Honda's Independent Streak

Innovations may keep it from being swallowed whole

Forget kicking the tires. You have to look a little closer to spot what makes a car well-built these days. Consider the gap between the bumper and the body panel on Honda Motor Co.'s redesigned 2001 Civic: It will be about the width of a sharpened pencil point. On a comparable domestic-made subcompact, you could slip a hefty magic marker into the same seam.

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