The Honda Civic, the best-selling small car for the last three years, is unchanged for the 2000 model year. This is expected to be the last year for the current design, which arrived for 1996. The Civic line offers more variety than most competitors: three body styles, four engines and three kinds of transmissions.
Honda says all three body styles seat five, though it's a squeeze to fit three adults into the rear seat. Two six-footers have adequate space in back, which is more than can be said of most small cars. All models have a split rear seatback that folds for additional cargo space. They also have a modern, attractive dashboard that places controls where they are easy to see and operate while driving.
All models ride a 103.2-inch wheelbase, but the two-door coupe and four-door sedan measure 175 inches bumper-to-bumper, while the two-door hatchback is 11 inches shorter. Styling is the same on all models except the Si coupe, which wears a front spoiler and side sills to announce its role as the high-performance model. The Si was added last spring because the Civic coupe is a favorite among younger buyers.
Under the Hood
All Civics use a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, but it comes in four different flavors. The CX, DX and LX models have a 106-horsepower version available with five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. The HX coupe uses a 125-horsepower version available with manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Instead of having four forward gears, the CVT operates like a dimmer switch, automatically changing among an infinite number of gear ratios based on engine speed. The EX coupe and sedan have a 127-horsepower engine and either a manual or automatic transmission. The Si's dual-camshaft engine makes 160 horsepower and teams with a five-speed manual.
There are good reasons the Civic is the most popular small car. Reasonable prices, top-notch quality, reliability and high resale value are among the main attractions. Variety is another. There are Civic models for the economy-minded and the performance-oriented and others in between. All provide at least adequate acceleration, commendable ride and handling, and comfortable accommodations.