- The Washington Times - Friday, December 8, 2000

MODEL: Honda Civic LX

VEHICLE TYPE: Two-door coupe


MILEAGE: 32 city, 39 highway

Those thinking of buying a large, expensive car for safety reasons should consider the 2001 Honda Civic. Although it's a small, compact car, safety abounds throughout.

Safety was the primary objective when the designers and engineers set out to build their all-new Civic. They wanted the 2001 model to achieve the highest possible ratings when tested for frontal, side and offset impact by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

The new model now has a "smart linked" body shell that features multidirectional cross members producing additional strength to the body. This firm shell also provides better absorbing energy upon impact. You won't see these features when you view this car, but keep in mind that, despite its size, you are looking at a very sturdy vehicle.

The Civic has two body styles: coupe and sedan. The coupe is available in four models; the sedan in three. My report centers on the coupe LX, which has a base price of $14,810. Other prices for the best-selling small car in the United States for the past five years range from $12,760 to $17,710.

All Civics feature a 1.7-liter ULEV engine that now gets as much as 10 percent improved fuel economy. As an ultralow-emission vehicle, this is the first car that can be distributed to all 50 states. Oil changes are now extended from 7,500 miles to 10,000 miles, too. This engine also has a more efficient injector design, which improves fuel economy. The Environmental Protection Agency's mileage ratings are 32 for the city and 39 for the highway.

Another feature of this little high-performance engine is reduced engine noise. There are numerous improvements, but one worth noting is the engineers' designed oval pistons that have microscopic holes in the walls. These holes hold oil for slicker lubrication.

The new Civic also has a more rigid crankshaft, plus an automatic timing belt tensioner. Even the engine mounts have been redesigned to diffuse vibration. With numerous improvements under the hood, the result is a quiet engine — with excellent response. My tester had a manual transmission. I particularly enjoyed the sporty feel when shifting from gear to gear.

The Civic is in the small-car category, but I didn't feel cramped. The interior is reasonably spacious and is easier to enter than any other two-door coupe. Honda people told me that it now has 2.3 cubic feet of additional interior room plus a flat floor, moving the Civic up into the compact class. Yet, the overall exterior dimensions are nearly the same.

Because of the additional space in the interior and trunk, the entire suspension system had to be redesigned. I don't know all the changes that had been made, but I found the ride to be smooth, with very little roll when cornering. The steering is nimble and tracks true.

This Civic has larger instruments and display panels. All the switches, including the moon-roof switch and power-windows switch, are well illuminated for nighttime driving.

Besides the safety design of the frame, other safety improvements include the dual-stage front air bags, dual seat-belt pretension and child seat tethers for anchoring seats.

The sound system, featuring AM/FM stereo, played CDs. Nothing was exceptional about the sound quality, but it made driving a long distance more enjoyable. The real enjoyment, however, was in the assurance that this car offered exceptional safety protection.


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