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New Car/Review


The Honda Civic LX
A Honda for all Reasons

by Larry Weitzman

Honda Full Line factory footage (16:28) 28.8, 56k, or 200k

The Civic nameplate has been around for nearly twenty-five years. The early Civics earned a reputation for Honda of making great cars that would run forever with impeccable reliability. There have been several generations since the original Civic, and this new one is clearly the best ever.

The Civic is classified as a sub-compact car even though it has an interior volume of 90 cubic feet and a trunk volume of 12 cubic feet. There are some cars listed as compacts with smaller interior volumes. Go figure.

The car is small on the outside. However, at 175.1 inches overall length with a 103.2 inch wheelbase, it is above average in size for a sub-compact. Most sub compacts are about 170 inches long and 100 inch wheelbase. This adds up to a little extra room on the inside.

The interior is not the least bit confining. I found the room to be plentiful in the front and reasonable in the back. There was plenty of space in all directions. My test car did not have a sunroof, so headroom was generous. The front seats were Honda firm and comfortable, with excellent support. They have manual adjustments fore and aft and the seat reclines to any position. I was able to adjust the seat perfectly.

The dash is beautiful. The driver has a complete instrument pod containing a large speedo with a tach to the left and fuel and temp gauges to the right split by a dash gear indicator. A nice feature. To the right is a center pod containing HVAC vents above, a am/fm stereo in the middle and the HVAC controls below. In my day with the Honda, it may have been a 100 degrees on the outside, but it was cool and comfortable on the inside. The A/C works great and is only obtrusive when on high blower.

The radio did not contain a cassette or a C/D although there is a button marked C/D. The reason is that all cassette, C/D systems are Honda equipment that is dealer installed.

The front seats are separated by the floor-mounted shifter and small center console containing cup holders, armrest/storage and emergency brake lever.

The rear seats were also large with a very nice seatback. It would be a tight fit for three adults, but OK for two, with legroom being the biggest concern. The seat backs fold down in a convenient 60/40 split. That means you can still have two backseaters, with your skis in the trunk.

The fabrics used (no leather is offered, it is only available in the Accord) have a thick, quality feel. They not only cover the seats, but also adorn the door paneling. There is no hard plastic in this Honda. The door panels have a soft touch and the material on the dash also has a soft resilient feel. Tastefully and masterfully done.

The outside is very handsome as well. The front end has some gorgeous headlights separated by the narrow mouth Honda grill. The hood is accented by two ridgelines sloping into the grill. It is sleek. The rear of the car at the "C" pillar has a BMW look. The 2-door version is sporty enough to masquerade as sporty coupe.

So it's great on the inside and outside, but how does it run? Glad you should ask. This car is surprisingly fun. The model I tested, the LX comes with a super smooth, 1.6L, inline four cylinder, SOHC 16 valve engine. It puts out 106 hp at 6200 rpm with 103 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. In the EX Civic you get a higher performance engine called the VTEC (variable timing electronic control). It has the same displacement and four valve heads, but it puts out 127 hp at 6,600 rpm and 107 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm.

The torque curve of the lower horsepower engine may have a little more low end punch even though it may have less total horsepower, which means in normal, non Laguna Seca type driving (which is really appreciated by Sheriff Hal Barker and the rest of the driving public), the LX will perform quite nicely when compared to the EX.

My test car had the Honda 4 speed automatic with grade logic to prevent hunting when going up hills. It shifts very smoothly even under loads and responded to downshifts instantaneously. A five-speed manual is offer for a savings of $800.

This Honda scoots. 0-60 flashes by in 10 seconds flat. 50-70 on level ground is a 6.5 second sprint and going up a steep hill will slow that time to 13 seconds. The Honda will go from 50-65 up hill is only 6.5 seconds. The reason is that unless the transmission is manually held in second gear it will shift into third at 65 at about 6,500 rpm. Since the engine is redlined at a lofty 7,000 rpm, it can be manually held in second to 70, which would cut passing times to about 11 seconds. Make no doubt about it, this little Honda will cruise any freeway up or down hills at above legal speeds effortlessly. The five-speed manual would be a little quicker.

I would estimate the EX would knock at least a second off these times and maybe two off the uphill passing times. Even more with a manual tranny.

The car feels quick, communicative and nimble. Although it will never liquefy the tires, in the important 20-70 range, I like the way it performs. Everything seems easy. Driving Ponderosa Road showed off its capable fully independent suspension (double wishbone up front, and multi-link in back) smoothing out the washboard and bumps with ease. No body noise or rattles here. Rounding corners at speed in the bumps caused no upset or movement in the back or front. Steering was accurate with excellent feel. It goes where it's pointed. The Civic handled Green Valley and Bass Lake Road simply and easily. Diving into corners will elicit miles of driver smiles. It's a Honda.

Down the highway, the Civic is smooth, quiet and comfortable. The engine spins about 2,600 rpm at 65 mph. Some road noise is apparent on coarse roads and large tar strips can sometimes be felt, but overall it has a very pleasant ride.

The EPA rates the automatic DX at 29/36 mpg city/highway and the 5 speed manual at 32/37 mpg. In El Dorado County, I would estimate at least 30 mpg and maybe as much as 40 mpg on the highway at legal speeds. With its 11.9 gallon fuel tank, you could do about 400 miles on the highway for less than $15.00, even at our county's high gas prices.

What's it going to cost? The Civic LX four door automatic that I drove will set you back $15,630 plus $415 for destination. Required California emission equipment is $100. There are no factory options except exterior color (no charge). Standard equipment lists include such niceties as power windows, cruise, tilt and power outside mirrors. It's well equipped.

The lowest price Civic is the CX, 2 door 5 speed that lists at $10,650 plus destination of $415 and $100 for California emissions. There are no factory options except picking one of three exterior colors (no charge).

The most expensive is the EX four door with automatic. It comes with the 127 hp VTEC engine plus among other things, a power moon roof, ABS brakes and keyless remote entry. It retails for $17,530 plus $415 for destination and $100 for emissions equipment.

The two door 5 speed EX maybe a pocket rocket bargain. It has all the above options and lists for $15,450 plus $415 for destination. Add some slick factory wheels and we are talking about a very quick, cute sporty coupe for under $16,000 that is EPA rated at 30/36 city/highway and 0-60 times below 9 seconds.

Honda has just announced a Civic Si coupe, 5-speed only, with a DOHC 16-valve inline VTEC four that will put out 160 hp. No prices have been announced, but it may possibly be the ultimate pocket rocket. Expect 0-60 times deep into the sevens.


Price                                      $10,650 to $17,530
   1.6L, SOHC, 16 valve                    106 hp @ 6,200 rpm
                                           inline four103 lb-ft of torque @ 4,600 rpm
   1.6L, SOHC, 16 valve                    127 hp @ 6,600 rpm
                                           VTEC inline four107 lb-ft of torque @ 5,500 rpm
   1.6L, DOHC, 16 valve                    160 hp rpm n/a
                                           VTEC inline four111 lb-ft of torque rpm n/a
                                           4 speed automatic
                                           electronically controlled
                                           with grade logic
                                           5 speed manual


Wheelbase                                 103.2  inches
Length                                    175.1  inches
Width                                     67.1   inches
Height                                    54.7   inches
Curb Weight                               2558   pounds
Fuel Capacity                             11.9   gallons


0-60                                      10.0   seconds
50-70                                     6.5    seconds
50-70 uphill                              13.0   seconds
Top Speed                                 Beyond my nerve and stupidity
Fuel Economy                              EPA 29/36 city/highway, my estimate
                                          is 30+ in El Dorado County, near 40 
                                          at constant legal highway speed