After we sold the reasonably unreliable Bronco II, we drove my classic Z28 for a few months. This included moving all our belongings between cities (minus a couch) in said Z28. If anyone has any familiarity with the second generation F-body, you know that trunk is miniscule, and while the doors are huge the passenger compartment isn’t. I’d also found my self in a 70+ km per day commute, so clearly another vehicle was needed. As we were getting married, we decided we needed a reliable and fuel efficient car to start this new chapter of our lives. What could possibly be more fuel efficient and reliable than a Honda Civic? Turns out quite a few things.
We both wanted something with a manual transmission that was reasonably fun to drive. After years of hearing how wonderful Hondas were and that they never broke down, it sounded awfully tempting after owning a few old clunkers. With what seemed like everyone talking about Honda like the second coming, we drank the Kool-Aid and decided on a Civic. I suppose it is worth noting that, for better or worse, this was the one and only time I’ve ever taken other folks car buying advice. If we were going to do this, then it would be done right: new or almost new.
After test driving a few, I found them quite fun to to drive in manual form. While the stick-shift equipped cars felt eager and lively, the automatics felt slow and lifeless by comparison. We found a year-old DX hatchback on a local Honda lot; it came with two options that I can remember; wheel covers and A/C. The same dealer had a handful of ex-courier vehicles for a bit less but they lacked A/C and came in only white. I have a thing against buying a white car; I’d much rather have an expressive color. The Civic we picked out was a dark shade of purple which looked dark blue from some angles. It had some small but tasteful graphics on it as well. Above is the one and only photo I have of it taken after some of our wedding guests decided to decorate it at the gift opening. Those darned foil pompoms should be banned as it took days to get all the sticky glue residue off they left behind.
Shall we start with what I liked about the car? The interior was very logically laid out with all the controls easily accessible. Initially the gearshift was beautifully smooth; miles better than the workman-like shifter on my parents old Ford Tempo. The seats felt comfortable for the first half hour but any drive longer than that had me shifting and fidgeting like ten year old who has missed his ADD meds. My shorter wife didn’t have any comfort issue, so this one was likely just a quirk with my body proportions.
After having driven only low revving engines before, the Honda four cylinder was a bit of a revelation. You can take the needle on the tach further than half way and the engine actually seemed to relish it. While no ball of fire, the Civic’s 1.6L engine put out 106hp @ 6200 rpm and 103 lb-ft or torque @ 4600 rpm. I actually quite enjoyed driving the car, which made its poor quality so much more frustrating.
After only a few short months we had the gearbox replaced (thankfully) under warranty. It isn’t unusual to hear of an automatic gearbox failing, but even then it was quite uncommon to hear of a manual gearbox having to be replaced on a less than two year old car. Sadly that isn’t where it ended. There was a long list of annoying little complaints; a rattling dash here, a broken door handle there, etc., etc. Worst of all, the fuel economy was quite poor. In the city the fuel economy was merely disappointing but on the highway it was truly awful, only a little better than my V8 powered Z28. Clearly something was very wrong with it, but the dealer could never figure it out. Before long the replacement transmission showed tell tale signs of failing again.
It was a strange experience owning a sub-par Honda at the time. People would eagerly ask you how you liked your Honda, and when you said the car drove nice enough but was a bit of a lemon, they would express disbelief. I had more than one person flat out tell me that I was lying about an issue I had (I guess I imagined that transmission replacement!). I’d even show them the gyrating dash and some even suggested I’d sabotaged it. Like I’d want to wreck my own almost new car just to sully the reputation of a brand I had no personal stake in.
The Honda Cult thinking was very strong in the early 2000s, which actually worked to our advantage when we traded straight across for a more exciting car after less than a year with the Honda. While it wasn’t the worst car I’ve owned by a long stretch, it was the most disappointing.
I rode in one of these. Horribly cramped and uncomfortable. Hondas are for short people and their vans are unreliable transmission eating pieces of junk.
I believe you had an unreliable Honda from the early 2000s, although my believing so requires YOU to believe me when I say that I had a reliable Ford from the early ’80s. 🙂
If you build enough units, you’ll always find the outliers at each end of the quality spectrum.
I had a perfectly reliable but well used BL era British car so I can believe you!
Don’t feel bad, the worst car I ever owned was a 2006 Subaru Forester which was supposed to be the second coming according to all accounts. When it worked, I liked the car much better than the Ford Focus and Chevy Cobalt rentals I always got when it was having some malady remedied at the dealer.
You never know. Has anyone else had to put stop-leak in a new car?
Some Caddilacs also require the coolant to be full of “coolant conditioner” like Subarus.
I believe that’s an across-the-board GM thing. Seems that all GM dealer parts departments stock the stuff. Guess GM doesn’t have much faith in their cooling systems…
Heh… I liked this line: “The Honda Cult thinking was very strong…”
I had a very similar experience. Some years back I was visiting a friend and his wife. We were discussing minor car issues, like rattles in the dash, relatively minor stuff. My friend then described some of the more important problems he’d had with his Honda Civic, when his wife says “We *did* not. That car has been perfect.”
I initially thought she was joking, but soon came to realize she was serious. My friend lightly chided her and reminded her that she was the one who had the breakdown (I no longer remember what happened with the car, but it was enough to leave her stranded). That’s when she got angry.
An even more uncomfortable exchange happened between them, and I tried my best to change the subject: “How ’bout those (Cleveland) Indians? That just took the whole conversation from uncomfortable to surreal.
I found a way to excuse myself and left. I spoke to my friend later that day and everything was OK (20 years later, they’re still married). I think there was something else brewing that day, but I wasn’t sticking around to find out.
This wasn’t the only time I’d seen this, but this was the most exceptional incident I’d ever witnessed…
….Honda Cult Thinking….Your friend and his wife….
This ? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance
Those that know me know that my first car was a bulletproof 82 Civic. I’ve had other Hondas since, but all of my positive experiences with Honda was with 1980’s models. I bought and fixed a 2001 for pennies on the dollar with a bad auto transmission. I also know of two other Civics that had transmissions fail from the late 90’s and early 2000’s. So you are not the only one.
The autos I’ve heard of. The manuals less so. I have a friend currently limping along an automatic, Civic based Acura EL.
My 1997 Civic 5-speed gearbox has a bad input bearing that I have been living with ever since I bought the car. Engine lost a cylinder at 180K, so I have a lower-mile MY2000 D16Y7 and transaxle sitting on the garage floor waiting to get swapped in.
My brother’s 2001 Civic 5-speed input bearing
was so bad he had to swap out the gearbox at 130K miles.
Both cars were bought used with around 100K – 120K miles on them.
I also have a 2001 Odyssey on its third transmission (installed at 106K miles).
So I have no illusions about how great Hondas are, but they do look pretty good in comparison to my 1996 Passat!
We had a ’99 Civic until a few years ago. It was my wife’s daily driver and she had it since almost new. It was a white 4-door model, with only a few options. It was a decent overall car, but not perfect. I agree with the seats not being comfortable on long hauls, both my wife and I had comfort issues on the highway. Our car was reasonably reliable, but not perfect. When it got around 120,000 miles I had to sink a fair amount of money in for repairs, but I guess it’s not uncalled for after that mileage. It was good on fuel though, typically high 30’s MPG highway. Even though it was a decent overall car, when we went car shopping, my wife refused to even look at another Civic.
What I am about to say is all tongue in cheek. Everyone who buys a Pacific Rim vehicle has to sign nondisclosure pack that forbids you ever from telling anyone that anything ever goes wrong with the vehicle. This explains the comment above . The lady was sticking to the pack.
The whole purpose of GM cars is to make Toyota and Honda look perfect. And if you’ve had a reliable GM car, you’re an ‘effing liar.
Gee, Syke, Carmine is really going to flame you…
And I do agree, GM cars are junk.
We had EXTREMELY reliable GM products, but all from the late 80’s through early 2000’s. I would never buy a GM made since the government bailout. They’ve gone downhill.
We had a bulletproof 1986 Oldsmobile Delta 88 (finally needed a new transmission at 240K), 1992 GMC Vandura (totaled while parked in the driveway), 1992 Pontiac Firebird, 1994 Chevy Lumina, 1995 Chevy Corsica (also totaled in driveway), and 2002 Pontiac Grand Am. Those cars would NOT die!! The Grand Am is still in the family running like a champ. The only exception was our 1999 Cadillac Deville. The Caddy was trash. Every other one of those cars needed nothing but very infrequent, minor repairs (thermostats and the like) and regular maintenance.
