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2001 Honda Civic EX

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SAN FRANCISCO:  In the hilly outreaches of suburban San Francisco, there are many twisty, curvy roads that beg to be driven. Hard. The car of choice might be a Corvette or one of the many expensive sports cars on the market today. But if you, like many of us, can't afford one of these, then a drive in the new-for-2001 Honda Civic EX will give you a taste of what else is out there. Honestly, the only thing smoking during this road test was nothing but tires.

The EX Sedan is a pure pleasure to drive, plain and simple. The test vehicle came with the standard five-speed manual and the peppy 1.7l VTEC inline-four cylinder. It's amazing how quick 127 hp and 107 lb.-ft. can feel, especially in a car that is designated as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle.

And, given that this seventh-generation iteration has moved from a double-wishbone to a MacPherson strut front suspension, it handles like a more expensive car. Taking the twisties in the Civic is as fun as after-hours trading, the main difference being the instant return on your driving investment.

The shift lever is almost as precise as that of the Mazda Miata or Honda S2000. It's a pleasure to work, back and forth, in small increments, never feeling like you're going to miss a gear because it seems to know where you want it to go, and it takes you there. No other car in this class can match this precision. Honda's engineers have taken a normal economy car and given us something to remember.

On that front, the whole drive train works extremely well together. Honda's venerable VTEC technology (variable valve timing) works wonders in keeping torque high throughout the rev range. That, coupled with a 6700 rpm redline, gives the Civic plenty of oomph to get around without much fuss. And fuss it does not. It tantalizes and taunts, causing you to push harder and farther towards redline, pulling every inch of the way. The best aspect of the VTEC engine is the lack of buzz as the revs reach higher ground.

The 2001 Civic EX has definitely moved upscale too. No longer is it a sub-compact econocar. The EPA rating puts it in the compact class for the first time. If you need proof of this, get a '01 Civic, park it next to an older Accord (the older models give a better indication of the newfound size) and compare length and width. You'll find the Civic to be almost as much car as an old Accord. This overall vehicle growth is becoming an increasing trend at Honda these days.

The upscale near-luxury treatment continues on the inside, where the two-tone dash treatment lends an air of sophistication. The plastics on the dash and the carpeting on the doors have a quality feel that should last for the 150,000 to 200,000 miles some Honda owners put on their cars.

More neo-luxury fair can be found with the shifter itself. The lever is covered in soft leather with a bezel and accent that hold the boot in place. The bezel and accent are done in an aluminum-looking material that almost looks like it belongs in an aforementioned Acura. Though, more such trim pieces would have given the Civic a much more grandiose feel.

On the ergonomic front, where Honda engineers seem to spend a lot of time, the switches are easy to reach and operate and feel like they were taken from an Acura. For instance, you can feel the fan detents when you turn the dial, but they never hinder movement. The transitions are smooth, making the dials feel more expensive. A nice touch for a vehicle that costs under $18,000.

As for price, the top-of-the-line new Civic EX stickered at only $17,160.00. On this model, standard equipment encompasses air (with Micron filter), CD stereo, cruise control, power windows and locks, keyless entry, a myriad of storage cubbyholes, front and side airbags for driver and passenger, ABS, rear seat anchors and tethers for child safety seats, an emergency trunk opener, anti-theft system, 5 mph bumpers and a bevy of other equipment. The only optional piece on the tester was floor mats at $89.00. That plus the destination charge brought the grand total of the tester to $17,689.00. Not a bad deal considering that the average new car leaves the showroom at the mid-$20,000 level.

There aren't many dislikes with the new Civic, thought it can be quite noisy at highway speeds, depending on the road surface. There are a number of factors that could cause this, not least of which is the fact that the Civic is still an "economy" car. It is not an Acura, nor does it claim to be, but a little more padding in the right places might drop the noise levels.

After 336 miles of tortuous driving, the Civic returned 31.1 miles per gallon of gasoline. And, no, there will be no recount. This figure is less than the EPA City estimate for the EX, but the mostly around-town driving was up and down and around the hills of San Francisco, therefore garnering a bit less in the mileage column.

As for crash test data, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the 2001 Civic five stars for frontal crash worthiness and four stars for side crash worthiness. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not tested a 2001 Civic yet.

The new Civic is a good buy and a great car for young 20-somethings, older Honda enthusiasts or anyone in the market for a highly contented car for not a lot of money. And with Honda's stellar quality and durability, the 2001 Civic could be the new sales leader in its class. By James F. Bryson AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  By James E. Bryson AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name:   "The 2001 Civic EX has definitely moved upscale"
Topic:  2001 Honda Civic EX
Word Count:   1030
Photo Caption:  2001 Honda Civic EX
Photo Credits:  2001 Honda Internet Media
Series #:   2001 - 2

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2001 Honda Civic EX

Download the original image file here:  2001 Honda Civic EX 22k

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