Shooting for the stars

David Yochum

Honda relies on technology to ignite it’s compact, sport-sedan

NASA may want to check its mirrors.

“Civic’s like a little rocket ship inside,” Dinovo said. “You feel like you’re going to blast off.”

Light years ahead of its time, Civic’s radical cockpit blew away competition in The $16,000 Challenge. Blossoming with digital, multi-color instrument panels, Civic’s two-tier dashboard hosts speedometer, fuel and engine gauges at eye level, while a giant tachometer greets the downward glance. Honda says the high-tech markers help drivers concentrate on the road, offering a prime view of information – but students couldn’t stop focusing on the creativity.

Rogers sensed the gauges grabbed him with clear, bright design, while Sheth used them to avoid the law.


+ Gorgeous, bright gauges

+ Futuristic style

+ Powerful engine

– Firm seats

– No standard A/C

– Touchy brakes

“I saw a cop and didn’t have to look down to check my speed,” he said. “Everything in this car is unique in its own way – the small emergency break, shifter and steering wheel.”

Outside mission control, Civic’s sleek, “bullet-like” exterior shines with modern design. Crowned by a huge front windshield (raked lower than Acura’s NSX super-car), testers said Civic was shaped with “classy, forward-motion style,” while Sheth pointed out broad taillights increase safety and visibility.

Dinovo uncovered immediate standing acceleration driving under a Tallmadge sunset but felt indifferent about Civic’s touchy brakes. Goffe said she appreciated Civic’s easy handling, twisting between trees and a parked Mercedes during a sudden turnaround.


Base price: $15,290

Price as-tested: $18,060

Engine: 1.8L SOHC i-VTEC 16V 4-cylinder

HP @ rpm: 140 @ 6300

Torque @ rpm: 128 @ 4300

Transmission: 5-speed auto

Base weight (lbs): 2,751

EPA mpg (city/highway): 30/40

Comfortable with Honda’s “economic and ergonomic balance,” Sheth said excellent gas mileage (30/40 mpg) and ample storage room were some of the reasons Civic was the best car he’s tested; however, Rogers felt Civic’s seats were close to al-dente – “good, but firm.”

“I don’t like how you can’t have your arm on the armrest and shifter at the same time either,” Rogers said. “Everything seems to be going forward, though – even the little side windows in front.”

Recognized as Motor Trend‘s 2006 Car of the Year, Civic moves forward using a base i-VTEC, 140-hp engine. Starting at $14,760, all Civics come standard with side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, power windows and a tilt/telescoping steering column. The cars are backed by a 3-year/36,000 basic and a 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty.

Flight training for Civic is provided by Honda dealerships at no extra cost.