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2006 Honda Civic reviews

February 23, 2006 10:09 AM EST | Coupes , Honda , Sedans | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageJust when the competition thought it had the Civic marked, Honda brings out its latest version. Refined and packed with features, the Civic is once again a top choice for compact car shoppers.

Pros
Fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly engines, lots of standard safety equipment, roomy and refined interior, special Hybrid and Si models.

Cons
Polarizing dash design, top-of-the-line models are pricey.

What's New for 2006
Honda has completely redesigned the Civic for 2006. Highlights include a more powerful and fuel-efficient 1.8-liter engine, new exterior styling, an advanced interior design and more premium features. The company has also improved the gas-electric IMA system for the Civic Hybrid and restored the Civic Si trim's potency with a 197-hp engine and a sportier coupe body style.

Introduction:
Thanks to its frugal and clean engines, spunky performance and reputation for excellent reliability and durability, the Civic has been a consistent benchmark for the economy car class ever since its introduction in 1973. Those qualities continue to apply to the redesigned, all-new eighth generation of Honda's popular hauler. However, Honda also hopes to shift its U.S. market focus from baby boomers to Gen Y-ers, and as such, the new Civic places a stronger emphasis on design and performance. It's sleeker, more powerful and better performing than any Civic before it, and is undeniably the best and most interesting Civic Honda has ever produced.

The 2006 Honda Civic is available as a sedan or a coupe (the hatchback version has been nixed this year), and comes in a number of different trims. As a bit of a change for a Civic redesign, there's not necessarily more of everything. Trunk capacity and rear-seat legroom in the coupe have actually shrunk a bit this year. The reason is a stronger emphasis on style. The Civic's sleek new look includes a laid-back windshield, minimal front and rear overhangs and a tight tire-to-fender gap. This year the coupe rides on a shorter wheelbase, and doesn't share a single exterior body panel with the sedan.

Horsepower is up on every model. All DX, LX and EX models are powered by a SOHC 1.8-liter, inline four-cylinder engine with Honda's i-VTEC system. It makes 140 hp and 128 lb-ft of torque. The previous Civic Si hatchback was a performance disappointment. Thankfully, the 2006 coupe version steps up by being the fastest production Civic ever. It has a more powerful 197-hp engine, a sport-tuned suspension and a six-speed manual with a limited-slip differential. For those interested more in fuel economy rather than 0-to-60-mph times, there's the Civic Hybrid sedan. As before, it uses Honda's IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system, which consists of a 1.3-liter, single-overhead-cam, four-cylinder gas engine connected to an electric motor and a continuously variable transmission. Combined horsepower is up to 110 on the Hybrid, while mileage swells to 50 mpg city/ 50 mpg highway. The increased fuel economy is largely due to the fact that the gas engine can now shut down completely during deceleration and steady cruising, allowing the electric motor alone to propel the car, just as in Toyota's Prius.

Whichever model you choose, it's pretty hard to go wrong with the Civic. Every time you get into it, you'll know that you're driving a safe, dependable car that causes minimal damage to the environment and will provide years of faithful service.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The Honda Civic is available as a sedan or a two-door coupe. There are three main trim levels available: DX, LX and EX. The budget-oriented DX offers a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a height-adjustable driver seat but few other amenities. The midgrade LX comes with 16-inch wheels, an CD player with MP3/WMA playback, air conditioning, full power accessories, keyless entry and cruise control. The top-line EX adds alloy wheels, a moonroof, a 60/40-split rear seatback, two extra speakers, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and a portable music player jack. There are also two specialty models: the Civic Hybrid sedan and the Civic Si coupe. Both are equipped to a level similar to the EX trim, though the Si also comes with a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels and special interior trim, while the Hybrid has automatic climate control but no sunroof. For the EX, Hybrid and Si, satellite radio and a navigation system are optional.

Powertrains and Performance:
The front wheels of all DX, LX and EX models are powered by a 1.8-liter, inline four-cylinder engine. It makes 140 hp at 6,300 rpm and 128 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm, and may be paired with either a standard five-speed manual or an optional five-speed automatic transmission. The 1.3-liter gas-electric powertrain found in the Civic Hybrid makes 110 hp and boasts the best fuel economy figures of the Civic range -- 50 mpg city and highway with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 197-hp Si is the most powerful Civic and comes matched to an exclusive six-speed manual with a limited-slip front differential.

Safety:
Every Civic comes equipped with antilock brakes with EBD, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front-seat head restraints. DX, LX and Hybrid models have front disc/rear drum brakes, while the EX and Si have four-wheel discs.

Interior Design and Special Features:
The Civic's large dash features an unusual layout. Honda has kept the analog tachometer in the traditional location and placed a digital speedometer and gas gauge at the base of the windshield. Honda calls it a two-tier design. We call it questionable. Although rear legroom is down in the coupe, both body styles gained 1.4 inches of width this year, so sticking a third passenger in the backseat of either no longer qualifies as bad karma.

Driving Impressions:
The Civic's new 1.8-liter is silky-smooth, fun to rev, and gets better mileage than the less powerful engines it replaces. The more efficient Hybrid feels quicker as well. Smartly, there's more to the coupe than just sleeker styling. It has firmer suspension tuning than the sedan, and this pays dividends in the form of tighter and more responsive handling. Finally, the Si, with the same engine as an Acura RSX Type-S, is back in fighting form, offering performance thrills at a value price.

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