3 Reasons to Choose (And 2 to Skip) the 2003 Honda Civic

When shopping for cheap used cars, you’ll likely encounter a few Honda Civic models during your search. A used Civic is typically an excellent choice because of the car’s reputation for reliability, fuel economy, and sporty handling. However, finding one without mechanical problems is the key to a good purchase. So, what about the 2003 Honda Civic? Is it a good used car? 

Overview of the 2003 Honda Civic

2003 Honda Civic, used Honda Civic
The 2003 Honda Civic is part of the seventh generation, which also include this 2001 Civic Sedan | American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

The 2003 Honda Civic is part of the seventh generation of the iconic compact car, including the 2001 to 2005 model years. Honda offered the 2003 Civic in six trims: DX, LX, HX, EX, Si, and Hybrid.

A 1.7-liter four-cylinder engine sat in the DX and LX trims with 115 hp, the HX with 117 hp, and the EX with 127 hp. The sporty Civic Si packed a 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 160 hp, and the Civic Hybrid had an 85-hp 1.3-liter four-cylinder. 

Most offered a choice between a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission. The Hybrid was the exception, including a continuously variable transmission (CVT), Autoblog reports. 

3 reasons to choose the 2003 Honda Civic

2003 Honda Civic, used Honda Civic
The 2001 Honda Civic Coupe (pictured) was part of the same generation as the 2003 model | American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Decent reliability

Honda cars generally exhibit strong reliability, but automatic transmission problems have prompted complaints from 2003 Civic owners. CarComplaints.com has received 31 consumer complaints for transmission failure in the 2003 Honda Civic and 71 automatic transmission complaints posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA). However, the 2003 Civic has received few complaints overall. 

Good fuel economy

Fuel economy estimates vary based on the model and drivetrain. According to Edmunds, 2003 Honda Civic models with the 1.7-liter engine and four-speed automatic transmission got an estimated 29 mpg city/highway combined. Models with the five-speed manual transmission got 30 mpg combined. On the other hand, the Civic Si’s 2.0-liter five-speed manual drivetrain fuel economy drops to 25 mpg. And the Hybrid tops the other models with 41 mpg combined. 

Excellent handling 

Car and Driver reviewers say the 2003 model “exhibits excellent straight-line stability.” Though driving in a straight line isn’t as thrilling as racing full-throttle on a twisty canyon road, it’s an essential component of a daily driver. At the same time, the Civic Hybrid exhibits decent grip in corners, posting a respectable 0.81g before slipping the front tires. 

2 reasons to skip the 2003 model

Besides the potential transmission problems, there are two other reasons to avoid the 2003 Civic. The first is the car’s historically noisy ride due in part to road-induced vibrations at high speeds. However, according to Car and Driver, the 2003 Civic’s “more refined chassis” and better tires “vastly” reduce cabin noise levels.

Though not a reason to skip the 2003 Honda Civic altogether, the early Hybrid model doesn’t save much money on gas as newer hybrid models. Considering the time it takes to see a return on your investment in the hybrid, the extra cost and lower horsepower become unappealing. Compared to the sporty Civic Si, which gets 25 mpg combined, the underpowered hybrid is skippable. 

Is a used 2003 Honda Civic a good car?

A pre-owned 2003 Civic offers decent value. Consumer Reports lists the average price of a used 2003 Civic between $3,100 and $5,025. For comparison, 20 years ago, a new 2003 Civic cost $13,000 to $21,500, depending on the trim level and options. 

Although a 20-year-old Civic is economical, finding the right one depends on thorough research and due diligence to discover a gently used, low-mileage model.