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2007 Honda Civic EX Compact Coupe and Sedan

What was tested? 2007 Honda Civic Four-Door EX Navigation ($21,260).

Options: None.

Price as tested: $21,260

Cons: It's a Honda Civic, the khaki pants of automobiles. You can't go wrong with it.

Cons The air conditioner doesn't give quite enough of an arctic blast. Also, Korean and American brands are offering bigger, high-quality vehicles with more features for less money.

RATINGS: (1-10)
Style: 8
Performance: 8
Price: 8
Handling: 9
Ride: 8
Comfort: 10
Quality: 10
Overall: 9

Honda calls this car a Civic, but I'm not quite sure it is one.

That's because even if I live to be 130, I'll always think of the Civic in its 1980s incarnation - as a cheap, cramped, tin-can car that's about the size of a kitchen appliance.

This new Civic, though, is big. It's roughly the size of an Accord from a few years ago, which doesn't pose a problem because the modern Accord has ballooned to the size of an ocean liner. And the new CRV can be seen from the moon.

Let's put it this way: If I'm looking to trade in an Accord from the late '90s, a new Civic would be a step up. And because the new Civic is cheaper, more fuel-efficient and more cozy than the new, giant Accord, I'd probably prefer the Civic anyway.

This car starts around $15,000, which puts it firmly in economy-car territory, although my EX test vehicle rang up at $21,260. That may seem like a hefty premium until you look at what you get for the money - a navigation system with voice recognition, XM Satellite Radio, and even a remote control button that opens your trunk. It could play the starring role in "Honey, I Shrunk the Acura."

And, because it's a Honda, it has very few weaknesses. It gets 40 miles per gallon on the highway. It's built well. It's fun to drive. Its engine could survive a nuclear war.

Even the interior is nice, not because it's particularly classy, but because it actually has a unique, high-tech style. It looks like it came straight from the set of a 1970s science-fiction movie, with digital gauges and snazzy lighting. Many new cars try to make their interiors look upscale, which actually makes them look boring, but Honda decided to give this car a different, distinctively Japanese look. And it works.

That doesn't mean the Civic is perfect, though.

Its weak air-conditioning system is a downer, especially in the South. I expect an air conditioner that can turn the cabin into an arctic habitat within a few seconds. This one couldn't.

It also has more serious competition, including among buyers looking more for quality than price. Kia and Hyundai, in particular, now offer bigger cars with more features and impressive warranties for less money than the Honda. Ford hit a home run with the affordable Fusion. And the quality ratings from the Korean and American brands are now ranked with the best of the Japanese.

Still, there's a certain assurance that comes with driving the Honda Civic. Based on its decades-long reputation, you'll know it's efficient, long-lasting and reliable, and it will likely hold its resale value exceptionally well.

Plus, it's a whole lot bigger than you'd ever expect a Civic to be.