- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 2, 2006

Sometimes in life, timing is everything. For the small-car segment, times look good. Timing is perfect for Honda to introduce the all-new 2006 Civic.

Lucky Honda. How was the automaker to know that its timing for launching the all-new, eighth-generation compact Civic would coincide with the highest gas prices in decades? The fuel-weary consumer, hard-bitten by prices at the pump and bracing for the shock of home heating bills, is looking for solace. Here’s heart-warming news from Honda: the Civic gets 40 miles to the gallon in highway driving.

Honda says the 2006 model is an extreme transformation of design and dynamics for the Civic: new powertrain technologies result in higher performance and improved fuel economy; Advanced Compatibility Engineering improves vehicle-to-vehicle crash energy management; the interior sets new directions in design layout; and the exterior styling features sweeping, expressive lines.

The Civic lineup includes the coupe, sedan, hybrid and tuner-oriented Si two-door. Within the coupe and sedan lineup are the DX, LX and EX trims. Prices start at $14,360 for the DX coupe and go up to $23,350 for the hybrid sedan with a navigation system.

The test car was a Civic EX sedan with the navigation system and automatic transmission, which was priced at $21,110, including destination charges. All Civic sedan models are powered by a 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine with advanced valve control technology. The new powerplant produces 140 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 128 foot-pounds of torque at 4,300 rpm. Honda’s previous Civic sedan had two power ratings on the 1.7-liter four-cylinder engine: a 127-horsepower version that generated 114 foot-pounds of torque and a 115-horsepower version with 110 foot-pounds of torque.

Not only does the new engine produce more power, it gets better fuel economy over the previous Civic. The test Civic was rated to achieve 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. Honda offers the new Civic Hybrid sedan in its 2006 lineup, with highway fuel economy ratings estimated at 51 mpg.

The new look of the Civic takes the conventional little sedan from boring to compelling. The 2006 model has a low, wide stance and is slightly wider with a longer wheelbase. The resculptured body lines are sporty and aerodynamic, and the Civic has an ultratight body panel fit to contribute to the sleek new appearance.

Taking a new direction in interior design layout for the dashboard, Honda’s Civic features a two-tier instrument panel that seems to enlarge the space of the front row. The speedometer, fuel gauge and engine temperature readings are digitally portrayed on an elliptical-shaped instrument panel. Honda studied the eye movements of drivers and reprioritized the placement of these readings for a quick recognition time with eyes going back to the road. The seats are redesigned to be wider — a nice feature for the American consumer — and have a more supportive construction.

The American consumer has warmly embraced the little Civic since it was introduced in 1973. Honda reports the Civic has been the best-selling compact in the U.S. for the past nine years — and 16 million Civics have been sold worldwide since it was first built.

There’s no question that Honda has been doing things right for a long time. And with such perfect, prescient timing with the launch of the Civic, I would tell the sun to set its clock by Honda. The numbers prove it, for millions of drivers the sun rises and sets on Honda.

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