Honda Civic EX Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

I probably shouldn't admit to auditory hallucinations, but every time I sat behind the new Civic's diminutive silver and black steering wheel, I heard the Star Wars theme welling-up inside my head. I know it's crazy: a vehicle known throughout the galaxy as the automotive equivalent of a pair of Birkenstock nurse's shoes suddenly inspiring thoughts of an Incom T-65 X-wing Starfighter. But there it is: an electroluminescent mass market motor clearly designed to appeal to the light saber set. In other words, the eighth gen Honda Civic sedan is the car of the future, straight from the past.

Externally, Honda's enterprising artisans set their phasers on kill. Unfortunately, their brazen attempt to replace their three-box sedan with a one-box wonder looks like more like a transporter malfunction involving an economy car and an SUV. The Civic's front end is an Odyssey unto itself, with a windscreen so steeply raked it's virtually a forward facing sunroof. The muffed multi-model matrix is equally obvious at the back. The eagle's head lamp treatment is pure Audi A4, while the horizontal crease is straight off BMW's 3-Series. Taken as whole, the Civic's new shape displays all the anomalous futurism of Captain Kirk's concubines, with none of their intrinsic allure.

There's more '70's time-traveling inside. A huge numeric speedo lives under a Teletubby-style hutch emerging from the plastic playing field stretching between dash and glass. This bizarre throwback to Cadillac's ill-fated digital displays is flanked by bar 'graphs monitoring fuel level and engine temp. The strange choice of mission critical info is mirrored by the tachometer's preposterous prominence– at least for an family four-door– in the real estate normally reserved for gauges. A square-bottomed steering wheel only slightly larger than a Pizza Hut personal pan pizza completes the videogame-themed ergonomics.

Or not. The Civic's drop snout is the piece-de-la-Atari. By denying drivers even a glimpse of the car's muzzle, windscreen becomes widescreen. If it weren't for the Civic's A-pillars– columns of such magnificence that Honda felt obliged to put triangular windows at their base– you'd be tempted to press the alternative view button. Oh wait, there isn't one. But the Civic EX is available with a sat nav iPod XM CD WMA voice recognition backup camera system. Given the rest of the instrumentation's disco obvious look and feel, the unit's dour, aftermarket demeanor and fat finger flummoxing buttonology is a bit of a downer. Still, play value is high…

Just in case you didn't quite make the connection between car and game, hit restart. I mean, fire-up the wee beastie, give her some gas and turn the controller– wheel. The new Civic's helm is more direct than an IRS audit. And it's got the handling to match. Thanks to MacPherson struts at the front, a reactive-link double wishbone in the rear, larger wheels and tires, and performance-oriented spring and damper tuning, the Civic EX is a tenacious corner carver. The sedan stays flat and level through the most tortuous twisties. Even if you're [a professional driver on a closed course] driving with your eyes closed, you'll know this isn't your Mom and Dad's Honda.

Unless you put your foot down. While the Civic's in-line four has more than enough oomph for a high mileage shopping trolley, the 140hp 16-Valve i-VTEC® powerplant fails to provide punch to match the car's boy racer dynamics. Around town, the biggest problem is a drive-by-wire-throttle that's jumpier than a "dancing" chicken. At cruising speeds, or [theoretical] passing situations, you're good to slow. Drivers practiced in the fine art of piloting a plodding car quickly (i.e. mercilessly thrashing the engine and maintaining momentum at all costs) will find the Civic sedan a willing partner. Anyone else will be driving it slowly anyway, so it won't really matter.

The new Civic will be a tremendous hit– as a coupe. With its hotter engine and more harmonious (if equally goofy) "To Infiniti… and beyond!" sheet metal, the new Civic Si will find favor with twenty and thirty-somethings. They'll take one look inside and "geddit". They'll take one drive and want it. A percentage of these prospective owners may also seek the practicality of a four-door, but it won't be a large one. As for the rest of Middle America…

As a mainstream product, the new Civic is just too wacky to capture the tepid hearts of conservative car buyers. Sure, the sedan boasts all the virtues that made it such a perennial sales success– reliability, practicality, frugality and comfort. But the Civic faithful will not be well-pleased by the disconcerting view out the windscreen and the bizarre instrumentation in front of them. It's one thing to watch an X-wing fight its way through tie fighters. It's another to drive one though traffic.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • ExtraO ExtraO on Sep 04, 2006

