Review: 2013 Honda Civic

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The 1980′s girl band The Bangles had a song titled “Hero Takes a Fall”. That sort of summarizes what happened when Honda took the wraps off the redesigned 2012 Civic. At the Honda booth at the New York City Auto Show, media reaction to the new Civic was, to put it nicely, chilly. Then Consumer Reports reviewed the Civic, and the unthinkable happened: they removed their Recommended rating. Always the darling of Consumer Reports, Honda was quickly schooled that just because you are Honda, being Recommended is not guaranteed. In an unprecedented move, Honda went back to work quickly, and what we have is the revised 2013 Honda Civic.

So, what happened? How did the Civic fall out of favor with the media? One problem with the new Civic was that it looked almost exactly like the old Civic, a car that has been around since 2006. What was futuristic then is quite familiar now. Also, the Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus happened, two competitors that offered style that made the Civic look like bland and uninteresting in comparison-a huge turn-off for younger buyers. In sum, the new Civic looked tired compared to what else was out there. In the span of a year, Honda has made minor changes to the Civic that go a long way. In front, there is a new hood, grille, headlights and fascia. Out back, a new trunk and taillights complete the changes. On paper, these sound minor, but all conspire for the most sophisticated looking Civic ever. Natty looking alloy wheels replace the forgettable wheels of the ’12 model. Given limited time, Honda has done much to modernize the Civic, with the upscale touch buyers now expect in this class of car.

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Another area where critics really had a problem was the interior. Cheap feeling plastics, materials, and, like the exterior, a nearly identical interior look did no favors. Although well-built, the 2012 Honda Civic just screamed commuter car from inside. You could easily imagine one of the cast from the movie “Office Space” driving this car. It wasn’t horrible, it was just…blah. After looking at the 2012 Civic and riding in it, my wife declared it one the most boring cars I had ever tested. Interior architecture remains the same, but materials are improved with softer plastics and higher quality fabrics. Even small features like silver painted surrounds for the air vents and faux stitching on the dash and door panels help to add a more upscale feel. But for a company with a reputation for an obsession to detail, it’s frustrating the press had to call them out for a lack of it.

In the engine room, Honda did not touch a thing. The Civic returns with a 1.8L four rated at 140hp. A five-speed manual is available on the base LX only. Optional on the LX, and standard on all other Civics is a five-speed automatic. The EPA gives fuel economy ratings 28/39 MPG city/highway, which is competitive in this class, but numbers I never saw in the real world. The four cylinder is, as before, smooth and refined, and should be sufficient to shuffle its owners in town and on the interstate.  However, some critics carped the Civic suffered from sloppy handling, and had lost some of the sportiness that was a part of the Civic’s DNA. In response, Honda added thicker anti-roll bars, a quicker steering ratio and re-tuned bushings. The Civic is no sports sedan, but even the ’12 model felt decent as I recall.

 

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For 2013, Honda has dropped the bargain-basement DX model. Most buyers will gravitate to the regular Civic tested here, available in LX, EX and and EX-L trims. Honda does offer an HF (for improved fuel efficiency), a Hybrid, and Natural Gas models. Our test car was the mid-level EX. Critics panned last year’s Civic for being behind in current in-car technology. For 2013, all Civics come standard with Bluetooth, a rear view camera, iPod interface, Pandora Radio functionality and a system that will allow you to hear and respond to text messages without taking your hands off the wheel. Our EX test car added 16″ alloy wheels, six-speaker stereo, a power sunroof and auto climate control. Including delivery, our Civic EX has an MSRP of $21,605USD. As before, if you want satellite radio, you must order the navigation package.

The funny thing is with this quick rehash of the Civic is that for all the beating it took in the press, sales remained strong. Your average car buyer out there simply trusts that the Civic will be a reliable car that will offer years of dependable service. Honda has so much brand equity they could have just coasted and take the beating from the media. But they didn’t, and I have to respect them for that. Honda chose instead to show that they do listen to the media. And their dealers as well. Rumor has it Honda told their dealers to dump the 2012 Civics since no one would want them when the the 2013′s started to show up. With such fierce competition out there, Honda has finally given the Civic what it needed to be a player.

