My family and I recently purchased a used 2008 Honda Civic VTI-L after a job promotion required us getting a second car. One reason for this purchase was the vehicle was in excellent condition for its age and Honda's reputation for making reliable, good quality cars.
This review is based on one month of ownership.
Our model is the mid-spec version that came with a 5-speed manual, electric instrumentation, front and rear power windows, cruise control, six CD stacker, auxiliary port to plug in an MP3, cigarette lighter, which can be used to charge mobile phones and run GPS systems, plenty of storage compartments for one's goodies and a full-size spare wheel.
The funky, space age design of the instrument cluster takes a little getting used to and may not be to everyone’s taste. The digital speedo, fuel and temperature gauges are housed in a separate, split section area high on the dash above where they would normally sit, with a very large tacho below, in the area where the normal speedo of most cars are. Personally I like it, now that I’ve gotten used to the set up. Its quirkiness is very practical, as it's very clear and directly in your line of vision. This means you don't have to take your eyes of the road as much or as often. In terms of clarity and safety, it's a big tick there.
To date the engine has started straight away every time and is smooth and quiet in operation, once it has warmed up. While the 1.8-litre motor is no performance demon, there certainly is no issue with cruising at 110km/h. There is a good balance between power and fuel economy. Speaking of which, the fuel economy has been excellent, returning around 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres of driving mainly around town and the odd highway trip. I expect this to improve even further with the highway commuting to increase, especially when using the easy to operate cruise control.
So far I have found the climate controlled air conditioner/heater to be fantastic. The car is parked outside overnight and I have found, even on colder mornings, it heats the interior of the car within a couple of minutes. The temperature gauge is a nifty and helpful addition, which allows you to set it exactly as what you want, so there's another tick for the practicality of the design.
The Honda Civic is a very spacious little number for a small car with reasonably comfortable bucket seats up front. Even though I'm the only person in the car for the majority of the time, it has plenty of room for four adults. There is a deep and generous boot for your luggage or the weekly shopping bags to sit in, and the rear seats can be folded down to increase this or carry longer items. I particularly like all the storage compartments throughout the car to store ones small items like mobile phone, wallet and house keys. There are also a couple of cup holders in the centre console, perfect for a man like me who enjoys his daily cappuccino while driving to and from work.
Now I’m going to mention a few points about the car that isn’t so good. In short, the noise, vibration and harshness of the vehicle is quite poor. The biggest and most annoying thing I have found is the amount of road noise that infiltrates into the cabin. Even around town it is a noisy place to be, and out on the highway it really is intrusive and VERY noticeable. While it isn't quite a deal breaker, I can see it being an ongoing irritant and influencing whether we'd buy another Honda in future.
The ride and handling are a bit dusty as well. To me it seems Honda couldn't get the balance of the suspension set up quite right. Even on the smooth, dual lane highway surface of the Pacific Highway between Taree and Port Macquaire, the car's handling seems a little unsettled. It just bounces around a bit too much for my liking, which affects the handling. This is not helped by the vague steering. Around town it is fine, but on the highway, cruising at 100km/h, it lacks feedback, which isn’t the best situation to be in and not very reassuring.
The manual gearbox can be a bit notchy at times as well. I have found myself having difficulty finding second gear on the change down from third. It also has a high take-up point, meaning you need to let the clutch out almost the whole travel before it engages. You do get used to this over a few days and then it ceases to be a problem. That said, it may be a case of me getting used to driving a manual again, after many years running around in our automatic transmission Holden Commodore.
All in all there is a lot to like about the mid-spec 2008 Honda Civic VTL-L. If you want a quirky, reliable and economical runabout vehicle, you can do a lot worse than this car. However, if you plan to use it for a lot of highway or longer trips, you will need to decide if you can live with the short comings I've mentioned.