Full 2006 Honda Civic Review
What's New for 2006
Honda has completely redesigned the Civic for 2006. Highlights include a more powerful and fuel-efficient 1.8-liter engine, new exterior styling, an advanced interior design and more premium features. The company has also improved the gas-electric IMA system for the Civic Hybrid and restored the Civic Si trim's potency with a 197-horsepower engine and a sportier coupe body style. Midway through the year, Honda will also introduce a new "GX" trim level that runs on natural gas.
Thanks to its frugal and clean engines, spunky performance and reputation for excellent reliability and durability, the Honda Civic has been a consistent benchmark for the economy car class ever since its introduction in 1973. Those qualities continue to apply to the redesigned, all-new eighth generation of Honda's popular hauler. However, Honda also hopes to shift its U.S. market focus from baby boomers to Gen Y-ers, and as such, the new Civic places a stronger emphasis on design and performance. It's sleeker, more powerful and better performing than any Civic before it, and is undeniably the best and most interesting Civic Honda has ever produced.
The 2006 Honda Civic is available as a sedan or a coupe (the hatchback version has been nixed this year), and comes in a number of different trims. As a bit of a change for a Civic redesign, there's not necessarily more of everything. Trunk capacity and rear-seat legroom in the coupe have actually shrunk a bit this year. The reason is a stronger emphasis on style. The Civic's sleek new look includes a laid-back windshield, minimal front and rear overhangs and a tight tire-to-fender gap. This year the coupe rides on a shorter wheelbase.
Horsepower is up on every model. All DX, LX and EX models are powered by a SOHC 1.8-liter, inline four-cylinder engine with Honda's i-VTEC system. It makes 140 hp and 128 pound-feet of torque. The GX uses a natural gas-fueled version that makes 113 hp and 109 lb-ft. The previous Civic Si hatchback was a performance disappointment. Thankfully, the 2006 coupe version steps up by being the fastest production Civic ever. It has a more powerful 197-hp engine, a sport-tuned suspension and a six-speed manual with a limited-slip differential. For those interested more in fuel economy rather than 0-60-mph times, there's the Civic Hybrid sedan. As before, it uses Honda's IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system, which consists of a 1.3-liter, single-overhead-cam, four-cylinder gas engine connected to an electric motor and a continuously variable transmission. Combined horsepower is up to 110 on the Civic Hybrid, while mileage swells to 50 mpg city/50 mpg highway. The increased fuel economy is largely due to the fact that the gas engine can now shut down completely during deceleration and steady cruising, allowing the electric motor alone to propel the car, just as in Toyota's Prius. Another fueling alternative is the Civic GX. It runs on compressed natural gas and can even be filled up at home via a natural gas home kit called "Phill."
Whichever model you choose, it's pretty hard to go wrong with the 2006 Honda Civic. Every time you get into it, you'll know that you're driving a safe, dependable car that causes minimal damage to the environment and will provide years of faithful service.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Honda Civic is available as a sedan or a two-door coupe. There are three main trim levels available: DX, LX and EX. The budget-oriented DX offers a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a height-adjustable driver seat but few other amenities. The midgrade LX comes with 16-inch wheels, a CD player with MP3/WMA playback, air-conditioning, full power accessories, keyless entry and cruise control. The top-line EX adds alloy wheels, a moonroof, a 60/40-split rear seatback, two extra speakers, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and a portable music player jack. There are also three specialty models: the Civic Hybrid sedan, Civic GX sedan and the Civic Si coupe. All are equipped to a level similar to the EX trim, though the Si also comes with a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels and special interior trim, while the Hybrid has automatic climate control but no sunroof. For the EX, Hybrid and Si, satellite radio and a navigation system are optional.
Powertrains and Performance
The front wheels of all DX, LX and EX models are powered by a 1.8-liter, inline four-cylinder engine. It makes 140 hp at 6,300 rpm and 128 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm, and may be paired with either a standard five-speed manual or an optional five-speed automatic transmission. The GX uses a compressed natural gas-fueled version of that engine that makes 113 hp and 109 lb-ft and it's paired to a five-speed automatic. The 1.3-liter gas-electric powertrain found in the Civic Hybrid makes 110 hp and boasts the best fuel-economy figures of the Civic range -- 50 mpg for both city and highway with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 197-hp Si is the most powerful Civic and comes matched to an exclusive six-speed manual with a limited-slip front differential.
Every Honda Civic comes equipped with antilock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front-seat head restraints. DX, LX, GX and Hybrid models have front disc/rear drum brakes, while the EX and Si have four-wheel discs.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Civic's large dash features an unusual layout. Honda has kept the analog tachometer in the traditional location and placed a digital speedometer and gas gauge at the base of the windshield. Honda calls it a two-tier design. We call it questionable. Although rear legroom is down in the coupe, both body styles gained 1.4 inches of width this year, so sticking a third passenger in the backseat of either no longer qualifies as bad karma.
The Civic's new 1.8-liter is silky-smooth, fun to rev and gets better mileage than the less powerful engines it replaces. The more efficient Hybrid and GX models feel quicker as well. Smartly, there's more to the coupe than just sleeker styling. It has firmer suspension tuning than the sedan, and this pays dividends in the form of tighter and more responsive handling. Finally, the Civic Si, with the same engine as an Acura RSX Type-S, is back in fighting form, offering performance thrills at a value price.
Read our Honda Civic Si Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test