Text: Raymond D. Young / Photos: Raymond D. Young | posted December 05, 2007 00:00
The Power of Two
The new Honda Civic needs no detailed introduction. Launched sometime first quarter of 2006, it took the market literally by storm as it introduced a new realm of motoring not only for long time Honda fans but also for the general motoring public. Sure, other Civic contemporaries on the market may offer the space plus decent performance and fuel economy to boot, but no other car in the market will provide it with utmost dynamism and passion other than the Honda Civic. With just a little over one year in the market, it not only garnered countless awards not only locally but globally, but also continue to own up a large chunk of the segment where it plays; translated into numbers there are roughly 12,000 new Civics plying Philippine roads today.
Going back to the magical number two, everyone is not oblivious of the fact that all cars are now growing in size, weight, and speed, and motorists now demand more from their vehicles even if it means they need to pay extra at the pumps. The aforementioned is one of the compelling reasons why cars normally fitted with meager 1600 cc or 1800 cc engines now sport a full fledged two liter four bangers under their bonnets, the new Honda Civic included, formally tagged as the 2.0 S variant.
To loyal Civic patrons, noticeable is the fact that this variant is simply a continuation of where the previous generation 2.0 i-VTEC left off, albeit with new twists. Whereas the previous generation 2.0 is only fitted with a five-speed automatic transmission, the new generation now has a five-speed manual transmission. Now, do I hear the letters "S-I-R"? Not quite, if you'll ask me. I'd rather call it a version 2.0 of the 2.0 variant. It may sound redundant, but I think that is the proper way of defining it.
The exterior of the new Civic remains to be a well discussed topic. Undoubtedly, this is one of the sleekest designs applied to a compact car. The design may be youthful, sleek, and sporty, but for Honda, this is another successful implementation of their "Man Maximum, Machine Minimum" principle. For them, machines should not intervene in the natural movement of humans. Which is why the carefully thought out exterior feature very short overhangs, strategic position of lights, and most especially, the increased greenhouse area contribute to the sleek design, which is always a refreshing sight. To differentiate the two liter variant amongst its 1.8 liter brothers, bumper fog lights and a different 16" rims design are standard equipment together with of course the 2.0 S emblems situated at the car's rear end.
The interior, on the other hand, does not differ much from the 1.8 liter variants, except for the steering wheel mounted audio controls. As the exterior dimensions were increased, what follows naturally is the increase in interior space. The now 2700 mm wheelbase, complemented by a flat rear floor, created a very livable interior space with true seating for five people; that Is, two in the front, and three in the back. Say goodbye to the phrase "occasional rear middle passenger" as the new Civic will truly fit three people on its second row seating. Again, two tiered instrumentation is its main highlight, as well as highly supportive seats, roomy second row seating thanks to the flat rear floor, and again a well thought out combination of black, beige, and blue hues. An integrated head unit system with CD and MP3 playback is also standard, as well as an auxiliary audio jack for portable music players. The tradition of ergonomic and driver friendly arrangement of controls of all Hondas are continued in this particular Civic variant.
The engine, again, continues where the previous generation 2.0 variant left off. A dual overhead cam engine with i-VTEC technology, it continues to have 155 horses at 6,000 rpm and 188 Nm of torque at 4,200 rpm. Usual numbers for a 2.0 liter if you'll ask me, but, add to it Drive-By-Wire technology and Electric Power Steering (EPS), and most especially, Honda's expertise in engine building, this is the liveliest and m most responsive stock two liter four banger money can get nowadays.
Driving this Civic variant around town proves the usefulness, if not the necessity, of having an extra 200 cc of displacement. Controlled by a five speed manual transmission and a very responsive hydraulic clutch system, zipping past slow vehicles is not anymore a hit-and-miss encounter, as long as it is in the right gear. The first gear is tall but not to the point that it will exhaust the available engine speed prematurely. As engine power is apparently more than enough, the last four gears are built for cruising, and are adept for relaxed driving styles. In fact, at fifth gear it can cruise at 60 clicks per hour at 1,500 rpm. Maintaining this state of operation during city driving will yield a fuel consumption of roughly 9-10 kilometers per liter, which is very remarkable for a two liter. This is possible thanks to i-VTEC, wherein, intake valve timing is precisely controlled and varied depending on engine speed. Highway fuel consumption, on the other hand is measured at roughly 12-13 kilometers per liter. Now, who says two liters are gas guzzlers?
Excellent handling on the other hand, remains to be a positive Civic trait, especially for this variant. The suspension system of struts in front and double wishbones on the rear, although too taut at times during short trips, will prove to be very indispensable on winding roads. The fast steering ratio together with EPS improves nearly on every aspect over its predecessor, always providing the right amount of assist any time on any road condition while being very razor sharp and precise. It is very well weighted in city driving but will gain weight during triple digit speeds, which is supposed to be a safety feature more than anything else. Negotiating tight turns remain neutral, contradicting the old fact that compact cars fitted with midsize engines will result in a car that will be nose heavy. The brakes, which are carried from the 1.8 liter variant, composed of discs on all four corners with ABS, EBD and BA (Anti Lock Brakes, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, and Braking Assist, respectively), is still in control over things despite the additional power and torque, and returns a very positive feedback when invoked. Further improvements to the car's handling would be the inclusion of stickier tires, and perhaps some sort of stability program, called VSA or Vehicle Stability Assist in Honda parlance.
For those wanting more oomph from their daily commute, the Civic 2.0 is the perfect choice. Fast, sporty, and attractive, when put altogether, is the perfect concoction any spirited motorist can dream of. For those who may feel guilt over the extra displacement, don't fret; it still has four doors and can carry five, aside from being conservative on fuel consumption.