Pimping My Wife's '03 Civic Hybrid Ride

I’m thinking of buying my wife’s reliable Hybrid because it gets much better mileage than my car (Saturn VUE).

I would like to know if any accessories and customizations might be available for this great car to make it more usable and functional for me.

For example, my daily commute is a 2+ hour round trip. The seats need to be more comfortable. Are leather or heated seats available?

I’d like to add a hitch for a hitch mounted bike rack. I’ve found them for later models. Does anyone know if they are available for this model? And I’d like to add a new car stereo that is iPod-friendly.

Anyone have experience with any of these?



Check a salvage yard for available used seats, they will probably be in the know.

Uhaul will add a hitch to anything, though if you have steep drive approach etc. don’t mind the scraping due to lower ground clearance.

Check out Crutchfield for a new stereo, the nice thing is they suggest any special adapters etc. you may need.

The seats may be the biggest problem. I don’t know if the harness would be in place to use electrically heated seats. For me, the seats are the biggest drawback to a Honda Civic Hybrid. My institution has these cars in its fleet and I find the seats uncomfortable when I have taken one on out of town trips. In fact, I request another make of car if it is available. In your case in making a 2 hour round trip commute, maybe you had better let your wife keep her Honda Hybrid and you find something else.

Forget the heated seats, the wiring harness will need to be switched out.

Did you actually say you would buy the car from your wife?

Yup. Actually she thinks it is worth $8000 to sell out right. I’ve been looking at new hybrids but this car gets around 43 mpg. That’s a pretty good deal. And I’d like to give her something for the car so she can make a down-payment on her new ride. I’d much prefer a hatchback like the Prius or Insight, but this time it comes down to cost.

When I looked into the 2009 Prius, they said they might be able to swap out the seat for something more comfortable. Then the 2010 version had it as a trim option. That made me wonder if this might be a possibility for these older cars.


Those are great suggestions … thanks for the help!

We’ve actually made a few 12 hour trips in this car. So I have a good understanding of your hesitation to ride in the car for trips. I think there’s got to be a compromise. For example, heated seats are nice but not a requirement for me. But I want to try to find a suitable replacement to the seat. Maybe in a salvage yard, maybe a dealer might point me to someone.

Thanks for your input and good luck!

The car was built to save weight and be fuel efficient, not be comfortable. Since comfort is a relative thing, it’s hard to say what to look at except to ask for an extended test drive for an hour or more to get a good feel for the car. One of our posters(Mountainbike) bought a brand new car, only to trade it in a few months later because the seats killed his back. didn’t realize how uncomfortable the seats were because he didn’t take a longer test drive.
Check out the Vue, Escape, Mariner, or other small SUV hybrids. they will most likely offer the more comfortable seats if you’re into the hybrid. However, a small diesel hatchback like the Passat or Jetta will suit your highway trips better.

I’ve taken my '03 Civic Hybrid on several 2.5 hour trips and had no problems with discomfort personally. (with cruise control mpg = 49.5 on both trips)
Regarding the radio I bought the following from Amazon.com for a diy aftermarket install:
Sony Radio Model CDX-GT630UI
Metra 99-7899 Dash Kit For Honda Civic 01-05
Metra 70-1721 Radio Wiring Harness For Honda/Acura 98-Up Power 4 Speaker
Audiovox Car CNP2000UC XM Radio Direct 2 Add-on Car Stereo Receiver with Mini-Tuner
Audiovox Car CNPSON1 Sony Connection Cable for CNP2000UC
Sony XT100HD HD Radio Tuner

The above combo gives you XM Radio, HD Radio and i-Pod control along with regular radio, and CD options.

Getting the dash apart was a bit of a challenge - plan for several hours of fiddling with the interior panels if you do this yourself. After having done it myself, I recommend professional install if I had to do it all over again. My XM and HD modules sit under the passenger seat with the wires routed from the dash down under the center console and out under the passenger side of the console. I used zip ties to make sure the wires stayed put and out of the way of the emergency brake and automatic shifter mechanisms. So far so good.

It was a clean install with no visible wires. The Metra kit does a decent job. The radio doesn’t move or rattle and the nice thing about the kit is if you want to change out the radio later, you don’t have to remove the dash panels again. The Metra kit just pop’s out of the dash. If you are worried about a stolen radio however, maybe consider something else because this would make it easier for thieves too I guess.

