Car reviews - Honda - Civic - VTi coupe
Usual Civic attributes of economy, reliability and good driveability
Room for improvement
Dull styling so there's no point not buying the cheaper and more practical sedan
18 Jun 2003
HONDA'S two-door Civic Coupe is a curious car. Built in Ohio, US, to suit American tastes, the Coupe is a best-seller there, achieving the honour of the most popular car parents buy their college-graduating children.
But in Australia we prefer hatchbacks to coupes. Not only is the Coupe largely ignored in favour of other Civics, it also languishes against similar priced competition from Hyundai (Coupe) and Toyota (Celica). While rivals sell on looks and style, the Civic looks dull and dumpy by comparison.
Honda broadened the appeal in March, 1999, by offering a cheaper GLi version as well as the rorty, range-topping VTi-R. All Civics share their chassis and most body panels forward of the centre pillar.
The notoriously style-conscious coupe market may scoff at the Coupe's Civic DNA but it makes for an accomplished small car.
The 93kW, 1.6-litre, single camshaft, 16-valve, four-cylinder, VTEC engine is basically lifted from the VTi sedan.
Power is up 5kW while the 145Nm of torque develops at a lower and more accessible 5200rpm, ensuring a better spread of pulling power. Lower gearing across all ratios takes advantage of this.
The engine is powerful for its size. Acceleration is brisk throughout the rev range and there is power on tap for overtaking on the open road.
The standard five-speed manual gearbox is delightfully light and crisp while the optional four-speed automatic is sensibly geared to the engine's peaky power characteristics.
Fuel efficiency is a Civic forte although the tiny 45-litre tank erodes at the Coupe's excellent touring potential.
The double wishbone suspension endows the Honda with a high standard of ride and handling. The Coupe corners like a coupe should - effortlessly and with balance, grip and confidence. The soft ride should come as no surprise as they love their cars like that in the US.
Honda made a huge leap in refinement with this generation Civic and the Coupe is no exception.
The interior is standard Civic save for the Coupe's slightly different trim.
The design and execution is professional with faultless ergonomics, clear instrumentation and quality ambience.
The big windows and low dash make the interior feel light and airy.
Equipment levels include dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, power windows, central locking, alloy wheels and, from April, 1997, air-conditioning.
Drawbacks are few. The front seats are a little too soft and shapeless. Infuriatingly, they fail to return to their original position once folded forward for rear accessibility.
Taller rear passengers will notice the headroom-hogging sloping roofline although rear legroom is adequate as all Civics share the same length wheelbase.
The split/fold rear seat improves the Coupe's big-boot versatility.
Honda has made an effort to reduce the cost of ownership. The Civic offers one of the lowest low-speed front-end collision repair costs in the small car class.
Regular servicing is essential. The complex VTEC engine technology demands it.
The Civic VTi Coupe may lack the pizzazz of its sportier rivals but makes up for it with impressive driveability.
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