The Honda Civic Hybrid was one of first few hybrids in the US when it was released as a 2003 model.
It continued to be part of the Civic’s lineup until 2015 when the ninth-generation Honda Civic was discontinued.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the common problems of the Honda Civic Hybrid across its three generations.
1. Transmission Failures
The first few model years of the Honda Civic Hybrid had lots of reports of transmission issues which sometimes led to complete failures.
On Car Complaints, a website that tracks owner feedback, the 2003 to 2005 model years of the Civic Hybrid had the highest number of transmission problems.
The most common transmission problems reported include:
- Slipping or hesitation to accelerate
- Jerking or shuddering when accelerating or slowing down
- Difficulty selecting gears
- Loud noises when shifting gears
Even after replacing the transmission, many owners have reported that the same issues would eventually return after a few years.
Here’s how a few Civic Hybrid owners described their transmission problems:
“On two occasions shortly after I bought our 2003 HCH used it acted like a manual with a badly slipping clutch. Later that CVT developed increasing problems with judder.”
“I have 147k on the original CVT and for the past 6 months or so, the transmission will literally slam into gear when starting out and makes a loud ‘thump’ when I let off the gas.”
“The 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid shudders when braking or accelerating at any speed. The shaking and shuddering is especially terrible below 20 MPH.“
Many who experienced the shuddering issue with the Civic Hybrid’s CVT report that a fluid change made the transmission run much smoother.
If the problem persists, performing a drain and fill three times to completely flush out the old fluid is worth a try.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many mechanics who are willing to rebuild the Civic Hybrid’s CVT. The only option to fix major failures, for most people, is to replace it, which can cost $4,000 to $5,000.
2. Excessive Tire Wear
Early model years of the eighth generation Civic had issues with premature rear tire wear which the Civic Hybrid also suffered from.
This issue typically affects the 2006 to 2008 model years of the Civic Hybrid because these cars had too much camber in the rear which caused the tires to wear out quickly and unevenly.
Newer model years of the eighth gen Civic Hybrid can also suffer from the same tire wear issues, but it’s not as common.
Complaints related to this issue include:
- Tires lasting only 20,000 miles
- Cupping or uneven tire wear
- Excessive road noise
- Noticeable vibrations and shaking
Here is how some owners described their dilemma:
“Ever since I had this 2006 Civic Hybrid, the rear tires have worn out way too frequently. They wear on the inside edge and cause a noise like a wheel bearing problem. I have had two blowouts from this problem. I believe the gas mileage of the car has been affected by this also.”
“My HCH ’07 has 76k and I’m due for my 3rd set of tires already. I’ve always had issues with vibration and rapid/abnormal tire wear.”
“Could not believe that I had to replace all 4 tires when I haven’t even reached 20,000 miles on the tires.”
Honda redesigned the Civic Hybrid’s rear upper control arms for the 2009 model to fix the tire wear problem. A TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) was also released at the time which recommended replacing the upper control arms of the early model years.
After replacing the control arms, many owners reported that the tire wear issue was reduced but they still noticed uneven tire wear. More frequent alignment jobs can help further minimize the tire wear.
Using aftermarket adjustable control arms has proven to be the only sure fire way to fix the uneven tire wear in the eighth gen Civic.
3. Hybrid Battery Failures
The seventh and eighth generation Civic Hybrids used older style Nickel metal hydride batteries that were more prone to issues and failures.
Although it’s normal for all types of batteries to degrade and eventually fail after 10 years, the eighth gen Civic Hybrid from 2006 to 2008 often suffered from battery issues after only 3 to 5 years — and sometimes even sooner. It’s also not unusual for these older Civic Hybrids to need a new hybrid battery at around 100,000 miles.
Owners of older Civic Hybrids often complained of the following issues;
- IMA and check engine light comes on
- Hybrid battery quickly loses charge
- Reduced power/acceleration
- Poor gas mileage
In most cases, the car can still be driven even if the hybrid battery goes out, but you’ll have to deal with the poor fuel economy, lack of power, and error messages on the dash. The 12-volt battery will also discharge quickly since it relies on the hybrid system to charge back up.
