By on October 31, 2011

After decades of offering some of the best C-segment products available, Honda made the mistake of phoning in its latest generation of Civic just as the entire competition stepped up its game. Compared to the previous generation of Cobalts, Corollas, Elantras and Focii, the current Civic might be a fine car… but compared to the new crop of compacts, its barely competitive. In his TTAC review, Michael Karesh called the new Civic “a low point” and “dreadfully dull,” while Consumer Reports struck the body blow by failing to recommend the Civic for the first time in memory. And though Honda’s initial reaction showed signs of a potentially fatal bunker mentality, lashing out at CR and pointing to a second place Motor Trend showing (because that’s proof of an absence of mediocrity), it seems the company is coming around.

 

 

Automotive News [sub] reports that a mid-cycle refresh planned for Spring of 2014 has been pulled forward to 2013, as Honda’s John Mendel says

We take feedback seriously, regardless of who it’s from, and we will act accordingly quickly. I don’t know how much we can do, and how quickly. But the comments of Consumer Reports and our customers have not gone unnoticed. We are appropriately energized.

If the late-2013 refresh date is right, Honda should have a few months before Hyundai’s new Elantra (which is on a four-year development cycle) hits the market, and the Civic refresh should coincide with the Cruze’s mid-cycle update as well. Behind the eight-ball in this segment for the first time ever, Honda is going to have to dig deep and work wonders to return the Civic to its previous greatness.

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100 Comments on “Honda Hustling Out Civic Refresh...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    That photo is actually of a last-generation JDM Civic (which was CR’s top-rated compact car). Canada got it as the Acura CSX; it never showed up in the US.

  • avatar
    tced2

    In my view the current (new) Civic was a triumph of the cost-accountants. Cheap, cheap, cheap.
    We have a new factory in Indiana that builds Civics. They just hired another 1000 people to run another shift. Maybe they won’t need them for awhile?
    The whole US Honda/Acura management crystal ball has been on the fritz lately.

  • avatar
    carve

    If I recall, a couple of years ago, when gas prices spiked, they scrapped their almost complete bloated next-gen civic and went with this instead. I suppose to make up for lost time they basically used the old one for a “head start”.

    They’re losing it. The new CRV looks good though.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Think they can slip the double wishbone back in by then?

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      Unlikely. With the new pedestrian crash standards raising the height of the hood, they might as well go with the MacPherson strut for packaging reasons.

      • 0 avatar
        carve

        Struts result in a higher hoodline than wishbone.

      • 0 avatar
        mikedt

        re:pedestrian crash stds: If I’m going to be struck by a car, I’m not sure if I’d rather have my knees shattered or my hip shattered. It seems like either would be just as bad.

      • 0 avatar

        Frankly IMHO double wishbone buys you nothing. Neon was beating the competition flat back in the day with the strut. It’s all in the location of the steering axis relatively to the contact patch, so that the car can easily be tuned by offset and ride height for the better tires. Although, ask Jack.

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        In real world terms, I’ve always felt that there wasn’t that much difference between struts and wishbones in a straightline, but that front wishbones just seem to load up more progressively through a corner and handle mid-corner bumps better. Yeah, but this is one of these ‘ask Jack’ sort of things.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        In my limited experience, wishbones are better at keeping the tires at the right alignment over a longer stroke. I doubt a fwd car, even today, could be made as neutral, at as high limits, as the Type R from the 90s, if made with struts. Man, I love that car…..

        On RWD cars, the front grip falloff from less than ideal contact patch alignment as cornering forces build, is in many ways a benefit, as it makes it easier to keep the car from over steering too easily. Even there, at least as pertains to Boxsters, it is astounding how much less prone to understeer the lowered ones are, compared to their longer travel brethren. For a front driver, unless it is seriously slammed and driven on a pool table surface (read racetrack), I simply don’t see how the strut cars can do it.

        But I’m just a simple ex street racer/ricer. It would be nice if Baruth, or someone else with more actual racing setup knowledge, would chime in.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    “After decades of offering some of the best C-segment products available, Honda made the mistake of phoning in its latest generation of Civic just as the entire competition stepped up its game.”

