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2006 Honda Civic

Martha Hindes

Honda Civic
Honda Civic Interior

One of Honda's latest inventions, the hybrid gasoline-electric version of the Civic, has been getting the lion's share of the compact auto's publicity lately. But beyond those latest and greatest earth friendly moves, there's a long history of traditionally gasoline powered Civics that show no sign of fading into the technological twilight.

Civic is about as mainstay as any small auto can be, with droves of loyal customers who look straight at Honda when it's time to change vehicles. But even with its carefully cultivated reputation of being bullet-proof, Honda has to shake things up every so often. Such is the case with Civic, the entry level car Americans have been buying since 1973.

For 2006, Honda redid the entire package from top to bottom to ensure the next generation Civic hit the mark. That's not to suggest there's anything radical about the new design, although Honda calls it "extreme." A drastic departure undoubtedly would confuse Civic's image for loyal followers who might expect a change, as long as it was on the subtle side.

But wrapped up under the model banner are four different versions in sedan, coupe, high performance plus hybrid, that differ from Civics of the past. Honda calls the new exterior "expressive" with a sweep of smoothly shaped steel and sloped windshield-into-hoodline, the interior stylish and functional.

Honda beefs up safety systems for the new Civic with what it terms Advanced Compatibility Engineering for safety during a crash. Side curtain airbags become standard.

On the technology front, all systems are guided by "Drive-by-wire." Upmodels can add a voice recognition nav system.

If there's any complaint, it would have to be the positioning of the speedometer along with fuel and temperature gauges beneath a deep set "eyebrow" atop the instrument panel. They sit right behind the steering wheel rim and, no matter what we adjusted, there never was an unobstructed view of the gauges despite their bright LCD appearance. Maybe that's to accommodate gauge requirements of the hybrid version.

Civics start at $14,760 for the base DX sedan and ratchet up to just over $20,000, excluding hybrids. Non-hybrid mileage averages about 30/38.