Review: 2012 Honda CR-V

I’d excuse you if you thought the Honda CR-V was the company’s first attempt at a tall wagon, but you would be incorrect. That distinction belongs to the Honda Civic Wagon, sold in the US from 1984 to 1991, a car that has now achieved cult-like status with the Honda diehards who appreciated its simplicity, durability, all-weather handling and cargo capacity. The first CR-V’s were introduced as 1996 models, and retained many of the traits of the Civic Wagon. Let’s face it, a lot has changed in the intervening years, and for 2012, Honda has redesigned the CR-V. Now in its fourth generation, has the CR-V remained current? Read on to find out.

The CR-V has been wildly successful for Honda. At its inception, the term ‘crossover’ hadn’t been invented, so many referred to small, car-based SUVs as ‘cute utes’ in the 1990′s. Today, with the crossover having replaced the SUV as the preferred mode of transport for American families, the CR-V remains at or near the top of the heap for compact crossover sales. While the first CR-V’s were fairly plain and utilitarian, the CR-V has grown in size and with the introduction of the third generation car in 2007, received some curves for a more car-like look. The move away from boxy utilitarian was a raging success for Honda.

It comes as no surprise then the 2012 CR-V is a very careful evolution of the last generation car. I can’t say I blame Honda. When you have such a winning recipe I’d be hesitant to do take a risk and take the vehicle design in a different direction. The new car is easily recognizable as a CR-V with contemporary touches such as the grille, which works much better here than on the Crosstour. There isn’t a bad line on the car, but it hardly gets your adrenaline pumping either. But, walking around our Urban Titanium test car, the aim here is to aim at the widest possible range of customers possible, and in that respect, the new CR-V should keep current customers coming back for the updated car.

If the CR-V has evolved from simple transportation on the exterior, the same can be said of the interior. Honda’s reputation for building high quality interiors with intuitive ergonomics is well-known, and the CR-V is no exception. Our leather-trimmed cockpit offered all the latest modern technology has to offer and was still user friendly. But again, the flat as a pancake front seats and tiny tachometer instantly reminds you of the CR-V’s mission to carry people and cargo, not hold you tightly in place as you carve up your favorite country road. For a simple to use, comfortable cabin, the CR-V is tough to beat.

All CR-V’s are powered by a 2.4L 185hp four cylinder engine paired to a five-speed automatic. Buyers can choose between front or all-wheel drive. Towing capacity is a modest 1,500lbs. Our test car featured all-wheel drive and offered a very respectable 22/30 MPG city/highway EPA rating. The CR-V’s engine exhibited typical Honda silky smoothness, and the shift changes were virtually seamless. The CR-V is generally well composed and handles well for a crossover built for family duty. One area that did frustrate me was a complete lack of steering feel. The driver is not getting any communication from the road beneath at all, and this proved to be the CR-V’s most glaring flaw.

A base Honda CR-V LX with front-wheel drive starts at $22,495, and is a fairly well-equipped car. Our test car was the EX-L with Navigation and all-wheel drive, the top of the food chain CR-V. In addition to the leather interior, heated seats and Navigation with voice recognition, 7-speaker audio with XM satellite radio, Pandora Internet radio interface, SMS Text Messaging functionality, dual zone auto climate control, power driver’s seat, power moonroof and 17″ alloys round out the notable features. Including delivery, the tab comes to $30,605USD. Strangely, the CR-V EX-L is also available with a rear seat DVD entertainment system, but buyers must choose between this or navigation-you cannot have both. This price is competitive for its class, but the Kia Sportage adds a panoramic moonroof, 18″ wheels and a ventilated driver’s seat for the same money, not to mention edgier styling and a sportier ride.

This fourth generation Honda CR-V is a careful evolution of the outgoing car, one that brought Honda enormous success. When you are doing this well, I can see how Honda felt there was no need to reinvent the wheel here, and the updated styling in and out along with the addition of up to the minute tech keeps the CR-V current work well here, I have a nagging thought. Cars like the Kia Sportage and upcoming Ford Escape are not conservative evolutions, they are game-changing cars whose sights are aimed squarely at the Honda CR-V. This time around, Honda chose to not mess with success, and in doing so has built a car difficult to fault, but the competition is relentless, and to remain at the top Honda must move ahead. Honda considers itself a renegade, engineering-driven company, a mild restyle with some updates to an existing drivetrain seems to run counter to that mantra. No doubt the new CR-V will continue to be a sales success, but with the competition breathing hard down its neck, how much longer will playing it safe keep the CR-V as a top seller?

