If you think we're tough on cars - nitpicking placement of air bags and paint colors - you ain't seen nothing yet. The toughest people we've encountered are the Federal Express and Airborne Express drivers who race in and out of our office, barely stopping to glance at the three or four shiny new test vehicles that are always blocking their path. That's how we knew the redesigned 1996 Honda Civic was such a peach. Both the Fed Ex driver and the Airborne Express guy took an incredible five minutes out of their schedules to have a serious second look at the car. Based on their reaction, we're thinking of adding a new line to our specs box - a rating on the vehicles' 'power to detain.' He: We've been in and out of several outstanding small cars in recent weeks, including several versions of the new Civic. My initial read on the car is that only the Corolla and the Prizm are in the same league. Sure, there are some other pretty decent rivals. But the '96 Civic moves the bar up another notch. She: Your little assessment of the Civic reminds me of when we first started dating and it was clear that you were desperately in love with me, but instead of saying so, you told me you wanted someone to move in with you for 'business purposes,' whatever the heck that meant. Let's be honest about this car, if not the early stages of our relationship. We were actually in the subcompact market ourselves a month ago and opted for the Prizm - largely because we wanted a cheaper '95 model, an American car, and we didn't have the patience to wait a bit to test the Civic. What I'm asking is - am I sensing an undercurrent of buyer remorse on your part? He: I knew I shoulda married Valerie. She: Well, I felt a certain pang of regret after driving the Civic for a week. He: About our marriage? She: You're really afraid you made a mistake, right? I mean about the car. He: Let's get to the point, huh? Honda has improved the Civic in every way that counts. It's bigger and roomier. It's quieter. It's more powerful, but it's also more frugal. And it's more nimble. Best of all, you can drive a nicely equipped Civic LX for under 15 grand. Now tell me that isn't a downright steal. She: The planets did seem to be in the right conjunction for a test drive of the Civic. When I opened the paper today, there on the front page were the J.D. Power initial quality numbers with Honda at the top of the list. And you don't have to feel guilty about buying Japanese with the Civic because it's built in East Liberty, Ohio. I know we felt a little smug buying the Prizm because although it's built in California, it's really a Corolla in disguise. He: I like the flag-waving connotations of Honda in East Liberty. But more to the point, this ain't your average Japanese car. Most folks don't think of Honda as an 'American car' - even though Honda has been building cars in Ohio since the early Eighties. And the new Civic is the most American Honda yet. The EPA says so. More than 90 percent of the parts and labor in the car come from the U.S., qualifying the Civic for 'domestic' status for the first time. That's a higher percentage than in the Prizm or Ford Escort. She: We're intellectualizing too much. Yes, all that is true, but the Civic also looks pretty good. It's got striking headlights and a nice-looking grille and it's available in some pretty sharp colors like Island Coral Pearl, a coppery rose. It's roomy enough to comfortably carry four adults to dinner on a Saturday night and fit $175 worth of groceries - eight overpacked bags - in the trunk. I also noticed little touches like larger dual vanity mirrors. Way to go, Honda. He: How did you and Pat wind up in the front seat on Saturday night? And how come the two six-footer husbands wound up in the back seat? She: Poetic justice. He: When you finally gave me the wheel, I actually had a blast driving. The engine in the LX makes horsepower, and if you really want to get crazy, go for the EX, which has 127 horsepower. I still can't figure out how Honda can make these cars so peppy and yet they get nearly 40 miles a gallon on the highway, and they're still clean enough to meet California's tough low emission vehicle standards. Now that's an achievement not even Geo or Toyota can brag about. She: About the only shortcoming is the lack of antilock brakes on the LX we drove. Honda lowered the price on the ABS, but it's still a $600 option on all but the Civic EX. But that's about the only real gripe I have. That and the fact that I'd never even heard of Valerie up to this point. He: Don't change the subject. Still afraid we bought the wrong car? She: I'm very happy with the Prizm, but I could have been just as happy with the Civic. It's kind of like picking between me and that dumb Valerie. He: No contest. Anita's rating: (world class) Paul's rating: (world class) What we liked: Honda is doing something about emissions; Great gas mileage; Whole package is top drawer. What we didn't like: Side air bags in wrong spot (Anita); ABS costs extra; Valerie (Anita) 1996 Honda Civic LX Type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, five-passenger compact sedan. Price: Base, $13,600 (estimated); as tested, $14,899 (estimated, inc. $380 destination charge). What's new for '96: All-new for '96. Standard equipment: Power steering, power brakes, power mirrors, wheel covers, tinted glass, AM-FM stereo, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, tachometer, tilt steering column, center console/armrest, cupholder, intermittent wipers, 60/40 folddown rear seat, rear defroster, dual vanity mirrors. Safety features: Dual air bags, side impact door beams, child-proof rear door locks. Options on test vehicle: Air conditioning ($850), floor mats ($69). EPA fuel economy: 33 mpg city/38 mpg highway. Engine: 1.6-liter I-4; 106-hp at 6200 rpm; 103 lb-ft torque at 4600 rpm. Transmission: Five-speed manual. Competitors: Toyota Corolla, Geo Prizm, Nissan Sentra, Mazda Protege, Mitsubishi Mirage, Eagle Summit, Dodge/Plymouth Neon, Subaru Impreza, Ford Escort, Mercury Tracer, Chevrolet Cavalier, Pontiac Sunfire, Volkswagen Jetta. Specifications: Wheelbase, 103.2 inches; overall length, 175.1 inches; curb weight, 2387 pounds; legroom, 42.7 inches front/34.1 inches rear; headroom, 39.8 inches front/37.6 inches rear; shoulder room, 52.4 inches front/51.8 inches rear. 12-month insurance cost: $982 Where built: East Liberty, Ohio. AAA Michigan rates based on an average family of four from the Livonia area whose primary driver is aged 40 with no tickets who drives 3-10 miles each way to work. Rates reflect multicar discount and, where appropriate, discounts for air bags and seat belts.
|Larry Printz||The Morning Call and Mcall.com||July 13, 1996|
|George Moore||IndyStar.com||June 30, 1996|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||March 9, 1996|
|Paul Dean||Los Angeles Times||January 5, 1996|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||November 10, 1995|
|Richard Truett||Orlando Sentinel||October 26, 1995|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||October 4, 1995|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||September 17, 1995|
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