An all-new, eighth-generation Civic should erase memories of the de-contented outgoing car, thanks in part to the forthcoming Scion-like Honda Jazz/Fit, which will relieve the price pressure from downmarket. A funky Europe-bound hatchback version of the new Civic will be shown at Frankfurt, shown here along with the U.S.-bound sedan and coupe.
The previous generation strayed a bit with ho-hum handling and a bumpy ride, but the all-new 2006 Civic is once again a segment leader. With quality a forgone conclusion, the Civic buffs up on safety (ABS and six air bags are now standard), performance (a 140-hp four is as smooth and sweet as any), and comfort (it's quieter and roomier). More important, the Civic recaptures its mojo with sportier, more buttoned-down handling. Because it's well-damped and has a rigid body, this nimbleness doesn't come at the expense of ride quality. The Civic is also a techno-tour-de-force: The hybrid model is one of the most fuel-efficient cars available, and satellite navigation and radio are available. Even without all the frippery, the Civic, along with the Mazda 3, once again sits at the top of the compact car hierarchy.
The Civic coupe began life as an economical and agile alternative to its plodding contemporaries, but over the years it got duller as its competitors sharpened up, and by 2005, it was a secretary's special. Enter the new Civic coupe for 2006, a decidedly crisper and sexier two-door than we've seen wearing a Honda badge in a long time. Refinement bumps forward two or three notches. The base model has a torquey 1.8-liter four and a taut suspension that give it a playful demeanor. The hot Si is a serious performance bargain with 197 hp, a limited-slip differential, and a six-speed stick. The Civic is now as comfortable and well-equipped as anything in its class. The Civic coupe marks the triumphant return to the time when Hondas were smarter and sportier than their competitors.