Honda has long had a reputation for building high quality prestige cars that are packed with technology.

The front-wheel drive Civic is one of its most popular; it’s been a mainstay of the company’s range since it was introduced here in 1973, and the eighth generation model introduced in 2006 continued that tradition.

Models

While it was a small model, the eighth gen Civic was longer and wider than its predecessor.

The range was comprehensive and covered most bases from mild to wild, as well as clean and green.

It included sedans, sporty hatches; there was a hot hatch, and even a petrol/electric hybrid.

What wasn’t offered in the eighth gen was the option of a diesel engine; that wouldn’t come until the later ninth gen model that superseded it.

Sedans made up the bulk of the eighth gen offering, they were made in Thailand, the hatches were produced in the UK, and the hybrid came from Japan.

The 2006-2012 Civic VTi Sedan. The 2006-2012 Civic VTi Sedan.

The VTi sedan was the entry model in the range. It had a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with the choice of manual gearbox or automatic transmission.

It was well-equipped, and came with standard features that included air-conditioning, four-speaker sound, MP3 connectivity, CD player, power windows and mirrors, remote central locking, a footrest for the driver, intermittent wipers, cruise control, there was a tacho, the steering column was adjustable for tilt and reach, and it had cloth trim.

The VTi-L scored alloy wheels among other upgrades. The VTi-L scored alloy wheels among other upgrades.

The VTi-L was a step up in luxury; it too had the 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, and also the choice of manual gearbox or automatic transmission.

It offered even more in the way of standard features, including 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning with climate control, and an in-dash CD stacker.

While the VTi-L promised luxury, the Sport was one for the driver.

The Honda Civic Sport gained a sportier 2.0-litre engine. The Honda Civic Sport gained a sportier 2.0-litre engine.

It came with the extra performance of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, and the choice of manual gearbox or automatic transmission.

The Sport was similarly equipped to the VTi-L, but had 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, the steering wheel and seats boasted leather trim, and there was a multi-function steering wheel and an electric sunroof.

Honda also offered a petrol/electric hybrid model in the eighth gen range.

It was made in Japan and powered by a small petrol engine with the support of an electric motor, matched with a CVT auto.

The Hybrid’s list of standard equipment paralleled that of the VTi-L, but also had a driveline info display, regenerative brakes, and a rear spoiler.

On the hatch side of the family, there was the Si five-door and the sizzling hot Type R three-door.

The 2009 Honda Civic Hatch. The 2009 Honda Civic Hatch.

The Si came with the 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine and the choice of six-speed manual gearbox or five-speed automatic transmission.

It came with 17-inch alloy wheels, six-speaker sound with CD player, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, cruise, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, fog lamps, on-board computer, and a multi-function leather-trimmed steering wheel.

The Type R three-door hatch came with a hot 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual gearbox.

It had a full kit of sporty gear, including 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome exhaust tips, a tacho, sports seats with suede-look trim, rear spoiler, and sports pedals.

The eighth gen Civic didn’t have features like Bluetooth, so it wasn’t possible to sync an iPhone or Android device; it didn’t have sat-nav, or touch screen.

Parking was by feel; there was no reversing camera, or parking sensors, and no park assist system to aid the driver.

Cabin

Being larger than its predecessor meant the eighth gen Civic was roomier inside.

The Civic VTi sedan interior. The Civic VTi sedan interior.

The sedans and five-door hatches were claimed to be five-seaters, and could at a squeeze accommodate five, but in reality four were more comfortable. The Type R three-door hatch was a four-seater.

For the most part the interior was neat and tidy, but the space-age dash copped a fair amount of flak from motor writers.

The Civic Hatch interior. The Civic Hatch interior.

At 325 litres the boot was of a good size, and the split-fold rear seat added to the car’s cargo carrying capacity.

There was plenty of storage around the cabin with cupholders in the front, and pockets in the backs of the front seats and the doors.

Engine

Most eighth gen Civics had a 1.8-litre single overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine, which featured Honda’s VVT (Variable Valve Timing) system for optimum power and torque.

At its twin peaks it put 103kW (138 horsepower) at 6300rpm and 174Nm at 4200rpm.

It ran on 91-octane regular unleaded petrol and Honda claimed it would do on average 6.9L/100km.

Road testers at the time of launch thought it a little lazy and needed to be urged along to extract its best.

For better performance there was the Sport, which came with a 2.0-litre twin-cam four-cylinder engine that produced 114kW at 6200rpm and 188Nm at 4200rpm.

The 2.0-litre engine available in the Civic Sport. The 2.0-litre engine available in the Civic Sport.

