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Honda Civic vs. Saturn

DocArtemisDocArtemis Member Posts: 1
edited April 2014 in Honda
I'm going to be test riding hatchbacks this week.
All of the "search" profile tests that I take keep
returning the Honda Civic and the Saturn models.
My key preferences in cars is reliability,
drivability, utility. I'm the kind of person who
buys a car and then keeps it until it dies. (I've
owned two cars since 1973, both hatchbacks!) I
haven't looked at cars since 1986!

The Hondas are highly rated and I'm not at all
familiar with the Saturns. Are the Saturns
reliable cars or are they American cult cars?

I'm curious to learn more about these two models
and would appreciate your sharing any of your
research/experience. Other suggestions are surely

Thanks in advance



  • pam2pam2 Member Posts: 185

    If you keep a car until it dies, you'll only own a Saturn for a couple of years!! I've heard nothing but bad things about those cars - from the no-haggle price being a way to force buyers into paying MSRP no matter what, to the poor performance and reliability. I have a friend who traded in her Saturn after less than 40,000 miles because it was beginning to rattle and shake.

    I've owned Hondas for many years and have always been extremely pleased with their performance and reliability. Right now I own a 1996 Honda Civic DX Hatchback that I bought used a couple of months ago. Only 24,000 miles on it when I bought it and in perfect condition. I would expect this car to last as long as I care to own it.

    The drawbacks to the Civic hatchback are that they don't have any extras (no power windows or doors, etc.) and the engine is only 106 hp. This is OK in a 5-speed manual transmission like I have - I don't have any trouble at all with it. But it might be sluggish in an automatic. The new hatchbacks have power steering on all DX models, whereas the 1996 that I own doesn't have power steering on the 5-speed (only the automatic).

    I hope this is helpful to you. Good luck!
  • RankledRankled Member Posts: 15
    Although the Honda Civic DX doesn't have power door locks or windows, that is a plus. A newspaper article I read just recently stated how easy it is for computer hackers to pick powerlocks, and car alarms to break into a car.
    I think that a high resale value is also an advantage to having a Honda.A lot of domestic automobiles don't hold their value.
  • mznmzn Member Posts: 727
    I hadn't heard of the manual/electric door opening differences as an incentive for easier break-ins. I do know that my husband's Honda CRX is broken into regularly and then never leave a mark so his manual locks must be especially easy to pick.

    I have a personal phobia about being in a car accident and not being able to get out through a window because the power system is dead. But that's just me. :-)

  • RankledRankled Member Posts: 15
    The article I am refering to in my last post is entitled "Hackers can break into cars with computers" by Duncan Graham-Rowe of the New Scientist in New York. Although it refers to Britain and Denmark,it mentions that using the proper software and a handheld computer such as a Palm Pilot, 10 seconds is all that is needed to copy the codes from the central locking system. Insurance companies may refuse to pay theft claims as these kinds of breakins are almost undetectable. I think this is pretty scary.
  • rdeschenerdeschene Member Posts: 331
    With regards to horsepower and the Civic, please note that the EX comes with a 127bhp engine so this should help matters somewhat. The May 1998 Popular Mechanics recorded a 0-60mph 10.2 seconds with the auto. which is quite slow but not really atrocious.
  • RankledRankled Member Posts: 15
    I think that vehicle crash ratings are important in deciding which car to buy. You might want to look at Allstate or State Farm insurance before you buy as they show which vehicles have insurance surcharges based on their claims experience. This information is available on the Internet. The Honda Civic LX sedan has some fairly decent ratings.
    ABS availability is also a factor depending on what you are driving on.I've read that ABS doesn't work well on ice or gravel.
  • pam2pam2 Member Posts: 185

    True that the Civic EX has 127 hp, but I believe Doc is looking specifically at the Civic Hatchback which is not available in the EX. He would have to live with 106 hp in a hatchback.
  • RankledRankled Member Posts: 15
    If you buy a Honda Civic DX, you'd be buying a highly rated car. There are lots of Honda owners out there like Pam2 who are repeat purchasers of Honda Civics. 106 horsepower can't be that bad. Years ago I used to have a small car which was an automatic and had only 65 horsepower.Air conditioning is available as a dealer installed accessory. But I don't believe that cruise control is available as an option except in the EX. If you want cruise control, I think it could be purchased as an aftermarket installed product. A new Honda Civic would be a bit better though as used ones can't be bought cheap.Plus manufacturer's financing incentives are sometimes in effect.
  • rdeschenerdeschene Member Posts: 331
    pam2. Right you are, the EX isn't offered as a hatchback. More's the pity. (I sometimes forget which forum I'm in, sorry).

