It’s a new car!
My new daily driver is this 2007 Honda Civic. I had originally planned to try to write something akin to a new car review for the thing, but a) I’m not really a writer so would struggle to do Oppo justice there and b) I’ve been driving a minivan for the prior 6 years, so, how do I say this. My perspective is probably a bit off. So, instead, I thought I would give you a point by point comparison with its predecessor.
First, an interesting tidbit, both of my "Japanese" cars where assembled not very far from here, in the very Japanese towns of Princeton and Greensburg, in Indiana. Yup, both are Hoosiers, baby!
Anyway, on with the comparison.
Looks: toss up
I remember reading a couple of years back that a Honda exec admitted that they’d made cars that were a bit boring during this generation, and I guess on some level I agree relative to my little Civic. There’s nothing wrong about how it looks, but there’s also not much that a Top Gear camera crew would be able to work with there either. While the Sienna is hardly a Ferrari, for a big ass box on wheels, I don’t think it looks half bad.
Both are a color other than silver, white or black, but the Sienna’s blue is a little too close to silver, so it ends in a tie.
Condition: advantage, Civic
When we first agreed that we’d take my FiLs Civic for much less than market value back in the summer of 2019, the Sienna had around 210k miles on it, the Civic had about 34k. Yeah, I didn’t mistype there, the Civic had less than 40k miles on it when we acquired it. As of today, the Civic is pushing 67k, and the Sienna was sold with just over 214k. We really lucked out in terms of the how the Civic held up because, from what I can recall, I believe effectively the first 24-28k miles were put on it during it’s first 4 years on the road and then did at best 1,000 miles per year. This, combined with the knowledge that my FiL would not have been at all focused on it while his wife was dying, meant I fully expected there to be several “sitting unused for long periods of time” type issues. So far, the worst that we’ve found were some rust issues around the brakes that required replacing parts. Otherwise, it seems to be just about as sound a little runabout as it was 10 years ago. By comparison, the Sienna had several issues running when I sold it off. Beyond the niggling cosmetic things, the transmission was starting to show some worrying reluctance from time to time, there was an exhaust leak and it likely needed a new cat. Also, it did this fascinating thing when it was cold, wet and 30 to 50F (-1 to 10C) out. The “power” in power steering and power brakes would be intermittent. You could feel the power surge on/off/on/off as you were driving down the street. I finally, learned that it if I stopped it and let the engine run for about 10 minutes it would resolve itself and not return. At any rate, the missus had been agitating to get rid of the Sienna since 2018.
Power: advantage, Sienna
If you lined them up for a quarter mile, put equal drivers in both cars, and if neither car shat itself between the start and finish line, the Sienna would win. (and that’s with the Sienna being due for fresh plugs and fresh front tires)
Looking it up, I realize that this is likely down to the Sienna leaving Indiana with over 200hp, while the Civic likely had less than 120hp back in the day. While both are surely down on power due to age, the Sienna likely started with nearly 50% more, and unless you load it up with passengers, that’ll give it the edge.
Handling: advantage, Civic
There are two tales I think tell the story here. A few years back I was reading a review of the then new Sienna, and the reviewer when he got to handling described it as handling like “a top heavy marshmallow”. Mine, had nice well worn springs, shocks and other suspension components, which made that tendency to really lean into the corners even more pronounced. The other tale, is of a place called Gurneyville Road. This is a lovely little lightly traveled country road that kind of ungulates along with the countryside. There is one little hillock on there where, I didn’t actually hill hop the Sienna, but at the posted speed limit of 55mph (88kph) I got the weight on the front suspension light enough that the tires completely lost grip. The Civic takes that hill at 55 without batting an eye, I could probably take it at 60 without getting hoppy. I’m sure the Civic is little more than competent by most folks standards, but after the Sienna, it felt like a go kart.
Practicality: advantage, Sienna
I am enjoying having a Civic back in my life, they are simply good little cars. That said, the Sienna can haul construction material in the morning and most of the Brady Bunch in the afternoon. No contest. Now, that said, on this front there are other vehicles in the stable that will fill the role of hauling large amounts of crap or people around.
Cost to live with: advantage, Civic
Beyond the most obvious, with my style of driving and their condition, the Sienna was returning roughly 20 mpg in mixed driving and the Civic is returning around 29-30 mpg. (given the EPA estimates for the Civic I do still wonder if there is something me and my mechanics are missing that should be replaced based on age..)
The big thing is maintenance. The Civic is chain driven, the Sienna uses a belt. That belt is due to be replaced every 90k miles, and if you’re not handy enough to do it yourself, that’s $1,000 in 2018 prices. The Sienna is also due for plugs every 90k. three of the six are laying right in front of you (given a torque wrench, even I could change those). The other three though, are snuggled up against the firewall, which means it’s also a slightly pricing thing to get them changed. The Civic’s 4 plugs (I don’t even know the interval yet), are sitting right there in front of you when you pop the hood.
Comfort: toss up
This would go to the Civic (largely because of the handling), if it weren’t for one serious flaw. Starting in this generation Honda decided that there were no longer tall people who drove Civics, and if they did, they wouldn’t mind sitting with their knees straight up, so they put the parking brake lever right where my right knee belongs. This is a (checks google) 8th gen Civic. The 9th gen, Honda left me knee room. The 10th gen, they decided that plastic housing for a cubby was more important than my knee. I’ve not seen an 11th gen in person yet, but I highly suspect that they are still convinced that a crappy piece of plastic to house a cubby is more important than my knee.
Anyway, rant over, as you can see I created a solution that works well enough, but it’d be lovely if I didn’t need it. As vans go, the Sienna was never terrible, but it was bouncy enough to give at least one passenger motion sickness, so yeah, it’s a toss up.
Brown manual diesel wagon: toss up
Neither car is brown, minus one to both. Neither is a manual (though Honda at least made gen 8 Civics with a manual), minus one, still tied. On diesel, both use NA petrol engines (which is just as well, when I talked about buying a diesel once, the missus said she’d likely ruin it by accidentally putting regular gas in it), another strike. (though I will say, as the exhaust leak on the Sienna got more pronounced, it did sound more like a diesel)
On wagon, one is a van, so it arguably is more practical than a wagon. That said, this type of van is what killed off the station wagon, which counters that practicality. The Civic is the right height for a wagon, but is definitely a sedan (saloon). At the end of the day, neither is substantially more brown manual diesel wagon than the other.
Fahrvergnegen: advantage, Civic
The Civic has a sunroof, corners on the country roads massively better than the Sienna and even though it’s one of the most boring generations of Civics made, it’s still in many ways a fun little car to drive. (it would be much more fun with a third pedal, but increasing I’m shouting at the clouds there..)
Family opinion: advantage, Civic
My kids I’d say loved both cars, though my oldest who is not too many years away from turning 16 has already expressed a desire to have a “little red car like the Civic” when the time comes.
My wife has yet to express an opinion about the Civic, and grew to dislike the Sienna by 2017 or 2018 at the latest. Also, her first new car purchase ever was a 2004 Honda Civic, in silver (it happens), with a manual (and that in spite of her having bad knees).
So, I suspect she also has a soft spot for Civics as well at this point.
So, Oppo, if you came into a very low cost Honda Civic that was 12+ years old with barely enough miles on it to be broken in, what components would you think about replacing based on the “things can wear out from age in addition to mileage” idea?