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Honda: A Civic for the 21st Century

Paris Auto Show

The name remains the same, but as far as the new Civic is concerned that’s just about the only link with previous generations of Honda’s most successful car ever in Europe.

all photos: Honda

Rather than simply meet expectations for the seventh generation of the Civic, Honda decided from the outset that it would raise the stakes with an all-new design -a Civic for the 21st Century.

Like its predecessor, the new Civic will be built in the UK, at Honda’s Swindon factory. The new model benefits from a completely fresh look, with highly innovative packaging making it one of the most spacious cars in its class.


Beneath the skin a raft of new features and advanced technologies ensure the 2001 Civic is one of the most significant new generations since the model’s inception nearly three decades ago.

‘Short nose’ concept and flat floor interior

One of the prime challenges for the designers of the new Civic 5-door was to increase interior space while retaining the compact nature and nimble handling of earlier generations. While retaining the same width as before, the new Civic is slightly shorter and significantly taller than its predecessor. Yet despite the reduction in overall length, there is substantially more usable room in the cabin, reflecting the fact that Honda designed the Civic ‘from the inside-out’.

Clever packaging is the key to the Civic’s outstanding interior space. An extended wheelbase ‘pushes’ the wheels further out towards the corners of the body, resulting in shorter front and rear overhangs. Together with a ‘short nose’ design, achievable thanks to new front suspension, a high-mounted steering rack and a compact engine bay, this frees up more space inside the cabin for occupants and luggage.

In addition, a new, compact suspension set-up at the rear combines with clever underfloor packaging - including a resin fuel tank that has been moulded to fill the space available -to give a flat cabin floor without the intrusion of a central tunnel.

Class-leading interior space

The result of Honda’s efforts is a package that leaves competitor models trailing on interior space. A key indicator of the spaciousness of any car is the tandem distance (measured between the hip points of front and rear passengers). In the case of the Civic this distance is 1010 mm, 100 mm greater than the previous model and far surpassing any competitor. In tandem with a relatively high roof, this ensures Civic 5-door driver and passengers enjoy a light, airy environment.

Strong exterior styling

The Civic 5-door’s styling is fresh and innovative with a strong sense of solidity and refinement. Closer to a ‘one-box’ design than previous generations, its distinctive front end is characterised by the short nose. The arching roofline defines a large glass area that ensures excellent visibility, but while roof height has been increased, visually it is not excessive and falls midway between standard C-segment hatchbacks and compact MPVs.

Safety to Euro-NCAP 4-star standards including pedestrian impact

Class-leading crash safety was a primary design objective for the new Civic. Although the car has yet to undergo Euro-NCAP testing, it is expected to achieve a 4-star rating for both front and side collision and pedestrian safety. The ‘short nose’ design was a true engineering challenge in this context; the issue was resolved by effectively splitting impact energy along parallel paths - the high stiffness front side members and the sub-frame beneath. Elsewhere, the bodyshell features extensive stiffening, with high strength steel used to provide an impressively strong structure. Overall body rigidity is also

increased over the previous model, improving NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) and suspension refinement.

High levels of refinement

New Civic drivers and passengers will enjoy a relaxing, spacious cabin and exceptional refinement. Extensive use of noise suppression materials, careful co-ordination of colours and textures, larger front seats and greater all-round accommodation all combine with a more supple ride to make travel a particularly pleasant experience.

Fascia-mounted gear lever

For the first time in a production car, Honda has adopted a fascia-mounted gear lever in the Civic 5-door. It will also feature in the 3-door. The position of the gear lever has been carefully considered to ensure it feels perfectly natural in everyday driving. The lever’s proximity to the steering wheel makes gear shifting more convenient and safe but does not detract from the change having a sporty feel. In addition, its position frees up floor space, which together with the flat floor means the Civic offers front-to-rear and left-to-right ‘walk-through’ access.

Superb fit and finish

One of the most tangible indications of the new Civic’s enhanced quality is the extremely close tolerances accomplished with the body panels, which greatly improves fit and finish appearance. Achieved in large part through new and advanced manufacturing techniques, the tighter tolerances have resulted in most gaps being halved, and in some cases reduced almost to zero.