    Rankled. "I think that vehicle crash ratings are important in deciding which car to buy. You might want to look at Allstate or State Farm insurance before you buy as they show which vehicles have insurance surcharges based on their claims experience."

    Better yet, in my opinion, pick up the Consumer Reports "Preview '99" that rates cars according to:
    "Govt front-crash test"
    "Govt side-crash test"
    "IIHS offset crash test"
    "Injury claim rate compared with all cars"
    "Injury claim rate compared with 'category' cars"

    I'm not sure if surcharges would not also be a result of higher theft claims, e.g. Honda Accord and Civic are among the top5 stolen cars in Canada. (you can make a ton of money without even trying to sell it as a car, just sell the very expensive parts, grind off the VIN and dump what's left at 3a.m.)
  • pam2pam2 Member Posts: 185
    Yes, I'm definitely a repeat Honda buyer - and will probably continue to do so.

    The 106 hp really isn't that bad. My beau has the 1997 EX with 127 hp and we can't tell a whole lot of difference between them. I have to downshift into 4th gear sooner than he does to climb hills, and my 2nd gear corner turning isn't as strong. But the acceleration is fine and there are nothing but freeways here - no problem there.

    The air conditioning doesn't have a lot of impact on the power and pull of the car, but it takes about 4 mpg off the mileage. I get about 32 without the a/c and about 28 with it.

    I wouldn't mind trading it on a new 1999, though, to get the power steering in a 5 speed. Plus, I really like the purple better than my red.
  • muzhikmuzhik Member Posts: 18

    In order to pick the lock with handheld computers, the car should be equipped an infrared locking remote, which is a very rare thing on the US market. I seriously doubt that any of the cars you are shopping for (neither Civic, nor Saturn) have remote locking, let alone the old and cumbersome infrared remote locking.
    Relax, will ya?
  • RankledRankled Member Posts: 15
    Although crash ratings are helpful, they aren't indicative of reliabilty. The last car I bought was rated as average in terms of crash ratings. But the big problem is how often it is in for breakdowns. That can be very annoying and time consuming.
  • pam2pam2 Member Posts: 185
    Rankled makes a very good point. Many things must be considered in the decision to purchase a car - and crash test results are only one factor.

    One thing that I haven't been able to resolve satisfactorily is the supposed new and better reliability of American made cars. Many folks are saying that they are much improved over the 1980's. But my concern is that there hasn't been enough time to really test the reliability of these new American cars. I would be very hesitant to purchase one until I'm comfortable with the reliability.

    Any thoughts from anyone else?
  • RankledRankled Member Posts: 15
    Pam2, I see that great minds think alike. I agree that time itself will determine how much improved North American cars are.
    As for the Saturn hatchback, it may be hard to say how good it is since it is a brand new model. I think that most new products typically require at least 2 to 3 years to get the bugs worked out through improvements. In contrast, the Honda Civic DX hatchback is a proven product.
  • rdeschenerdeschene Member Posts: 331
    Rankled. Of course there is no correlation between crash-test or insurance claim ratings and reliability. Why would there be? I was merely responding to your earlier comment about the Honda Civic's safety, as compared to the Saturn.

    RE: ABS on ice. Well, any ABS system will actuate on ice, the problem is you still have little traction - whether the tires are rolling or locked. Unfortunately, just about the only solution there are chains or studs. Oh well, so much for high tech solutions. :-)
  • marc9marc9 Member Posts: 2
    Buy the Honda; don't even think twice about it if you want a long term love affair. My guess is you would love the Saturn for about a week, and then something like the steering wheel or a body panel would fall off. I've had a few Hondas and Acuras in the past (I currently am on an Audi kick), and without a doubt, the Hondas give you a bulletproof, fun to drive friend for life. The best ever? 1990 Civic SI HB. Black of course.
  • RankledRankled Member Posts: 15
    I agree with you that the Honda should be chosen over the Saturn and that black is the best color.
  • pam2pam2 Member Posts: 185
    I agree, too, but don't like black. Get the purple in the hatchback.
  • marc9marc9 Member Posts: 2
    Purple? Seriously? Hey, do you live in Berkeley? :)
  • pam2pam2 Member Posts: 185
    Excuse me, Marc, but the purple is a very nice color. It's a very deep, dark purple - almost black, but with a nice purple tone to it. Light gray interior. Very cute!

