The Honda Civic represents basic transportation, Japanese style.

That means very good interior room front and rear and more than ampletrunk space.

It means a soft, quiet, comfortable ride with adequate insulation andample padding of the cloth-covered seats.

It also means a peppy 1.5-liter, 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine that willmove you from the light without groaning and keep you going for what seems an eternity without having to pause for fuel.

But a subcompact Civic is not a compact Accord.

Comfortable, yes, but long trips might drive you bonkers because the kids in the back seat are in easy earshot of the adults up front. This is asubcompact built on a 98.4-inch wheelbase that`s 166.6 inches long overall.

And a Civic isn`t a Prelude.

Despite double wishbone independent suspension front and rear and gaspressurized shocks in the rear, you`ll experience abundant body roll and sway in turns and corners. You`ll find 13-inch wheels don`t help. You wouldn`t wantto be heading into the first turn at Indy at 90 miles an hour in this thing.Rather, you drive this car to the track and get 30 miles per gallon on theway.

Civic`s 1.5-liter 4 proves you shouldn`t reach for a stopwatch to take 0- to-60 m.p.h. times just because it`s a multivalve. What you get is 92horses. Gets you off the line but you`ll find yourself on many occasionsdownshifting to 4th or 3d to get back a head of steam.

What you give up in power you get back in mileage. The rating is 31m.p.g. city/36 m.p.g. highway with manual, 27/32 with automatic.

We test-drove the Honda Civic four-door sedan LX. It`s an economy carwith lots of luxury dressing. Don`t expect more out of it than it delivers andyou won`t be disappointed.

Standard equipment in the LX includes power steering; tinted glass; dualpower mirrors; power windows/door locks; remote locking trunk and fuel filler doors; reclining front seats; full wheel covers; quartz digital clock;adjustable steering column; body-colored bumpers; rear-seat heater ducts;hidden instrument-panel coin box; front-wheel mud flaps to keep debris off thebody; wide protective bodyside moldings; and a locking, fold-down rear seatback that allows access to the trunk for added cargo-carrying capacity. Theback comes up a bit shy of folding flat, however.

The base price for the four-door LX sedan is $10,150 with manual, $10,720 with automatic.