THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2007 Honda Civic EX compact sedan.
DOWN THE ROAD: A carryover from 2006, the Civic is quick on its feet while boasting fuel economy numbers that incite envy. Based on a unibody construction with as many as eight trims available, this compact car is easy to maneuver through rush-hour traffic or just relax and cruise the highway.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 1.8-liter SOHC inline four-cylinder engine puts out 140 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 128 pounds-feet of torque at 4300 rpm. It is mated to a standard 5-speed manual or the optional 5-speed automatic transmission, both of which shift seamlessly. Stability is handled via a front MacPherson strut and rear double wishbone suspension, both of which absorb bumps from road imperfections. The rack-and-pinion steering conveys a feeling of reassurance to the driver when hustling the car down the road. Brake feel is first-rate, thanks to 10.3-inch ventilated front and 10.2-inch solid rear discs. They operate inside 16-inch alloy wheels shod with 205/55 tires.
LOOK & FEEL: The front fascia shows off a centered Honda insignia on a thin chrome bar that meets up with multi-reflector halogen headlights. A steeply raked windshield, body-colored sideview mirrors and five-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels further enhance the car's athletic appearance. But it is the cabin, which is so unlike a run-of-the-mill sedan, that draws you to the car. Take the two-tier instrument panel with blue backlit gauges. Directly in the driver's vision is a digital odometer and fuel and water temperature readings. The second tier shows off an analog tachometer with a maintenance minder. Storage bins, especially for those little items, are aplenty not only in front and rear door pockets, but also around the gearshift knob. The EX, the model trim I test drove, also was equipped with a standard power moonroof with tilt, 160-watt audio system, air conditioner, adjustable height driver's seat, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 60/40 split fold-down rear seat and power windows. I especially liked the roomy and supportive cloth seats, which were remarkably supple and plush.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, active front-head restraints, front and rear crumple zones, daytime running lights and three-point seatbelts are some of the standard features.
OUT THE DOOR: $19,510, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P205/55HR16 alloy; wheelbase, 106.3 inches; length, 176.7 inches; weight, 2,807 pounds; fuel capacity, 13.2 gallons; highway, 40 mpg; city, 30 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: The tried-and-tested Civic has proved to be as reliable and durable as any other vehicle from the Honda Motor Co. Affordably priced, it offers a decent performance and a distinct - styling inside and out. This fuel-efficient car should continue to be a hot-seller as gas prices linger in the $2.50-a-gallon range.