    What did you think it was??? Fuschia? :)
  • mznmzn Member Posts: 727
    A seriously purple car has appeared on our block, owned by someone staying with a neighbor. When I saw it I thought, I hope they saved a lot of money for taking that color! :-) I suppose I'm too staid.

  • kyankyan Member Posts: 4
    Although I will admid Honda's are exceptional cars, the Saturn just has a lot more personality. The Saturn also is rated to have a better resale value. Our Dealership was great, and the Saturn we got is plesant to drive. It is a 99 so it is supposed to have alot less noise than the previous ones, but it is still a little noisy at full throtle. We have the SL1 w/ automatic & just got 40 miles/gallon mixture of city & highway.
  • muzhikmuzhik Member Posts: 18
    I am pretty sure it would not be pleasant for you, kyan, but Civic's resale value is higher than Saturn's, especially on the long run...
  • pam2pam2 Member Posts: 185
    Where did you get your information that the Saturn has a higher resale value than Civic??? From the Saturn dealer maybe?

    I'm going to have to strongly contest that statement.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    We find used Saturns almost impossible to resell. We usually wind up wholesaling them.

    Sorry, but Civic resale is much better!
  • rdeschenerdeschene Member Posts: 331
    KYAN. When considering resale value, keep in mind that is only relevant if you are planing on reselling the vehicle. The best value, however, are those few years when you own a vehicle outright and drive the sucker into the ground. Not very stylish, perhaps, but a car is an expense and a 401K/IRA/RRSP is an asset.

    I realize some Saturn owners have had very bad experiences; but that's true of all car makes and models. I know a few Honda Civic owners, and of those three(3) have had utterly destructive engine problems. On well-maintained vehicles that weren't driven any harder than I've driven my vehicles. So long as there aren't endemic problems, or you aren't dealing with a truly brand new model, it often seems to be Luck Of The Draw.

    My 2cents, and worth every penny you paid. :-)
  • corvettecorvette Member Posts: 10,262
    It is possible to grab the frequency of RF transmitters using a code grabber. Nearly all new garage door openers and keyless/alarm transmitters have a "code hopping" feature so that the code is only good once, therefore if someone grabs the code it won't do them any good.

