2006 Honda Civic

Winning With Style

by Steve Siler

When you think of Honda, what does it make you feel inside? Um, nothing? Don’t worry. That deafening sound of silence emanating from your soul is perfectly understandable. Its chief bragging rights being reliability, functionality and stylistic neutrality, the Honda brand appeals to the left side of our brains and little else.

But that’s no condemnation. For many of us—particularly those of us that are good with numbers—the left side must be pacified before the right brain can have any say. And so Hondas burrow their way into many of our garages even if we happen to be dreaming of sexier cars like BMWs, Mustangs or Mazda MX-5s as we drive off the lot.

The sober-as-a-judge Honda Civic has always been the quintessential Honda. Efficient, ergonomically friendly and inoffensive in every way, the Civic has never made waves, which is why the new 2006 Civic is such a surprise. Look at it. It’s radical. When’s the last time anyone ever used that word to describe a Honda? Let alone a Civic!

Personally, I love it. The sloping nose has the same wedgy profile as the doorstop-like Toyota Prius, but whereas the Prius looks, according to Erin Riches, my colleague from Edmunds.com, “like a big-headed toddler,” the Civic looks snappy and intense. The back end looks as we always imagined future cars would. Finally, Civics class gets interesting.

The Buck Rogers look continues inside. The dashboard is characterized by highly sculpted, two-tier architecture that places the gas gauge and digital speedometer (usually the only ones most of us care about) in a long graphic strip just below the windshield, but visible above the steering wheel. Through the steering wheel, the driver can see the tach centered within its own deep cave. Sounds weird, and feels sorta weird at first, too. But as with most Hondas, the ergonomic effect of this layout turns out to be stellar. Everything in the middle (radio/air conditioning and all that) falls right where it should. Even the navigation system—an unexpected option on a car this cheap and often a source of ergonomic headaches—is pleasantly simple to learn and use. Everything feels good from the seat of one’s pants on up, thanks in large part to the highly sculpted bucket seats.

Now, admittedly, I’m a power junkie, and power is something the Civic EX has, um, just enough of. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy far more the performance-tuned, 200-hp Civic Si coupe, which will be joined later in 2006 by the first-ever Civic Si sedan. For the more restrained drivers, the EX sedan’s 140-hp four-cylinder oughta do the job well enough, especially when perked up by the five-speed manual transmission. It’s lively enough, although you’ll never forget its efficiency-minded purpose.

Speaking of efficiency, the sedan is also available as a hybrid, which for 2006 is rated at about 50 mpg city and highway. I only averaged about 33 mpg during my week with the hybrid and couldn’t stop complaining about how slow it was. I’d probably not complain too loud about the fat hybrid-auto tax credits available from the federal government as well as many states. Still, years into my lease or purchase, I’m sure I’d eventually miss the power Civic and so I find the regular Civic to be the most appealing for the average Joe, helping him save money and gas, delivering as it does 30 mpg in the city if he drives nice.

Finally, if you’re into bragging rights, the new Honda Civic has won the 2006 Motor Trend Car of the Year Award, as well as the more prestigious North American International Car of the Year and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick Award. Unfortunately, if you are eager to buy from a gay-friendly company, Honda doesn’t make the list.

Honda is NOT a gay-friendly company.

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