The ninth generation Civic Hybrid, which was sold from 2012 to 2015, used a more modern Lithium-ion hybrid battery and was significantly more reliable.
Here’s how a few owners described their situation:
“I have a 2007 civic hybrid. Hybrid battery started playing up when I bought it. Not kicking in, dropping charge all of a sudden and running a little rough at low speeds. then the IMA warning light appeared on the dash.”
“Dealer is telling us that the hybrid battery in our 2008 Civic Hybrid with 110,00 miles needs to be replaced.”
“I have a 2006 Honda Hybrid, +100K My IMA (integrated motor assist) light came on with no motor assist functionality.”
Honda updated the ECU software of the early eighth gen Civic Hybrids to try and fix the hybrid battery issues. However, these software updates often resulted in lower fuel economy and didn’t completely solve all of the problems.
Replacing the hybrid battery with an aftermarket unit will usually cost $1,500 to $2,000.
However, in many cases, the car will still have some underlying electrical issues that are difficult to diagnose even after replacing the hybrid battery.
4. Catalytic Converter Problems
The 2003 to 2005 model years of the Honda Civic Hybrid had a tendency to throw codes indicating that the catalytic converter had gone bad and needed to be replaced.
Although the car would still run, the resulting check engine light would cause people to fail their vehicle inspection. When this happens, dealerships would often replace the catalytic converter for around $1,000.
These errors would also often appear in cars that were less than 10 years old, which is an unusually short period of time for a catalytic converter to go bad.
Here’s how a few Civic Hybrid owners described their experience:
“I replaced my cat for the second time at 179K, on my dime (first time was under warranty).”
“I have 130,000 on my 2003 HCH. I started having symptoms 5 years ago. Symptoms being IMA light or Check Engine light coming on and off or staying on.”
“I have a 2006 Civic Hybrid with 155,000 miles and had the check engine light on for about 6 months now. I had a parts dealer check the code and it came up with “catalyst below threshold.”
In 2011, Honda released a software update for the 2003 to 2005 Civic Hybrid because they found that the ECU would misinterpret the signals coming from secondary and tertiary oxygen sensors. When these got too hot, the ECU saw this as an indication that the catalytic converter needed replacing.
Honda extended the warranty of the secondary and tertiary oxygen sensors to 80,000 miles. But at the time that this was announced, most owners were already way past that mileage and many had already paid to get their catalytic converters replaced. However, some owners were able to get reimbursements from Honda.
If you are seeing codes for a bad catalytic converter, make sure the car has the updated ECU software and it’s not caused by faulty oxygen sensors before replacing the catalytic converter itself.
5. Paint and Clear Coat Issues
The eighth generation Civic Hybrid, which was sold from 2006 to 2011, had more paint fade issues than other generations, especially in darker colored vehicles.
Hondas in general have always had thin paint, but in the last decade or so, they’ve also started using environmentally-friendly water-based paint which are less durable than older paint formulas.
Some of the common paint issues you’ll find in many Civic Hybrids include:
- Faded clear coat
- Paint chips
- Cracks and scratches
- Paint flaking off
Some of these paint issues can become noticeable after only one or two years. Aside from looking more worn out and beat up, the paint issues can eventually lead to rust problems as the metal beneath the paint gets exposed to the elements.
Here is how a few Civic Hybrid owners described their situation:
“The paint is cracking on the hood, both quarter panels, front pillars, trunk and roof.”
“Paint clear coat is coming off on doors. Was coming off on trunk and top but was taken care of by recall. The rest developed later after the recall.”
“Paint peeling all over roof, hood, fenders and trunk leaving a white frost. Started about 3 years ago on the hood and has slowly spread across the car.”
Due to the number of complaints, Honda extended the paint warranty of the 8th and early 9th generation Civics to 7 years from the original date of purchase to address the faded clear coat issues.