    Most of the time if someone wants to steal your radio, cd's, phone, etc., you will come back to your car and find a window missing (along with your possessions).
  • rdeschenerdeschene Member Posts: 331
    CORVETTE. Right you are! The simple things about keeping your valuables hidden, lock your doors, are still valid. Bored teenagers (often, but not always) don't want to be caught, so they'll go for the easy targets.
  • elkabongelkabong Member Posts: 2
    Well, I own a Saturn, and have had no problems with it, and despite the horror stories that seem to abound Edmund's, most magazines rate Saturns as very reliable, and I'd have to agree. As for Saturn's resale values, just look one up. But there's one major reason that DocArtemis should buy the Civic hatchback. Saturn's don't come with hatchbacks. None of them. The closest you'd get is the wagon. Same with the 1st generation. Just thought you might want to know.
  • rdeschenerdeschene Member Posts: 331
    elkabong. Isn't the Saturn coupe a hatchback? Really, sometimes this distinction between hatchback and wagon is arbitrary: how much longer would a Civic HB or Golf have to be before it's considered a wagon? Arbitrary. Especially if you use your own brain and look at things beyond the name given to it by the company/marketing people.
  • elkabongelkabong Member Posts: 2
    No, the Saturn coupe isn't a hatchback. I have one. It kinda looks likes one, but the back glass does not lift. When I look at a wagon vs. a hatchback, a hatchback always has more of a sloping back then a wagon, but in some cases it doesn't, like the cicic. They have the same function. Wagons look like wagons, and hatchbacks look like hatchbacks. But, no Saturns are not hatchbacks. (I wished they were when I bought my 19" monitor)
  • mikyonmikyon Member Posts: 4
    I have a '96 Saturn SL2 with 5-speed and many power options. I like the car. It does hava afew rattles - on cold mornings - typical. The sunroof rattles when open. Other than that...no problems in the 33,800 miles I have driven it. Right you are, no such thing as a Sarturn hatchback. My father has a '94 SL2 with 130,000 miles. Other than scheduled maitenance, no problems. I know, exceptions to every rule. As for the Honda Civic DX hatch, I think it'll be a contender when I start looking in a year. I want to own a car that is supposidly bulletproof just once.
  • kyankyan Member Posts: 4
    I have a Consumer Reports CD-rom and the Saturn had a full red circle for depreciation (the full red circle is the highest possible) and the Civic's depreciation is average, a white circle. I just looked it up again to make sure.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    That's a new one on me. Most publications ( and the real world) will rate a Civic the very best in holding value. saturns are about halfway down the list.
  • hart1944hart1944 Member Posts: 1
    I am concerned about the lack of power steering on the Honda Hatchback, CX, 5 speed. Is it acceptable without or should I pay to get the DX model which has power steering standard?
  • quickshiftquickshift Member Posts: 16
    I think in a small car like a civic, it really unnecessary. Power steering have more problems.
  • john2001john2001 Member Posts: 5
    I personally own a 1993 Honda Civic CX HB.

    I do not have power steering on it and I don't need it either. Mine handles fine without it and turning is not a problem.

    I have had very good luck with my Honda. 100,000 miles on it and still running like new.

    If you are not sure, test drive one with power steering and one without and see which one suits your taste.
  • bounceybouncey Member Posts: 1
    HEADROOM!!! I'm a little over 6' tall. Which is, of course, about average compared to most of my male friends.

    The Civic tried to give me a concussion while exiting the driver's seat after a test drive. (I try to avoid buying anything that whacks me in the noggin under normal operating conditions.) The driver's seat felt cramped, and the interior materials looked pretty cheap. A short female friend who tagged along for the ride thought the Civic felt just about right.

    The only way to get a decent engine in a Civic sedan is with the EX trim level, which comes with a mandatory sunroof. Even less headroom!

    The Saturn SL2, on the other hand, had plenty of room inside. More peppy and fun to drive than the Civic, slightly better materials inside. It's also much less expensive than an Accord, and everyone (but EVERYONE) I've talked to who actually owned a Saturn thinks it's an awesome car. The only complaints have involved road noise in previous model years.

    I'm waiting for the Saturn dealer to call me back on that SW2 I want to buy...
  • only1harryonly1harry Member Posts: 1,140
    I 'm 6'2 and own a '97 Civic DX htbk and '99 Integra GSR. I 've never hit my head while exiting out of the Civic but I believe I have to kinda put my head down a bit. Also with the driver's seat at a right angle my head doesn't even touch the ceiling. Now my GSR with the sunroof is a different story. I have to recline the seat way back and watch my head when I get out of the car. Never had a problem with the Civic though.
    '99 Integra GSR
    '06 Civic LX coupe
    '11 BMW 335i coupe xDrive
    '13 Honda Accord sedan (wife's car)
  • only1harryonly1harry Member Posts: 1,140
    My '97 DX 5sp. did not come with power steering.
    I would really love to have power steering in my car, especially when pulling into a parking spot. Also I think the rear windshield wiper is invaluable in a snow storm. I can't do without it now. There is a $1,400 difference between the CX & DX which I think is significant and not justified. I can see maybe $1K at the most!
    Powersteering, rear wiper, AM/FM (no cassette), cargo cover and a couple of light indicators do not add up to $1400!! When I bought my '97 DX it also came with better cloth seats while the CX had a mix of vinyl/cloth. At the time the difference was about $1200 so I figured it wasn't that bad.
    What I really don't get is why they don't put a low fuel light indicator in the CX. How difficult can that be? or how much can it cost? $10 maybe?
    Oh, another reason I bought the DX was because of the remote trunk release which the CX still doesn't have. I really wanted the CX for its price but was forced to buy the DX because of all the little things the CX lacked that pissed me off. I don't think Honda could have gone any cheaper on the CX. At least they don't have 13" wheels like the '96 models did! '97 was the first year for 14" wheels in the CX, DX and LX.
    Believe it or not I waited 4 months to get my Civic because I had read that the 97s were coming out with 14" rims!! How weird is that? If I hadn't read that article I 'd be driving a '96 model with bicycle wheels.. :-)
    I would definitely go for the DX if I had to do it all over again - mainly for the power steering and all those other little options that would annoy me if I didn't have them. The stock AM/FM is ok but you got plenty of room to put in a CD player and it's all prewired for you. I also think the Civic has great cupholders! You can even put a Snapple or 24oz bottles in them with no problem and they 're not in the way of anything! Great design.
    '99 Integra GSR
    '06 Civic LX coupe
    '11 BMW 335i coupe xDrive
    '13 Honda Accord sedan (wife's car)
  • dhanleydhanley Member Posts: 1,531
    I assume you are talking about the saturn wagon.

