Auto Review: 2001 Honda Civic EX Sedan
Taking a walk around the outside of the car, a brand new 2001 Civic EX sedan, I noticed a few things I liked and a few I didn't. The headlights have a new kind of auxiliary bulb that is supposed to help light up the road better. I like the styling cue it adds when the lights are on. The tail lights and the rear end seem to resemble the Ford Focus, not a pretty sight. The car sits pretty high off the ground compared to the 2000's on the lot, probably due to the new suspension setup. The hubcaps were just plain ugly.
Getting in to the car, the first thing I noticed was the shifter. It looks much sportier and more attractive now. Honda replaced the cheep-looking shift knobs of old with a much more attractive unit which is also much easier to grip. The parking brake has been redecorated to match.
The stereo and climate controls were all easy to reach and were reminiscent of most of the other Honda stereos I've seen. The gauges on the other hand were no improvement at all. The layout was similar, but in an attempt to make them look sporty, Honda actually gave them a kind of cheesy appearance. They resemble a cheep imitation of the '99 - '00 Si gauges. Once moving, they also proved difficult to read, partially due to the change in the seats. There are now armrests attached to the front seats, which made for a nice touch while cruising.
Comfort wise, the seats are a vast improvement over the previous generations. They sit noticeably higher, which took some getting used to, but I was better supported compared to my '99 seats. They offer a little more commanding view of the road, but as I mentioned before, looking down on the gauge cluster makes it difficult to see. Perhaps there was some adjustment in the seat I just didn't make.
Driving the car has its ups and downs. The first thing you will notice on the manual model is that the clutch offers very little resistance. It requires almost no effort of the leg at all, and is noticeably shorter than the previous generation. Some may like this, but I like to have at least a little bit of resistance. It was nice to feel a short clutch though. The shift itself is a vast improvement. The throws are much closer together and the effort is minimal. It is as close to a flick of the wrist shift as I have ever been in a Civic.
I was not as impressed as I thought I would be by the handling. The car rolls comparably to my '99 DX. It holds the turns all right, but not like I was expecting from a completely redesigned setup. On the other hand, the ride is as smooth as any Accord I have driven. I felt enough of the bumps to know they were there, but little things that would make previous generations jar were only slightly noticeable. It was nice to have a ride that smooth, but I would rather take the turns. The new setup is also going to make any kind of suspension modification extremely difficult. On a side note, I noticed that, because of the new strut setup, the car had no splash guards in the wheel wells. I could see directly through to the engine compartment.
As for the engine itself, the term that comes to mind is "pep," but definitely not power, as the sales person was so desperately trying to convince me. The brand new D17A2 looks utterly different from any other D-series I have ever seen. One of the few things I noticed was that the ignition wires were completely invisible. I could not even find a spot where they might have gone. The second was that there is an extremely odd engine mount that sits right on a bar that goes across the front of the car. The last thing was that the throttle body is located facing upwards, as in the D16Y7 (DX, CX, LX) as opposed to sideways on all the other D-series engines.
On the road, the engine is responsive. It pulls hard right up to redline. Unfortunately, redline comes too soon it seems. I could hear the vtec screaming (I couldn't hear it switch over by the way. Honda has made the transition much smoother) and the car felt like it wanted to pull harder, but the limiter kicked in and I was forced to start the climb all over again.
My first impression of the car is that it has its ups and downs. Just about the only thing I liked about the exterior were the headlights. Likewise, I loved the transmission but hated the suspension for its roll. After getting reacquainted with my car, I made the trip home. Along the way, I had time to think. I suppose I could get used to the new Civic, it has some strong improvements. However, after careful thought, I would much rather have a '99 or '00 EX than the '01. Perhaps my thoughts will change over time as I get accustomed to it, or when the coupe comes out. For now at least, I'll be looking back over the fifth and sixth generation Civics as the "good 'ole" days.