range from a low of $6,825 for a 2001 Civic DX Coupe to a high of $17,200 for a 2005 Si-G coupe (a 2005 Hybrid model is worth $21,200). A 2004 Civic SE or LX-G looks like a decent deal for about $11,300, while a 2003 SE sedan is worth a little less than $10,000. Keep in mind that Honda’s reputation means asking prices are often inflated, and many buyers will pay more than they have, giving sellers little reason to negotiate. Nevertheless, you should try to get the price you want. There are loads of used Civics around, so don’t be discouraged.
Given the Civic’s popularity with young, male drivers, I’d advise looking for a car that was owned by someone less likely to have driven the poop out of it. Like Civics before it, the seventh-gen model has proven reliable, but even a Honda will fall apart if it’s treated badly.
HondaCivicForum.com has a decent amount of information, but there are no generation-specific forums. Therefore, you’ll have to search for what you need. CivicForums.com has a number of useful threads detailing mechanical and maintenance issues; Honda-Tech.com has a lot of good stuff too. The Civic forum at HondaPoint.com lumps all generations of Civic into one section, and while ClubCivic.com has a dedicated seventh-gen section, most of the discussions deal with cosmetic or aftermarket enhancements.
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Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001266; Units affected: 18,970
2001: On certain vehicles, the hose clamps on the filler neck tube have insufficient clamping force. In a collision, the tube could disconnect from the fuel tank, resulting in fuel leakage. Fuel leakage, in the presence of an ignition source, could result in a fire. Correction: Dealers will check the hose clamps for proper torque and tighten them correctly if necessary.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001295; Units affected: 3,628
2000-2001 (applies to other models): Certain vehicles rear seat belt buckles have improperly manufactured lock bars. This could result in an inability to unlatch the belt as required in C.M.V.S.S. 209. Correction: Dealers will inspect and replace the rear seat belt buckles.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001164; Units affected: 19,249
2001: On certain vehicles, a small amount of water may have been left in the fuel pump electrical connector after testing. This residual water could cause the fuel pump to fail due to corrosion. If the pump stops working, the engine will stall without warning, increasing the risk of a crash. Correction: Dealers will inspect the fuel pump. If corrosion is found, the fuel pump electrical connector will be replaced.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2001265; Units affected: 243
2002: Certain passenger vehicles. During the assembly process, the air cleaner box cover may have been damaged, and a broken plastic piece could travel into the intake chamber. If the plastic piece lodges in the throttle body, the throttle could stick in a partially open position. Although the driver can always stop the car by applying additional brake force, or by taking other actions (i.e., shift into neutral, turn off the ignition key, etc.), if the car continues to maintain speed when the driver is expecting it to slow, a crash could occur. Correction: Dealers will inspect the air cleaner box for damage. If damage is found, the dealer will locate and remove the broken plastic piece, and replace the air cleaner box lid.
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.