    Excellent point though I would argue that the 2000-04 model Civic modeled for “Jennifer” was a boring piece of engineering excepting the Si.

    Love those early edition CVCCs, the first and second gen models to the left in the picture. They were so much fun to drive like you stole them.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      I remember when that generation, around 2001 or so, tied for 8th of 12 or so compact vehicles in Car and Driver, of all publications. This was at the height of their Honda nut-licking, too. It really wasn’t a very good car.

      I think the ’03-ish refresh made it a little more competitive, but it still was far from the best vehicle money could buy at the time. I believe the Mazda Protege won that small car comparison, and the Saturn SL, Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Echo, and even the lame old Mitsubishi Lancer all scored higher than the Civic. It really was down with the dogs. I believe it tied with a Suzuki Esteem.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      The 2001-2005 Civic Si sold in the US was terrible – it was heavy; had a different suspension setup; came with 15″ stock civic wheels with econotires; and worse of all it came with the base RSX engine (and not the hot performing 200hp Type S version). You could spend about the same money and pick up a SVT Focus hatch that 20 more hp and came wiht larger wheels with summer performance tires. In performance tests the SVT Focus ran circles around the Civic Si. Honda says they didn’t want to cannibalize sales of the RSX Type S…well did it matter ruining the Civic Si for that?

      In fact, Honda did such a bad job on this Si that ruined the idea of a hot Honda Hatchback to US customers (whereas across the pond Honda gave the car a great engine, better suspension setup and wheels / tires to keep it on the road. Because Honda did such a poor job its management’s gross lack of oversight figured the Civic Si hatch didn’t sell well b/c it was a hatchback and not the fact that they neutered it completely that no one cared to buy one. The previous Civic Si was the 99-00 coupe that had all the right parts to make it a legend – and not b/c it was a coupe. So the next gen Civic SI got the right parts just like the 99-00 coupe – great. For those of us who want a fun to drive car but still use it as a normal car with utility we have to go elsewhere (GTI / WRX hatch / Focus hatchback). Then now Honda brings us the next Civic Renaissance – Z which is an abject failure in performance, packaging, and economy (complete irony). Ugh – yes I’m a dissatisfied lover of current Honda hot hatches (considering I’ve owned many over the years and still own one right now ’89 Civic with b16a2 – the engine that Civic came with for ROW but not in the US).

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        You are correct on the cannibalization arguement with the RSX Type-S.

        Except ironically Honda axed the Integra/RSX Type-S in ’06. I told our Acura district rep at the time this was a HORRIBLE move. They basically ditched their ‘near luxury’ roots in exchange for attempting to move upmarket on the heels of a severe economic turndown. Ever since, they have struggled with carving (or regaining) a market for themselves.

        They need another Integra/RSX. And Honda needs a PROPER Civic SI, not a ‘cheap’ TSX (although I must say a K24 in a Civic is kind of a cool idea, despite not winding out as high in the RPMs and fuel economy) – For its survival.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    The whole Acura/Honda line up is a step behind right now.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    Nothing against the writers of my paycheck, BUT…

    The current-gen Civic is…well…

    GET RID OF THE STUPID, HEADACHE CAUSING, UGLY, DIGITAL-SPEEDO DASH!
    A conventional dial gauge cluster would make it look less like an expensive Chevy Aveo.

    BRING A HATCHBACK BACK TO THE USDM!

    AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LOWER THE BASE PRICE, THE ELANTRA IS KICKING OUR ASS RIGHT NOW!

    And a 6spd auto might help sales as well. The average customer, quality notwithstanding, thinks the 5spd auto is antiquated.

    DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED on Acura. I’m surprised I even still have a job with what they’ve been releasing the past couple of years. For my family’s sake, I hope corporate gets their head on straight, and SOON.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      Honda is running itself into the ground like GM was. Bury head in sand and deny that you can do no wrong. I’ve not walked on a Honda / Acura lot in 5 years now and nothing they sell would make me want to. That is unless I only wanted a driving appliance to get me generically from point A to point B.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        If Honda is accelerating a redo of a car that was just released this spring, I’d say it is not burying its head in the sand and denying that the new Civic has problems.

