Honda's Newest Civic Earns Its Reputation
- December 22, 2005
- Honda, New Model Introductions
- Posted by George Peterson
- 1 Comment
Honda introduced the latest version of its Civic in early Fall 2005, the eighth generation of a product at the core of Honda’s existence in North America. Though Accord remains Honda’s best-selling product, Civic is a close second. Civic’s annual sales have remained at or above the 300,000-unit mark since about 1997, despite that the seventh-generation was a shadow of former generations and received heavy criticism from public and press alike for its de-contented feel and lack of enthusiasm versus prior iterations. In spite of this, as recently as 2004 the Civic outsold its nearest competitor (Ford Focus) by more than 100,000 units. Though the seventh-generation sold well, it did so by skating on a solid image generated by previous iterations. The new-for-2006MY Civic restores the substance behind the reputation.
The results of this transformation are being immediately felt. The eighth generation is praised even more than the prior car was criticized. It recently won Motor Trend Magazine’s Car of the Year award and is a finalist for the same honor in the North American Car of the Year competition. With such advance praise, we were looking forward to a turn behind the wheel. Now that a Civic EX has spent a week in AutoPacific’s Southfield, Michigan office, we’re happy to say that we’re also impressed.
The Civic has returned, long live the Civic!
The evaluation car was a Civic EX sedan with navigation and a five-speed automatic transmission attached to the 140HP 1.8L four-cylinder engine. The car’s MSRP was $21,110, including destination fees, and there were no options. Standard equipment for the EX trim level includes the navigation system, six airbags, active head restraints, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a power sunroof, alloy wheels, and power-operated windows, locks, and mirrors. A 2006MY Civic EX without navigation is priced at $19,610, only $500 more than the comparably equipped 2005MY EX sedan. Honda has successfully introduced a much improved car with only a moderate price increase; though adding navigation puts another $1500 on the sticker, that MSRP is typical for a navigation system as good as Honda’s, which includes voice and touch screen controls. Overall, pricing seemed reasonable for the package.
While we found ourselves wishing for a little more power in low-end acceleration from Honda’s all-new 1.8L four, mid-range acceleration was a delight. The five-speed automatic shifted with confidence and with minimum searching and fuss. Handling was crisp, sure, and predictable. Civic is not a sporty car, particularly in this configuration, but it is entertaining as well as trustworthy. It does and feels competent and solid.
The very roomy cabin benefits from six additional inches in the wheelbase, with a new instrument panel that uses digital gauges and adds to the feeling of spaciousness by being placed far ahead of the driver. The speedometer and fuel gauge sit in a space above the tachometer and other gauges, adding to the sense of space between you and the front of the car.
On the list of minor but pleasant conveniences, there is a cubby just behind the gearlever that is absolutely perfect for cell phones. It is within easy reach should you want to take a call, it is small enough that most phones should fit with minimal sliding and slipping, yet it is also in a location that you tend to notice when getting out of the car, theoretically reducing the number of times one closes up the car and leaves the cell phone behind. Honda is among the manufacturers who have started adding pockets in the lower portion of the door interiors for cup holders, including on the Civic. We do not tend to bring drinks along frequently, but if we do it is nice to have them both accessible and out of the way. Cupholders in the door are easier to work with than drinks in the center console.
This Civic is available with several different drivetrains. Along with the 140HP 1.8L four-cylinder engine that is likely to be in the majority of examples, other options for the United States include a 197HP 2.0L pocket rocket in the Si coupe and environmentally friendly choices including a natural-gas powered GX and an improved hybrid model. Though the 1.8L delivers only 140HP compare with the outgoing car’s 160HP 2.0L unit, Honda claims that the new-generation 1.8L provides acceleration on par with the 2.0L engine with fuel economy nearer smaller-displacement four-cylinder engines. The standard transmission is a five-speed manual, unless you’re driving the Si coupe (six-speed manual) or Hybrid (continuously variable transmission). With this generation, the optional automatic is a five-speed rather than a four-speed unit.
Civic is Hybrid-esque
Honda has draped this Civic in styling far more expressive styling than the outgoing car, looking to appeal to the type of enthusiast buyer Honda products attracted before the bland and anodyne seventh-generation approach. In fact it looks like Honda deliberately tried to make even basic Civics look like hybrids. With a hybrid model available, even the gas model has design cues (dare we say) similar to the extremely popular hybrid Toyota Prius.
Honda Establishing Itself as Japanese Safety Brand
Facing stiff competition from the Korean brands in terms of standard and available safety features, Civic has upgraded standard safety specifications to include side curtain and side airbags and anti-lock brakes. In fact, Honda has stated that it intends for all of its products to achieve five-star safety ratings in government testing going forward.
They do Get It… XM and iPod Integration!
Joining the in-vehicle entertainment parade, Civic added XM Satellite Radio on upscale models and offers iPod integration as a quick-install dealer accessory. A voice- and touch-screen-operated navigation system also available.
Civic Si Coupe – Darling of SEMA Show
The Si Coupe caters to the aftermarket and tuner markets, a highly important segment of Civic sales. In fact, Honda served as the official Vehicle Manufacturer of the 2005 Speciality Equiiment Market Association show. The enthusiast-targeted Si has a 197HP iVTEC four-cylinder mated to a six-speed manual transmission and comes with seventeen-inch wheels. Styling is sleek and streamlined, with a very short hood and aggressive stance.
Civic Hybrid Still Doesn’t Have Cred of Prius
The hybrid uses the 1.3L I4, but the system has been improved for more efficiency as well as more power. The updated IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system uses a three-stage variable valve timing system, including low-rpm, high-rpm, and cylinder-idle modes. The system is smaller and more efficient. The updates increase power output of the 1.3L engine to 93HP and the electric motor to 20HP for a rated combined horsepower of 113HP.
The new Civic has some MAJOR disappointments:
1) Daytime running lights – these are VERY ANNOYING and DISTRACTING. Grabbing my attention is unsafe. Most people can see a 3000 lb car. Stop preaching that it is safer. There is NO study that proves DRLs have any value that offsets the annoyance factor of glare.
2)Boombox dashboard. Ergonomics are horrible. Drive one of these at high speed and see how poorly the controls are periferally.
3)Hybrid does not have a manual transmission anymore. It is more efficient (and reliable) than a CVT. What eco-weenies cannot learn to shift?
4) Stiffen the suspension -too soft.
5) Don’t test an automatic. Test a manual and see what it really has.