2001-2005 Honda Civic: problems, engine, timing belt intervals, fuel economy

Updated: January 25, 2020

The 2001-2005 Civic is a fuel-efficient compact car. It comes as a four-door sedan or two-door coupe. The Civic handles well and has a sporty firm ride.

2005 Honda Civic interior
Honda Civic interior.

The Honda Civic is available in base DX, mid-level LX and top of the line EX trim levels. Transmission choices included a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are standard on EX models.

Inside, the Civic is roomy for a small car. The fit and finish is good; controls and instruments are simple and straightforward. Front seats are comfortable and supportive. Visibility is good all-around. The trunk is spacious and the rear seat folds down for extra space. The Honda Civic is fairly reliable, although at this age, you might have to check several cars before you can find one in mechanically sound condition. Maintenance costs are lower than average.

Honda Civic problems: Leaking front struts could cause knocking or clunking noise in the front ($350-$600 to replace both front struts). Bad front lower control arm bushings (aka compliance bushings) could also cause clunking noise from the front end when driving over bumps ($350-$450 for both sides).
Automatic transmission problems have been reported by many owners; automatic transmission replacement with a used unit could cost over $1,000. A head gasket might leak at higher mileage. Replacing a head gasket could cost up to $950.

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A faulty electronic load detector (ELD) can cause the code P1298; the repair is not very expensive.
Problems with the electrical part of the ignition switch could cause the engine to stall or not to start.
Honda has issued several recalls; check on the NHTSA website.

Engine: The Civic DX and LX come with a 115-hp 1.7-liter 16-Valve SOHC engine.

2005 Honda Civic engine
Honda Civic 1.7-liter VTEC engine.

The EX is equipped with the 127-hp 1.7-liter SOHC VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control). Both these engines have a timing belt that must be replaced at recommended intervals. If properly maintained, either engine should not give you too many problems.

Timing belt: According to the maintenance schedule for the 2005 Honda Civic, a timing belt must be replaced at 110,000 miles or 176,000 km. However, if the car is driven in very hot or very cold conditions, it must be replaced every 60,000 miles or 100,000 km. The 1.7L engine in the 2001-2005 Civic is an interference engine, meaning if the timing belt breaks, the engine might be severely damaged. To replace a timing belt, you are looking at around $300-400.

Civic Si: The sporty Si (SiR in Canada) hatchback was added for 2002, but they are rare on the used car market.

2005 Honda Civic
2005 Honda Civic.

The 2002-2005 Civic Si comes with a high-revving 160-hp 2.0L DOHC i-VTEC engine, manual transmission (no automatic) and firmer suspension.

Safety: NHTSA awarded the 2001-2005 Honda Civic with a five-star rating for frontal crash tests. In frontal offset crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2001-2005 Honda Civic received a "Good" overall rating.

Handling and ride: The Honda Civic handles well, although the ride is firm and the engine is a bit noisy on acceleration. The road noise is also noticeable at highway speeds. Overall, it's a fun-to-drive little car.

Honda Civic EPA Fuel Economy: mpg
city/hwy
L/100 km
city/hwy
2001 DX, LX, EX auto 26/34 9.0/6.9
2002 LX, DX auto 26/34 9.0/6.9
2003 EX auto 26/34 9.0/6.9
2002, 2004, 2005 EX auto 26/35 9.0/6.7
2003-2005 DX, LX auto 25/34 9.4/6.9
2001-2002 DX, LX manual 28/33 8.4/7.1
2001-2002 EX manual 27/33 8.7/7.1
2003 DX, LX, EX manual 27/35 8.7/6.7
2004-2005 DX, LX, EX manual 27/34 8.7/6.9

Fuel economy: The EPA rates the 2004 automatic Honda Civic EX (1.7L VTEC) at 26/35 mpg or 9.0/6.7 L/100 km on regular gasoline. This means you can get up to 360 miles to a tank (13.2 gallons or 50 liters). Very few cars for this price can beat that.

Pros: Fuel economy, holds value well, interior comfort, low maintenance costs, trunk space.

Cons: Road and engine noise, firm ride, paint scratches easily.

Overall: Used 2001-2005 Honda Civic could serve well as a cheap commuter car. If you can find one that is in good mechanical shape, it can last for a few years. The Civic is good on gas, costs little to maintain and is easy to work on. Among similar cars, the Toyota Corolla is another popular choice for a cheap commuter.

Similar cars:

Guides for used car buyers:

What to look for when buying a used Honda Civic: When inspecting a car, watch out for leaking front struts.

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During the test drive, watch for signs of problems with the automatic transmission; slipping, harsh sifting and other transmission issues should tell you to avoid the car. In the Honda Civic with a manual transmission, watch out for noises from the transmission or the clutch. Check if the timing belt has been replaced; if not, you will have to have it done. Watch out for "racing" mods like a cold intake or lowered suspension; you don't want a car that could have been abused by previous owners. A blown head gasket is also fairly common, watch out for signs of overheating, lack of heat from the vents and low coolant level. Blue smoke at a start-up indicates engine problems; avoid the car. Read more: How to inspect a used car - illustrated guide.

Maintenance: Frequent oil changes are very important to keep your engine in good shape. Change transmission fluid at recommended intervals; use only original Honda transmission fluid. Overheating the engine may cause serious problems. It might be a good idea to replace a water pump when changing the timing belt. To learn more about your Honda maintenance, visit Honda Owners website.

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Honda Civic sedan specifications. (2003 US model)

Dimensions:
Overall length:
Overall width:
Overall height:
Wheelbase:
Track front/rear:

174.6 in (4,435 mm)
67.5 in (1,715 mm)
56.7 in (1,440 mm)
103.1 in (2,619 mm)
57.9 / 57.9 in (1,471 / 1471 mm)

Trunk cargo volume:

12.9 cu. ft (365 liters)

Base Curb Weight:
DX (manual / automatic)
LX (manual / automatic)
EX (manual / automatic)

2,449 / 2,500 lbs (1,111 / 1,134 kg)
2,513 / 2,557 lbs (1,140 / 1,160 kg)
2,601 / 2,652 lbs (1,180 / 1,203 kg)

Engines:
DX, LX


EX

1.7L SOHC 16-Valve Aluminum-Alloy In-Line 4
115 hp @ 6,100 rpm, 110 lb-ft. @ 4500 rpm

1.7L SOHC 16-Valve VTEC Aluminum-Alloy In-Line 4
127 hp @ 6,300 rpm, 114 lb-ft. @ 4800 rpm


Fuel Tank Capacity:

13.2 US gal. (50 liters)

Engine oil capacity:
Oil change, including filter:
DX, LX, Canadian SPORT
EX


3.4 US qt. (3.2L)
3.7 US qt. (3.5L)

By Samarins.com Staff