Car Mechanics (UK)

Honda Civic 1.8 I-VTEC

Part one: The Civic is renowned for re­li­a­bil­ity, but how will our sub-£1000 auction buy fare?

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We’ve all heard about the re­li­a­bil­ity of Honda’s ve­hi­cles, from the Jazz to the Civic Type R and var­i­ous Ac­cords. To put these claims to the test, we’ve taken on a 2006 Civic 1.8 petrol with 107,000 miles. It’s still oil-tight and un­cor­roded, in marked con­trast to other ve­hi­cles of a sim­i­lar age, so hope­fully we won’t be bur­den­ing our spon­sor, GSF Car Parts, with too many re­quests for re­place­ment items.

The eighth-gen­er­a­tion Civic FN was built in Swin­don from late 2005 for a Jan­uary 2006 UK launch. In fact, the Civic was built in 15 dif­fer­ent fac­to­ries around the world: Ja­pan, Brazil, Canada, China, In­dia, Malaysia, Pak­istan, the Philip­pines, Tai­wan, Thai­land, Tur­key, two plants in

Amer­ica, Viet­nam and the UK. There are var­i­ous dif­fer­ent body styles, but the one we Brits know and love is only sold in Eu­rope.

The Euro­pean Civic is com­pletely dif­fer­ent underneath as well, with just a few in­te­rior parts and the ba­sic en­gine car­ried over. These en­gines were the 1336cc L13 from the sev­en­th­gen­er­a­tion Civic in 80bhp stan­dard and 98bhp I-VTEC guises, a 138bhp 1.8 I-VTEC, the 198bhp Type R 2.0 and a 2.2-litre tur­bod­iesel with 138bhp.

The R18 petrol en­gine used in the 1.8-litre car was an all-new I-VTEC unit, using a cam chain rather than a belt and featured bal­ance shafts, as well as var­i­ous fric­tion-re­duc­ing ideas such as ion-plated pis­ton rings and oil cool­ing jets for the pis­tons.

The Civic FN re­placed the in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion of the previous model with a twist beam axle not un­like that on a VW Golf MKII – this may have been cheaper, but it meant the ride wasn’t as refined as the previous model. It is, how­ever, still very pli­ant and has sharp steer­ing and han­dling, even if the Type R ver­sion isn’t as highly-re­garded as the previous car. US and Asian Civics used a more so­phis­ti­cated set-up.

As stan­dard spec, Civic buy­ers got ABS, trac­tion con­trol, side and pas­sen­ger airbags, re­mote lock­ing with an alarm, front elec­tric win­dows, fold­ing rear seats, steer­ing wheel rake and reach ad­just­ment, heated mir­rors, a heigh­tad­justable driver’s seat and rear Isofix. How­ever, due to a pro­tru­sion on the dash­board, Euro NCAP only gave this Civic four out of five stars for safety.

ES and EX mod­els added al­loy wheels, re­mote ra­dio con­trols, a CD player, rear elec­tric win­dows and front fog-lights, while the EX GT model had head­light wash­ers, heated seats, park dis­tance con­trol, sat-nav and a leather in­te­rior.

Our EX fea­tures a multi-func­tion steer­ing wheel with cruise con­trol, au­dio re­mote con­trols and sat-nav, although the first owner didn’t bother with full- or part-leather or park­ing sen­sors. Si and Ci mod­els added half-leather trim to the ES/EX spec, plus cli­mate con­trol, with CI-T cars adding sat-nav. Type S cars were Ex-spec but with elec­tric front seats and an au­dio re­mote, with the Type R cars adding leather and sat-nav.

Pro­duc­tion of the FN ended in 2012 after two facelifts. The first was in 2009, when the front grille gained a pair of air intakes, the rear bumper was slightly restyled and the 80bhp 1.4i en­gine was dropped in favour of the 98bhp 1.4 I-VTEC. The 2011 facelift was just a grille change, new wheels and some dif­fer­ent colours and mi­nor spec.

This gen­er­a­tion of Civic has only been sub­ject to three safety re­calls. Why do Ja­panese car-makers get ve­hi­cles right in a way that Euro­peans can’t?

OUR CAR

Our project Civic was spot­ted at BCA’S Black­bushe sale and it looked OK: bright red, mo­tor trade-friendly dark trim, plus the usual cli­mate con­trol and elec­tric win­dows, with op­tional 18in al­loys. This was the 138bhp 1.8 I-VTEC six-speed man­ual EX model which in­cluded a sat-nav that still seemed to work (sort of ).