      • 0 avatar
        jaje

        Mythbusters proved you can polish a turd – but it’s still a turd all that polish. What can they do two years in to fix the real problems with the car? They will do as they always do – add more content, make some small styling tweaks. GM did this a lot with mid lifecycle refreshes from time to time. The real kicker they did to sell cars was to slap a lot of money on the hood which is what Honda will have to do to sell them.

    • 0 avatar

      I wish they’d get a steeper windshield.

    • 0 avatar
      Lampredotto

      Of course, the Civic that Honda offers everywhere else in the world is an interesting, quirky car. (A three- and five- door hatch, at that). I can;t speak to the driving dynamics, but it burns me up that the European Civic is a bold design, and the USDM Civic looks like a ten year old Corolla.

      I get that “market preferences” (i.e. focus groups, i.e. the rush to the lowest common denominator) are basically what precipitates a company to develop unique vehicles for the US market, but wouldn’t they realize massive cost savings by using the same design here as in the rest of the world?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I can;t speak to the driving dynamics, but it burns me up that the European Civic is a bold design, and the USDM Civic looks like a ten year old Corolla.

        There’s no comparison. In the US, the Civic is one of the top selling cars each year (along with the F-series trucks, the Silverado, Camry, Accord and Corolla.) In Europe, the Civic and Honda generally are modest players in the market.

        The design considerations are different, because the market sizes are different. The American model shoots for the middle, since it needs to appeal to so many more buyers.

        but wouldn’t they realize massive cost savings by using the same design here as in the rest of the world?

        No. They’d sell far fewer cars.

        American tastes are different. If they tried to sell Americanized models around the world, they would fail. If they tried to sell JDM vehicles here in large quantities, they would fail — they could sell some, but not enough to be profitable.

        That being said, they may have overdone it with this particular model. But it doesn’t sound like anything that couldn’t be fixed with better interior plastics, a bit tauter handling and some adjustments to the steering gear.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Word.

      A Civic should be a quality, value-oriented, four-banger with a decent suspension.

      Drop the hatch, drop the wishbone, release Buick-cum-Crosstours… as a long-time lover of Hondas, I wish they could return to the formula that they perfected 20 years ago. In the mean time, there are any number of makes that are picking up where H left off.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Honda’s worst offense in my book are those lazy-ass, phone-it-in “update” reflectors slapped on the trunk of this year’s Accords. They have no relation to the rest of the car. Must have taken 10 minutes and 10 dollars to design.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I don’t think they’re an update. They were part of an optional “Inspire” package for the car in Japan. That’s my offhand recollection. So that’s even worse :)

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      Agreed, those things look like cheesy after-market add-ons. They don’t even blend in well wilth the “design” of the taillights. Pathetic.

    • 0 avatar
      300zx_guy

      yes, very strange how the reflectors don’t seem as if they were designed to go with the tail lamps at all. So long as we’re talking Accord tail-lamps, does anyone “get” why there is a little jiggle in the line between the red and clear area of the Accord’s tail-lamps? it looks to me like the ruler slipped when the designer was drawing the line and it accidentally went to production that way. Does anyone see any possible meaningful design intent for this little kink?

    • 0 avatar
      Pat D

      They look cheaper than a tramp stamp.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Honda/Acura have simply lost their mojo. A minor tweaking for the Civic rushed into the market isn’t gonna cut it, not with the level of current/future competition.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      Agreed. Honda’s “mid model corrections” usually tweak the bumpers, headlights, and taillights, and sometimes change the standard features. From what I’ve read, the Civic needs an entirely new interior, suspension, and disc brakes all around, which is way beyond what Honda will do in the middle of a model run.

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      Honda motorcycle has lost their mojo as well (and truth be told the motorcycle div has probably lost even more). I’m not sure if accountants have taken over or their just too damn scared to take any chances at all and therefore just offer warmed over products.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    And every single Honda product has road noise that I find unbearable.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      Everyone is dumping on the Civics, but I rented one 3 yrs ago to go on a 800 mile road trip and found that it excelled in just about everything, comfort, economy, handling it was one of the best cars I have ever had the pleasure of driving.

