Quick View – Honda Civic

Today’s Quick View features the Honda Civic, in honor of it becoming the best-selling car in America for the month of May. (If you’re curious, it outsold the runner-up Toyota Camry by the spooky margin of exactly 2008 units.)

Analysts, along with most non-lobotomized people, believe the sudden jump in sales is due to the way gas prices seem to be rising at the same rate the gas flows into your tank. However, don’t assume the sole reason for the Civic’s popularity is the 36 miles per gallon the EPA says it gets on the highway and the sweet, sweet sound those numbers make when said to Americans paying $4 a gallon. The Civic is popular because it’s a damn good car.

Civics, like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, come in almost every variety you’d ever want. The basic models – DX, LX and EX, in order of increasing features – come in both two-door coupe and four-door sedan forms. All three of them share a 1.8 liter, 140-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine powering the front wheels through either a 5-speed manual or automatic transmission. Aside from features, the three are essentially identical. The bare-bones DX gives you power windows and 15″ wheels, and is probably best to steer clear of; especially when upgrading to the LX brings a more powerful stereo with iPod jack, air conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, and 16″ wheels. The EX adds onto that anti-lock braking, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, power moonroof, two extra speakers, and an available navigation system with XM satellite radio. (There’s also an EX-L model, which is basically just an EX with heated leather seats.)

In addition, the sporty Si model is also available in both coupe or sedan forms. The Si gets outfitted with a 197-horsepower, 2.0 liter inline-four hooked to the road through a 6-speed manual transmission. Too lazy to shift for yourself, pal? Then keep on walking. The Si also gets a limited-slip differential, sportier suspension and 17″ wheels to suck itself to the road, and a tiny rear-wing spoiler that probably doesn’t do jack in terms of helping on that front. Beyond that, it’s also loaded up with everything the EX has, but adds a 350-watt stereo with a subwoofer and admittedly badass aluminum pedals. But all that sportiness catches up at the pump; the Si gets just 29 miles per gallon on the highway.

Then there’s the Si’s Bizarro twin, the Civic Hybrid. Like Superman’s twisted double, the Hybrid and Si seem similar at first – both lie at the expensive end of the Civic spectrum, with features to match. But where the Si is all about speed – sweet, beautiful speed – the Hybrid lives for frugality. It gets the weakest engine of the Civic line, a 110-horsepower 1.3 liter inline-four that gets some (but not much) help from a small electric motor. Where the Si gets more gears than the rest of the Civics, the Hybrid gets fewer – it uses a continuously variable automatic transmission without set gear ratios to maximize economy. It gets most of the EX features as well, with the addition of automatic climate control – the only car in the Civic line with the option.

Finally, there’s the oddball – the GX natural gas-powered sedan. As you might imagine, being powered by compressed natural gas gives you the enjoyment of never having to stop at the Exxon station; unfortunately, it also probably means you’ll be pushing your car a lot, since CNG stations are as common as sober frat boys during college pledge week…or drunken volunteers during public radio pledge week. (For the record, Vermont and Maine each have one station, New Hampshire three, and Massachusetts eleven – but Vermont’s is private, along with two of New Hampshire’s, and the sole Maine station advises people to “call ahead.”) The GX drinks (inhales?) its fuel into a 113-horsepower 1.8 liter inline-four connected only to a 5-speed automatic. It gets the same 160-watt stereo as the LX and EX, but is forced to channel it through two mere speakers. 

The only divisive issue about the car really is its looks. After generations of conservative styling, Honda seems to have gone in a whole new direction with this Civic’s cyborg-trout looks. The two-tier dashboard may put some people off, too, but it doesn’t take too long to adjust to. If you don’t mind its looks, the Civic probably has a model you wouldn’t mind taking home with you.

Base prices:

Honda Civic DX sedan/coupe: $15,010/$14,810

Honda Civic LX sedan/coupe: $16,960/$16,760

Honda Civic EX sedan/coupe: $18,710/$18,710 (with leather: $19,910/$19,910)

Honda Civic Si sedan/coupe: $21,310/$21,110

Honda Civic Hybrid: $22,600

Honda Civic GX: $24,590

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