The best-selling small car in the United States has a new design with a roomier interior and styling that resembles that of its big brother, the Accord.
Four-door sedan and two-door coupe body styles of the front-drive Civic return, but the two-door hatchback is gone. The roomier interior moves the 2001 Civic up to the compact class from subcompact, according to the EPAs yardstick.
Power for all models now comes from 1.7-liter four-cylinder engines, which replace 1.6-liter engines. Also new to the lineup is an LX coupe model.
The Civics new styling is an evolution of the previous design not a radical departure. The changes are most dramatic at the rear, which has an edgier look than the previous version, and the overall appearance resembles that of the Accord.
Though the interior is larger, the new Civic is about half an inch shorter at 174.6 inches. Honda trimmed off about 2.5 inches from the front and added 2 inches at the rear. The coupe and sedan share the hood, front fenders, front bumper and headlights, but the coupe has a steeper windshield and is 1.6 inches shorter. It also has different rear pillars, rear bumper and taillights.
The overall height of the sedan raises by 2 inches, giving the interior a more spacious feel, and rear legroom increases by 2 inches thanks to a more compact rear suspension. A shoulder belt for the middle rear seating position is a new feature.
Trunk space increases 1 cubic foot to 12.9, and the split rear seatback folds for additional space on all models.
Under the Hood
All models use new 1.7-liter engines. On the DX and LX versions, the engines produce 115 horsepower. EX models have Hondas variable-valve technology and 127 hp. Both engines are available with a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission.
The HX coupe has a 117-hp lean-burn engine that Honda says operates with reduced emissions. The HX is available with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which operates like a dimmer switch instead of a three- or four-way light switch. The CVT transmission is also available on a new GX model that runs on compressed natural gas.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats are a new option on all models. The side airbags are automatically disabled if sensors detect that an occupant is out of position.
Antilock brakes are standard on EX models and not available on the others.
The new Civic feels more solid and substantial and is quieter than its predecessor. Horsepower ratings are virtually the same as last year, but the new engines develop greater torque, which gives the Civic stronger passing power and smoother operation with automatic transmission.
A roomier interior means the rear seat has space for two 6-footers, and there is no hump in the middle of the floor, which makes it easier to squeeze a third person in the backseat.
Though the new Civic is not a great leap forward in any one area, it has enough significant improvements to make it a worthy successor to the best-selling small car. Prices went up by small amounts, so there is still plenty of value in the Civic line.