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        That would have been the previous-generation model, which was reasonably well-regarded aside from some penny-pinching on the interior. The new one takes the cost cutting to a whole new hitherto-unseen level. And the new electric power steering is devoid of feedback. The one you drove had hydraulic power steering.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        The Civic was good 3 years ago, however times change. Since from all the reviews it seems the car has gone backwards compared to the model you drive whilst the competition has gone forwards it is not surprising their is criticism.

        No doubt not all the criticism is fair, but then that isn’t unique to Honda.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    No kidding! My ’97 Civic has more road and engine noise than the ’86-87 Civics did (I had four of them). And our 2001 Odyssey, which retailed for over $26K, is very loud on the highway – there is just no excuse for that given the price point for that vehicle.

    I have a friend who recently spent close to $1K to add sound-deadening to a new Mazda. She wanted a small car for urban duty, but couldn’t find one new, small car that had acceptable sound levels. She is a business consultant that spends a lot of time on the phone using her headset while travelling between clients, and a low background noise level was a must.

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      Great, so cars must be overweight so that people can use them as phone booths. And a Mazda no less, the only car company (apart from Lotus) that touts the low mass of its cars as a positive feature.

  • avatar
    magicbus1966

    Rushing out a refresh – what could possibly go wrong?

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I agree with carve; I’ve been assuming that Honda phoned in the new Civic because they scrapped their new, bigger design when fuel prices started to matter again. They only had a short amount of time to create the 9th generation, so it’s not surprising that it was more of a refresh. Pity that it became worse in some ways.

    But it isn’t really that bad. The 8th generation Civic was a really good car, and personally I think the two-tier instrument panel works great. Putting the speedometer higher and further away makes it easier on the eyes to refocus between it and the road. High-mounted speedos are the way to go, as long as they’re not all the way in the middle of the dashboard. The ones that are offset towards the driver (like in the xB) are fine.

  • avatar
    Rob Finfrock

    I test drove a ’12 EX-L with Nav a few weeks back. Everything said about the cost-cutting is 100% true. I mentioned to the salesman how ridiculous the interior treatment and materials were compared with my old ’92 Accord; all he could do is nod, somewhat sadly.

    I still briefly considered making a serious offer on one. I can forgive hard plastics on an economy car (the “rice paper” pattern on the upper surfaces is interesting, if not terribly plush) and even with electric steering and a downmarket suspension, it still drove like a Honda. I’ve no doubt it would be a reliable and economical transportation pod, with just a hint of personality.

    Better than a Corolla, arguably less impressive than a Cruze or Focus… but given the likely issues down the line with a UAW-built Daewoo, or a first-year Ford with known transmission bugs, the Honda looks pretty good in comparison.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      Agree, despite all the criticisms, in the long run, you’re better off with the sound engineering of the Civic and not the questionable direct injection and 1.4 turbos engines.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        I actually agree. We’ll see what happens a few years down the road, but I would be reluctant to risk one of the new ‘untried’ engines found in most of the competition as a long term keeper.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob Finfrock

        The Koreans are the Great Unknown here, of course*. Those manufacturers have made such great strides in design, engineering and apparent build quality… but long-term reliability is still dubious, and will be for a few more years to come. Honda, Toyota, et al went through a similar proving period in the 1970s.

        I’ve had my eye on a loaded Kia Optima EX for a few months now, and a local dealer finally has one spec’d the way I’d want it. I think I’ll wait just a bit longer, however, before signing on the dotted line — so far the reliability data is encouraging, but all vehicles should hold up well in the first year.

