Ever since its introduction early 2006, the Honda Civic is continuously redefining what a compact car should be. Aside from being spacious, powerful, and good-looking, it also boasts of fuel consumption that's in the territory of cars with engines one or two steps below its displacement. In the Civic's case, the 1.8-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine boasts of power of 2.0 liter engines while having a fuel consumption of a 1.5 liter.

Naturally, everybody takes that statement with a grain of salt. How could a 1.8 liter possess the power of an engine two notches up its size while returning a fuel consumption of a much smaller engine? To back up its claim, Honda itself participated, although unofficially in the recently-concluded Petron XTRA Mile Challenge, wherein one full tank gave the Civic 1.8 M/T a range of 1,300.4 kilometers, or roughly 26 kilometers a liter. An astonishing figure indeed!

Then it was the motoring journalists' turn in determining the fuel consumption of this sleek compact. The advice from Honda, upon turnover of the unit, was basic and simple: drive the car sans economical driving habits, but keep it at sane, safe speeds. Throughout the months, I became keen in observing the fuel consumptions of his peers. Of the three fuel consumptions that were posted in various dailies, the average was pegged at around 10.5 km/l in mixed cycle driving, which is still a remarkable figure for a 1.8 liter.

Then, it was my turn to relish what the new Civic could offer, performance and fuel consumption wise. Having given the chance to use the unit for almost a week, it became my daily drive from my office in Makati, where my day job is, to my new home in traffic-laden Cainta town in Rizal province. Total distance of the trip averaged about 30 kilometers from Cainta to Makati and back, with average speeds of also 30-40 km/h due to heavy traffic in the said areas. Still, I am glad to share that the Civic 1.8 in automatic transmission guise returned a very economical fuel consumption of 11.06 km/l.

At this point, I admit that I'm a true sucker for fuel economy. Not that I hate or fear speeds, but I strongly feel that fuel consumption figures are the most important numbers that an automobile could churn out nowadays aside from top speed and 0-100 km/h times. Whether it's my previous car, or to different test drive units loaned to me by various manufacturers, I can't help but measure the fuel consumption of each of them. Needless to say, it's already in my system to top-up at the nearest gas station, zero in the odometer, and drive as economical as possible, but not bordering to eco-run driving manners.

To further test the Civic's capabilities, fuel consumption wise, me and my wife scheduled a trip down south to her hometown one Saturday. The destination was Daet, Camarines Norte in the Bicol region, which was an easy 400-500 kilometer trip. All imaginable road conditions are present such as uphill and downhill stretches, winding roads, as well as tricycle-infested roads. To detail on my driving habits during the trip, vehicle speeds were pegged at between 80-100 km/h, which was easy to monitor because of the Civic's digital speedometer, and engine speeds between 2,000-3,000 rpm and even to 4,000-5000 rpm during overtaking stints. I was with my wife, our then eight month old daughter and her babysitter, as well as personal effects and some appliances. Needless to say, the Civic was almost at the point of being fully-loaded, sans one passenger.

As our trip schedule was on a Saturday, we also had our share of the heavy traffic in San Pablo City during weekends. As such, we were able to notice and relish the excellent appointments of the new Civic's interior. Upholstery, while being plush in dark blue trim, provides enough support especially during long trips. Variable-speed air-conditioning is again, default on the new Civic, as well as an MP3-capable head unit with auxiliary input, which is perfect for portable music players. The driver's side, on the other hand, is again, in the Civic's tradition, is the best seat in the house, offering almost infinitely adjustable height, slide, and recline parameters. The very futuristic-looking steering wheel, on the other hand, is not only tilt-adjustable but also reach/rake adjustable as well, giving me the opportunity to get the perfect driving position for our long distance trip. Other factors that contributed to my enjoyable working experience was the organ-type accelerator pedal, which provided long travel and excellent feel, enabling me to provide the correct pedal pressure every time. Although not new in terms of automotive design, the opposed wipers truly got the large glass up front covered, and is indeed a welcome break towards traditionally-oriented wipers.

Of course, talking about the Civic or any other vehicle for that matter is not complete without discussing its braking, acceleration, and steering characteristics. Braking is again, another excellent Civic virtue. Aside from using disc brakes on all four wheels, the brake alphabet of ABS. EBD, and BA (Anti-Lock Brakes, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist, respectively), makes the Civic sure-footed even during abrupt and sudden braking maneuvers. The conventional hydraulic power-assisted steering, on the other hand, is as sharp as a razor, giving almost instantaneous feedback at the slightest turn of the wheel, thereby inspiring confidence in its driver. Acceleration is swift and almost top-notch on the 1.8 variant, even though the variant loaned to us is the one with the 5-speed automatic transmission. Although the transition from first gear to second gear is somewhat pronounced, the transition to the remaining gears is smooth and is designed for cruising. Needless to say, Honda had concocted an almost perfect combination as far as engine and transmission union is concerned.

Going back to our Bicol trip, as we reached the Sta. Elena-Sipocot junction, we were unwilling guests on a buffet of rough roads that Andaya Highway offered. Unknown to us, it was on rehabilitation stage during that time. As we have no choice but to succumb to the very poor road conditions, the Civic still pampered us, soaking every imperfection very well. This time, we owe it to the McPherson struts up front and the multi-link rear suspension. When our rough road meal was over, the suspension setup again pampered us as we negotiated the winding roads leading to Daet.

As we topped up again to measure the amount of fuel we've used throughout the trip back to Manila, I am quite astonished that we chalked up a mere 13.3 km/l on that trip. Honestly, I was expecting much lower fuel consumption figures due to the mixed road conditions. But then again, the Civic has proved to us that it not only can be an attractive, roomy, and powerful sedan, but can also be an economical chariot as well.