Road test: 2010 Honda Civic Sedan

When the term economy car comes to mind, the word Civic won’t be far behind. World over, the venerable compact has been front and centre on the C-segment scene since day one. You could even go so far to say that the Civic was partially responsible for initially swaying the entire North American auto market towards the “Japanese means quality” mindset. And while some brands and haven’t exactly measured up to the aforementioned mantra, Honda has long been a quality and dependability leader.

The Civic, which just happens to be made in Canada, incidentally, is one of the highest rated vehicles for reliability in the compact class. Independent third-party research firm J.D. Power and Associates gives it an 8 out of 10 for predicted reliability based on the past three years of historical data from its Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) combined with more up to date info via its Initial Quality Study (IQS). That’s an enviable score.

For 2010, the Civic remains almost identical to the 2009 model except for a standard centre console armrest and a standard auxiliary jack. Other than these items the only additional changes are exterior colours, with one added, Dyno Blue Pearl, and five discontinued, including Neutron Blue Metallic, Urban Titanium Metallic, Rallye Red, Polished Metal Metallic and Tango Red Pearl. You’d think that Honda had only a few left, but a quick glance at the automaker’s website shows that

My Civic was outfitted to Sport designation and therefore priced at $20,780 and filled with extra luxury and convenience features like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, a power sunroof, USB device connector, exterior temperature display, map lights, an auto up/down driver’s window, a rear centre armrest, and 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. The exterior gets body-colour mirrors and door handles to spiff up the look, while 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 205/55R16 all-season rubber look better and increase performance, living up to the Sport moniker, as do four-wheel disc brakes and an exhaust finisher.

Si and Hybrid aside, the Sport model is near the top of the Civic pecking order in Canada, with only the $22,680 EX-L above it. That last model adds premium features such as leather seats with heated cushions up front, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, a stereo upgrade to six speakers, plus traction and stability control.

Most Civic buyers, however, won’t splurge for the highfalutin version, but rather opt for something in the middle. The Civic starts in DX trim for a rather paltry $15,990. With this trim level the Civic gets power windows, power mirrors, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, two-speed intermittent wipers, a driver’s seat manual height adjuster, a four-speaker CD/MP3/WMA audio system, fold-down rear seatback, plus a rear spoiler, front splashguards and 15-inch steel wheels riding on 195/65R15 all-season tires. For a little more, air conditioning can be added bringing the price up to $17,290. It gets a 340-litre (12.0-cu ft) trunk for no extra charge too, as well as a three-year or 60,000 km comprehensive warranty and five-year or 100,000 km powertrain warranty, not to mention front, side-thorax and side-curtain airbags, plus ABS brakes.

Option up to the $18,580 DX-G package and air conditioning is standard while the steel wheels and covers give way to a set of 15-inch alloy rims. Also included are power locks with keyless remote entry, cruise control, and an auxiliary input for the stereo.

All Civic sedans, except for the Si and Hybrid, get Honda’s wonderfully smooth and rev-happy SOHC, 16-valve, 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic. This is a very good engine with expected fuel economy of 7.4 L/100km in the city and 5.4 on the highway while delivering 140 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 128 lb-ft of torque at 4,300 rpm. And when mated to the manual gearbox the Civic turns into an engaging driver’s car. Sure the suspension setup is a bit on the soft side compared to the current Si or the slot cars that made the Civic name legendary amongst enthusiasts and tuners, but it’s still better than many in the segment and enjoyable to sling through a curvy road.

What’s also better than many is the experience from behind the wheel, and I’m not talking about the thrill factor of a well-sorted chassis and zippy powertrain. I’m talking about the design and layout of the cabin and materials used to build it. The latest Civic took things up a notch in the compact class, with soft-touch materials on the windowsills and other places where skin might rest, high-quality switchgear, superb graphics in an ultra-cool, two-tiered, space-age instrument package, excellent seats that conform to every body part, and a general airiness inside that’s been part of the Civic experience since the car became part of the fabric that makes up our daily lives here in North America.

There is a reason why Civics dot each and every road in our nation, why they fill up shopping mall parking lots, can be seen in multiples commuting to work in rush hour traffic and found in more driveways than just about any other car in Canada. The Civic is a bloody good car.

Photograph by: Staff, Canadian Auto Press