Once I got old enough to buy my own cars, I have only had Mustangs. They have been rock-solid too. Every single one. I’m on my third. And no, the previous ones weren’t sold due to reliability/mechanical problems! Financial reasons.
American cars are not the money pits people often say they are. Of course there are some lemons from every maker out there, but I think our sample size gives me the right to say that by and large, they are quite dependable. Just keep your cars maintained!
Chrysler products IMO, are the exception. Every single Chrysler we’ve owned has had major mechanical issues between 50K and 150K miles. We’ve had four.
I’m thinking that your civic had a stuck open thermostat causing the poor mpg.
Very possible. It was quite strange – ran smoothly but really poor mpg. I can’t recall how long heater took to warm up.
Get a Bluetooth Elm 327 OBD II reader and watch what the temps are doing on your smartphone.
I’ve personally put two 80’s Honda Accords out of action…..forever; it’s the best service I’ve performed for mankind in many a year. Pieces of junk that dissolve and fall to pieces bang on the ten year mark. Or sooner!
I have a 2000 Civic–the same as your generation–and mine has been perfect since I bought it at 150,000 (it now has 205k miles). The one Honda my parents bought new, however, was not especially reliable and to suggest such seemed heretical at the time (1986-1999). Theirs was not a big of a disaster as yours seemed to be, but it NEVER idled properly, the brakes always had to be replaced and the alternator belt snapped, leaving us stranded in Quebec (at 60,000 accompanied by overheating, for some odd reason) and, after 90,000 miles, it was a series master cylinders and CV axles until the transmission died at 150k miles, when we sent it away. It certainly not what it was cracked up to be and we’ve since then had better luck with most every other make of car.
The alternator belt is a wear item. Best to have it replaced before it breaks.
The belts are supposed to be replaced at 90K miles. Having it snap at 60K miles, leaving you stranded–while not a sign of outright shoddiness–isn’t encouraging.
Nothing odd about overheating when the alternator belt snapped as it also drives the water pump. It is unusual for a belt to snap at 60k though.
No, the T-belt drives the water pump on those cars… right? I believe the fans didn’t run, causing it to overheat. I was 8 years old at the time, though, so what do I know?
Well it does depend on the year and model, I kind of assumed you were talking about an 80’s something based on your 1986-1999 comment. There certainly are some Hondas with Timing belt driven water pumps though I think it wasn’t until the mid 90’s that they started doing that.
The fan switch failing isn’t uncommon on 80’s Hondas and it can cause overheating but only when you idle for an extended period of time or your speed is under 25-30. Once you are moving fast enough, which varies from car to car, the fan is not needed, which is why even RWD cars often now have electric fans.
My Mom had a black ’98 Civic loaded, very fun to drive, extremely reliable. No problems whatsoever. At about 80k miles, she gave it to my sister and her husband. Shortly after, we started hearing about how it stranded them often and was in the shop all the time. They got rid of it within a year because it had so many problems.
Until reading this COAL, I always thought that their care of the car is what caused the issues since nothing had gone wrong before. I always thought, “such a shame that they ruined such a fine previously bulletproof car.” This COAL had made me rethink that.
Most people even with your story would still claim that the car was bulletproof. I’ve seen it more than once. People just have it in their heads and it’s nearly impossible to change it.
It’s like I said about having reliable water cooled VWs, people just can’t accept that. “No way, Hondas are great, VWs are junk” and you can’t tell them otherwise.
Actually there is such things as unreliable Honda and Toyota vehicles BUT there still is no such thing as a reliable VW 😉
Actually there is such things as unreliable Honda and Toyota vehicles BUT there still is no such thing as a reliable VW
Well….I’ll find out. As Honda no longer makes a Civic hatch or wagon, and the Mazda wagons have gotten progressivly uglier since they got it dead right on the Protege5, but I still need to haul stuff, I picked up a Jetta wagon a month ago.
I have owned a few civics and can say from experience that any civic front seat is very uncomfortable place for my six feet 30 inch inseam self. And the newer the civic the more painful the twinge in my back. The worst being the 03 base coupe that I just got rid of and my mothers 2012 sedan.