    Between these cars I would get the saturn. Don't listen to these people picking on american reliability. They are the same people who wouldn't have looked at a foreign car twenty years ago then they really were better. Live in the present.

    The saturn will probably be a bit cheaper, and has more interior for both cargo and passenger. Plus, maintenence and repairs are a *lot* cheaper, as is insurance. The car is as relaiable, and IMO, more fun to drive with a better interior.
  • ragtop99ragtop99 Member Posts: 33
    I've recently purchased a 97' Civic Hatchback DX. The car does not have power steering. It took a few days to get used to the lack of power steering but now it is no problem. One note of caution: I will mainly use the Civic as my winter, poor weather car. When I drive it continuously for a week or so and then jump into my Miata it takes a while to get used to the power steering. The first time I did this it really caught me off guard as I almost ran up a curb while making a right turn. It can be unnerving. It takes a while to get used to the power steering again. I didn't have this experience switching between the Miata and another car with power steering. Otherwise, the car is great. Fun to drive and love the utility of the hatchback. I'd be hesitant to buy a Saturn. Have a friend that had major engine problems within the first 12,000 miles and the dealer told him it was the gasoline that ruined the valves. He was buying name brand stuff. That's a bunch of bunk. Know another guy who wears a Saturn hat so when you ask him about them he can tell you all of the problems he had with his.
  • macarthur2macarthur2 Member Posts: 135
    I seriously doubt that your Saturn with automatic is getting 40 mpg city/highway driving - that would be miraculous. I doubt the 5 speed would do that. Low to mid thirties maybe unless you drive 40mph all the time.
  • saturnboysaturnboy Member Posts: 89
    IMO, since Saturn does not make what would be classified as a hatchback, and never has, this room is pointless. This room should be deleted since it's basis for being here is unknown.
  • superbensuperben Member Posts: 3
    good point that saturn doesn't make a comparible car to a honda. none of saturn's cars compare to honda's. ha ha. honda makes the best compact and midsize cars on the market. find me one better for the price.
  • saturnboysaturnboy Member Posts: 89
    Laugh while you can , According to JD Power & Associates, Honda has been on the decline for the last 4 years in terms of quality, and problems while Toyota rose above Honda in terms of Quality. Honda is no longer the best Japanese car available to the public, they are living off of a decade old reputation for quality and mis informed consumers are buying into an old myth of reliability. see for yourself at www.jdpower.com They will continue to slip in my opinion.

    Also, according to The national highway and traffic safety administraition www.nhtsa.com
    The 2000 Saturn S series received higher safety ratings then the honda civic. The Civic received below average test scores in side impact crash tests, you have a 1 in 4 chance of serious injury in a Civic 2 door , vs a 1 in 7 chance with a Saturn. The Saturn S series 4 door sedans also received 5 stars from the Government in frontal crash tests for driver and passenger, the Highest rating possible.

    The 2000 Saturn S series was also named best overall value of the year , its 7th year in a row to receive this award by the way from Intellichoice, www.intellichoice.com for providing high resale value, low ownership costs, low insurance costs, and above average dependability.

