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2006 Honda Civic


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September 6, 2005


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First Drive:
2006 Honda Civic
By Paul Williams
Photos by Paul Williams and Greg Wilson
Discuss this story in the forum at CarTalkCanada

2006 Honda Civic sedan. Photo: Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge
Chicago, Illinois - At the recent press introduction for the 2006 Honda Civic in Chicago, Honda engineers and executives from Japan and North America carefully and comprehensively introduced and explained the new technologies and goals underpinning their all-new, eighth-generation car.

Honda Canada's Vice President Jim Miller, followed by Toshiro Morita (Large Project Leader), Shoji Ota (CVT Project Leader), Greg Thomas (Advanced Product Planning) and
others presented important details of the new model, which, even though it's the best-selling-selling car in Canada, has seen sales slowly decline over the past few years.

You could tell they were all serious but very enthusiastic about the new Civic, and aware that this model must regain its cool status among younger buyers, while retaining practical appeal for older consumers.

The new Civic, said Mr. Ota, is designed to be, "The new benchmark of value and fun to drive."

2006 Honda Civic sedan. Photos: Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

Honda has focused on four areas to achieve this goal. These are advanced and futuristic design, advanced safety and environmental responsibility, unexpected technology and exciting performance. And the company has sharpened the focus of each model.

The result is four models that Honda will begin releasing in early October: Sedan, Coupe, Hybrid sedan, and high performance Si coupe (sedans and coupes will be released first, Si in November; the Hybrid in December), each with a specific character and market relevance.

Common to all the new Civics is exterior styling that's pleasing and distinctive, featuring flowing lines and smooth, rounded surfaces. The shape isn't radical, but it looks very modern and sleek for a compact car.

The interior may be regarded as controversial by some, or clever and interesting by others. Very close to the concept sketches, the front cockpit sweeps from pillar to pillar, producing a roomy and bright environment for front seat occupants. The bi-level instrument panel with digital speedometer is innovative and daring.

Engine size is increased from 1.7 to 1.8 litres and horsepower is up from 117 to 140, except for the Si, which receives a 197 hp version redlining at close to 8,000 rpm. Honda has been criticized for its comparatively low-horsepower engines (Mazda3 is 138 hp, as is Kia Spectra, for example), and this horsepower boost makes the Civic competitive with all vehicles in the compact class.

Even though power is up, fuel economy is very close to the previous generation Civic (7.8/5.7 L/100 km city/highway, manual transmission). In real world situations, these cars may even beat official estimates (see CanadianDriver's 50-litre Challenge). The engine uses intelligent variable valve timing (i-VTEC) and is an ultra-low emissions powerplant.

Furthermore, the car is exceedingly quiet at highway speeds, with the new five-speed automatic transmission helping to keep the engine speed down while cruising and numerous aerodynamic techniques (including a dramatically raked windshield) all but eliminating wind noise.

2006 Honda Civic sedan. Photo: Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge
While classed as a compact, the Civic feels very much like an intermediate-sized vehicle when you're driving or riding in the car. Honda says it is 35% more rigid than the previous model, and this rigidity and solidity is something that's evident from the moment you close the door.

Once inside, the driver first notices the unusual instrument panel, then the original placement of the handbrake and shifter, which have been redesigned to rescue space now occupied by cupholders and a storage box (watch for other manufacturers to copy this). Several cubbies are built into the front seat area, including a thoughtfully located container for your cell phone, just below the power point. The seats are also redesigned for additional comfort and support.

2006 Honda Civic sedan. Photos: Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

Rear seat room is generous. There's plenty of legroom, even with the front seats moved back to accommodate a longer-legged driver or front passenger. Likewise the trunk space is generous and the rear seat is split 60/40 (except in the Hybrid). The sedan's wheelbase is increased 80 mm compared with the outgoing model.

Visibility all around is excellent, with big rear-view mirrors affording a good view of traffic beside and behind.

Consumers will benefit from Honda's "Safety for Everyone" program, which makes anti-lock brakes, side airbags, side curtain airbags, electronic brake force distribution, electronic brake assist and active head restraints standard throughout the model range. A tilt/telescoping steering wheel with electronic power steering is also standard on all models.

