Honda has become a byword for reliability and generally the Civic is a sound buy – but there are still things to look for.
You can read about them in detail in our full buying guide, but some things stand out. One is the synchromesh on second gear, which is in the firing line when full-bore starts are attempted.
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Hard-driven cars see wear in bushes and ball joints, and it’s always worth checking the alignment as cars like this need to be set up well to work their best.
On launch, the one-box silhouette and boxy rump were something of an acquired taste. The same could be said these days, but age has mellowed the Civic’s shape and now it looks rather neat and understated.
It’ll never be considered a beautiful car, but it’s a purposeful car whose features demonstrate its intent. There are also practical benefits, such as good visibility, easy cabin access and a decent boot.
The interior itself is similarly characterised by function over form. The front pews are figure-hugging Recaros, albeit mounted quite high, the gearknob is a lovely titanium number mounted MPV-style on the dashboard and you can actually fit people in the rear seats.
Just a few minutes on eBay is enough to find Civic-Rs for under £2000, and at first glance they don’t look too bad – rust hasn’t yet become a big problem and interiors seem to wear well.
However, you’ll want to pay a little more for a car with fewer miles and a full service history, and one that’s avoided the unsubtle attention of modifiers – if the owner seems to have spent more money tinting the windows and fitting a drainpipe exhaust than they have on a decent set of tyres, walk away.
With a budget of £6000 you’ll be able to afford the very best – a low-mileage, 2004-2005 car. Incidentally, this is also the entry point to FN2-generation Civic Type-Rs – the more distinctive but heavier, less frenetic replacement launched in 2007. For many, the earlier car is the better drive.