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Honda Civic (2001)

SEE ALSO: Honda Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig


MODEL:  Honda Civic 
ENGINE:  1.7-liter VTEC-E four
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 127 hp @ 6,300 rpm/114 lb-ft @ 4,800  rpm
TRANSMISSION:  Five-speed manual
WHEELBASE: 103.1 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 174.6 x 67.5 x 56.7 in.

It's easy t see how the Honda Civic became the best-selling compact car in the United States and why it has held that position for so many years. More than 10 million Civics have been sold since its introduction in 1973. The Civic is a car that is well-designed. It doesn't try to be an Acura. It doesn't try to be a sports car. It doesn't try to be an Accord. It is a Honda Civic.

And the people in charge of Civic development at Honda long ago must have realized what they have and what they have to do to make the Civic attain its goals, do it in a fairly economical manner, and do it better than they did the year before.

The 2001 Civic has undergone a complete redesign, both externally and internally. The results of this package pretty much guarantee that Honda will keep its title through the next couple of years at least, until something better comes along. It seems pretty certain that whatever that "something better" may be, it's a long way off.

Externally the Civic sedan is more aerodynamic, it's a little softer. With flush mounted glass and better attention paid to the flow of air over the outside of the car, especially in the vicinity of the mirrors, there is essentially no wind noise to intrude upon the passengers' comfort. No, this car is not as quiet as a Lexus LS400, but it's probably quieter than any other car in its class. A quiet ride makes the driving experience as pleasant as it can be.

The driver and front passenger sit in individual bucket seats. There's a bench in the back that is nominally designed for three more passengers, but it's best for two. Our tester was fully loaded with all kinds of accessories. We had power windows and door locks, a digital clock, an AM/Fm sound system with an in-dash CD player. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this was also a "security" theft-proof sound system. Somewhere along the line we lost power in the Civic. Losing power to the radio means that it has been removed from the car and you must punch in a special five-digit code in order to make it work. Naturally, we couldn't figure out the code and there were no clues in the glove box. So for the last several hours we drove the Civic we did it in relative silence, which allowed us to appreciate the lack of wind noise.

Under the hood is a 1.7-liter inline four-cylinder engine that also doesn't make a lot of noise. Yes, it's a four cylinder so there are inherent vibrations that you don't get in a sic-cylinder or V-8 engine. But for a four cylinder this is an extremely capable unit. In 2000 this engine was rated at 1.6 liter capacity. It has been bored out and slightly redesigned so that it is slightly larger and has more power. Power has been increased from 106 hp to 117 hp in the EX.

With this amount of power under the hood, the Civic performs well. We were able to comfortably drive with any other vehicle on the road. Acceleration from stop signs and on exit ramps was excellent. And since the engine was coupled to a five-speed manual gearbox, we were able to attain maximum flexibility from the engine, downshifting when we needed higher revs and more power, upshifting when we had the opportunity for "coasting."

I liked the gear ratios in this transmission. They were well chosen for anyone who enjoys driving with a stick and likes to find the right gear for a particular set of circumstances.

Honda's Civic is a perennial best-seller and Honda is intent on keeping best-seller status. There's no reason to believe, that with the 2001 version of the civic, life is going to be any different.