Mileage Loop: 2009 Honda Civic (Syndication)

The Honda Civic has been the best-selling compact car in America for years. So it makes perfect sense that Honda brings it back for 2009 with very few changes. Nice styling, great dependability, and high mileage at an affordable price—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The only slight changes to speak about are minor style adjustments, a few new options, and the expansion of the model line with two new trim levels. The Civic now offers seven sedan models—including the Civic Hybrid and Civic GX Compressed Natural Gas vehicle—making it one of the most varied line-ups on the market. The MSRP starts as low as $15,505, and goes up into the $20,000s.

The 2009 Civic finds power from one of two carryover engines. There’s a 1.8-liter inline-four with 140 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque, and a 2.0-liter inline-four yielding 197 horses and 139 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual, a five-speed automatic, and a six-speed automatic. Our test sedan was equipped with the 1.8 and five-speed auto, which has fuel economy ratings of 25 city/36 highway.

We took our 2009 Civic out on our regular 114-mile mixed driving route to see what kind of mileage it gets in the real world. We drove the loop twice, once very passively with a light foot and with all unnecessary electronics turned off. And then a second time in a more spirited, everyday fashion, with harder acceleration and left-lane driving.

In our first run, we achieved mileage of 35.5 miles per gallon. The second loop, with more aggressive driving, gave us 27.8 miles per gallon. Most drivers will post everyday mileage in the low 30s—a level of efficiency surpassed by only a few conventional models and a handful of hybrids, including the Civic Hybrid.

Our Civic had a solid and planted feel with firm handling. Steering was responsive and precise. The ride was also quite smooth with less road and wind noise than most others in its class. The Civic’s relatively long wheelbase contributes to the compliant ride.

Exterior styling differences over the previous model are pretty much limited to the car’s front-end. The grille opening is new, as is the three-port lower air intake. The previous model’s lower intake was one continuous vent. The inside of the car is familiar to any Civic driver. It’s spacious, modern, and well packaged. For 2009, there are a couple of new available technology enhancements like Bluetooth and a USB audio interface.

Aside from that, everything remains the same—including the fold-down capabilities of the rear seat, which unfortunately is not available in the Civic Hybrid or CNG Civic. This feature significantly expands the already large 12 cubic foot trunk.

The 2009 Civic is an economical commuter with eye-catching style, a roomy interior, and Honda’s reputation for reliability. The Civic might not grab headlines, but there are few compacts, or sedans, that can offer so much for such a reasonable price.