Acura Introduces the 2013 ILX

Acura is getting back to its roots here in America with the new, entry level ILX. Back in 1986, Acura was the first Japanese automaker to market an upscale luxury brand, years before Lexus and Infiniti were conceived. Honda introduced Acura with two cars, the luxurious Legend and the sporty Integra. The Integra was based on the Civic platform. While our neighbors in Canada have had an upscale Civic available to them, the Civic-based ILX is new to us here in the States.

The 2013 Acura ILX has a base price of $25,900USD. With that, you get a 2.0L four rated at 150hp paired to a five speed automatic. Buyers can opt for the Premium Package for an additional $3,300, which adds leather seats, heated front seats, a power drivers seat, HID headlights, foglights, upgraded audio with XM satellite radio, 17″ alloys and a rearview camera. For an extra $2,200, the Technology package adds surround sound stereo and navigation. Enthusiasts will want to opt for the 2.4L four, rated at 201hp, mated to a six-speed manual as seen in the Honda Civic Si. There will also be an ILX Hybrid, powered by a 1.5L four with a CVT, which is priced at $28,900. Acura is typically straightforward with its option packages, so I find it odd the base ILX can be had with the Premium and Technology packages, while the 2.4 can only get the Premium package, and the hybrid can only get the Technology package. The 2013 Acura ILX hits the showroom floor late May.

Review: 2012 Honda Civic Si

Here at The Garage, we’re fortunate to have a steady stream of new automobiles to review and share with you, our readers. I was particularly interested when I got word I would be loaned the new 2012 Honda Civic Si. Sure, The Garage had already reviewed the redesigned Civic EX sedan, but while that car is a commuter appliance, the Civic Si is not. On a personal level, I owned a 2007 Honda Civic Si four door for three years, with many enjoyable miles and memories. I wanted to see what Honda did with the new Si.

As we’ve seen, the ‘all-new’ Civic is a very conservative evolution of the last generation. In other words, the Civic underwent a very mild refresh, so if the Civic Si seems, well, familiar, it is. Foglights, front and rear spoilers, a chrome exhaust tip and beautiful 17″ alloys help distinguish the Si from plain vanilla Civics. Our test car, finished in Rallye Red certainly helped putting a sporty emphasis on the car, and I thought the honeycomb grill was a nice touch. While I appreciated the new, more rounded rear fascia on the four-door Civic, on the coupe with its steeply raked rear windshield, the same treatment gives the Civic coupe the appearance of having a pretty big rear end.

As with the exterior, the interior of the Civic Si was instantly familiar. The two-tier digital speedo/analog tach may not be for everyone, but it is easy to read at a glance, and certainly different from any other competitor. Controls are of course, simple and easy as pie to use. Red stitched sport seats, aluminum pedals and shifter and a meaty leather steering wheel confirm this isn’t your mom’s Civic. The sport seats were very comfortable, and offered exceptional support. While lesser Civics have all the charm of a corporate office cubicle, the Civic Si’s cabin is sporty and inviting.

The last generation Civic Si had a 200hp i-VTEC four putting out 200hp. Quick? Yes, but critics of the old Si called it a torque-less wonder. To address that criticism, Honda dropped in a new 2.4L four, making 201hp but producing more torque. The performance characteristics of the new engine do not seem all that different from the old one. The Si produces a nice burble at idle, is quite docile around town, but always seems happiest when brought straight to redline. This, as before, is an engine that is at its best at the absolute limit, will gladly do so all day, and sounds intense and glorious doing so. For the price of admission there are few cars that sound as intoxicating and exotic as a Honda Civic Si at the limit.

In that vein, the Civic Si retains its Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde persona. Happy to put put around town doing errands, and ready to scream through your favorite roads. Keep in mind, you are not getting all 201 horses until that tach hits 7,000 rpm. The Civic Si is utterly refined around town yet offers fantastic handling, steering and braking abilities without any compromise in ride comfort. Also as before, the Civic Si is only available with a six-speed manual, a decision that gives me enormous respect for Honda, and that will keep the posers away. But the auto journo cynic in me tells me Honda just is not interested in spending the money to develop a twin-clutch automated manual. And the five-speed automatic employed in other Civics would make no sense in the Si.