        *Hyundai and Kia, anyway. Until proven otherwise, I think we can safely assume Daewoo/GM Korea will continue to be subpar.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Rob – I don`t know if we can “safely” assume GM and others will continue to be sub par. From data I read they are improving and are probably around average. With average now being much better than the average 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Sure Honda and Toyota will continue to be the most reliable, but if the difference continues to shrink such that, for most people, it is an extra dealer trip very 3-5 years then at that point it becomes a distraction rather than anything more serious. The perception will stay for years and GM (and others) need to prove their reliability over the long term. Say for the next 10 years but the past few years give some hope for improvement.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob Finfrock

        You’re right, mike. My admitted bias against Daewoo/GM influenced my comment. In theory, Daewoo has just as much to prove as Hyundai and Kia.

        That said, I’d argue that Daewoo is starting further down the ladder than the others, though. If I recall correctly, the Cruze has far worse reliability scores so far than its Hyundai and Kia competition, despite that vehicle being on the worldwide market close to four years already. That says a lot.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        From data I read they are improving and are probably around average

        JD Power gives the Cruze its lowest quality rating of two stars, including two stars in the powertrain reliability subcategory.

        CR ranks the Cruze at the bottom of its reliability ranking in the small car class.

        Meanwhile, as I pointed out to you elsewhere, the True Delta sample sizes are too small to be of much use, and certainly shouldn’t be used for comparison purposes.

        What is this source that shows it to be “average”? I’d like to see it.

  • avatar
    Tom_M

    This is the same generation that they scrapped and started over after seeing that the C segment was going more upscale like the Cruze over the Cobalt. That put them behind and they obviously rushed its development. This Civic is a fine competitor for the Corolla, but that is no longer good enough. I feel like the redesign better be a hit or else it will end up like the Corolla just trying to move metal.

    • 0 avatar
      ringomon

      It wasn’t scrapped for that reason.
      It was scrapped because the original design had it being even bigger than the current civic at the time, which was already almost as big as the previous Accord.

      Then gas prices shot up to over $4 a gallon and people started looking to go smaller. So they scrapped the larger design and started over.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Sorry, but the “new” Civic is a step backward in the design department. Looks like a shrunken 90′s Camry. Two-tier instrument panel is/was weird looking. This car needs a major overhaul STAT. Exterior/interior design and materials simply don’t measure up to the class leaders (Focus, Cruze, Elantra). Honda is falling behind on the tech front too. 5-speed auto anyone? In the past, Honda would have been the FIRST to offer a 6-speed automatic, not one of the LAST. On a bright note, the new CR-V is the first new Honda in a long, long, time that might be better looking than the model it replaces. So perhaps there is hope.

  • avatar
    nearprairie

    We’ve owned 7 Hondas. Our first two, ’91 CRX and Civic Wagon, were, in our opinion, the last true Hondas — wishbone suspension, simple ergonomics, quality materials, flawless fit and finish, light, frugal, always a joy to drive. Since then we’ve owned Hondas with increasing issues — cheaper interior parts with each generation, loss of wishbone suspension, baffling instrument panels and center stacks, absolutely boring sheet metal.

    The final, parting straw came last Saturday shopping for a new whip. My Chief Spousal Unit wanted to see the Accord coupe. Once inside her first statement referenced the zillion buttons on the center stack saying, “What the hell is that?! This isn’t a Honda.” It went downhill from there, both in the Accord and Civic. Honda, it seems, has lost its mojo.

    After saying goodbye to Honda we drove a ’12 Mazda3 with a SkyActiv engine. End result: CSU wants Mazda3 hatchback, “because it’s everything the Honda isn’t.”

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Actually, I’d say the Accord coupe is the one car they have that has some mojo. I’d take one in red with the V-6 and six-speed. I’d have also taken the last-gen Civic Si sedan, even though it has as much torque as a lawnmower.

      Aside from that?

      (Crickets chirping)

      • 0 avatar
        Lampredotto

        To be fair, the Fit has picked up the mantle formerly carried by the Civic: small, simple, light, fuel-efficient, space-efficient, fun to drive. The Fit is what allows me to hold out a glimmer of a dream that the old Honda is still in there, somewhere.