Sadly, this three-owner car has no hand­book or ser­vice book – how do these get lost? – but it does have su­per-clean oil and some ser­vice re­ceipts from 2017 and 2018. The MOT his­tory was as clean as a whis­tle, limited to one fail in 2010 for a tyre and screen washer jet, an­other in 2017 for a num­ber­plate light and one more this year for a balljoint. Ad­vi­sories were limited to the usual ‘un­der­trays ob­scur­ing view’ and air fresh­ener dan­gling from the rearview mir­ror.

Upon col­lect­ing the Civic from BCA, where it cost us £900 + buy­ers fees, ed­i­tor Mar­tyn Knowles found little wrong with it me­chan­i­cally. The air­con doesn’t do much, so it may have a leak or might just need a shot of gas, and all four al­loys had been used for target prac­tice on kerbs. How­ever, the wheels are shod with four very re­cent Maxxis tyres, so while we will be restor­ing the rims (gun­metal grey metal­lic rather than bor­ing sil­ver), we won’t need new rub­ber.

The steer­ing wheel is also on at the wrong an­gle, prob­a­bly be­cause the track­ing wasn’t done in Jan­uary after the worn balljoint was re­placed. We can ei­ther sort the track­ing or re­move the wheel and re­fit it cor­rectly – we’ll prob­a­bly go with the first sug­ges­tion, to avoid wear on the front tyres.

Like most cars older than 10 years, this one has had one com­i­cal body repair to the front bumper cor­ner. It’s not too ugly, to be fair, but should be fix­able with filler and a matched aerosol can, while the weather is still warm enough. There are also a mul­ti­tude of mi­nor scratches to the body­work that are shal­low enough to be wet-flat­ted and mopped out – the car could use a good pol­ish any­way and the grey trim edg­ing around the sills and arches has turned the usual pale grey – we’ve found that teak oil can re­store the fac­tory black­ness, so we’ll be giv­ing that a shot.

One po­ten­tial prob­lem we were wor­ried about was the Honda-fit­ted roof bars. These are a su­perbly aero­dy­namic design, but the key for them is miss­ing – not to worry, the in­ter­net came to the res­cue. More in the next is­sue.

The pas­sen­ger side fold­ing ex­te­rior mir­ror no longer folds when you press the but­ton. While the driver’s mir­ror moves out of the way smoothly, the pas­sen­ger one emits the rat­tle of worn plas­tic gears and doesn’t do any­thing, so we will be re­mov­ing this and at­tempt­ing a fix be­fore shelling out for a used one – we dread to think what a new one costs.

Last but not least, the glove­box doesn’t close, mean­ing it was hang­ing open.

We sorted this the next day by re­mov­ing it, re­pair­ing the dam­aged han­dle with Araldite Rapid and re­fit­ting the re­turn spring, be­fore glu­ing the two halves back to­gether and re­fit­ting it. It now works, but as one of the sup­port struts had broken off, we will be re­plac­ing it with a good used one. Luck­ily, there is no key lock on these to worry about.

What goes wrong?

Not a lot. Read the re­views and own­ers strug­gle to find fault, although cer­tain fea­tures of the car are dis­liked, such as the lack of a rear wiper. Hav­ing said that, seized rear calipers get a men­tion, as well as a faulty ther­mo­stat at 70,000 miles, but nei­ther of these is a se­ri­ous flaw. It says some­thing for a car when the big­gest com­plaints are noisy brake pads and un­even tyre wear!

The R18 en­gine has proven to be ex­cel­lent and, with reg­u­lar oil changes, seems to have no real vices, although ap­par­ently the ad­justable non-hy­draulic tap­pets need look­ing at pe­ri­od­i­cally.

The three re­calls men­tioned ear­lier com­prise one in 2006 for loss of power steer­ing, an­other in 2007 for a hand­brake lever is­sue and a fi­nal one in 2010 for a miss­ing brake pedal pin on a small num­ber of 2010-built cars. Our car should have been cleared for the first two, but we need to con­firm this.

