Honda Civic -- Introduction - Part 2
Body Styles and Trim Levels
For 2001, the Civic will be available in two body styles, a 4-Door Sedan and 2-Door Coupe. Both models will be available in DX, LX and EX trim levels. Although the DX trim level is considered the entry model to the Civic lineup, it comes equipped with such features as power steering and AM/FM stereo radio. The LX trim is expected to be the Civic volume leader and has been added to the Coupe lineup for '01 in response to consumer demand. The LX adds a wide range of additional features including air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, cruise control and a cassette player to the stereo. Top-of-the-line Civic EX models feature the 127-horsepower VTEC engine along with such features as ABS, moonroof, 15" wheels and a CD player.
Civic's fuel economy leader, the HX Coupe, returns for '01 equipped with either a 5-speed manual transmission or the next generation automatic CVT transmission (continuously variable transmission). The Civic GX Sedan, the natural-gas powered model which boasts the world's cleanest internal combustion engine and "Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle" (SULEV) certification, also returns for '01 with a new automatic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) for excellent range and fuel efficiency.
To increase the styling differentiation between Sedan and Coupe models, two separate development teams were established. The Sedan was developed in Japan, while the Coupe development team went to work in the United States. This was the same formula used in the development of the current Accord Sedan and Coupe models. The excellent consumer reaction to those models convinced the Civic team to follow a similar strategy.
The primary styling theme for the Civic Sedan was to design a more sophisticated and refined looking automobile with a solid and dynamic exterior. The challenge was to design a larger interior and trunk without increasing the overall size of the vehicle. Keys to achieving those goals were a larger greenhouse and a shorter nose. So while some of the exterior dimensions are smaller, the exterior of the car actually appears larger than its predecessor.
The Coupe designers wanted a sleek, sporty look, with aerodynamic lower rocker panel and rear deck. The Coupe features a lower roofline than the sedan (55.1 inches vs. 56.7) and both the Coupe's windshield and the C-pillar are more sharply tapered, which also enhances its sporty character. The Coupe features distinctive front and rear treatments with a unique front grille and rear taillight treatments. The Civic taillights also have a distinctive signature at night that clearly separates it from other cars on the road.
Chassis and Suspension
A key to achieving a larger interior while maintaining the exterior size of the Civic is the 2001 Civic's new 4-wheel independent suspension. Up front, there is a new space-efficient MacPherson strut suspension, one reason the new Civic can offer a larger exterior with a shorter exterior. The MacPherson strut design also provides outstanding handling characteristics by increasing the tire contact patch. In the rear, the double wishbone suspension has been refined for enhanced ride and handling and a larger trunk.
The power steering system has also been modified. The steering gearbox has been relocated from the front of the engine compartment to a high and central location. This new position allows for a larger crush zone.
The "effort sensitive" power steering system was also modified for 2001, so it offers more "power" assist at lower engine speeds for easier parking, with reduced assist for improved steering feel as engine speed increases.
Ride comfort has also been improved by reducing spring rates of the front and rear compliance bushings (front -- reduced 24 percent; rear -- reduced 15 percent).
Every 2001 Civic features a 1.7-liter ULEV engine that provides tangible improvements for drivers and for the environment. This engine is certified ULEV (Ultra Low Emission Vehicle) in all 50 states, which is another industry first for Honda. The displacement of the engine is larger than the engine in previous Civic models (1.7-liter vs. 1.6-liter) while the outward dimensions of the engine are more compact -- it is 7 percent smaller and 7 percent lighter than its predecessor. In addition, torque output at 4,000 rpm is increased by 6 percent for improved acceleration and around-town performance. Service intervals are now longer -- engine oil changes are now at 10,000 miles or every 12 months (compared to 7,500 miles on previous models). In addition, the recommended engine tune-up timing has been extended from 75,000 miles to 100,000 miles. The net result is a more powerful engine, delivering better fuel economy and lower emissions with less required maintenance.
The 4-speed automatic, 5-speed manual and CVT (continuously variable) transmissions have been extensively redesigned for the 2001 Civic. The electronically controlled automatic provides more precise shifting, while the 5-speed manual has shorter, more precise shift throws. The CVT, available in the Civic HX, is once again expected to be ranked among the Environmental Protection Agency's "10 Most Fuel Efficient Vehicles," as it has been the past five years.
Although the exterior dimensions of the '01 Civics are similar to the previous generation, the body has been completely redone. With the all-new chassis and suspension serving as a catalyst, the engineers were able to start the new body design from literally the floor up, with a unique new tunnel side frame creating a flat floor. This innovative design also yields increased body torsional rigidity for enhanced collision performance.
To maintain light weight and add rigidity, Honda engineers made extensive use of high-tensile strength steel for the body of the new Civic. More than 50 percent of all frame components are composed of the high tensile steel. Improved NVH was also targeted and the new model features extensive use of melt sheeting, rubber mat insulators and urethane foam to help reduce engine and road noise. During acceleration, interior engine noise has been reduced by 3.0 dB and road noise has been cut by 2.5 dB.
Perhaps most noticeable of all are the extremely close tolerances accomplished with the body panels of the new Civics, accomplished in large part through new and advanced manufacturing techniques. In most cases, the gaps between body panels have been cut in half, greatly improving the fit and finish appearance.
The new Civic could easily be described as "the biggest small car in history." In fact, the interior of the Civic LX sedan goes from an interior volume of 101.7 cubic feet to 104.3 cubic feet, helping move Civic's overall classification from the EPA sub-compact class to the compact category.
But increased size is only one important aspect of the new interior. The designers not only wanted to move the interior into a new size class, they wanted to move it into a class by itself. Attention to detail is apparent everywhere, with flush surfaces and reduced gaps for superior fit and finish and a higher grade of materials. Larger seats, more leg and hip room and improved lighting are also apparent.
The 2001 Civic Coupe interior adds to its sporty nature. It features a silver accented instrument panel. An open "halo" headrest further separates it from the Sedan. In addition, LX and EX models also feature a front passenger walk-in seat with memory, making back seat access easier.
Civic buyers represent one of the youngest buyer groups in the auto industry. Sedan buyers are in their mid-30s and about 60 percent are married, often in the process of starting a family. More than half have graduated from college and the average household income is about $50,000.
Coupe buyers are even younger, on average less than 30-years old. They have similar educational and income backgrounds. As might be expected, only 40 percent are married, and about 55 percent of the Coupe buyers are female.