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Honda Civic, Ridgeline sweep car and truck awards

DETROIT -- Honda Division swept the 2006 North American Car and Truck of the Year awards on Sunday, with honors going to the redesigned Civic small car and the unconventional Ridgeline truck.

The Civic beat out the Ford Fusion sedan and Pontiac Solstice roadster for the Car of the Year award. Jurors gave the Civic 244 points out of a possible maximum of 490 points.

For the Truck of the Year award, the Ridgeline won out over two redesigned SUVs, the Ford Explorer and Nissan Xterra. The Ridgeline received 296 points out of a possible 490.

The awards were handed out Sunday morning during the first press preview day of the North American International Auto Show.

This is the first year that the Honda Division has won the award. The Honda Element was a truck of the year finalist in 2003, and the Honda Insight hybrid was a car of the year finalist in 2001. Acura, the luxury division of Honda Motor Co., won a truck of the year award in 2001 for the Acura MDX SUV.

The redesigned Civic, launched last autumn, is slightly bigger and heavier than the model it replaces. Under the hood is a lineup of new four-cylinder engines, ranging from a 140-hp, 1.8-liter unit to a 197-hp, 2.0-liter engine used in the reborn Si performance trim level. Honda also offers the Civic with natural gas-fueled and hybrid powertrains. Civic sales fell 0.3 percent in 2005 to 308,415 units.

Honda developed the Ridgeline to compete in the important pickup segment in the United States, even though it didn't have a body-on-frame platform. So the automaker started with the underpinnings of its Honda Pilot/Acura MDX SUVs. The Ridgeline's bed can swallow sheets of plywood and the four-door cab has seating for five. But it's the little touches that have grabbed the most attention, such as the covered storage well built into the truck bed. But for all the attention, Ridgeline sales haven't met Honda's initial expectations. Honda sold 42,593 Ridgelines in 2005. Power comes from a 247-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine.

The three finalists in each category were the top vote getters from a field of 14 cars and 14 trucks that were all-new or significantly redesigned and launched in 2005. Votes were cast by a panel of 49 full-time automotive journalists. The jury panel includes Automotive News Executive Editor Edward Lapham and Senior Writer Dale Jewett.

Each juror has 25 points to divide among the car of the year candidates, and 25 points for the truck of the year candidates. In each category, only one vehicle can get the maximum award of 10 points.

One year ago, the Chrysler 300 was named North American Car of the Year, and the Ford Escape Hybrid was named North American Truck of the Year.

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Honda Civic, Ridgeline sweep car and truck awards
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