2001 Honda Civic
|The Good: |
– Reliable and solidly built
– Low petrol consumption
– Some models are very quick
|The Bad: |
– Slow base model
– Not cheap to buy used
– Skinny tyres
Honda’s highly practical Civic rolled into 2001 with an all-new design, and got a facelift in 2004 with a slightly new look. Honda Civic is an icon. The Civic sedan is among one of the Middle East’s best-selling compacts. Civics are notable for their excellent fuel economy and sporty handling. Front-seat comfort is superb by any measure. The Honda Civic line is composed of a family of diverse models. Up-level Civics come with powerful VTEC engines that provide brisk acceleration. The Type-R hatchback is the flagship performance model. All Civics are fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly.
The Honda Civic four-door sedan comes with a variety of engines. All of them are 4-cylinder 16-valve units and can be had with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The engines and trims levels include a 1.5-liter 110 hp LXi and EXi and 1.7-liter 130 hp VTEC VTi. The very rare special order SiR sedan offered in the previous generation was dropped for 2001. The Type-R sports hatchback comes only with a 2.0-liter 200 hp VTEC engine and a six-speed manual.
The basic LXi comes standard with a 110 hp engine, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo system, power steering, digital clock and trunk lamp, and a manual gearbox. It also gets 14-inch wheels, cloth interior and full wheel caps. The EXi trim adds power windows, power door mirrors, power steering and automatic gearbox. The VTi trim adds the more powerful 130 hp engine, cruise control, body colour side mouldings, keyless entry and front airbags. The expensive Type-R 3-door hatchback comes with a 200 hp engine, six-speed manual, 17-inch wheels, sports seats, sports suspension and ABS. From 2004, all models got a standard CD player.
The Honda Civic sedan and coupe get subtle styling revisions for 2004 that give them a bolder look. Up front, the bumper, grille, engine hood, and headlights are all new. The opening under the grille has been re-shaped into a shark-like smile and now incorporates two downward-slashing struts. The headlights are still triangular, but stretch out more diagonally as they flow around the car’s front corners. These changes are small, really, but subtly suggestive of the total re-style received by big brother Accord. The Civic’s rear bumper is reshaped as well, a little crisper now than before. Unchanged is the Civic’s wedge-shaped profile, with a high, curt tail and low front end. The hood sits amazingly low. The sedan remains conservative in appearance, but unique in design.
The styling of the Type-R hatchback seems to polarize people. Some think it’s ugly; others love it and are quick to defend it. It’s edgy and wedgy. The huge, flat windshield is steeply raked. The nose slopes radically downward, giving the car excellent aerodynamics and driver visibility. Its unique mesh grille is framed by huge triangular headlamps which, like those of the sedan, have been updated for 2004. New taillights lend a custom appearance, with oval amber turn-signal lenses behind a contoured clear cover. Honda is known for its space-efficient design, and the Civic packs its engine into a condensed engine bay, leaving more space for the interior. The door handles are the lever kind, which are a little harder to operate than the kind you stick your hands through.
The Honda Civic is ergonomically excellent, making this an easy car to operate. From the driver’s seat, the Civic is a comfortable car. From the back seat, it is less so. As in most Hondas, the passenger compartment feels airy and open. Front-seat accommodations in the Civic are superb. The sedan’s front seats provide excellent support, thanks to a rigid structure with aggressive side bolsters. High seat cushions make entry and exit easy. Seat fabrics for the sedan were upgraded for the 2003 model year, and the quality of the new materials and trim is excellent. Visibility when driving or parking is excellent as the driver is surrounded by glass and looks over a very low hood line. The Type-R hatchback’s front seats are excellent, offering decent comfort for long drives and providing good support for hard driving. They look and feel upscale. Alcantara-like trim adds richness to the side bolsters while red stitching accents the sporty fabric in the center. The seating position in the Type-R is a bit strange with its big dash and sharply raked windshield.
Rear-seat accommodations in all of the Civic models are not the best. They are neither roomy nor comfortable by class standards. The rear bench is low and hard and does not support the thighs well. The Toyota Corolla is better on this score than the Civic sedan. That said, the Civic’s flat floor lets rear-seat passengers spread their feet out, as there’s no center tunnel to get in the way. Also, the outboard rear-seat head restraints are adjustable. But three in back is a crowd. In all Civics, the cockpit looks clean and efficient, with the instrument panel tucked beneath a barrel-shaped cowl. A sporty, four-spoke steering wheel provides a comfortable grip. Round analog instruments include an oversized speedometer and tachometer in the center, flanked by smaller fuel and coolant gauges. In the sedan, the gauge graphics are the traditional white-on-black. The Type-R features black numbers on white gauges, for a sporty appearance; while a bright red R badges adds colour. The hatchback has a shifter that sprouts at an angle from the upper console, as in some of the latest rally cars. Though it looks odd at first, the lever turns out to be perfectly located for quick and easy shifting, almost reminiscent of a formula car. Its close proximity to the steering wheel keeps it handy. It works really, really well and we instantly liked it. The Civic sedan’s trunk space is comparable to that of other compact sedans. The rear seat is split 60/40 and folds down for increased cargo space. The hatchback is practical with a big cargo compartment that opens up further when the rear seats are folded.
Honda Civics offer terrific handling, and that statement applies to all models. Ride quality, noise, vibration and harshness have not the best in the class, however. To address this, Honda added more sound-dampening insulation to the doors to the 2004 models of both the coupe and sedan. If you haven’t driven a Civic since the end of the last century, you’ll find that the current models feel more substantial, more upscale than the pre-2001 models. Though not the quietest cars in their class, the Civic is not as noisy as a Ford Focus. When driving at highway speed, riders may converse in a normal voice without distractions from mechanical racket or wind noise. All Civics are fun to drive, the VTi models are more so thanks to their brisk acceleration. All are environmentally friendly.
The Civic LXi and EXi models offer excellent fuel economy, but slow acceleration performance. This is most pronounced with the automatic transmission, where more time and space are needed to pass another vehicle. In other words, they are at their best with a manual transmission and in the hands of a driver who can wring power and efficiency from the engine. The VTi models deliver livelier acceleration because they are equipped with the more powerful VTEC engine. Driving a Honda Civic VTi sedan with the five-speed manual transmission is a sporty, satisfying experience. Throttle response is good at any speed because the engine extends its torque across a broad power band. The manual gearbox is smooth and precise, with notched stop points between gears. The four-speed automatic also works well, shifting quietly and smoothly.
The Type-R’s i-VTEC four seems initially unremarkable, with poor low-end torque. Real performance always seems a downshift away in most real-life conditions. What it likes is revs, and lots of them. Power begins to pick up at 5500 rpm, and from 6000 rpm to the 8000 rpm redline, you are positively flying. Having six tightly spaced gears helps, too. With a wheel at each corner, a rigid bodyshell and some very sorted damping, the Type R handles superbly. Its steering is direct and at times feels deceptively quicker.
Braking performance in the Honda Civic is good, but not up to the standards of the class. Braking is well controlled in Civic sedans, which come with front disc and rear drum brakes. The Type-R comes with disc brakes on all four wheels. Still, its stopping performance is only average for the class. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are available on the Type-R, with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), which optimizes braking performance and stability by gradually moving more braking power to the front wheels as the car’s weight tilts forward while stopping.
You can’t go wrong buying a Honda Civic, regardless of trim level. All are reliable, practical, and fuel efficient. Civics are fun to drive and all models offer excellent handling. Some models have a responsive engine to the party and the Type-R hatchback is excellent. All of them feature Honda’s durability and reliability. That is the reason why used prices are so high.
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