Honda hatch a de­pend­able choice

The 2000-2006 Honda Civic hatch mod­els might not be head-turn­ers, but they’re a great op­tion for older driv­ers. Dave Moore re­ports.

Central Otago Mirror - - MOTORING -

You ex­pect re­li­a­bil­ity from a Honda, they’re al­ways near or at the top of depend­abil­ity polls and pos­i­tive war­ranty rat­ings, and the five-door Civic in­tro­duced in 2000 is one of the best. It’s a pretty or­di­nary-look­ing car, but its plain styling cov­ers a cabin vol­ume that has not been equalled – even by Honda – since this model was dis­con­tin­ued in 2006. A good num­ber of th­ese cars were sold as New Zealand new mod­els, but in an era when safety was nei­ther as sexy nor saleable as it is now, Honda did not of­fer even anti-lock-brak­ing sys­tem (ABS) in the base mod­els, and sta­bil­ity con­trol was not avail­able in any ver­sion. On the Ja­panese mar­ket, 1.4-litre, 1.5-litre and 1.7-litre ver­sions were avail­able, with five-speed man­ual and four-speed au­to­matic op­tions. The Bri­tish mar­ket had 2.0-litre and Type-R ver­sions. All ver­sions had air- con­di­tion­ing and all ex­cept the top-end leather-clad mod­els were fit­ted with soft grey or beige velours or char­coal­coloured corded twill. To­wards the end of its ca­reer in New Zealand the Civic five-door was run out with higher trim lev­els and a very tidy facelift, and this model VXi is the most de­sir­able.

Strengths

Mas­sively more ef­fec­tive as a C-seg­ment hatch for space and prac­ti­cal­ity, leav­ing the As­tra, Corolla, Fo­cus and Mazda 323 for dead in terms of ac­com­mo­dat­ing five adults. The model outscored ev­ery other model in the 2005 UK What Car? re­li­a­bil­ity sur­veys, and good show­ings in JD Power sat­is­fac­tion polls are more ev­i­dence that the car is bolted to­gether well.

Best to buy

If you’re go­ing to load the Civic to its max­i­mum, the 1.7-litre en­gine is the bet­ter choice, though the Ja­panese-mar­ket 1.5s are quite use­ful at lighter work.

Watch for

If you’re tempted by the su­per quick Type-R model, you must have it pro­fes­sion­ally checked as it is a highly-stressed en­gine that re­quires reg­u­lar ser­vic­ing to give of its best. If it has no his­tory,

walk away from the car.

Weak points

No se­ri­ous prob­lems are likely from the 1.5 and 1.7 mo­tors which are bul­let-proof units that sel­dom re­quire more than reg­u­lar ser­vic­ing, but if they’re get­ting to 100,000km they re­ally must have a cam­belt change and you can use this as a con­di­tion of sale if you’re sen­si­ble. The big cabin did ex­ac­er­bate road noise from the car, but this can be eased by fit­ting re­place­ment tyres de­signed for New Zealand con­di­tions.

You’ll have to live with

That road-noise, and the fact that the car is seen as some­thing of a pipe and slip­pers prospect which means it’s hardly a head-turn­ing car, but don’t let this put you off.

What to pay

A 1.7 circa 2004 with 75,000km on the clock can ask about $9000, but we’ve seen Trade Me en­tries from as lit­tle as $5000, but with much higher mileage. A run-out NZ-new 2005 model has been listed at $12,000, with fewer than 40,000km on the odome­ter.

What do they cost to run?

Be­cause it’s bought and used by older driv­ers, insurance is rea­son­able. We man­aged bet­ter than 6.4L/100km on test with the orig­i­nal 1.7-litre car in man­ual form al­though we’d add another litre and a half to that for the au­to­matic.

But wait

Some Bri­tish-sourced 2.0-litre S mod­els have made their way to New Zealand. If you see one, it shouldn’t be ig­nored.

Trusty op­tion: The orig­i­nal 1972 Honda Civic. The Honda Civic is a pretty com­mon sight on New Zealand roads for good rea­son.

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