Four trim levels are available. The DX sedan arrives with standard power windows, power mirrors, CD player with MP3 capability and front mudguards and speed sensitive volume control, and 15" steel wheels with wheel covers.

The DX-G sedan adds air conditioning, keyless entry, power door locks and a centre armrest. The LX sedan is equipped with alloy wheels and an outside temperature gauge. The EX adds a rear centre headrest, 16" wheels, steering wheel audio controls, floor mats and trim upgrades.

2006 Honda Civic coupe. Photos: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

Civic coupes receive a sportier suspension and seats, rear lip spoiler and programmable text and welcome screen for the audio system. The wheelbase is 50 mm (2.0 in.) shorter in the coupe, compared with the sedan.

Along with the 197 hp at 7,800 rpm engine, the Civic Si (coupe) differs from the other Civics by offering a six-speed manual transmission, 17" alloy wheels, sport-tuned exhaust, sports seats, performance suspension and braking, optional performance (summer only) tires, revised chin spoiler, rear wing spoiler, 350 watt premium audio, ambient lighting and numerous technical, engine and appearance enhancements.

The new Si should receive an enthusiastic response from younger buyers who want a genuine performance vehicle right off the showroom floor. But Honda has also designed it to be readily customized and tuned, recognizing that this flexibility was initially what appealed to younger buyers and made the Civic a tuner favourite.

In contrast to the Civic Si, the Civic Hybrid features advanced technology with a different goal. Emphasizing environmental and fuel economy, the Civic Hybrid uses a new generation Integrated Motor Assist that enables the car to run on electric power only while cruising at low speeds.

Fuel economy for the Civic Hybrid is now rated at a miserly 4.7/4.3 L/100km city/highway while horsepower is up to 110 and torque increases to 123 foot pounds.

Complaints at this point are minor. The speedometer hood of the bi-level instrument panel tends to reflect in the windshield; the beige/brown interior is not pleasant; the new wheels of the Civic Hybrid are odd; the digital speedometer may be distracting for some.

But the sharp design, comprehensive standard safety technology, roomy interior, excellent fuel economy and strong five-year warranty, coupled with historically high resale values for Civics should justifiably place the 2006 model at the top of consumers' compact car want-list.

Pricing has not yet been announced but will start at around $16,500 and rise into the mid-twenty thousand range. Look for Honda to price their Civics competitively, without significant changes from the '05 models.

At A Glance: 2006 Honda Civic

Type: Five passenger, compact car. Available as sedan, coupe, Si (performance) and Hybrid

Notable: All new version of the Canada's best selling vehicle. Built in Alliston, Ontario (except Hybrid built in Japan)

Available: October 3, 2005

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Who the hell buys a COMPACT car expecting generous rear legroom? Puh-leez. A lot of these are going to go to younger single people and some young couples who have no children or young children who wont need much legroom for several years, probably another car or two down the road. Another good chunk will go to older people who rarely travel with multiple people, aside from the occasional trip with the grand-kids.
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I'm not going to deny that the Cobalt lacks in rear seat room, but how many buyers really take that into account? Most people looking for a sub-$20k car with enough room to fit 4 people in comfort are going to go with a used midsize car, as those not only have the legroom, but also the shoulder and headroom* from, ya know, being wider and taller. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that 85% of people who will shop Cobalt vs. Civic vs. Corolla vs. Focus wont give a second thought to the amount of legroom in back. *Headroom claims for all vehicles not named Grand Prix
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So will digital dashs be "cool" via the car mags now that honda uses it? My opinion on the rear seat part; If my wife and I wanted rear legroom, we would have bought a Malibu or Impala. Not that more legroom isn't good, it just wasn't our priority when buying a compact. The area the Cobalt needs help is in the gas mileage ratings. People do buy compacts for good gas mileage, and the Cobalt isn't rated so good.
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I just can't get past the dash and the Hybrid's wheels... both are horrendous. I love the idea of a digital speedometer--always have... however, combining that with the analog tachometer and putting them in two different locations? Don't like.
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It's beyond bad looking. It's like the fat girl who shouldn't be wearing the clothes she is...the fat hanging over the top of her pants, bloaty-looking, far from being even remotely attractive. She still thinks she looks beautiful, though!
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