        The Accord Crosstour, of course, is the alarm clock to that dream.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        The problem with the Fit is, impressive ergonomics/function crushing the hell out of form notwithstanding, is the hard plastics. When I went shopping last summer, unfortunately for
        Honda, I stuck my head in an CPO Fit before test driving a new model. Everything in the new model looked like it would age poorly, looking at the test-drive’s year-older brother, these suspicions were confirmed.

    • 0 avatar
      GarbageMotorsCo.

      Great to hear about the new Skyactive 3, It has seriously gotten my attention as well.

      More than the new Civic. My rental car replacement will hopefully be a Mazda 6 (crossing fingers)

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    It wouldn’t take a lot to make the new Civic come alive. If they dropped in the EU Civic dash/transmission console they would be a start. If memory serves, the press pics for the EU version did have left hand drive. Seat and headliner materials are really just a matter of what the factory is willing to contract out for. It’s the same parts, but the design is a whole lot more fluid. And please, no more faux ‘brushed aluminum’ plastic trim pieces.

    Things like the engine and transmission… those are fine as they are for now. The current combinations provide appropriate real-world performance and mileage. However, Honda’s missing out on a bit of cost savings/platform sharing by not moving the Accord EX-L engine over to the Civic line. The Si engine (as maligned by purists as it is) is competitive performance and mileage wise (benchmark: GTi), but having to sip premium kills the value proposition. The k24 in EX-L spec is only 10 ponies down and can take regular gas… it has a nice potential for use in sedan version…. but I guess that’s what the sub-TSX is looking like.

    I think that this generation of Civic is mostly forgivable if the refresh is timely and well received. Forum traffic has been mostly negative, but real world buyers are have different needs.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The problem with the Civic (and with the Corolla) isn’t so much that they’ve taken a step backward, but that everyone else has taken such a huge step forward, and Honda pretty much stayed pat. The Focus blurs the line between compact and midsize, the Elantra is far better looking than the Civic and is a huge value. Even GM has a competent, appealing compact now, and those guys failed dismally at that segment for a good 25 years. And you know what? The Civic may still be a reliability favorite, but the competition is catching up. If that happens, and the product is as drab as it is now, Honda will be dead meat in short order.

    That’s gotta spell trouble. Honda needs to reach down deep and produce a superior car if it wants to survive.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      The new Focus is quite nice.. except it suffers from what I call ‘Samsung Galaxy SII Syndrome.”… for a car in this category, it’s overspec’d… so much so that it requires buyers to think about the purchase before going forward. The Jetta and the Elantra have it right… the price point doesn’t cause that pause-for-thought moment.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @Stuntmonkey:
        Have you driven a Focus without the My Ford Touch system? Uncheck that option box, and the one for the trick automatic while you’re at it, and you have a VERY sweet little sedan with lot fewer ergonomic (and potential repair) issues, and it’s cheaper to boot.

        Unfortunately, you can’t uncheck the “lousy styling,” “uninspired handling” and “chintzy interior” boxes on the Civic’s order sheet.

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        > Unfortunately, you can’t uncheck the “lousy styling,”

        Actually, I would have said that about the Focus’ widemouth front grill… everything else about external design of the sedan and the hatch is great. In the eye of the beholder.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      Those who trade in often could not care about durability (turbos and direct injection) those who like to hang on for a few years after paying off the loan, prefer something that is gonna stand the test of time and Civic and Corolla as well as Sentra have a long history of doing just that.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @Volt230:

        1) You’re right, the buyers who drive their compacts into 200-300,000-mile oblivion won’t abandon the Civic, but I suspect that’s a rather thin slice of the market. If you’re Honda, given the infrequency with which these folks buy a car, what’s the point in aiming for them?

        2) If I were looking for a car to have for 3-4 years, particularly if I was leasing (and this is a growing chunk of the market), I’d be OK with a little less long term reliability and a lot more luxury, features, styling, and well-rounded driving experience. The Civic is a BIG loser in that category to the Focus/Elantra/Cruze.

        2) Have you seen the reliability ratings on the Sentra? My understanding is that they’re not what they used to be by a long shot.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        What advantage is there in pleasing customers who keep their cars for 200-300,000 miles?

