Downside: I have no problems with this car.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent in all three categories. I really enjoyed driving this one.

Head-turning quotient: The nerd is gone. The new Civic looks like it's ready to run. Indeed, as demonstrated by last week at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show in Las Vegas, street stylists and bling-bling artists are already having a grand time outfitting this one with fancy wheels, paints and wings.

Body style/layout: The 2006 Civic is a front-engine, front-wheel drive car available as a coupe or sedan. It is offered in three trim levels -- base DX, mid-line LX and upscale EX.

Engine/transmission: The 2006 Civic engine is equipped with a standard 1.8-liter, in-line four-cylinder, 16-valve engine that develops 140 horsepower at 6,300 revolutions per minute and 128 foot-pounds of torque at 4,300 rpm. A five-speed manual transmission is standard. A five-speed automatic is optional.

Capacities: The 2006 Civic EX sedan has seating for five people, but you get better passenger comfort carrying only four. Cargo volume is 12 cubic feet. Fuel capacity is 13.2 gallons of required regular unleaded.

Mileage: I averaged 37 miles per gallon mostly in highway driving. (Honda says that its Civic Hybrid will get you up to 50 miles per gallon, assuming that you do most of your driving in stop-and-go city traffic where the hybrid's electric motor handles most of the work.)

Safety: Side and head air bags; four-wheel antilock brakes; three-point belts at all seating positions.

Price: The 2006 Honda Civic EX sedan with navigation comes fully loaded at $20,560. Dealer's invoice price on that model is $18,790. Price as tested is $21,100, including a $550 destination charge. Dealer's price as tested is $19,340. Prices sourced from Honda, www.edmunds.com, and www.cars.com, an affiliate of The Washington Post.

Purse-strings note: The 2006 Civic ranks first on the On Wheels small cars list (and that's above my own Mini Cooper in overall value and utility). It gets an enthusiastic "buy."