After 6 months the Sony Radio CDX-GT630UI died internally and started turning on and off. I called Sony and the replacement is on the way. While waiting for the replacement I needed something to listen to so I bought a Sony MEX-BT38UW from Walmart and have been pleasantly surprised with the performance of that radio. It has bluetooth which I wasn’t sure about the value at first but now that I’m using it, I’m thrilled with the performance. I’m not using an external microphone just the little built-in mic behind the head and people can hear me just fine. When you get a phone call or make a call, the music automatically turns off and the bluetooth phone activates. It is really interesting. I like it a lot.

I will probably sell the replacement radio to a friend and keep my Wally world radio. It has all the features as my first radio but looks a little better in the car.

Anyway, good luck!

My experience with Honda and iPod is very positive. I was ahead of the curve back in 2002ish with an iPod adapter I got from crutchfield for a 1995 stock Honda stereo. It used cd changer(optional) controls to run the iPod.

I have a feeling the adapter exists from Honda or aftermarket and you don’t have to ruin the dash look with an ugly aftermarket stereo.

Leather seats are not any more comfortable. However a company called Katskinz makes OEM quality/fit covers. They may even have a heated option.

Don’t invest too much money into the car. The battery will likely fail in the next few years or the transaxle and total it.

Wow, you ROCK!

I agree I shouldn’t have a problem on my commute as far as discomfort. Because this car gets great mileage, I’ll just be driving it more and more. Because of where we live, we have to travel pretty far to go to Trader Joe’s or see extended family. And my last two cars had heated leather seats with lumbar adjustments. As I get older I appreciate that comfort. Something I might try is a heated pad that rests on top of the seat which has heat and a little vibration.

I’d love to see some pictures of your set up. Your system sounds super cool, but I’d love to see your set up. It’s been great reading your post.


BTW: My wife plans to get another Honda because she’s had such great luck with this last one.

Thanks andrew_j,
Just curious how you know about the battery/transaxle failure and where I can get more info. Thanks!

I’m not sure how to respond to your post. I’ve been test driving lots of new cars including the Prius, Insight, and Ford Fusion. But this '03 Honda gets great mileage and it is the right price. I drive a VUE now and I’m not satisfied with her mileage.

Thanks anyhow!

I think the points bscar is making are:

-Comfort is about all of the ergonomics, not just the seats, and there is a good chance changing the seats won’t solve your problem or will create new problems.

-You are better off finding a car that fits you without being modified. With today’s cars, the chairs are integrated parts of the safety equipment.

-You seem to be making fuel economy a higher priority than comfort, which can lead to expensive course corrections on your path to a car you can live with. In my opinion, comfort should be a higher priority than fuel economy.

Too many people live in fear of the batteries going south in these cars.

The truth is that it can be a concern but doesn’t have to be the big deal that it’s made out to be. The Honda packs are made up of “sticks” of NiMH D cell batteries, depending on the year there are different numbers of sticks. Normally what happens is that one of the cells in the sticks gets week and drags down the rest of the cells in the pack.

If you’re a bit handy you can disassemble the pack yourself and rejuvenate most of the sticks in your pack with a $100 battery cycler/charger; if you find a stick that won’t come back then you need to find one to purchase. Honda won’t sell you a stick, they want you to buy a $3k battery pack, but there are ways to find them. There are plenty of Civic hybrids in scrap yards as well as some hybrid battery rebuilders who would probably sell you a stick.

Check here: http://www.hybrid-battery-repair.com/

I believe he even has the instructions on how he repairs the battery packs on there.

As for your original question, does your Civic have cruise?

I have a 2000 Insight and my commute, similar in length to yours, became excruciating after awhile. I installed cruise control and now if I start to get uncomfortable I can engage it and move around a little. The mileage goes down a bit when I use the cruise but I still get over 60mpg with it engaged.

Other than that the Civic Hybrid isn’t much different than any other car when it comes to installing a stereo or switching seats.

I had forgotten that the OP said he drove a Vue. I know they made a hybrid version of it, which is why I mentioned it. And the comfort thing still holds true. Seat design varies from model to model, including the different trim levels of the same car

Thanks BSCAR,

In my experience, hybrid versions of mini-suv’S (LIKE THE VUE) do not equal great savings nor great comfort. After driving the company car (BMW 525i) on an 800 mile round trip, my '03 VUE was not a comfortable ride home.

Thanks BISBONIAN, Yes this CIVIC has cruise. Thanks for the offer of TRUTH and the support for changing the seat. I agree with you that there must be some interchangeability among car parts such as seats. Your info on battery repair is timely and helpful. THANKS!