However, dealers usually only respray the badly faded areas and not the entire vehicle, so paint issues were still a major issue as the years passed.
If the paint is too far gone, you can either get the entire vehicle resprayed or just use vinyl wrap to cover up the damaged paint.
6. Hybrid Inverter Issues
Several ninth generation Civic Hybrid owners have started reporting hybrid system failures in the last few years.
Symptoms that owners have noticed include:
- Hybrid system stops working
- IMA, battery, and check engine light comes on
- 12-volt battery keeps discharging
- Engine won’t rev past 2,000 RPM
- P1437 and P1440 trouble code
These specific problems only affect the 2012 to 2015 Civic Hybrid.
The most common cause is a faulty MPI (Motor Power Inverter) module, which is responsible for converting the DC power that the hybrid battery produces into AC to power the electric motors.
Here’s how two owners described their experience:
“My hybrid has about 137,000 and has not had any issues until today. As I approached a red light, the IMA system stopped working. No brake assist, no auto off, no hybrid assist. I limped back home as CVT was not downshifting. Also couldn’t rev above 2000 rpm in neutral.”
“My 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid also seems to have this issue. Pulling up to a red light I felt a jerk and then my red battery light, IMA light, and engine light went on. Drove home fine but without the IMA motor and Hybrid battery working.”
Honda released a TSB in 2020 stating that it would extend the warranty of the 2012 to 2015 Civic Hybrid’s inverter unit to 15 years or 150,000 miles because broken solder joints would cause it to fail.
People who had to diagnose the problem themselves before the warranty extension was announced say that the issue was actually caused by a defective transistor inside the inverter module. Once this transistor was replaced, the inverter started working again and all the errors disappeared.
Replacing the inverter module out of warranty can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000.
Honda Civic Hybrid Pros and Cons
- Great gas mileage
- Cheap to buy
- Decently roomy interior
- Agile handling
- Transmission problems
- Can be difficult to repair
- Smaller trunk compared to non-hybrid
Honda Civic Hybrid Reliability Compared to Similar Cars
|Make & Model||Consumer Reports|
|Toyota Prius V||94|
|Toyota Prius C||93|
Source: Consumer Reports
Honda Civic Hybrid Used Value
We’ve taken a look on Car Gurus to gauge the resale value of a Honda Civic Hybrid, below are typical asking prices for each model year.
Note: Used model prices will vary depending on trim level.
|Model Year||Mileage (miles)||Resale Price|
Source: Car Gurus
What Do Owners Like and Dislike About the Honda Civic Hybrid?
Based on owner feedback from the Kelley Blue Book site here are what real-life owners love and hate about the Honda Civic Hybrid.
- Nice and smooth drive
- Engine power
- Fuel economy
- Expensive parts
- Uncomfortable seats
“Pros – Reliable and efficient – Real good engine, never had major issues or check engine – Drives noice Cons – Parts can be expensive and you cant use cheap aftermarket on this car. – makes a lot of noise Overall, it is a great car when it comes to reliability. I drove this car a lot and added a lot of miles onto it. Still no major issues as long as you keep up with the maintenance. If you don’t want to spend to much money in parts go for a regular Civic car and not the Si.”
Source: Kelley Blue Book
“… Honda Civic does a great job across the board. Acceleration is not bad. The car is smooth and quiet. Steering is soft and precise. Lots of features are standard. I love the two tier dash and Navi Assist. Interior is spacious and looks good. Excellent visibility all around…”
“I’m getting 34 mpg with a mixture of city and highway driving. Comfortable ride. It’s pushing 100 degrees daily in Memphis right now, and the A/C is strong on this little car. I use it to commute about 50 miles per day. The tech is great. Great car for the money.”
How Reliable Are Honda Cars?
According to a recent report from Consumer Reports, Honda are ranked the 6th most reliable car manufacturer out of 28 brands, with a score of 66/100.
Source: Consumer Reports