Completely redesigned for 2006, the Honda Civic enters its eighth generation, with three new powertrains, four models and restyled interior and exterior.

The Civic is available as the Sedan, Coupe, Si Coupe and Hybrid sedan. Changes include a two-tier instrument panel, multi-functional centre console, six standard airbags and ABS, MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link double wishbone rear suspension with enhanced geometry, drive-by-wire throttle control, and tilt and telescopic steering wheel.

All engine choices are four-cylinder: a 1.8-litre in the Sedan and Coupe, 2.0-litre in the Si, and 1.3-litre with Integrated Motor Assist in the Hybrid. The Sedan and Coupe use a five-speed manual transmission that can be optioned to a five-speed automatic; the Si uses a six-speed manual transmission with limited-slip differential; and the Hybrid uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The Sedan comes in DX, DX-G, LX and EX trim. The DX includes fixed intermittent wipers, 15-inch steel wheels, tinted glass, power windows, front and rear cupholders, floor mats, front 12-volt power outlet, manual height adjustment on driver’s seat, folding rear seat and CD/MP3 with four speakers.

The DX-G adds power locks with keyless remote, air conditioning, and centre console with sliding armrest and storage bin.

The LX adds heated body-colour mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, variable intermittent wipers, body-colour door handles, auto up/down on driver’s window, cruise control, passenger seatback pocket, map lights and outside temperature indicator.

The EX adds power sunroof, CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers and wheel-mounted controls, rear-seat armrest, 12-volt power outlet in the centre console, and 60/40 split folding rear seat.

The Hybrid adds mirror-mounted turn signals, 15-inch lightweight alloy wheels, automatic climate control, driver and passenger seatback pockets, auxiliary input jack on the stereo and hybrid-specific instrumentation. Because of the vent for the battery pack, the rear seat does not fold down.

The Civic Coupe comes as the DX, DX-G, LX and EX also and shares the Sedan’s features, adding a 60/40 split folding rear seat to the LX, and a passenger-side walk-in feature on the LX and EX. The EX also adds a premium CD stereo with seven speakers and subwoofer.

The Si includes the EX’s features, and adds amber trim rings around the headlights, rear spoiler, leather-wrapped wheel, leather and aluminum shifter knob, textured aluminum pedals, and tachometer with red-line indicator.

A perennial favourite with buyers – the Civic usually tops Canadian passenger car sales, and Honda has sold 1.2 million of them in Canada since 1973 – the Civic retains the comfortable seating, excellent handling and value-for-price characteristics that have made it popular, adding swoopy new styling and more powerful engines that retain their fuel economy ratings or, in the case of the Hybrid, improve over 2005’s figures. The new dash configuration is a bit out-there, and the two-tier instrument cluster features a digital speedometer that should have been left on the drawing board.

An Si version wasn’t sold in Canada in 2005, and it’s good to see it back, offering tuner-car cred at a reasonable price. The Hybrid still takes a while to make back its higher price in fuel savings, but it’s certainly environmentally-friendly, and compared to the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius, it’s the closest both in performance and appearance to a strictly gasoline-powered vehicle.

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