My wife had a 03 Civic EX for almost 5 years before it was totalled in a car-deer accident last fall. I am 6′ tall also and found it very comfortable and roomy, even in the back seat and on long trips. It had an automatic that would routinely get mid-high 30s for mileage also. My main issue with it was the interior quality. The plastics and switchgear looked and felt cheap, and chrome flaked on the door handles producing sharp edges that would cut your hands if you weren’t careful. The engine was slow and noisy also. All in all a good car, but certainly had its downfalls. I’d like to try one with a stick sometime to see if it performed any better. The interior was nicer in the 06 generation Civic, but low ride height and bizarre styling put me off to it, despite it finally getting a timing chain engine.
“The Honda Cult thinking was very strong…”
Very true statement. I know countless people that insist that Honda (and Toyota) can do no wrong despite the fact that their car is a lemon. Late model V6 Accords seem to have endless transmission problems, Civics are having brake problems, and it seems like lots of late model Hondas are having air bag and paint issues. Toyota’s reliability issues have been very well publicized in recent years and yet people keep returning to buy them in droves because they have been conditioned to believe that they are “the best cars out there.”
Whatever. The world is full of sheeple.
All of the V6 Hondas have week automatic transmissions. 2006-07 when I worked the dock for a major freight company in Reno we would see 8-10+ cores weekly going back to Oklahoma to be rebuilt.
You pays your money & you takes your chances. All of the OEMS have good and bad models. Ford for example when from having the best 3/4 ton Diesel PU with the 7.3 powerstroke to the absolute worse with the 6.4. At least today with manufacturer and model specific forums you can dig a bit deeper before you purchase.
I’m 6’3/240 and the seats of this era of Civic have my lower back screaming at me in 10-15min.
My sister and BIL had a couple of Accords (’89 and ’92) and their experience was top notch. A friend had the prior gen mini van from new and it has been awful, especially the transmission.
The best honda’s I owned were a first generation Prelude and a first gen CRX, both great cars, kept on running and running, but had a little trouble with all metal body parts rotting away almost faster then you could replace them. But both a joy to drive, and if I ever can find a good CRX again from 1984/85 I will for sure buy it.
Anything mechanical is prone to have issues; convincing people that the nameplate does not guarantee immunity is the challenge.
A co-worker had a Honda minivan that was so seemingly good, it could cure the common cold. Suddenly, it went away. After a little inquisition he finally admitted the transmission was going as were several other items. It was not replaced with another Honda.
That said, in the interest of full disclosure, I purchased a Honda several years ago. Best lawn mower engine I’ve ever had.
I’ve seen the Honda groupthink in action countless times — the “I’ve bought a Honda, therefore nothing can go wrong” attitude. When something does go wrong with their car, they usually don’t talk about it. I guess when you buy a car based solely on a reputation of reliability ( vs. other factors like style, performance, utility, price, etc. ) and then it proves not to be reliable, well….. then you look like a fool. And nobody wants to be thought a fool.
In all fairness, an ex-girlfriend bought a 92 Civic ( stripped model ) new, and it was dead reliable for 10 years, and she loved it. I had an ’06 Civic Ex ( bought used with 13,000 mi ) and drove it 50,000 miles with a rear wheel bearing being the only problem. I sold it for two reasons. 1). The clutch engagement was horrible. It seemed to engage at a different point every time — I’ve never stalled a car in first gear as much as this one. 2). The seat was very uncomfortable for long trips. These two issues took all the fun out of driving what otherwise was a fine car.
Honda power equipment is great. I lived in Truckee for 3 yrs and there is no Snow-thrower I’d rather have.
I’ve told the story before but in this context it bears repeating.
