Text: Raymond D. Young / Photos: Brent Co, Raymond D. Young | posted July 10, 2004 00:00
The DOHC is back
But, as the twenty-first century dawned on everyone, Honda, just like every carmaker that time, was pressured to come up with a new model to welcome the new millennium. The resulting product is a Civic that, unlike its predecessors who lead the way towards sporty sedan realization, struggles very hard to keep up with the adage that its predecessors set. Patrons were offered with "just" a SOHC VTEC engine with 130 horses for the VTI and VTI-S variants, and the renowned double wishbone suspension up front is replaced with a less sporty and utilitarian strut-type configuration.
Now, realizing that they had disappointed more than a battalion of Honda enthusiasts who kept clamoring for a return of their sporty sedan idol in the guise of the Civic SiR, returns with yet another formidable weapon. The Civic 2.0 liter DOHC i-VTEC arrived on local shores sometime 2004 to cater to those left wanting the pure unadulterated sedan performance that's distinctively Honda.
Performance is to the Civic as is to Honda. With this, no factor will make the Civic sporty other than the comeback of a DOHC power plant. Honda DOHC in 21 st century speak pertains to the ultra flexible 2.0 liter K20A engine with i-VTEC technology. For starters, this is the same engine that powers the new CR-V, the Civic Type-R of overseas, and was also home to the incumbent Honda Accord when it was available in 2.0-liter guise. The main differences were just the camshaft profile, programmed fuel maps, and overall power figures. The K20A in the CR-V makes 150 Hp with more torque; the K20A in the Civic Type-R makes 200 Hp, while its two-liter sedan variant makes 155 Hp. Suspension wise, it inherits the configuration found in the ES body models but spring rates were changed to accommodate the extra weight from the engine and improve handling by a notch or two. Sticky 195/60/15 Yokohama Advan tires adore the new 15" wheels.
Even with all these sporty virtues present, Honda engineers were quick as a Civic to point out that this new variant is not intended to be a replacement to the Civic SiR. Its creation is targeted towards people who prefer as luxury sedan. True enough, with a 5-speed automatic transmission, leather everywhere, and five full size adults relishing the flat floor layout, it may really qualify as such. Now the Civic is suffering from mistaken identity!
Test drive stints with the new Civic were truly a pleasurable one. With today's ingenuity and modern technology, gone is the fact that shoe horning a two liter power plant on a strictly-made-for-a-1600-engine chassis will raise handling issues as the car will be front heavy. With the Civic, either the engine is lightweight that it weighs more or less the same as with the 1.6-liter VTEC-3 engine, or the spring rates for the front suspension are changed to accommodate the larger engine.
True to the 2.0-liter tradition, the new Civic really pulls. The engine, always in tune with the new 5-speed automatic transmission, provides enough torque for overtaking, or even just for spirited acceleration. Even with occasional bursts of acceleration executed, the Civic 2.0 liter managed to churn out average fuel consumption figures of about 7-8 kilometers per liter, which is remarkable indeed for a 2.0-liter power plant. As the new transmission exhibited much lesser shift shock, driving an automatic transmission Civic was never this pleasurable and comfortable.
Ride, on the other hand, is a little bit on the harsh side, but overall plausible for the country's diverse road conditions. The tires stay true to their task of providing grip, although it is desired that the Neova factor will improve handling even more. Braking is equally superior with very good initial bite and pedal feedback.
Interior wise, the low bonnet illusion continues, thanks to the slightly low seating height, even with the height adjuster rolled all the way up. The Civic gains top honors on the ergonomics department once again, as all switches and controls are within easy reach. A bonus especially for night driving is the new gauge cluster with adjustable red/white Optitron backlighting. A 2-DIN Alpine CD Stereo Cassette with MP3 playback capability provides tunes.
Interior temperature is always kept in check with the climate control air conditioning feature, with variable speed blower. Cooling the cabin is not anymore limited to numbers; during those times when number one on the dial seems too hot, and number two seems so cold, having these variable speed settings is a welcome touch. This feature alone deserves this writer's highest commendation.
Safety is always of paramount concern for everyone, Honda included, so driver and passenger airbags, anti-lock brakes with EBD/BA (Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assists) on four-wheel disc brakes are available in tandem with the Civic's crash worthy cabin.
The Civic remains solid with whatever positive reputation thrown at it. Sure, it could be one's luxury sedan, a performance chariot, or simply one no-nonsense vehicle that takes one from point A to point B. But, whatever one notion of the Civic is, one fact remains true: you'll thank Honda for the Civic.