The seized rear caliper is­sue seem to be a fairly common prob­lem due to the front brakes do­ing most of the work, so we’ll be re­mov­ing and clean­ing ours to pre­vent any fu­ture prob­lems – the car cer­tainly seems to pull up nice and straight. We’ll also be scru­ti­n­is­ing things like the top mounts and droplinks, which get a real pound­ing on the UK’S pot­holed roads.

So is the Civic the most re­li­able hatch­back in its field? We’ll be find­ing out.

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 ??  ?? The trim around the edge of our Civic is made up of orig­i­nal and re­place­ment parts, as you can see from the grey (orig­i­nal) and black (new) ar­eas on the front and rear flanks. We have since re­moved the roof bars (in­set pic), but had to source a re­place­ment un­lock key to do this. More in the next is­sue.
The trim around the edge of our Civic is made up of orig­i­nal and re­place­ment parts, as you can see from the grey (orig­i­nal) and black (new) ar­eas on the front and rear flanks. We have since re­moved the roof bars (in­set pic), but had to source a re­place­ment un­lock key to do this. More in the next is­sue.
 ??  ?? Some­one has at­tempted to make a repair to the cor­ner of the front bumper, which doesn’t look very neat.
Some­one has at­tempted to make a repair to the cor­ner of the front bumper, which doesn’t look very neat.
 ??  ?? The bumper doesn’t fit very well with the head­light sur­round. We may look for a se­cond­hand bumper to re­solve these prob­lems.
The bumper doesn’t fit very well with the head­light sur­round. We may look for a se­cond­hand bumper to re­solve these prob­lems.
 ??  ?? A set of 225/40 18 Maxxis tyres – made on the 24th week of 2018 – are fit­ted all-round. They shroud a set of Honda al­loys, which aren’t in the best con­di­tion, so we will get them re­fur­bished to as-new con­di­tion.
A set of 225/40 18 Maxxis tyres – made on the 24th week of 2018 – are fit­ted all-round. They shroud a set of Honda al­loys, which aren’t in the best con­di­tion, so we will get them re­fur­bished to as-new con­di­tion.
 ??  ?? The orig­i­nal off­side front trim doesn’t fit well with the re­place­ment bumper cor­ners.
The orig­i­nal off­side front trim doesn’t fit well with the re­place­ment bumper cor­ners.
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Our car has had three own­ers and 107,000 miles to its name, but the only ser­vice his­tory we have is from 2017 and 2018. Still, the oil is fresh and near the top of the dip­stick, while the Bosch S4 12V bat­tery looks fairly new.
Our car has had three own­ers and 107,000 miles to its name, but the only ser­vice his­tory we have is from 2017 and 2018. Still, the oil is fresh and near the top of the dip­stick, while the Bosch S4 12V bat­tery looks fairly new.
 ??  ?? The back­ing to the glove­box has come away from its front and a plas­tic part is broken. We’ve made a tem­po­rary repair, but will find a re­place­ment.
The back­ing to the glove­box has come away from its front and a plas­tic part is broken. We’ve made a tem­po­rary repair, but will find a re­place­ment.
 ??  ?? The sign that says our car is petrol-pow­ered. The rear spoiler paint­work has faded in the sun­light – we will try to rec­tify it with some pol­ish.
The sign that says our car is petrol-pow­ered. The rear spoiler paint­work has faded in the sun­light – we will try to rec­tify it with some pol­ish.
 ??  ?? The dash lay­out is easy on the eye, with the big rev counter back-lit in blue. The speedo read­ing is dig­i­tal and sits in a sep­a­rate win­dow above the rev counter, fuel and tem­per­a­ture gauges. Here, we can see that we have av­er­aged 46.1 mpg on our near-200 mile jour­ney from the auction house – not sure how ac­cu­rate that is, but it’s pretty im­pres­sive.
The dash lay­out is easy on the eye, with the big rev counter back-lit in blue. The speedo read­ing is dig­i­tal and sits in a sep­a­rate win­dow above the rev counter, fuel and tem­per­a­ture gauges. Here, we can see that we have av­er­aged 46.1 mpg on our near-200 mile jour­ney from the auction house – not sure how ac­cu­rate that is, but it’s pretty im­pres­sive.
 ??  ?? With­out tak­ing the wheels off, we can see there is plenty of meat on the pads, but we’ll re­move the brak­ing sys­tem for a clean-up.
With­out tak­ing the wheels off, we can see there is plenty of meat on the pads, but we’ll re­move the brak­ing sys­tem for a clean-up.

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