Having owned both the previous gen model (2005) and now the current Civic, I thought I would comare the two for anyone thinking of the new model. I shall try not to be too biased toward the current model, so as to give a fair comparison.
The models I'm comparing are the 2005 Civic 1.4 SE, and the 2008 Civic 1.4 SE with i-Shift. (Both 5 door versions)
Firstly on the outside of the new model, you will see immediately that the styling is much improved and quite futuristic compared with the previous gen model. Also the spec has changed, alloy wheels are now dropped from the new car having previously being standard on the old model. The standard wheels are now 16", rather than 15" before. Indicators are now housed in the wing mirrors, which are also larger and easier to see out of. Chrome style door handles look much nicer and the rear handles are hidden, giving a coupe/3 door like stance. The remote locking is the same although there is no separate controls on the keyfob, they are now on the key in the more usual manner.
Also dropped from the specification of the old model is the rear wiper. Apparantly this is no longer needed due to the shape of the rear glass, the rain is just supposed to wash off. Some like this some don't, although I would say its not caused me any problems so far. The other change is the loss of the rear spoiler at the top of the rear window, there is a kind of built in spoiler lower down. This divides the rear screen in two, and some people are not keen on this new arrangement. I actually find its helps with parking, and blocks out the headlight glare from cars behind at night.
On the practicality side you now get a larger boot with a large false floor, magic rear seats, a larger and air-conditioned glovebox and better storage within the dashboard itself. For those not aware, the magic rear seats enable you to lift the seatbase and lock it up against the rear seat backs. This enables you to make use of a much larger space, and you will be amazed at what you can now fit in the Civic.
Inside the car, its all change! There is much more silver trim on display than the old car, and it is of lesser quality than before. It does look a little overdone, but it does not ruin the interior. The steering is a vast improvement over the previous gen, its much lighter and the steering now moves for both reach and rake, unlike the one before. The remote controls for the stereo and trip computer are an improvement too, indeed the old model was quite poor in this regard with no remote stereo controls and having to reach over the top of the steering wheel to access the one function computer. The one thing that is a backward step however, is the loss of leather trim on the steering wheel.
The trip computer now shows a much wider range of data and in a more graphic style than before. This is house in the middle of the rev counter, and is commented on by all who see it. Not suprising really, it looks fabulous! The digital speedo is above this and there are also rev lights and economy lights to assist with more economical driving.
Another improvement is the stereo which now is better integrated into the dashboard, without the unsightly gap underneath, that let down the dashboard previously. MP3 and WMA discs are also now supported, and there is a display to give you track information, such as the name etc. The remote controls on the steering wheel also make for easier and safer control of the stereo.
The air-con of the old model is now upgraded to single zone climate control, although I have to say, I don't engage the auto fuction and just run it as if it were air-con. The controls for this are now more modern, I must admit I quite liked the more simple 'three dial' set-up in the old car, but the system is an improvement overall.
The driver now gets an armrest with storage underneath and there is a rear seat armrest too. Mirror and door locking controls are now on the driver's door, this is much improved and make door locking much easier, no more reaching backwards over your shoulder to lock the door when driving.
In terms of driving the car it handles nicely and is fun to drive, although the hardness of the suspension is NOT an improvement. Its actually far less forgiving over bumps than the previous gen model, and one area where Honda have made an error, and really should be addressed. However, the car, once you are used to it, is not uncomfortable to drive, but make sure you take a good test drive to see if its something you can live with.
The i-Shift gearbox is a new addition and is a great way to drive the car. You can control it via the steering wheel paddles, shift lever or leave it in automatic. There is of course, no clutch pedal. The new gearbox is very economical, infact I am using much LESS fuel in the new Civic than previously. It is a very easy system to use and I for one would recommend it without hestitation. The manual version of the new car has a six-speed gearbox (as does the i-Shift), and will obviously feel a little different as first with the extra gear. A good long test drive of both gearboxes is worthwhile for comparison, and once used to the i-Shift, I'm sure you would see the advantage of the system. Having said that, the first test drive I did with the i-Shift I didn't like it at all! I gave it another go two days later, and now more used to it, knew I had to have it. Its just a little odd when you first try it.
On the safety front there are now curtain airbags added and also Vehicle Stability Assist, rear disc brakes, active front headrestraints and a much better seatbelt waring system for the back passengers.
So all in all the new car is a massive improvement over the previous gen model. I have tried to be as objective and impartial as possible, but the new Civic really is that much better. The styling, specification, and the new gearbox make for a much nicer car than before.