Marketer's pitch: "We're all different. That's why there's five different Civics."
Reality: I guess the other four must be the different ones. This one was pretty much a ho-hum sedan. Which, given Honda's reputation for reliability, maybe isn't so bad.
Milestone: The Honda Civic is nearing its 40th birthday, and now comes in its ninth incarnation.
Men have written heartfelt love songs about their Civics. Many an adoring book has been penned about their delightful qualities. They're like family members to most owners.
Oh, wait, that's some other car. Civics are shoes. Sensible, comfy, sturdy shoes. Of course, I look down at my Skechers Alley Cats still going strong on their third season, wiggle my toes, and think, "Hmm, not so bad."
Dude, where's my car? The first thing you notice about the Civic is how unnoticeable it is. Take an example that's painted a bold color, like, say, gray (technically, polished metal metallic). Park it in the King of Prussia mall parking garage. Then see if you can find it an hour later without using the key fob.
Unless you parked in a row of SUVs, it's a challenge. Perfectly camouflaged.
The Jeep Wrangler I recently tested was all decals and "Spy Ops" paraphernalia, but a real spy should opt for this unit.
Unremarkable ride: Driving the Civic is not all that different from looking at it. It goes. Not fast. Not slow. The steering wheel turns. Not tight. Not loose. It stops. It does pretty much what the other cars do.
Handling is very middle of the road. Performance is OK. None of the Sturgis Kids was frightened (or amused) in the testing of this vehicle.
Shiftless: If Mazda can turn all of its automatic transmissions TipTronic and still sell cars for under 20 grand, by golly, every automaker should. Automatic without shift capability should be outlawed in something this small. I was forever stomping the gas and accidentally finding first gear. Hello, Redline.
That '70s car: From the inside, it's today's Torino.
The two-piece, wide, short instrument panel is odd. The top part of it, far away, features the digital speedometer and fuel economy and some other functions.
Behind the steering wheel is the tachometer, plus cruise control and other info lights. But I couldn't see the cruise control light through the steering wheel without moving my head.
Lean back, enjoy the ride: The seat bottoms are short and narrow. The headrests are too far forward, and I couldn't adjust the back upright the way I wanted without getting a backache. (This is the second Honda that hurt my back; the first was the Odyssey.)
So with the seat leaned back and the dashboard far away, I felt very relaxed driving the civil Civic. Very old Detroit.
Short people: Headroom in the front is tight. Even the lovely 5-foot-5 Mrs. Passenger Seat felt like the ceiling was closing in. Stretching at stoplights requires use of the sunroof.
Friends and stuff: Legroom in the back is good. Console storage is nice between the seats.
The trunk has a short lid and it's tough to load, like most small sedans.
I would walk 500 miles: The trunk has no button on the underside for simple opening, and no way to access it with the key.
So first you have to remember to unlatch it from inside, or hit a separate button on the key fob, because the unlock button doesn't do it. Then the only way to fold down the seats is from inside the trunk. If you're the absentminded type like, say, me, it makes for a lot of trips to get things open. Access from the inside would be a good idea.
Thud: Road noise is prominent. Thudding from the rear is the worst I've noticed in a long while.
Good vistas: Visibility is good. I didn't have any adventures passing or changing lanes, or have to hope for the best while backing up. This makes navigating Philadelphia's city streets a breeze.
Good mileage: I managed to average just under 34 m.p.g. on trips around Philadelphia and a road trip to the Poconos. I had hoped for better. The Chevy Cruze got 38 for me, and the Ford Fiesta 35.
Where it's built: Greensburg, Ind.
How it's built: Honda ranked second overall in the recent 2011 J.D. Power & Associates Initial Quality Study.
In the end: It lacks the fun feel of the Fiesta or Jetta, and the mileage is just a little short of some other small cars. But with Honda's reputation for reliability, it's hard not to consider the Civic.
Contact staff writer Scott Sturgis at 215-854-2558 or email@example.com. Read his recent columns at www.philly.com/driversseat