    I own one of these,...and there's no denying that it isn't a car that a pistonhead is ever going to cross the street to buy. That said however, I love the car, in spite of the fact that you are correct about not being able to see the friggin' hood ( & height has nothin' to do with it, I'm 6'5"). I wish we had two of them. Of course, my days as a pistonhead ended when you could still buy 100 octane fuel for less that forty cents a gallon in Illinois. --Hey, we even had 105 octane for 44 cents at Sunoco which was considered exhorbitantly expensive gasoline at the time, but my then nearly new 305 SuperHawk certainly never complained. Back to the car. You are correct, it isn't fast. Although it can be acceptably quick if you remember to drop at least two gears (I bought the 5 speed manual) to spin it up before you hit the gas. Hell, the redline is damn near 7,000 rpm and it IS a Honda motor. It isn't gonna mind the revs. Besides, for a Honda that isn't thrashing it, it's just letting it breath a little. I've always been of the opinion that for those of us with real world salaries, there's no such thing as a truly "fast" car anyhow. Fast only comes on 2 wheels, one behind the other with chain drive, just as God intended. You are correct on a number of other points, too. Especially when you say it will be a hit. Tho' I think it's success will be largely for a lot of the things you seem not to like about it -especially the styling. The more I look at it the more I like it. It does grow on ya'. I was on the Honda UK website the other day. The new Civic is a somewhat different animal on the other side of the pond. Rear end treatment on the sedan is much more radical... makes the North American variety look tame. Also the Brits (and I presume the rest of the Europeans) don't have to suffer with merely 5 speed trannys, over there they're all 6 speeds auto or manual -with a paddle shifter to boot. They also have a DIESEL that pulls harder 0-60 than the gasoline motor - it has more than double the torque- yet gives Hybrid-like fuel economy. Actually, I think it does better than the Hybrid. The list of extra goodies they get goes on and on. They do tack on another 13-14k to the sticker price tho'... hell, the base model starts at about 25 grand U.S. Makes me wonder what we did in the Americas to piss Honda off...

  • GlennS GlennS on Jan 08, 2007

    Under "better late than never" here are my comments: While the review is that of a Civic EX, it is about the sedan. I feel the coupe looks sharper. So much so that I bought an '06 EX Civic coupe, with the 5-speed manual. For those into details, the Civic coupe is sprung a little tighter than the Civic sedan, according to Honda: "Civic Coupe Exclusive Suspension Tuning To achieve sport coupe performance, the Civic Coupe has the following exclusive suspension tuning compared to the [unspcified rates in the] 2006 Civic Sedan: • Front spring rate increases 20 percent • Rear spring rate increases 28 percent • Sport tuned front and rear damper settings • Solid front 25.4 x 3.5 mm tubular stabilizer bar (up from 24.2 x 3.0 mm) • Solid rear 11.0 mm stabilizer bar (up from 10.0 mm)" Regarding the digital speedometer in the Civic EX, the author of the review above states: "This bizarre throwback to Cadillac's ill-fated digital displays is flanked by bar 'graphs monitoring fuel level and engine temp." While it may seem a "throwback," I'd submit that the target demographic for an 8th generation Civic and and that for Caddy's or yore are two completely different age sets. (And I'm 52 year old...) BTW: Imagine the digital speedometer, digital and bar graphs (for temp. and gas), along with a Sirius satellite radio--and a Garmin GPS unit--and it can look pretty Star Wars-ian inside of the the cockpit of my coupe! When I get around to adding my (2 meter) FM ham radio (for comms) I'll be ready to fy into the canyon of the Death Star to deliver a photon torpedo into the belly of the beast. ;-) My bottom line on the new Civic EX (coupe) is that it's fun to drive on twisty roads; gets great gas mileage--avg. of 32.x MPG across 8K miles'; is reliable, and it looks sharp (mine is red). While "piston heads" may wish for a lot more power under the hood, the Civic EX (coupe) is a fine daily driver for those of us not willing to give any more money than nessassary to the foreign oil producers of the world. Anyway, in this movie we call life, when I strap myself into my EX coupe for the 20-mile commute (flight) to or from work, I'd rather be flying around in my "X-Wing fighter" of a Civic coupe, than piloting a garbage skow, like a GM minivan, for example! :-) May The Force be with you, Glenn in CT

  • Rover Sig We have a car with two fake exhausts in the bumper, but a large shiny muffler visible hanging down on one side, not aligned with the fake exhaust exits. Horrendous. I had to paint the shiny muffler with high-temp black paint to make it less visible. Exhaust pipes were meant to be round and hang below the bumper, and they can be made quiet or loud as the engineers like. But fake exhausts rank down there with fake intake vents on the side of that old Buick.
  • EBFlex Of course it does. What a silly question
  • Buickman Elon is a phony.
  • The Oracle When elected, Trump will carve out massive loopholes for Elon and other donors.
  • CaddyDaddy It's a shame the 4.9L did not remain a "Credit" option for the Cadillac line. I'm imagining there would be more STS, DeVille Concourses, ETC's and Allantes running around. We were a GM fam 'till the N* issues, other than my 96 Caprice, its been Blue Oval ever since.