Ladies and gentlemen, Honda is proud to announce the birth of a new genre: the VGC or Video Game Car. The 06 Civic is the first mainstream motor to reflect, represent and personify the Playstation Generation s digitized automotive sensibilities. From its cartoon curves, to its undersized steering wheel, to the digital readouts just below the video screen — I mean windscreen, the Civic sedan boldly goes where only game designers have gone before. All the car needs to complete its transformation from sensible shoe to pixilated pixie is a toggle switch in place of the key slot.
While you ve got to give Honda cojones credit for subjecting its perennial best-seller to a self-professed extreme transformation , the Civic s interior risks alienating its core audience: sedan drivers who cut their e-teeth on Pong (or not). For one thing, the Civic s windscreen is more severely raked than a Japanese rock garden, leaving an acre of plastic between dash and glass. For another, the car s snout is invisible. Although videogamers and emigrating minivanistas won t mind the sensory disconnect, it s an entirely disconcerting break — literally a far cry — from the previous Civic s mundane modernity.
And check out those dials. An electroluminescent tacho lies directly behind the gamer s steering wheel. A digital speedo sits atop the dash, housed in a curved structure strangely reminiscent of the Teletubby s crib. In fact, the Civic s dash shares the BBC kiddy show s retro-futurism; it s the car of the future from 1968! It s also an ergonomic disaster. The linear vs. digital speedo debate was settled thirty years ago, and autobox drivers need a prominent rev meter like a boy racer needs a traffic cop for an uncle. What s more, the displays are on different levels and planes; you have to constantly refocus your eyes to switch from one to the other.
Dynamically, the Civic sedan offers yet more challenges to the conventional driver, in the form of steering that s more direct than a bolt from William Tell s crossbow (2.67 turns from lock-to-lock) and a road-hugging MacPherson Strut front suspension. Along with a more powerful engine (up 13 horses to 140hp) and larger wheels (16 s), the combination gives Mr. MacPherson plenty to strut about. The Civic sedan is an astoundingly flat and controlled flick-flacker. What Mom and Pop will make of the hotted-up Honda is unclear; they re about as likely to thrash their treasured Civic sedan as drop an E before bed.
There s no question that the Civic s videogame interior and sharper dynamics will appeal to younger drivers. Expect the coupes to sell like hotcakes- especially tuner-friendly pre-owned versions. But the four-door is just too funky for its own good. Sure, the Civic s core clientele will be attracted to the model s traditional virtues: safety, reliability, frugality and value-for-money. But the second they slip behind the wheel, they ll start singing Look What They Done to My Car, Ma. If you recognize the song, you ll know what I mean. If not, it s a good thing; this is definitely not your Mom and Dad s Civic. [by Robert Farago]
Details, Details: Honda's 2006 Civic [internal]