    Also according to JD Power & Associates , Saturn consistently receives higher ratings then Honda ever dreamed of accomplishing by means of Customer Satisfaction with sales, service. They ranked 6th in the most recent study and often ahead of so called luxury cars costing thousands more.

    Future products from Saturn will be better then ever, since they just received 1.5 BILLION to improve their current manufacturing facilitys and come out with new products faster, including a SUV, A new Small car, A possible Minivan and a Hybrid Pick up truck , Saturns idea of what a Pickup Should be.

    In the end, unlike many Honda owners who often seem a tad snobby, like "my car is better then everything made in the world" I take a "Real World approach. Often supporting my reasoning with facts instead of just saying "this is better because I said so". Every informed consumer has the right to make their own choice in every purchase they make, and intelligent people realize what are opinions , and what are true facts. Enjoy your honda
  • lngtonge18lngtonge18 Member Posts: 2,228
    You did forget to mention one important fact when discussing the awesome safety of your Saturn compared to the Civic. The Civic was rated quite a bit higher in the 40 mph offset impact, an important test of a vehicle's structure. The Saturn was rated below, in descending order of safety, the Beetle, Jetta, Civic, Corolla, Elantra, and Escort. Go look at the pictures of the Saturn after the impact (www.hwysafety.org) and tell me how you think it looks compared to the Civic or any of the others that were rated higher. The supposed space frame didn't keep the passenger compartment intact and the steering wheel was shoved back quite close to the dummy's face.
    When you look at all crash tests together, you will see that the Civic 4 door and the Saturn 4 door got equal ratings in the side impact (3 stars). The Saturn received one extra star in the full frontal collision, but it was deemed less safe in the offset impact. So, all in all you could say the Civic and Saturn are on equal grounds safety wise. I wouldn't put too much stock in the head-on government tests though. Those are rare compared to offset impacts.
    Oh, by the way, the Jetta has now surpassed Saturn as the highest rated small car in government crash tests. 5 stars in head-on and 4 stars in side impact, not to mention the second highest rated car in the offset impact. The Jetta is the all around safest small car you can buy today. Go VW!!!
  • rex12rex12 Member Posts: 133
    I don't see Honda having touble selling it's cars. If Saturn's so great, why are they having such a hard time selling their goods?

    The high resale thing troubles me, I never see Saturns with high miles selling the way I see Hondas with high miles selling. If Saturn's got the quality why don't people want them when they're high in miles?

    Oh, and as for the quality of Honda going down over the last 4 years. Can we chaulk that up to the good ole U.A.W.? Funny how quality goes down when 70% of the car is being built in North America!
  • dhanleydhanley Member Posts: 1,531
    rex12 :

    Well, keep in mind, that saturn have been sold for only 10 years now, so it's unlikely that there are *too* many 200K mile ones.

    Unfortunately, good products aren't the ones that always sell. Beta was better than VHS, but VHS won. And people still buy coffee over cappucino even when they're the same price. ( i'm not trying to say either car is either product ).

    lngtongue: i don't know how you are saying saturn and civic are equal in safety, as there are several tests showing saturn is better and one showing civic is better. Also, look at:




    saturn comes out with lower injury,death,and theft rates.

    To be fair, each car has some really good points about it, and it depends on what will be more important to you. The civic will have better resale, particularly at high miles, I bet the civic will also still be a little more reliable. The saturn will be safer, have lower insurance(death,injury+theft rates), and cheaper regular maintenance(no timing belt, valve adjustments, etc). The civic gets 3mpg better in the city, the saturn 3mpg better on the highway. The interior space seems almost identical.

    As an earlier posted said, there's no saturn hatchbacks ( score one for the civic ) so it's a bit of a moot topic overall.

  • rfruthrfruth Member Posts: 630
    Wanted a Hatchback so that narrowed it way down (eliminated Saturn and even tho their parent company is known as the greedy mongrel ((GM)) I wouldn't hesitate to own one) anyway I wanted the rear window wiper & a little better stereo (DX) but Honda should pay me for the power steering (works fine but the vehicle doesn't need it) and that rear spoiler is useless !

    Rob Fruth - Houston, Tx

    1981 Raleigh for commuting, errands & fun
    1997 Trek 2300 for real fun !
    2000 Civic DX hatchback
This discussion has been closed.