What's New for 2001
Honda redesigns its cars and trucks every four to five years, whether they need it or not. For 2001, it's the Honda Civic's turn. Larger inside and out, with more powerful engines but a less sophisticated suspension, coupes and sedans return in familiar DX, LX and EX trims, while HX models come with two doors only. The GX Sedan is powered by natural gas. Unfortunately, the hatchback dies just when Americans are once again figuring out how useful they can be, and the sporty Si goes on hiatus for a year or two.
Who's your daddy? That should be the 2001 Civic's advertising tagline. Just when the old model began to get a little moldy around the edges in comparison to the Ford Focus, Mazda Protege and Nissan Sentra, Honda drives an all-new Civic off the drawing board and into showrooms, making the job of choosing a competent compact that much more difficult.
Engineers wanted to make the Civic more fun to drive while simultaneously increasing fuel economy with more-efficient engines. Improved crashworthiness, a larger cabin and a bigger trunk were also design goals. Added refinement and standard equipment would increase value in the eyes of the consumer, Honda thought. Finally, the company wanted to improve quality 10 times over the old Civic, which sounds damn near impossible to us. Last year's car was already known to be one of the most reliable and tightly assembled vehicles on the planet.
Unfortunately, the hatchback model got the axe and the zippy Si Coupe disappeared in the process, leaving two- and four-door models available in a wide variety of trim levels. Like last year, base models are known as DX, and include a tilt steering wheel and an AM/FM four-speaker stereo, among other items. Mid-level LX comes with air conditioning (includes a micron air filter), power windows and locks, cruise control and a cassette deck. Top-of-the-line EX receives antilock brakes, a moonroof, 15-inch wheels, a CD player and a more powerful VTEC engine. If fuel economy is a priority, get the HX Coupe, available with an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) and lightweight alloy wheels. Got an Ed Begley Jr. complex? Try the CVT-equipped GX Sedan, which runs on natural gas and meets super ultra low emission vehicle (SULEV) standards. GX can be equipped with lightweight alloy wheels and ABS.
DX and LX are powered by a 115-horsepower 1.7-liter four-cylinder engine with more torque than last year's 1.6-liter motor. EX continues with a 127-horse VTEC, sized 1.7 liters this year and boasting added twisting force for 2001. Either engine can be mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission except in the GX, which comes with a standard CVT. HX gets a VTEC-E Lean Burn 1.7-liter motor good for 117 horsepower. A five-speed manual is standard on the HX, with the aforementioned CVT tranny available optionally. All gasoline motors meet ultra low emission vehicle (ULEV) standards nationwide, while the CNG-fueled GX manages a SULEV rating and a 200-mile range. Oil changes occur every 10,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first. Expect a gasoline/electric hybrid Civic to debut for 2002, showcasing technology developed for the Honda Insight.
Coupes and sedans get unique sheetmetal and styling for 2001 to help differentiate between the sporty Civic and the sensible Civic. Engineers targeted a five-star NHTSA crash-test score when designing the Civic's new structure, all while providing more room and greater comfort in a package equivalent in size to the 2000 model. They succeeded -- both the coupe and sedan receive the government's highest score in frontal crash tests.
Dual seatbelt pre-tensioners, dual-stage airbag inflators, three-point seatbelts for all five occupants and optional side airbags with a cutoff system that can detect a child or occupant out of position will help the Civic provide the anticipated level of passenger protection. Yet, despite this dedication to making Civic safe, ABS is still available only on the most expensive model, the EX, or the GX natural gas model. A real head-scratcher, that.
Rounding out the highlights of the redesign, Civic has a larger cabin and trunk, due in part to a shorter nose made possible by the adoption of a relatively mundane MacPherson strut front suspension arrangement. Sophisticated double-wishbone underpinnings continue to support the rear of the car, but last year's trailing arms are gone to make room for a flat rear floor. Spring rates have been reduced all around to produce a softer, more comfortable ride. Finally, noise, vibration and harshness have been quelled in an effort to bring unparalleled refinement to the economy car class.
If you're shopping for a small car and you skip the redesigned 2001 Honda Civic, you're doing yourself a tremendous disservice.