It boasted VVT and revved freely to high rpm where it did its best.

The engine that gave the Type R hatch its zip was also a high-revving 2.0-litre twin-cam four-cylinder with VVT, but it also had variable valve lift.

When working at its peaks it produced 148kW at 7800rpm and 193Nm at 5600rpm.

Backing up to the engines in the sedans were either a five-speed manual gearbox, or more commonly, a conventional five-speed automatic.

The manual gearbox option in the hatches was a six-speed.

Driving

The Civic’s on-road dynamics are safe and sound; it has no vices and there are no nasty surprises in store if you get caught out.

The 1.8-litre engine, while not exhilarating, is smooth and flexible, and coupled to the automatic transmission with its adaptive programming makes driving all the more pleasant.

Independent suspension front and rear ensures the Civic is forgiving and stable under all conditions, even if it isn’t as sporty as some rivals.

The ride is smooth and supple, and there is little road noise to ruin the inner calm.

Safety

The list of safety features in the eighth gen Civic was long and comprehensive.

A full array of airbags headed the passive safety features; they included dual front airbags, head airbags for front and rear seat occupants, and side airbags for those in the front seat.

In addition to the airbags, each of the five seats had lap sash seat belts, and the front seat belts had pre-tensioners and height adjustment with memory.

There was also a comprehensive array of active safety features, such as ABS brakes, emergency brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, traction control and electronic stability control.

It wasn’t mandatory for cars to have ISOFIX mounts for a baby car seat until 2014 but the Civic had them before that.

Any common issues?

Owners say the Civic hits the spot. In many cases they keep heading back to their Honda dealers to sign up again when it’s time to move their car on.

Few report any mechanical issues at all, most say the reliability of their cars has been impeccable, and nothing has gone wrong with them.

It’s a common report, not only from owners, but also the trade that generally rates the Civic highly.

One of the few complaints that pops up concerns the paint, which appears to be soft and certainly easily scratched, which makes it important to keep it clean and regularly polished.

Honda is noted for its use of advanced technology, its cars are built to a high standard, and they need regular maintenance to keep them ticking over at their best.

Most notably that means regular oil changes. Old sludgy oil will only do harm to a finely engineered car like the Civic, so have the oil changed regularly to keep it clean.

To assist in evaluating how a car has been treated by previous owners ask for a service record that shows it has been regularly serviced.

Honda recommends servicing the Civic every 10,000km, or every six months, which is more frequently than some other makes, but sticking to that routine should mean more reliable motoring over the long term.

The 1.8-litre single overhead camshaft engine use a timing belt, which needs to be replaced every 105,000km; the 2.0-litre twin-cam engine uses timing chains and there’s no need to change them.

Honda didn’t introduce capped price servicing until after the eighth gen had gone out of production, so it doesn’t apply, but servicing costs are reasonable and any qualified mechanic can do the work.

Field experience indicates that brakes generally need replacing between 40,000 and 60,000km, depending on how the Civic is driven, and tyres typically last around 70,000km before they need to be replaced.

When new the warranty was for three-years/100,000km, whichever came first.

Honda recalled the Civic in 2007 to check the stop lamp switch, which was prone to failure, which could result in the stop lamps not working.

More importantly, the 8th Gen Civic is affected by the Takata airbag inflator recall, anyone thinking of buying one should contact the Honda Recall Centre on 1800 789 839 to establish what action they need to take.

MORE: If anything crops up, you’ll probably find it on our Honda Civic problems page.

Owners views

Barry and Sophia Cooper: We have an eight-year-old Honda Civic that has done 58,000km. It goes like a rocket, is very comfortable, and we’ve never had any trouble with it.

Malcolm Wadsworth: I recently sold my 2009 Honda Civic VTi with 180,000km on the odometer. It was economical, fast, comfortable, roomy and reliable; it was so reliable that I bought another one.

Graeme White: We recently sold our 2007 Civic VTi-L after 180,000km. It was comfortable and quiet, steered and braked well, never used oil, faded or rusted. Our only complaint was that we found the boot too shallow. It never let us down and there were no repairs other than batteries, tyres, wiper blades etc. The fuel consumption was always in the mid-6.0s when driven carefully to low-7.0s when driven with spirit.

Jan Williams: My 2010 Civic VTi-L has only travelled 35,000km, so it is still as good as new. I like the reliability, road handling and the 1.8-litre motor has enough power to keep me safe. The only negative comment is on the seating, the driver’s seat doesn't have enough lumber support, and is not very adjustable.

Verdict

The eighth gen Civic is a well-built small car that is proving to be reliable over the long term.

Have you owned a Honda Civic before? Share your experience in the comments below.