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
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
Honda Home Page
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
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