2001 Honda Civic sedan
Photo: Richard Russell

All-new for 2001, the Honda Civic sedan DX and LX offer a slightly bigger 1.7 litre four cylinder engine with an 8 percent increase in horsepower, a larger, roomier passenger cabin, a new suspension, improved transmissions, a bigger trunk, and more safety features. 2001 Civic sedans range in price from $15,800 to $18,900.

Popular Civic has more interior room, more power, and better fuel economy

First introduced in Canada way back in 1973, the Honda Civic is now in its seventh generation. In 1998 and 1999, it was the best-selling passenger car nameplate in Canada (if you include sedan, coupe and hatchback models), and it’s expected to retain that title in 2000.

Completely redesigned for 2001, the new Civic comes in sedan and coupe bodystyles only – the hatchback model has been discontinued. Honda Canada National Sales Manager, Arch Wilcox, explained that sales of the hatchback were declining, and that a Honda-sponsored survey of hatchback owners revealed that 70% would buy a coupe if it was the same price as the hatchback. Still, I for one am sad to see the hatchback go, if for no other reason than that it was practical and relatively inexpensive.

Another model not returning for 2001 is the high-performance Civic SiR coupe with the 160 horsepower VTEC engine – it will probably return in 2002.

2001 Civic Sedans are offered in DX and LX trim (replacing LX and EX), and Civic Coupes are available in DX, LX and Si trim.

This Test-Drive will focus on the 2001 Civic sedan, the most popular Civic bodystyle.

Changes for 2001

Changes for the 2001 model year are significant but not ground-breaking. The Civic’s overall length and width are about the same as before, but the nose is shorter and the cabin is longer. This provides more interior room for passengers – rear passengers now have 49 mm more legroom. In addition, a new cabin design allows a flat floor.

The trunk has been increased in size by 27 litres (1.0 cu. ft.) to 365 litres (12.9 cu. ft.) With a wider trunklid, Honda says the new trunk will now fit four 660 mm suitcases.

Despite the Civic’s shorter nose, Honda’s internal crash tests have confirmed that the new Civic will attain a five star NCAP frontal crash-test rating. This is due in part to a revised engine bay design and a relocated steering box.

Under the hood, the previous standard 1.6 litre SOHC 16 valve four cylinder engine has been enlarged to 1.7 litres with an increase in horsepower from 106 to 115, and an increase in torque from 103 ft.-lb. at 4600 rpm to 110 ft.-lb. at 4500 rpm (Coupe Si’s get a 127 horsepower 1.7 litre VTEC engine). Of note is that even though the base engine has more horsepower, fuel consumption has been improved by about 5% to 10%: City fuel consumption has gone from 8.4 l/100 km (34 mpg) to 7.5 l/100 km (39 mpg). Highway fuel consumption has improved from 6.7 l/100 km (42 mpg) to 6.0 l/100 km (47 mpg).

In addition, the new engine now meets strict California ULEV (ultra low emissions vehicle) standards, and though engine displacement has increased, the new engine is actually smaller and lighter than the previous engine.

Both available transmissions, the standard 5-speed manual and optional 4-speed automatic transmission, have undergone changes to make shifts smoother. Manual transmission shifts are shorter and more precise while the automatic is smoother and quicker.

Significant suspension changes have improved ride and handling and created more cabin and trunk space: a new space-efficient front MacPherson strut suspension replaces the previous double wishbone suspension, and offers improved damping and steering control. At the rear, a more compact revised double wishbone suspension improves tracking, stability and ride. In addition, spring rates have been reduced to improve the ride.

The variable rack and pinion steering has been improved too – longer tie rods now reduce the effect of sudden bumps on the steering, and steering effort at lower speeds has been reduced.

Body tolerances (the gaps between body panels) have been cut in half, improving the overall look and quality of the body.

A number of safety features are also new for 2001: dual stage front airbags, a centre rear three-point seatbelt, front seatbelt pretensioners, and LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) at the rear.

Roomier interior

With more interior length, the redesigned interior offers greater comfort, particularly for rear passengers. The interior of the Civic sedan goes from an interior volume of 2879 litres (101.7 cu. ft.) to 2953 litres (104.3 cu. ft.) bumping the new Civic from sub-compact to compact class.

A number of other improvements have been made to the interior: the front seats are larger, the round gauges are larger and easier to see, power window switches are now illuminated for easier night-time use, and the air conditioning is quieter. Also, the cupholders are bigger and the driver has a new footrest for the left foot.

The interior has an abundance of headroom even though the front seats have been raised by 25 mm (1.0 in.). However, with an optional sunroof, there is less headroom, though still enough for a six footer.

As before, the centre dash control panel and the instrument surround are finished in matte black to minimize glare, while the rest of the dash is done in a lighter colour, depending on the model. The centre control panel protrudes towards the driver and passenger making it easy to reach the controls. The closest controls to the driver are three rotary heat/ventilation/fan controls arranged in a unique vertical layout.