I have a friend who purchased his second Accord a couple of years ago. When I asked him what other cars he considered he said none, his other Accord had been so reliable and never gave him a single problem he wouldn’t even consider a different car. He kept the 1992 Accord since his son was turning 16 in a couple of months. He had parked the old one on the side of the driveway for a couple of weeks and then went to take it to the store to “keep the battery up”, and it wouldn’t start. A couple of days later I came over to help him move some stuff around and he told me it wouldn’t start. I offered to take a quick look at it. The first thing was to check for spark since it is a timing belt motor and I’ve seen dozens of that vintage Accord have their distributors implode as well as their ignitors fail. As I talked him through the process he did admit that the car had to be towed twice for distributor problems, once covered under warranty when the ignitor failed and another time when the distributor imploded. I then listened for the fuel pump and didn’t hear it do the prime routine. I had him grab his can of starting fluid and sure enough the vehicle would run on it. I then told him that the likely culprit was the main relay as they too were common failure points on that era Honda. He then remembered that there were another two times that the car had left him stranded and needed a tow due to them failing. So in 180K miles the car had left him stranded and required a tow 4 times and he was ready to call the tow truck a 5th time for this failure until I convinced him that he could do the repair himself after his regular mechanic had quoted him $100 plus parts for the repair.
Personally I see a disconnect between a car having 5 no start episodes due to poorly designed parts and considering it to have never had a single problem.
My parents had a mid-eighties Accord which burnt itself to a crisp at the tender age of four. They went on to get years and years of generally trouble-free service out of a 4WD Aerostar, a New Yorker with the Mitsubishi V6, and a Saab 9000. Today, they have a Saab 9-5 and a 5 Series, both of which are paragons of dependability. Every company makes outliers.
A reliable Aerostar? And AWD at that? I call BS… 😀
The bad transmission is a lot more explainable than the very bad fuel economy. I’ve just never heard of a Civic getting less than 30 mpg, especially with a manual.
Your Civic looks to have been significantly modified from original, and may have been whanged before your bought it.
Meet “Scooter” my 98 Civic DX, which I reluctantly sold last fall as it did not meet my needs for a retirement road trip car. These pix were taken last September.
Bought new in Feb 98, I had two warranty issues: a bit of tape dangling on the insturment cluster and a sticky throttle cable. Off warranty issues over 15 years and 110,000 miles were a failed alternator in 05 and a broken windshield wiper switch in 2011.
In this car’s early life, I routinely topped 40mpg in suburban and highway driving. In later years, that dropped to 39.
Your Civic had a tach?
DX trim Civics of that generation did not have tachs. This is the dash of mine.
Mine was a Canadian DX model which is a little different than the US ones. Ours had tachometers from what I remember on the manual shift models. My Civic was completely stock except for the graphics.
Ours had tachometers from what I remember on the manual shift models.
Then equipmentwise, Honda was really giving the US market the fuzzy end of the lollypop. My hatchback came out of the Ontario plant, but no tach, and no inside release for the hatch. The 97 did have the inside hatch release, but it was deleted for 98. I would have bought an LX trim, but they didn’t offer the hatch as an LX, and I always chafed at the step down in conveniance items compared to my 85 Mazda GLC LX.
Besides the 98 hatch that I bought new, I also had a 97 5 speed DX coupe that I bought used as a beater. The coupe was rather scruffy and had 54,000 on it when I bought it. I had two failures in 3 years and 30,000 miles, the brake rotors warped, which may have been my fault as they warped right after I drove through a very large and surprisingly deep puddle and the cold water on the hot rotors may have done the deed, and a heat shield on the exhaust came loose and rattled.
The long center section of the exhaust gave up somewhere in the mid 70K miles range and exposed one glaring fault of that generation of Civic: the pipe broke just aft of the hanger, so, instead of dragging the broken pipe along, the broken end was pushed along the pavement, so it could snag on a pothole or manhole cover and make a bad day a lot worse.
The 96-97 versions of that series, but not my 97 while I had it, did suffer from cracked exhaust manifolds. Honda beefed up the manifold for 98, and extended the warranty on the earlier ones to 14 years/150,000 miles.
pic: my beater 97 coupe
Looking at the interior pic of yours, I think I see switches for power mirrors to the lower left of the steering wheel, below the air vent.
DX trim Civics did not have power mirrors. Here is the interior of mine, with knockouts in the space below the air vent.
While the exterior of yours is a dark purple, which was a Honda color in the late 90s, the engine bay is red?
My engine bay was black, just like the exterior of the car.
He stated that the only pic that was of his exact car is the one with the things stuck all over it.
You are correct Joe. My apologies. When David talked about running up the tach, I perked, because DX hatches don’t have tachs and I started suspecting his car had been modified before he bought it.
Yes that is, sadly, the only photo I have of it. A shame as it was a sharp looking car.
It was completely stock except for the exterior graphics.
