irhis is the car that daddy would buy the sensible teenager in downtown LA. American designed and built, the little Honda Coupe is a real smoothie with a galvanised steel-clad 0.33 Cd. It opens another new niche and brings the coupe concept back to the man of little means by undercutting even your average smart stereo system.
Honda’s PR spiel claims that the Coupe is also environmentally sound, a statement based on its limited consumption of natural resources during production and running. Based on the more expensive Civic saloon’s platform, but with a more powerful sohc, 102 bhp, 1.5-litre, 16-valve motor with offset camshaft, an impressive 50 mpg can be achieved if you wish to tool along the MI at a mind-numbing, lorry aggravating 56 mph. If you don’t, it is still possible to be relatively frugal. And one has to say that the reported top speed of 118 mph is distinctly modest in this day and age.
All-round double wishbone suspension and Honda Progressive Valve (HPV) shock absorbers have been adopted from other Civic models necessary to justify the Coupe’s sporting image. With power steering, electric windows, sunroof and mirrors, central locking, tinted glass and a knockdown price of £11,395, it’s bound to be considered as a sensible alternative to many GTi hatchbacks. Rival coupes include the BMW 3I6i, Mazda MX-3, Nissan 100NX, Vauxhall Calibra 1 6v and VW Corrado I 6v all of which are more expensive and (with the exception of the Corrado) slower to 60mph. The Coupe certainly looks good on paper but it’s not quite as simple as that. Jump in, and you’re instantly at ease. An almost perfect driving position is attained thanks to the adjustable steering column. The low, comfortable seats lack support under the knees, but that’s excusable. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you were driving
mum’s car to the shops. The controls are feather-light to the touch, and so easy to use that 1 half-expect to see the BSM placing a bulk order. The large glass areas offer excellent vision and the compact dimensions are an aid to town driving. The ride is a delight, cocooning one from all nasties that our under-serviced British roads can muster. This Honda demands nothing from the driver one can cruise to the office on auto-pilot and not remember the journey.
Driving the Coupe on faster open roads is no more taxing than eating your breakfast it simply rolls more, grips less, goes slower and stops longer than the other small sporting Hondas, yet its longer wheelbased, well balanced chassis forgives mistakes readily. In automotive terms, it’s as close as you can get to foolproof.
Remember, though, that your heart may flutter if you try to over-stretch those puny rear brake drums.
Dashing along your local country route, you will also notice the absence of the familiar V-Tec crescendo every time you accelerate the sound that encourages you to hold-on to the gears. Galaxy-smooth though the LSi’s engine may be at low revs, you’ll find that the growing din will have you changing up long before the red-line. This isn’t unpleasant, simply a minor irritant in an otherwise well-mannered car.
Well-mannered sums it up. The Civic Coupe LSi does everything so wonderfully well within its modest envelope all for a price that would send Pavlov’s dog into convulsive spasms at the mere hoot of its horn. It might also send rival manufacturers into fits of panic for that very reason, but, for us at MOTOR SPORT, the word ‘insipid’ was never far from our minds while driving it. It may be similar to its brethren in specification, but it’s unrelated in spirit. The Civic Coupe LSi demands nothing of its driver. It’s just a pity that it offers little reward. R R B