        Aside from the fact that there are more Honda and Toyota owners who do this than many people want to believe (from what I’ve seen, for example, many GM owners still trade their cars around 100,000 miles, as the cars just don’t hold up that well, so they are regularly amazed at cars that can last longer), it boosts resale value. People will seek out a vehicle as a used car that has a reputuation for lasting longer.

        The people who trade earlier than 200,000 miles are reaping the benefit of improved resale value.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Plus, there is absolutely no downside to giving those buyers a better handling and more stylish car with a better quality interior. Those buyers will STILL buy the Civic and be even happier. And they would then impress the rest of the market as well.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    I hope the new Civic will be better than what they are selling today. The current one smells like a Buick Century compared to their market. Sheesh – stop catering to old people!

  • avatar
    tonyola

    While it’s a shame that Honda is skimping on the materials, the fact that the 2012 Civic is similar to the previous generation should be no big surprise. After all, Honda has been reserving radical re-thinks for every other generation:

    1973 – New
    1980 – Conservative rehash
    1984 – Radical
    1988 – Conservative
    1992 – Radical
    1996 – Conservative
    2001 – Conservative (this is the odd one out)
    2006 – Radical
    2012 – Conservative

    The lengthening of the product cycles hasn’t helped either.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Given how sublimely perfect the Gen5 Civic was, one can forgive them for putting another quarter in the jukebox.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        But the 2001 generation is where Honda began to lose the thread. The double wishbone front suspension was dumped in favor of struts, and the materials and finish were a step down from before.

      • 0 avatar
        cackalacka

        Agreed, the change in suspension and the loss of a compact hatch with a fit and finish worthy of income-earning grown-ups are the principle reasons why, after a 20-year run, I no longer drive a Honda.

        The early nineties Civic was one hell of a car.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        I owned a 1990 Civic LX stickshift sedan for 15 years and close to 200,000 miles. Although the car was maintained fairly regularly, it had a hard life including bashing around on construction sites and being a field truck. Despite the harsh treatment, nothing broke, stopped working, or fell off in all that time. Even all the power accessories and a/c simply kept working. The only repairs outside of wearables like tires, brakes, CV joints, timing belts, etc. were for a bad resistor block and an engine pulley. Even the clutch never needed replacing – just an occasional adjustment.

  • avatar
    jtk

    Doesn’t this mostly mean that they will have a “Special Edition” that’s basically a low model tarted up with a spoiler, chrome exhaust tip, and alloy wheels?

    I won’t take the Civic seriously again until that split dash disappears.

  • avatar
    alluster

    I do not understand why the new Civic gets so much hate. Most car shoppers in this segment have different priorities. The Civic and Corolla may be incompetent, may not have the advanced tech stuff found in the competition, but they are adequate for most buyers. The serve their purpose and you can’t go wrong with either of them. The Corolla and Civic now cater to the bottom end of the compact segment in terms of price. With everyone having moved upmarket, there is a huge opportunity for Honda and Toyota. Most people will save 3000$ on an average buying one of these compared to the Cruze or Focus. Once the newness wears off, you will see the Cruze and Focii drop mid pack unless they bring prices down.

    ATP:
    Focus $20,600
    Cruze $20,200
    Elantra $19,900
    Mazda 3 $19,400
    Civic $18,800
    Sentra $18,600
    Corolla $18,000

    Honda has big problems though. None of their newly released models in the last three years have had any success. The CRZ, Insight, Crosstour, Acura ZDX, are major flops. Add the ridgeline and acura’s new design direction. Compare that to GM which has had major success in all their redesigns and new models in the last three years, in terms of retail market share growth, total growth and average transaction prices. In addition, 60% of Honda and Acura sales combined, come from 3 models, the Accord, Civic and CRV. They are very vulnerable to a strong competition from Hyundai, Kia, GM and Ford. They are feeling the pain because these three models are facing the toughest competition they have ever seen. The accord is down 34,000 Units and Civic down 32,000 units for the year, both down 16%.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Alluster – good posts with some interesting data. As for the prices all of them start comparable in the high teens ($16K+). The prices you quote are average transaction prices, all that means is people have chosen, on average, to buy a higher specification model (or options). No reason for the Focus or Cruze to fall down because they have the “cheap” $16K models out there too if people so desire.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      The Odyssey and Pilot still reign supreme in their segments.