Honda&bmw are making amazing motorcycles,but when it comes to cars I would prefer TOYOTA or NISSAN.as my friends 95 ALTIMA with almost 400k miles have been giving him amazing service in past 18 years.
The exception that proves the rule. After years and years of Detroit iron our family started buying Honda products in 2001. Two Civics, a Pilot, a CRV, an Acura TL and MDX. Not perfect, but pretty close. Certainly far more reliable than the mostly Pontiacs that preceded them.
Ironically, what most cemented my Honda loyalty was the only major problem I ever had with them. Transmission went out on my 2001 Acura TL at 90,000 miles. Long out of warranty, it was replaced free of charge by the dealer with little hassle. Compare this with the Pontiac dealer who wouldn’t give me a free car wash. Honda obviously stands behind its products and wanted me as a happy customer. When I was in the market for a luxury SUV in 2012, there was little doubt it would be an MDX. Not only a great vehicle, but free loaners, washes and all the little niceties that make you feel like a valued customer.
I had a 2000 Si of this generation, and it was excellent, though like many Hondas with the B-series engine, it burned a little oil by the time it hit 120,000 miles. But considering the way I drove it – and the previous owner likely drove it – that didn’t bother me too much. The car revved to 8,200 RPM and sounded like sex doing it. But I had literally zero other issues during my ownership of the car. I only traded it in because I wanted a Mazda RX-8. That car was also bulletproof, as has been my Challenger.
My bad Honda story was with a 2006 or 2007 Si (I forget which). Bad third gear syncro, power steering that would stop working intermittently, rear wheel arch rust after only about four years on the road… It drove nicely but just wasn’t holding up the way my 2000 did.
They are what they are. People swear by Hyundais but we have a fleet of lower-end models that suck. I had a Taurus with the original transmission make it to 260,000 miles. My brother’s Mazda and my grandfather’s 2002 Grand Marquis turned out to be griefboxes but my 1995 Regal keeps chugging along.
Your experience, along with the purple color and the graphics, makes me wonder about the previous owner…
We’ve had decent luck with our Hondas, though we did sell our 08 Odyssey out of some nervousness about the tranny, and neither Honda got close to the advertised MPG around town, especially with the AC on. With AC the Oddy got **13** mpg shuttling kids; the CRV is obviously better but still under 20. OTOH my 150k Subie gets better than advertised mileage, and the AC makes at most a half mpg difference , and my son’s Mazda 6 (manual) gets over 20 in 4-mile stop-and-go trips to school.
Your experience, along with the purple color and the graphics, makes me wonder about the previous owner…
DX hatches had very few color choices at that time. iirc you had a choice of black, silver, red and the purple, called “dark amethyst”. The red wasn’t the “Inza Red Pearl” that you could get on an LX sedan, but a rather bland shade, rather like the engine compartment pic above.
I had considered the amethyst as it looked like a dark blue in the brochure, but I wanted to see it in person first. The dealer had one in the shop being prepped for delivery, so I went for a look see. Let’s say the combination of the paint color and the lighting in their shop was unfortunate. In daylight, it isn’t bad, much better than the bright purple Ford had at that time.
As for the graphics, DX Civics are very bereft of trim, only having the Honda “H” badge fore and aft and Civic and DX badges on the rear. My Aunt had a pinstripe added to her LX. A lot of dealers add stripes and such before cars are sold to increase the profit.
Here’s a pic of my Aunt’s 98 LX, when I sold it for her in 2008. Only failure in 10 years and 78,000 miles was an oxygen sensor.
I consider myself to be a “car guy”, so I don’t favor one make over any other. I’ve owned several GMs, a Ford, and what I haven’t owned I’ve driven at some point. My wife had a Toyota.
The two Hondas my wife and I have are the best cars we’ve ever owned. We bought them used, hers was 8 years old (now 13), and mine is 12 years old. Aside from user error (my wife blew a head gasket because she didn’t know to stop when she hit something and drove it dry) we’ve had no problems with them.
Even accounting for the fanboys, there is enough anecdotal evidence out there to lead me to believe that older Hondas were much better cars than their competition. The GMs I owned were serviceable and mostly reliable, but they definitely had quality control issues.
