In redesigning the 2006 Honda Civic, Honda’s designers and engineers could have used the old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. After all, it was been the best-selling passenger car in Canada from 1998 to 2005. More than 1.2 million Civics have been sold since its introduction in 1973. However, this didn’t deter Honda Motor Corporation from pulling out all the stops in the Civic redesign.
For the all-new eighth-generation 2006 Civic, Honda has dispensed with its conservative interior and exterior styling and gone for a more sporty, contemporary design. Most evident are steeply raked front windshield, the wheels have been pushed closer to the corners, a two-tier instrument panel (that takes some getting used to) and a multi-functional centre console.
Compared to its 2005 predecessor, the 2006 Civic Sedan wheelbase has increased by 3.2 inches (81 mm) but the car’s overall length has grown only 1.4 inches (36 mm). Vehicle weight has increased by about 4 percent on each trim level due to additional safety features, extra standard equipment and a stiffer floor pan which reduces bending and increases torsional rigidity.
When it came to safety, Honda went all out, starting with their Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) Body Structure which enhances occupant safety by dispersing energy away from the cars interior during a collision. Additional standard safety features include dual-stage front air bags with passenger-side Occupant Position Detection System(OPDS), front side and side curtain airbags, active front seat head restraints, standard 4-channel Advanced Logic ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) for improved emergency braking.
The Civic is available in two body styles (a 2-door coupe and a 4-door sedan) and there are four different models (a 4-door sedan, 2-door coupe, 4-door Hybrid and the sporty 197-horsepower Si coupe). As before, the sedans and coupes come in DX, DX-G, LX and EX trim levels, with prices ranging from $16,980 to $25,880. Our test vehicle was an LX sedan with a five-speed transmission.
With the exception of the Civic Hybrid and Si coupe, under the hood of all other Civics’ is a more powerful and more fuel efficient 140-horsepower, 1.8-liter SOHC i-VTEC (Honda’s variable valve timing) four-cylinder motor. This new engine makes the Civic more lively, revving quickly and much smoother than the previous model. Wind noise is also reduced, but, road noise is prominent on rough pavement. The crisp and precise 5-speed manual transmission is a joy to shift, and the gear ratios are well chosen. The light progressive clutch action adds to the fun. The increase in body stiffness has improved agility, restrained body roll and reduced understeer (resistance to turning) during fast cornering in tight turns. Braking performance was impressive. The stops were short and the car remained stable and easy to control when stopping from high speeds.
The first thing one notices upon settling into the driver’s seat, is the futuristic two-tier instrument panel and the oversize dashboard which reminded me of the ones found on GM’s minivans of the early 1990s. The upper dash panel consists of a digital speedometer, fuel and temperature gauge. Honda says this design allows the driver to see the displayed information with less eye movement. The lower section houses the tachometer, multi-information digital display, odometer and several warning indicators. The tilt and telescoping steering allows most drivers to find a comfortable driving position. The high mounted audio and climate controls are large and easy to use even with a gloved hand. All other primary and secondary controls are well placed, readily reached and easily operated.
The new Civic sedan will accommodate four adults in comfort and if necessary three can fit in the rear, albeit only for short trips. A nice feature is the flat floor design, which will provide more foot room for a middle passenger in the rear. There is plenty of interior storage and the placement
of the parking brake handle allows for a centre console that can hold 25 compact discs. The trunk is large with an opening that is cut to bumper level for easy loading of cargo. A folding rear seat for carrying longer items is also standard.
The 2006 Honda Civic is the best ever and it has the potential to keep the title for the best selling car in Canada for 9th straight year. It has already won several coveted awards: North American Car of the Year and Motor Trend Car of the Year. It was also voted Best New Economy Car by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). As such the 2006 Civic would appear to be the odds on favourite to be crowned the Canadian Car of the Year on February 15, 2006 at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto.