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2009 Honda Civic Coupe ReviewThe Good
Efficient, stylish, safe, and affordable, it’s easy to see why the Civic has been in production for more than 30 years.The Bad
A non-intuitive navigation system, cramped quarters for taller drivers, poor visibility, and overall noisiness are some major drawbacks for an otherwise respectable economy entry.
The CarGurus View
Remember, this is an economy car, with one trim still deleting even the radio, but well-equipped, there’s not much the Civic lacks. Unless you’ve got a problem with front-wheel drive or four-cylinder engines, or are well over 6 feet tall, you’ll be hard-pressed to find much to complain about. That said, unless you absolutely need a coupe, the sedan is a much better choice overall.
At a Glance
The compact Honda Civic, the second-longest continually produced Japanese car in America, continues to compete with the longest, the Toyota Corolla, with a mid-cycle refresh. Two engines across five trims mean there’s a Civic for almost anyone. DX, LX, EX, and EX-L trims return, and all come with the same 140-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. SIs come with a 197-hp 2.0 liter, a sport-tuned suspension, and upgraded trim.
Changes for 2009 include a new bumper, incorporating three air intakes and housing the SI's standard foglamps. In the rear, a new chrome piece appears above the license plate, and turn indicators are now clear. Together with a new headlight combination, it's a subtle but distinct difference from 2008, especially with the new alloy wheels on EX, EX-L, and SI trims. Also look for a new wireless cell-phone link and a voice-activated navigation system available on the EX, EX-L, and SI.
All trims excluding the SI have a 1.8-liter, 140-hp four-cylinder engine that has more than enough power in all situations barring spirited takeoff. With either the five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission, you’ll find more than enough power for both around-town and highway driving, although the automatic seems particularly responsive. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 26/34 mpg for vehicles equipped with manual transmissions and 25/36 for automatics.
The SI trim is equipped with a rev-happy 2.0-liter, 197-hp four cylinder, available only with a very smooth six-speed manual transmission. Its extra 57 horsepower can definitely be felt, but as the 2.0 adds only 11 lb-ft of torque to the 1.8’s rather measly 128, not to mention the fact that it doesn’t fully appear until 6,100 RPM, some have wondered if the power might have been more efficiently distributed. Regardless, the 2.0 gets 21/29 and comes only with the six-speed manual.
Ride & Handling
There’s a great bit of ride variation between trims, despite little variance in the MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension. While the SI gives you a firmer spring rate, it still does a very good job of absorbing irregularities in the road surface with little to no harshness, and combats the understeer noticeable in the rest of the Civics. As a general rule, the coupe is much less stable over uneven terrain than the sedan, but never alarmingly so.
Engine noise is prevalent, albeit at least purposely with the 2.0, and is less than pleasing in the 1.8, especially when passing. At its worst, vibrations can come through the steering wheel, although never enough to shake confidence. What is very noticeable is road noise, which is distinctly more prevalent here in the coupe than in the sedan, which does a significantly better job insulating passengers.
Outisde the SI trim, expect completely acceptable handling, but nothing that would inspire spirited driving. Pedal feel, however, is top-notch.
Cabin & Comfort
While most of the Civic’s controls are intuitive and well-placed, sometimes impressively so, some complaints have come on the audio controls and navigation system in the EX, EX-L, and SI. It’s recommended that owners take the time to program voice commands to circumvent the need to struggle with small buttons and a screen plagued by poor visibility.
It must also be noted that it’s refreshing to see an economy car with interior materials of such a high grade, especially in the upscale trim of the EX and SI. Similarly, a standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel, as well as a height-adjustable driver’s seat in a car that can be had for around $15,000, is impressive to say the least, although still not enough to accommodate taller drivers. SI Civics get seats with improved lateral support.
Visibility has been a problem with many reviewers, both fore and aft, and is especially noticeable in the coupe. With 11.5 cubic feet of trunk space, the trunk isn't cavernous, but it's more than spacious for a compact car. With a wide and accessible opening, the only drawback are hinges that occasionally become an obstacle.
The coupe is decidedly unfriendly to taller drivers, and the rear seat is good for young adults at best, and not much else. Headroom is sparse for anyone over 6 feet, front or back, and actually climbing into the rear is frustratingly difficult to say the least.
All trims barring the DX come with an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with digital media connection, and EX and above add a sunroof option, which increases difficulties for taller drivers.
Front, front-side, and curtain airbags are standard on all 2009 Honda Civics, as well as active front head restraints. Additionally, all Civics come equipped with low tire pressure monitors and antilock brakes, as well as Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure.
EX and above are equipped with four-wheel antilock brakes, while EX-L and above get Traction Control and Anti-Skid. EX-L and SI Civics come standard with Traction and Electronic Stability control.
NHTSA ratings came in at five stars for front impacts and side impacts for the passenger, and four stars for side impacts for the driver and rollover resistance. The IIHS gave the Civic its enthusiastically challenged top rating of “Good” for front, side, and rear impacts.
What Owners Think
It’s no secret that the Civic has been one of the most popular cars on the road for years, even threatening to surpass the Accord as Honda’s best seller. Its appeal is due in part to its ability, with a multitude of trims and options, to appeal to a wide variety of consumers. Still, complaints have come in, specifically around the navigation system and general visibility. Tall drivers will find comfort elusive, but then perhaps tall drivers should look beyond a compact car.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.