Rebadge them as Rovers and you get problems usually after a few miles though not straight away, and poor fuel mileage isnt one of them. Unusual, I only owned one Honda a 84 Civic and it was reliable.
Describing my ’76 Civic (bought new) as reliable is as far from the truth as you could get. Disappointing like a Chevy Vega, so much appeal, so little substance.
We had a 2003 Civic Hybrid for over nine years, and we had bought it new. The CVT was an issue more than once. It was prone to developing “judder” when starting off from a dead stop, like from a traffic light. We had to have that fixed more than once–it had something to do with an internal clutch, apparently. At some point well before the battery pack’s warranty was up, we had to have the pack replaced. Shortly after the factory warranty expired, we had to have the steering rack replaced. That involved some firm discussion with the dealer and the extended warranty folks–we finally had them talk to each other, because the dealership had changed hands after we bought the car. Later on, a front wheel bearing failed, while we were driving through Phoenix on the way to Prescott. That meant an overnight stay in Phoenix while the bearing was replaced. Somewhere just after 100,000 miles, struts needed replacement. At around 110,000, the transmission acted up again, and we got it fixed. After a few more months, we traded the car in on a 2009 Camry Hybrid that had about 38,000 miles. We’ve put about 20,000 miles on the Camry, and they have been reliable miles.
Good points about the Honda: 1) the fit and finish were superb, and the paint was still good after 9 1/2 years; 2) very few rattles, and very little wind noise; 3) good stereo; 4) for me, the seats were comfortable; 5) very good, responsive handling.
Bad points about the Honda: 1) my partner found the seats uncomfortable; 2) anemic air conditioning–it blew lots of air, but didn’t always cool it well; 3) fuel mileage really suffered in the summer–we had to keep the engine running to keep the A/C going, and best mileage depends on the engine shutting off at traffic lights; 4) anemic pickup from a dead stop–Honda’s hybrid technology showed its weakness here; 5) the engine computer would sometimes get confused and shut off the engine just when acceleration was needed–very unnerving! We finally were not sure we could trust the car anymore over the long term.
A good friend had that same Civic Hybrid from new and the same set of problems. Transmission replaced twice. I thought the A/C was about the worst around, really uncomfortable car in SoCal in the summer. Your car must have been better as his was a rattle trap and had peeling paint. By far the worst Honda I’ve ever ridden in. He replaced the car with a new Prius and has been a happy camper ever since.
“because the dealership had changed hands after we bought the car…”
Yes, the dealership makes all of the difference. I’ve worked for some crappy dealers and some good ones, but in the end they are the interface for the company.
I had a similar issue with my (then) Pontiac (now Buick) dealer; a new ownership group took over and essentially killed the previous culture. I liked my sales guy and service writers, but they all left. And I did too. I haven’t gone back since.
Back in 1999/2000 I managed to buy the one unreliable 1986 Honda Accord (flip-up lights model). Unbeknownst to me the oil pump was malfunctioning and although the car still ran okay, it’d run hotter than usual when the pump quit. Long story short, I ended up having to replace the engine and I haven’t owned a Honda since.
I remember my mechanic comparing my Accord’s engine with the 2.0L pinto engine in my previous Ford Sierra. He said the Honda engine was a finely-toleranced jewel, but if anything went wrong, it was all over; whereas the Ford wasn’t as nice an engine but could tolerate things going wrong and keep functioning longer. In other words, if the Honda developed oil leaks, it was all over; if the Ford didn’t have oil leaks it was all over!
Personally it sounds like you got an average or better Honda other than the problem with the transmission. See my story above for a great illustration of the owner who claims his Honda has never had a single problem.
Not a Honda, but niece just purchased a 96 Toyota Tercel, 157k totally base. Her 89 Jetta after 275k miles finally is using coolent about 1/2 gal every 50 miles. No leaks, I suspect head gasket. That, along with tweaked front frame rails I pulled out with a chain wrapped around a telephone pole to get straight enough to replace bumper and core support (one side of front end is higher then other, now after 3 years it won’t hold alignment) turns it into a parts car for my car. So far the clutch safety switch went out, 3 days after we got it. Time will tell. I told her not to crash this one.
I’ve never owned a Honda car, but I’ve had five bikes, four bought new, from Honda (ST1100, XR650L, V65 Sabre, GL1100, 550 Nighthawk). Every one of them had significant issues. In some ways, each of the Hondas had worse problems than any problems with the Suzuki, Yamahas and even the Aprilia I’ve owned or continue to own.