Attention to detail is apparent both inside and out. Flush surfaces and reduced gaps for superior interior fit and finish complement a higher grade of materials to impart an air of high quality.

Refinement mirrors build quality and NVH characteristics have been targeted in all areas – engine noise under acceleration, for example, is reduced by 3 dB(A). The Civic benefits from a raft of sound-deadening measures including sophisticated engine mountings, high body rigidity, rubber mat insulators and urethane foam.

Versatile load bay

In addition to generous occupant space, the new Civic 5-door is more versatile than ever when it comes to carrying luggage. Boot capacity of 370 litres (VDA) can be increased to 732 litres (VDA -rear seat folded, to window line). The double folding rear seat features a 60:40 split, and in conjunction with the wide-opening tailgate offers outstanding load carrying ability and flexibility.

1.4 and 1.6 litre engines offer sophisticated engineering solutions

Two new, highly efficient 16-valve four-cylinder engines provide power. Some 10% lighter than their predecessors, both have been engineered for greater torque and therefore improved driving flexibility. The SOHC units are also more refined, more economical and are cleaner than previously.

The smaller, 1.4 litre engine produces the same 90 PS (66 kW) as the outgoing unit, but this power is delivered at a lower 5,800 rpm. More importantly, torque is boosted from 126 Nm at 4,600 rpm to 130 Nm at 4,300 rpm.

Maximum torque from the 110 PS (81 kW) 1.6 litre VTEC II engine is equally impressive. Now 152 Nm at 4,300rpm, it is a significant improvement on the 143 Nm developed at 4,800 rpm of the 1.6 litre unit in the previous Civic 5-door.

Sparkling performance and improved fuel economy

Aided by the new Civic’s aerodynamic body shape, this translates into sparkling performance figures and improved fuel consumption. The entry-level 1.4-litre model (manual transmission) dispatches the benchmark 0-62mph sprint in 12.1 seconds and is capable of reaching 108mph. The figures for the equivalent 1.6-litre model are respectively 114mph and 10.4 seconds.

Fuel economy figures are still to be confirmed, but Honda internal testing has shown improvements of at least 10% across some cycles.


Both engines substantially exceed EU2000 emissions requirements. In addition, in some markets that benefit from relevant tax breaks, the Civic complies with the stringent EU2005 levels which are not mandatory for a further 5 years.

Manual and automatic transmissions

Both engines can be matched to either 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmissions, in all but the entry-level 1.4i S model. The electronically controlled automatic, with extended torque converter lock-up for greater economy, features improved shift precision and incorporates Grade Logic, Honda’s intelligent ratio selecting system. The manual transmission has been designed to give drivers shorter, more precise shifting.

New suspension front and rear

Front and rear suspensions are all-new, and deliver enhanced ride quality and sportier handling, in

addition to endowing the packaging benefits already described. Toe control link MacPherson struts have been selected for the front suspension, while at the rear a new reactive link double wishbone set-up provides rear wheel toe-in under braking for greater stability. Ride comfort has been improved by reducing the spring rates of the front and rear compliance bushings, while overall suspension rigidity is increased for better control and stability. Larger, 15 inch wheels on 1.6-litre models aid comfort and are fitted with low rolling resistance tyres for better fuel economy. Alloy wheels are standard on SE Executive versions of the new Civic.

Electric Power Steering (EPS)

The new Civic is Honda’s first volume model in Europe to feature Electric Power Steering (EPS) the benefits of which include enhanced fuel economy, programming flexibility and smoother operation. Similar to the system in the Honda Insight, EPS features a steering gearbox mounted in a high, central position and long tie-rods that allow improved toe control. In fact, the characteristics of the toe control link MacPherson strut front suspension are more akin to those of a double wishbone design. Improved balance between front and rear roll centres, modified steering gear ratio and a more linear steering response combine to provide the Civic driver with an outstanding level of control and feel.

Safe and secure

A comprehensive package of anti-theft equipment together with a body structure that is easier to repair than its predecessor is expected to lead to lower insurance ratings. These are currently under assessment by the ABI.


The new Civic offers a high level of recyclability, with 98 per cent of the plastics used in the interior able to be reprocessed and reused. This is something of a milestone in car production terms and a further indication of Honda’s progress in this area.

13 Sep 2000

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