A centre storage bin will fit up to three CD’s, and another covered storage bin behind the handbrake can fit cassettes and other nick-nacks. Both manual transmission shift lever and handbrake lever have an attractive new, metallic knob and soft, vinyl grip.

For passenger safety, the new Civic offers new dual-stage front airbags and five three-point seatbelts and height adjustable front head restraints – the rear head restraints are fixed. The front bucket seats offer good lateral support, but I found the seat cushions to be quite firm. The back seat offers adequate legroom and headroom for two passengers, but is a bit narrow for three adults. There is no folding rear armrest, but 60/40 split folding rear seats are standard.

As before, the front passenger airbag is hidden under a panel on the top of the dash, but this panel looks like it’s stuck onto the dashtop and doesn’t match the fit quality of the rest of the interior.

With the optional central door locking, the door key will lock all the doors with one turn, but it will unlock only the driver’s door. To unlock the other doors, you have to reach in and pull up on the power door lock button.

Driving impressions

2001 Honda Civic sedan
Photo: Richard Russell

The Civic’s new 1.7 litre four cylinder engine has eight percent more horsepower and six percent more torque, but it’s still a small, high-revving engine. Around town, or on the freeway, it offers sufficient power to keep up with the crowd, and it’s reasonably quiet at cruising speeds with the engine doing a comfortable 2600 rpm in top gear at 100 km/h.

However, on long steep hills with more than two passengers on board, the small engine has to work hard to keep up. And at higher revs (4000-5000 rpm), there is a considerable amount of ‘booming’ and noise entering the cabin – more noticeable in Civics with a manual transmission because the engine tends to rev higher.

The 2001 Civic’s redesigned manual transmission is a real joy to operate. Smooth, quick, and precise, it’s a transmission you can live with every day (unlike some manual transmissions). The manual transmission helps the driver make the most out of the Civic’s small, high-revving engine. Still, if most of your driving is in the city, the 4-speed automatic is probably the better alternative – and it’s safer if you’re in the habit of keeping one hand free to answer the cell phone or drink your coffee. The 4-speed automatic transmission glides from gear to gear with not a hint of jerkiness and shift points are well timed. It holds in gear when going up a hill, so there’s no ‘gear-hunting’, and seems to know the right time to shift up.

For a small car, the Civic exhibits excellent handling and stability at higher speeds. Its fully independent suspension offers excellent control and the new front struts offer improved damping, ride and steering control, in my opinion. The Civic’s variable-assist steering has just the right amount of effort at low and high speeds, and makes the Civic very easy to drive. A turning diameter of 11.2 metres (37 feet) makes U-turns fairly easy.

Outward visibility to the front and sides is excellent, but like most contemporary sedans, the high trunklid and protruding third brake light make parallel parking a bit of a guessing game.

Models and prices

2001 Honda Civic coupe
Photo: Richard Russell

Base Civic DX sedans start at $15,800 and include a 5-speed manual transmission, variable-assist power steering, 14 inch tires, body-coloured bumpers, cloth tricot seats, AM/FM radio, dual front airbags, intermittent wipers, 60/40 folding rear seatbacks, tilt steering wheel, 12 volt power outlets, and two front cupholders. The 60/40 rear seat is a new standard feature for 2001.

DX-G sedans, priced at $17,300, have a special option package which adds air conditioning, CD player, power door locks, and a micron air filtration system to the base DX model.

Top-of-the-line Civic LX sedans, which go for $18,900, add the following features to the DX-G sedan: power windows, power mirrors, tachometer, cruise control, upgraded cloth seats and thicker carpeting, height-adjustable driver’s seat and driver’s seat armrest, keyless remote, front map lights, body-coloured door handles, bodyside mouldings, anti-lock brakes and front spoiler.

An automatic transmission is a $1000 option on all models, but some options are not available on DX sedans. For example, power windows, cruise control, power mirrors, keyless remote, tachometer, and ABS are not available on DX models. This means that if you want any of these features, you have to move up to the more expensive LX sedan.

A good bet

If you like to play it safe, the Civic sedan is a good bet in the new car market. With an excellent reputation for reliability, a great warranty, and an excellent resale value, the Civic sedan is virtually a worry-free car. And there’s a little bit of Canadian pride in buying a car built in Alliston, Ontario, where they’ve been building Civic sedans since 1988.

Technical Data:

2001 Honda Civic sedan LX
Base price (DX) $15,800
Price as tested (LX) $19,900
Type compact four-door, five passenger sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 1.7 litre 4 cylinder, SOHC, 16 valves
Horsepower 115 @ 6100 rpm
Torque 110 @ 4500 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual (4-speed automatic)
Tires 185/70R14 all-season
Curb weight 1158 kg (2553 lb.)
Wheelbase 2620 mm (103.1 in.)
Length 4435 mm (174.6 in.)
Width 1715 mm (67.5 in.)
Height 1440 mm (56.7 in.)
Cargo Volume 365 litres (12.9 cu ft)
Fuel consumption City: 7.5 l/100 km (39 mpg)
  Hwy: 6.0 l/100 km (47 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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