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2006 Honda Civic EX

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San Francisco: Despite its Japanese origins, the Honda Civic is really a classic American success story. It has been a long, happy run from the tiny MINI sized Civic hatchback of 1973 to the family size Civic sedan of 2006.

Honda has sold over seven million Civics in the United States so far and most of the sedans we get are made in East Liberty, Ohio. From the looks of things, the good times will keep on rolling for this venerable vehicle.

The Civic has been growing for years, and is now about the size of the original Accord, which itself has expanded into a midsize cruiser today. The brand new 2006 model is not significantly larger than its predecessor, but its proportions are radically different.

While most sedans use a three box shape, with a separate hood, trunk, and taller passenger section, the new Civic flaunts a minivan-like, deeply raked windshield, short overhangs, and with an increase in width, a more people friendly space. The competition has nothing like it. The hybrid Civic now looks more like Toyota's Prius gas / electric entry.

The Civic, despite its complete redo, remains available as a four-door sedan or a 2-door coupe. The sedan starts out as a DX, but works up to the LX and finally, EX level. The four-door is also sold as the popular Hybrid model. The coupe comes in the same three trim levels, but its special model is the high performance Si variant. For the last 20 years the Si has been prized for its performance and its ease of customization.

My test car was an EX sedan in a handsome silver shade. It featured a five speed automatic transmission that made me think I could perhaps own a car without a manual gearbox someday. The Civic cruised down freeways and

suburban byways with equal poise and in near silence, and with its huge front dash panel felt especially spacious. The rear accommodations are remarkable for such a relatively modest car.

All of the regular sedans and coupes get a spunky 140 horsepower 1.8-liter engine. Its i-VTEC badge means that it has intelligent variable valve timing. This technology gives the engine more power while reducing emissions to almost unbelievable low levels. Fuel mileage figures are 30 City, 40 Highway, at a respectable ULEV-2 clean air level.

You can't help noticing the Civic wherever you go. The single sweep from nose to tail is definitely futuristic, and it works. The new tail lamp shapes are startling, with there undercut lenses at the center. The face is a taciturn slash.

Inside, a split instrument panel gives a superficial nod to the original low-slung dash panels, but the information is presented in a futuristic way. The top layer, just below the windshield, provides a digital speed and bar graphs for temperature and fuel. That's the basics. Below sits an analog tachometer, warning lights, the transmission gear indicator, and odometer. All glow blue at night, adding to the fun quality of a video game console at an arcade.

The interior is not only spacious but amusing, too. The concave tops of the door panels twist from horizontal to vertical much like those on a BMW. The materials and fit-and-finish are very good, as you might expect from any car with the big H on the nose. I was surprised at the hard plastic sun visors, and delighted by the little hook shaped emergency brake handle. Its compact shape allows for a much more useful center console with no loss in function.

My tester had the navigation system, a $1,500 option. It worked fine, as they all do. But it also meant that I got a sharp looking display screen for all the other functions, such as the audio system. The display buttons on the screen look metallic, and you can select an active background pattern. I wondered where the CD player was hidden, until I pressed the CD button and the entire 6.5-inch front panel folded back to reveal the slot, along with a space to play

MP3s and WMAs. It turns out that there are seven possible inputs, including XM Radio and music from your iPod with an available adapter.

The Civic is doing nicely as a family car today, so safety is a big concern. Not only are there airbags galore, but also four channel ABS is standard. And, the new Civic features a special Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure that protects occupants in case of a collision by absorbing more of the impact and distributing it away from the people.

As the top-of-the-line sedan (other than the hybrid), with the extra navigation system and automatic transmission, my tester came to $21,209. But you don't have to spend that much for a Civic. The DX starts at just $15,110, including destination charges.

The Civic, built and loved in North America, won the Motor Trend Car of the Year award this year. Bigger and better describes this car perfectly.  By Steve Schaefer  AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  Bigger and better describes this car perfectly
Topic:  The 2006 Honda Civic EX
Word Count:  898
Photo Caption:  The 2006 Honda Civic EX
Photo Credits:  Honda Internet Media
Series #:   2006 - 26

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