The Honda Civic is the best-selling compact car in the United States, and the Japanese automaker didn’t arrive at this industry-leading plateau by happenstance. Yet, instead of playing it safe and leaving good enough alone, Honda redesigned the Civic for 2006.
As such, with primary competitors Ford, Mazda, Toyota and Volkswagen all also improving their respective offerings, the compact category is among the industry’s most competitive.
Honda also knows well that plenty of choices in a leading line can’t help but be a good thing, even if it has gone slightly overboard. The Accord, for example, is available in 30 configurations; the Civic is offered in 20 varieties.
(Editor’s note: With this review, theweeklydriver.com begins a new feature. We’re visiting our archives to review cars once new and now well-suited for best buy status in the used market. The 2006 Honda Civic is eight years old. But if a 2006 model is available in good shape and as a one or two-owner car, it still has a lot to offer.)
My weekly driver was the Civic Si sports coupe, the replacement for the Si hatchback. While the Civic sedan models were boosted 20 horsepower to 140 this year, the Si jumped 37 horsepower in 2006 to 197.
Combine its new power with a six-speed (manual only) transmission, 17-inch wheels and upgraded sports suspension and braking systems, and Honda is offering a surprisingly quick, 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder coupe. It features terrific acceleration and a tight, sports car feel.
In fact, the sporty emphasis throughout the vehicle provides the Civic Si’s best and worst features.
Steering and handling, for example, are exemplary. Changing lanes, responsiveness while cornering and general maneuverability are all handled with confidence, particularly considering the Si’s small, sensitive steering wheel that features a tri-spoke leather and mesh configuration. The six-speed manual transmission shifts smoothly, and there’s no doubt the Si provides its share of fun for anyone who enjoys driving.
But the Si is also similar to the Honda S2000. Both are rough riders, with small bumps, uneven surfaces and any other road obstacles easily felt. The Si also has an appreciable amount of engine noise, and during my test drive the engine “backfired” often during downshifting. Like other sports cars, the Si’s front seats aren’t particularly comfortable.
The Civic Si’s redesign adds a sleek, sports car appeal. The wheelbase was lengthened by slightly more than one inch, but head and leg room were respectively shortened by one inch and 2.5 inches. The rear spoiler is extraneous and premium-grade fuel is recommended.
Nonetheless, and particularly considering its price point, the Si is a lot of car for money. It has a long list of varied standard features — a GPS system to power sunroof, outside temperature indicator to alloy wheels.
One unique feature is the combined analog and digital instrument panel. The speedometer digits, separately housed in a curved panel and contoured above the top of the steering wheel, feature digits more than one-inch tall. They’re also always in a driver’s line of sight, which means they also always can keep their eyes on the road.
The Civic Si has another surprising feature. There’s not a lot of back seat room or trunk space. But the easy-to-use latch inside the trunk releases the split back seats and they forward nearly flat and leave a cavernous space.
It’s plenty large enough to carry three stacked standard-sized folding tables and a mirror, which was exactly the cargo I transported a few miles between family members’ homes.
Safety Features — Dual front, front side and side curtain airbags.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 22 mpg (city), 31 mpg (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.
Base Price — $20,290.