The seventh generation Honda Civic was more staid than sporty compared to its forebears, but it remained a popular small car.

Models

Like its predecessors the seventh gen Civic was a conventional front-wheel drive small car with seats for five.

the sedan was wider and taller giving it more cabin space. the sedan was wider and taller giving it more cabin space.

There were two models in a somewhat simplified range made up of the GLi four-door sedan and the Vi five-door hatch.

The GLi came with a modest 1.7-litre four-cylinder engine and the choice of five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic transmission.

For a small car it was well equipped for the time, coming standard with power windows and mirrors, a steering column adjustable for tilt, four-speaker sound system with a CD player, remote keyless central locking, a tacho, intermittent wipers, and remote releases for the boot and fuel filler.

Air-conditioning was an option, but it wasn't a climate control system.

The Vi hatch was a rather ungainly five-door compared to the sporty three-door hatch of the outgoing model. The Vi hatch was a rather ungainly five-door compared to the sporty three-door hatch of the outgoing model.

The Vi hatch was a rather ungainly five-door compared to the sporty three-door hatch of the outgoing model.

Like the sedan the Vi came with a 1.7-litre four-cylinder engine, it boasted more power and torque than the sedan's engine, and the same choice of five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic transmission.

It was similarly equipped to the sedan, but also boasted air-conditioning as standard.

Briefly, Honda also offered a VTi hatch. It was a limited edition model only sold for a few months in 2001, and had climate control air-conditioning.

Like the sedan the Vi came with a 1.7-litre four-cylinder engine. Like the sedan the Vi came with a 1.7-litre four-cylinder engine.

Air-conditioning became standard on the GLi in 2002 along with 14-inch alloy wheels; at the same time 15-inch alloys became the standard fare on the Vi.

Coming before the arrival of the digital age the seventh gen Civic didn't have the features of today's cars.

There was no Bluetooth, so no possibility of syncing an iPhone and Android device, and there wasn't a touch screen.

The reliability of the seventh gen Civic is exemplary, providing it is well serviced. The reliability of the seventh gen Civic is exemplary, providing it is well serviced.

Nor was there anything to assist parking. There wasn't a reversing camera, there were no parking sensors, and there wasn't a park assist system.

Similarly Honda didn't offer sat-nav or a sunroof.

Cabin

While it was the same length as its predecessor, the sedan was wider and taller giving it more cabin space.

As a result the front seat room, rear seat legroom, and boot space were all highly rated.

Cupholders were provided in the front and rear.

Coming before the arrival of the digital age the seventh gen Civic didn't have the features of today's cars. Coming before the arrival of the digital age the seventh gen Civic didn't have the features of today's cars.

Engine

Both GLi and Vi had similar single overhead camshaft 1.7-litre engines, but at the same time they were quite different.

In the sedan it produced a modest 88kW (118 horsepower) and 150Nm at its power and torque peaks.

The 1.7-litre engine performed well, even in the GLi.

But with Honda's VTEC variable valve timing system, the version of the engine in the hatch produced 96kW (129 horsepower).

Both ran on 91-octane regular unleaded petrol.

The transmission choices on both sedans and hatches were the same; either a five-speed manual gearbox or a conventional torque convertor four-speed automatic transmission.

Driving

The adoption of MacPherson strut front suspension improved the ride comfort but softened the handling compared to the previous model.

But even if it wasn't as sporty it still steered and handled with assurance.

The 1.7-litre engine performed well, even in the GLi, but had more performance with the added advantage of the VTEC variable valve timing system in the Vi.

Even if it wasn't as sporty it still steered and handled with assurance. Even if it wasn't as sporty it still steered and handled with assurance.

Most Civics were bought with the automatic transmission, which was well tuned to the engine, although the shifts could be a little sharp when accelerating hard.

Inside, it was comfortable and relatively quiet for a small car, with road noise kept down to a reasonable level.

Safety

With front airbags for the driver and front passenger and seat belt pretensioners the seventh gen Civic was quite well equipped with safety features for the time.

While it had airbags it didn't have ABS braking until 2002.

There were no ISOFIX baby car seat restraints; they weren't mandatory in Australia until much later.

Any common issues?

The reliability of the seventh gen Civic is exemplary, providing it is well serviced with regular oil changes.

The engine is built to fine tolerances and requires clean oil to perform at its best over the long term.

It's vital then that anyone looking to buy one checks for a service record.

The seventh gen was introduced long before the advent of capped price servicing, but service costs are reasonable and any competent mechanic can do it.

There were a couple of recalls that affected the seventh gen Civic.

Belts were employed for cam timing in the 1.7-litre engine and these are to be replaced every 170,000km of seven years.

The original new car warranty was for three years.

There were a couple of recalls that affected the seventh gen Civic. One was to replace a headlight switch that could deteriorate and fail, another was to check for a fuel leak from the fuel-filler neck.

More importantly, the seventh 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

Melissa Johns: I've never had any problems with my Vi, it's economical, reliable, drives perfectly, and I feel safe in it.

Robin Reeves: I bought my Vi new in 2004. It's now done more than 200,000km and nothing at all has gone wrong with it. It's never broken down, it's still on the original battery and exhaust system, all I've done are the regular services.

Ben Wickes: My 2005 GLi was bought new. I sold it in 2012 after 120,000 km of trouble-free motoring. The only thing that had to be done was to replace a leaking rear shaft seal at 90,000 km.

Sally Jackson: We've had our 2002 GLi since new and it has served us well. It's roomy, even in the rear, handles well, performs nicely, and has a surprising amount of boot space.

Verdict

A sound choice if you buy a car in tip-top shape.

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