In typical Honda fashion, how you want your Civic Si is kept very simple. In addition to the standard equipment already mentioned, the Civic Si is equipped with a seven speaker premium audio system and Bluetooth. The only options, apart from dealer installed accessories are summer performance tires and a Navigation package, which is sadly the only way to get satellite radio. Our test car was a base Civic Si, with a sticker price of $22,975USD, including delivery. In all, the Civic Si does represent a decent value for the performance it provides.

Yet having lived with a 2007 Civic Si for three years, and spending a week with a 2012 Civic Si, I felt let down. From the seat of my pants, it was as if I was driving the same car. For a car company who earned a reputation for automotive engineering excellence beyond reproach, I look at the Civic Si and cannot believe this is the best Honda has to offer. With the S2000 long gone, the Civic Si also bears the mantle of being the hottest Honda available in North America, and that’s a lot to ask from a 201hp car. Honda had a chance to match or beat its chief competition, the VW GTI. Honda did neither. Sure, it costs a tad more, but for my money I’d switch to a Ramen noodle diet because the GTI is that much better.

Honda offers contingency program to Canadian Touring Car teams

Damon Sharp crests Turn 2 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

Great news this morning for Honda racers in the Canadian Touring Car Championship, as Honda has announced a contingency plan for teams campaigning their products in the popular series. Administered through Honda Performance Development and applies to all Honda & Acura vehicles. There is added incentive for teams that run 2012 models. The program applies to Touring and Super classes, along with the new for 2012 Spec B class.

CTCC is a pro series, but most competitors are very much grass roots, meaning that every dollar consumed is carefully budgeted. In other words, every penny counts. A driver winning their class in a 2012 Honda model will receive a prize of $1,000. That will be a welcome boost for most teams.

Head past the jump to read the series press release.

CTCC News: Honda Performance Development Offering Contingengy Program to Canadian Touring Car Championship

Honda Performance Development (HPD) will support the 2012 Canadian Touring Car Championship (CTCC) with contingency offerings in the Super and Touring classes, as well as the new B-Spec category. Contingency monies will will be paid to first- through third-place finishers who campaign a Honda or Acura in the Super or Touring classes, or a Honda Fit in the B-Spec class, during the 2012 CTCC season. Additionally, HPD will reward championship-winning drivers in all classes during the 2012 CTCC season.

“Honda and Acura models have been well-represented in CTCC since our first event six years ago,” noted John Bondar, President of Canadian Touring Car Championship. “They have been Champions in both Super Class and Touring Class, and I look forward to their challenge for supremacy in the B-Spec Class.”

“Honda is proud to make fun cars that people really enjoy,” said Marc Sours, general manager of HPD. “Racing has always been very popular in Canada, and HPD is pleased to be a part of the exciting Canadian racing community.”

Administered by HPD, the contingency payout structure will reward first, second- and third-place finishers in the Super and Touring classes, as follows:

Payout 1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place
Parts Credit – All Honda/Acura $ 250 $ 125 $ 75
Cash Award – 2012 Civic Si only $ 1,000 $ 750 $ 500

Driver Champion Bonus: $ 2,500 Cash for 2012 Civic Si; $ 1,000 HPD Credit (all other models)

Additionally, HPD’s contingency payout structure will reward first, second- and third-place finishers with cash prizes in the B-Spec class, as follows:

Payout 1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place
10 or more class starters $ 500 $ 300 $ 125

Driver Champion Bonus: $ 1,000

To be eligible for the HPD CTCC Contingency payout, competitors must be enrolled in the Honda Racing Line program and display the required “Honda Racing/HPD” and “H” decals on their race vehicles. Registration for the Honda Racing Line is available at http://racing.honda.com/hpd/race-for-honda/registration.aspx

All 2012 HPD CTCC Contingency Program award recipients will be able to use their parts credits toward Honda Racing Line purchases.

For more information, please contact HPD at (661)702-7777.

News Source: HPD via CTCC