The big H’s rep is probably a little stronger than their actual products. I think I’ve bought my last bike with wings on the tank.
This is not the first time I’ve heard that about the bikes…
This is going back 30 years, but the 1970 CB450 Twin I had was a great bike and completely trouble free except for replacing starter brushes, chain, and sprockets.
And there’s the infamous Gold Wing frame recall…
The Pacific Coast is bulletproof even by Honda standards
The backbreaking seats, the sudden ignitor failures and the oil burning sound familiar. Also a stupid muffler design that rots out every three years in cold climates. I’ve had good enough luck with Civics but I’ve had sturdier cars. My good friend lost an engine at 60,000 miles though.
It’s never fun to be on the low end of the bell curve. And make no mistake, there is always a bell curve.
My “J” VIN 2010 Fit has been flawless, so far. However, my brother’s Civics have all had problems. He likes CNG, so his choice of makes is extremely limited, sometimes to only the Civic GX, like diesel buyers were stuck with VW for a while. First one had ignition coil pack failures, not that big a deal as most VW’s suffered the same. The second one had multiple CVT’s replaced under Hondacare. The car was sold before the warranty expired. The third had a conventional automatic, but a bad engine block casting, which leaked coolant. That was also replaced under warranty.
I prefer my ’95 Oldsmobile 98 Regency Elite w/ 67,700 miles. I get the oil changed every three to four months and get any leaks fixed and it just keeps chugging along. Everything works except the front passenger window switch because my husband leaned on it to hard and jammed it in place.
My sister just retired her ’99 Civic LX that she bought new. Had nearly 225k n.e. Ohio miles and except for an appetite for a/c compressors it was pretty much bulletproof.
“It isn’t unusual to hear of an automatic gearbox failing, but even then it was quite uncommon to hear of a manual gearbox having to be replaced on a less than two year old car.”
Very true but I had an early build 1995(4) Neon lose its mtx at 60,000 and get replaced under warranty. Chrysler lost money on that 100k warranty due to the problems that car had.
It’s interesting to me how reputations of yesteryear can totally blind people to the realities of mechanical entities. In Honda’s “golden years” and Toyota as well for that matter, these companies were trying to establish market share. The best way for them to establish that was through offering superior quality in comparison to domestics. Even then, a mechanical issue was possible if proper care wasnt taken of the car and in some cases even if it had.
Eventually though what ruined the hallmarks of these once great brands was their hunger to integrate themselves into the higher-end markets. Lexus and Acura have both been very lucrative for Toyota and Honda, Respectively. But in those investments, they began to take away from the bread and butter cars that made them hits in the first place. Couple that with a never ending hunger to be #1 in more segments and you end up with products that either match or fall behind the competition. Cost cutting with big nameplates like Camry, Civic, Accord, etc was/is rampant. Both manufacturers got a lot of mileage from the reputations of cars from the 1980’s and the early 1990’s.
Even my 1992 Camry, as “Uncommonly good” as people have always proclaimed them to be needed a replacement transmission at one point in its life. I know what it takes for me to be able to keep it as somewhat dependable transport at its age. I have, during ownership, of 7 years (purchased from a relative who bought new) replaced a few major items, examples include the trans, the power steering pump, the timing belt (twice already), water pump, radiator, hoses, etc. All cars have their kinks and snags at some point…..
A good friend just recently purchased a 1999 Civic EX coupe with 159k. Looked nice, had a manual trans, seemed good to go. She began to have issues with the temp gauge showing that the car was overheating. She replaced the thermostat, she replaced the radiator, etc. There was brief improvement for about 2 to 3 days. Eventually she found that it had a blown head gasket and there was some engine damage as well because she was on a road trip to Price, UT. It was too late.
Any car can fail. The best you can do is your due diligence at buying and hope for the best. Buying new offers a lot more peace of mind, but buying used is always risky. Ive put a lot into mine over the years, so ill be holding on for a while longer. I just really advocate people doing their own research. For example, research can show that Camry transmissions fail about as often as any competitors. No manufacturer is immune to the laws of physics, temperature, and other variables in nature that contribute to the wear and tear of their product.