It’s called six degrees of separation, a theory of interconnectedness that first came to light in 1929 from the mind of Frigyes Karinthy. Then, in 1967, Stanley Milgram performed an experiment where Midwesterners had to send a package to a stranger in Massachusetts, knowing the name but not their address. The senders were forced to rely on friends and relatives who they thought would offer the best chance of getting the package delivered to the stranger. On average, six people were involved in delivering the package to its final destination. Though hard to believe, the Milgram experiment seemed to indicate that, despite the widespread population of hundreds of millions, we’re all only a few handshakes away from knowing each other.
If the theory holds true for humans, it most certainly has to hold true for a particular car that’s been around for decades, the Honda Civic. Most of us can probably think of a Civic we’ve either owned ourselves or had in the family, but if not, chances are it doesn’t take more than a quick search through friends and their families, co-workers, or that guy you chat with when getting your morning coffee to find a Civic owner. They’re cars akin to a predicament – everyone seems to have been in one at some point.
Honda’s little commuter car gained popularity during the gas crisis of the 1970’s when Detroit, still drunk on 1960’s muscle car success, found itself with a glut of guzzlers. The Civic entered the scene as a cute front-driver that motored happily on, requiring relatively few stops for fuel. Since then, the Civic has become a staple in the American family, providing basic yet reliable service, though recent models have been more than a touch bland, and until this year everyone’s favorite Honda had started to blend into the burgeoning compact car segment. However, with a fresh new look, a redesigned and contemporary interior, and a more potent powertrain, the 2006 Honda Civic aims to rise above the pack.
Providing the needed momentum is a 1.8-liter, single overhead cam, 16-valve, i-VTEC four-cylinder engine that produces 140 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 128 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,300 rpm, with power directed to the front wheels through a standard five-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. The Civic sedan weighs about 2,700 pounds, rides on a MacPherson strut front suspension with a double wishbone setup in back, and offers an EPA-rated 38 mpg on the highway with the stick, and up to 40 mpg with the automatic tranny. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are charged with stopping the Civic, and a variable-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system keeps all on the straight and narrow.
All of that hardware comes standard on the most basic 2006 Honda Civic, the DX. Starting at $15,110 (including a $550 destination charge), these models come equipped with 15-inch steel wheels, a 160-watt sound system with a CD player, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, a folding rear seat, power windows, and front-side and side-curtain airbags. A move up to the LX model, starting at $17,060, provides 16-inch steel wheels, body-color door handles and mirrors, air conditioning, an MP3 player, power locks, and cruise control with steering wheel-mounted buttons. EX models lie at the top of the model lineup and start at $18,810. Standard fare here includes 16-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, XM satellite radio, an exterior temperature gauge, and more. A navigation system can be had on the EX for $1,500, while all models may be outfitted with the five-speed automatic transmission for $800.
For this evaluation, we spent a week covering several hundred miles of twisty canyons, city streets, and open highway in a 2006 Honda Civic EX sedan with the automatic transmission. Our tester stickered for $19,610 including destination, and was fully-loaded, with the exception of the navigation system.