1995 Honda Civic

By November 10, 1999
1995 Honda Civic

Put simply, it costs a lot to have your automotive cake and eat it too. If you want performance, you will have to pay for it – not only in dollars but in compromises to comfort and, all too often, reliability. Economy has its price as well; inexpensive seldom coexists with loaded, and few miserly powerplants are particularly inspiring when asked to perform.

The Honda Civic family, however, is a well-rounded suite of small cars that does almost everything well. If you want to scoot along in sports-car style – as we did in our $16,250 EX coupe – it can answer your call. If you want to squeeze the last inch out of every drop of dinosaur juice, the Civic line is equally ready to perform.

It’s no secret that Honda boasts a reputation for combining a variety of virtues into a single package. Since its introduction, in fact, the Civic has been a multi-personality machine, and the latest versions do nothing to tarnish that tradition.

Careful engineering is the key: A company that earned its stripes as a motorcycle manufacturer understands the need for light weight and optimum efficiency. Honda’s product-planning side has been equally successful, specifying those touches, both large and small, that mark the Civic as a quality car.


Honda tends to keep its innovations hidden under conservative sheet metal, and the Civic is no exception. Our little test coupe, despite its bright Milano Red paint job, was no attention-getter. Instead, it was an exercise in good taste: unadorned and pleasing, but visually unexciting. The same can be said for the other members of this versatile family, which includes sedans and one of the few remaining hatchbacks available in America.

Even though the Civics are relatively anonymous, there are more good points than bad to relate.

First and most important are the short front and rear overhangs – not much car protruding beyond the axles at either end – which allow the driver to slot the 14.5 ft. Civic coupe into a 15 ft. parking space with ease. This tidy design also pays dividends in handling because more of the car’s mass is centered between the front and rear axles.

And the Civic seems more substantial than its dimensions indicate, enough so that people who aren’t comfortable in small cars won’t feel trapped in this one.

Few outward signs will tell you whether the coupe you’re looking at is the base DX or the fancy EX, and the same can be said for the sedan lineup (DX, LX, EX) as well as the hatchbacks (CX, DX, VX, Si). The real differences are hidden but are important enough to make you want to save up those extra pennies for an EX. Our EX test coupe, for example, had body-colored mirrors, full wheel covers and a standard sliding moonroof (the last item, unusual for a Honda, offers both tilt and slide operation).

Attractive as the coupe is, however, we are drawn toward the sportier hatchback’s shape. It doesn’t really matter though; both body styles – and their companion sedan, for that matter – can be kitted out with the same features, making all three Civics equal when it comes to fun, economy and convenience.

Interior Features

Simplicity. In a word, that’s the Civic’s interior story. This is a basic car, particularly in its base editions. It has few accessory controls and no confusing design features to intimidate the driver.

A new dashboard, looking very much like the one it replaced, accommodates a passenger-side airbag, which complements the existing driver airbag ensconced in the steering wheel hub. Directly in front of the driver are the essentials – gauges for speed, fuel level and engine temperature; a tachometer on the EX; and a couple of stalks for lamps and wipers. That’s about it. Easy to use and sharp-looking.

The front seats are well-designed and supportive, though slightly short on thigh support, and are trimmed in handsome and durable fabrics. All materials used, whether plastic or cloth, are of better quality than you might expect in a car in this price range, and they seem to have been installed with maximum care.

Even though there’s abundant space for the driver and front-seat passenger, there’s less for those riding in back. This is, after all, a coupe, though it’s significantly better than many others like it on this score. Shorter (less than 6-foot-tall) riders will find brief trips on the back bench endurable.

One practical aspect of the civic’s makeup is an already large cargo area (11.8 cu. ft.), which can be made even bigger by folding back the rear seat.

Driving Impressions

Driving fun is standard equipment on any Civic, even the humblest model. Maximum fun adds about $4000 to the tab.

What the extra money buys is honda’s superb VTEC engine technology on the EX. The acronym denotes a powerplant with variable intake valve timing that, without getting into technicalities, allows the engine to operate with optimal efficiency at both high and low rpm. And operate it does: Peak horsepower is developed at a lofty 6600 rpm. And there’s no serious penalty for turning the VTEC engine so fast, as it stays remarkably smooth right up to the point where its electronic rpm limiter steps in.

The less-powerful but still responsive DX engine need not be wound as tight to extract maximum horsepower, but it develops less overall. We won’t argue that you need the VTEC’s extra 23 ponies; let’s just say that you’d enjoy having them around to play with when conditions are right.

Both engines are available with a standard 5-speed manual transmission or an optional electronically controlled 4-speed automatic. The manual transaxle gets top marks for shift linkage and ratio selection, and the self-shifter rates highly for smooth operation.

Both the DX and EX are a joy to drive on the open road. The EX offers more because the gutsier engine is teamed with an added front stabilizer bar, power-assisted steering (4-wheel disc anti-lock brakes are an EX option, which we strongly recommend on this or any other car) and larger tires. But you’ll still marvel at the precise handling and responsiveness of the base model.

Like all Hondas, the Civics use a fairly sophisticated suspension system compared with that of their competitors. And, like all Hondas, they’re strong in the area of rigid chassis design.

One downside to this wonder chassis is less-than-perfect ride quality. On smooth roads the Civic is just fine, transmitting little harshness through the body. Rough roads are another matter. But to be fair: This is a short, light car that manages to offer a better ride than most of its competition. it’s just not in the same class as, say, a Honda Accord. If you are switching from another subcompact, you should have no complaints; those who are downsizing may find the Civic on the choppy side over broken pavement.


So far, we’ve uncovered two points to criticize about the Honda Civic coupe (three if you want to count unadventurous styling as a demerit): Its ride quality isn’t all you might want it to be and the rear seat is undersized. But guess what? You could fault almost every car in this class on one or both points – and find lots of other things to grumble about, too.

For the price, either Civic coupe is an exceptional value. Aside from offering outstanding driving pleasure, both are reliable, efficient (the EX gets a 29 mpg city/35 mpg hwy. rating from the EPA; we averaged 33 mpg under a variety of conditions) and nicely finished cars.

This is a mature, innovative, high-quality line of small cars that’s among the best in the world. You may pay a bit of a premium versus some other cars in this class. But you get what you pay for – and more.

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