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        I respectfully disagree. Got any stats? I’ve been in the three top minivans recently, and the Ody came in last with me, sporting as it did a number of chronic issues from 1999 that Honda still hasn’t addressed. It seems to have caught the goofy styling bug as well. And OMG, the pricing! As to SUV’s: numbers, please.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Per Fleet Central, the Odyssey and Pilot led retail sales in the minivan and “mid-size SUV” categories, respectively, for the 2010 model year.

        If retail sales are an indication of “supreme leadership”, then the previous post is accurate.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        Retail sales numbers please. Large scale fleet sale dumps to the government, taxi fleets, and rental agencies impress no one but those associated with Democratic election campaigns who must make the case the auto give aways were a huge success.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      “Looks cheaper, but sells for less,” didn’t exactly result in huge profits and increased market share for GM and Ford during the 1990s and early 2000s.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      I don’t put a lot of stock in average transaction prices. Yes, provided that GM and Ford have finally figured out how to make small car profits in the triple digits, they’re making more money.

      But where are those sales coming from? Somebody who otherwise would have spent three thousand dollars less on a Civic/Corolla? Or someone who would have otherwise bought a Malibu/Fusion for the same money last year? Or is it from somebody who would have bought an Explorer/TrailBlazer before for $10k more back when the economy wasn’t in the dumpster?

  • avatar
    jj99

    It is Detroit that has problems. Toyota and Honda rule retail sales, and much of this comes from reliability. Detroit rules fleet sales, but not much else, because of reliability problems exposed by Consumer Reports.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      Based on recent comparison studies done by Motorweek, Cars.com and USA Today involving several auto journalists and an average family, so this was not one reviewers opinion. The part of the Pilot caught me by surprise as well as the Highlander and Sienna doing so poorly.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      The recent rippingin into CR by most auto media is suspicious indeed, they put down that the recent, well received Detroit small cars ain’t that reliable after all, that would indeed be shocking since we have been brainwashed into thinking the new generation of domestics are just as good, if not better than the imports. So if we learn that reliability is STILL an issue for Detroit, they may lose whatever market share they have gained in the past year and then no one would be happy.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        The “other” compacts besides the Civic and Corolla may not be as reliable, but that doesn’t make them UN-reliable. The problem is a cursory glance at the rankings doesn’t make that clear enough.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I feel as if we’re being a little rough on Honda, because our expectations are so high. If any other carmaker had released a product that wasn’t top of class, there wouldn’t be this much gnashing of teeth.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      It’s not just that Honda stumbled, but that it has stumbled with a major product at the precise moment that the competition is getting (much) better.

      The 2001 Civic wasn’t greeted with much enthusiasm, either, but what were the other choices in that segment at that time – the Elantra? the Cavalier? the Neon?!

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        What really concerns me about the Detroit auto industry is I think Detroit actually thinks Honda stumbled and Detroit products are as good or better. This is exactly the thinking that put Detroit into bankruptcy. Better pick up the latest copy of Consumer Reports and read it, then rethink your position.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        I drive a Honda now, and have driven various Hondas for over 30 years. I like the company and its products. The bottom line is that this Civic is a major disappointment in terms of interior quality and certain exterior construction details. The company can do better, but appears to have simply “phoned in” this revamp at a critical time.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        The 2001 Civic wasn’t greeted with much enthusiasm, either, but what were the other choices in that segment at that time – the Elantra? the Cavalier? the Neon?!

        The Focus

        People forget this, in light of lame the C1 Focus eventually became, but the first iteration was really, really good. Like, embarrassingly good. It put the sixth-gen (and seventh-gen, and eighth, and ninth) Civic to shame and topped CR’s performance rankings until the eight-gen Civic came out and was easily more fun to drive than the Civic or Golf/Jetta, and better-packaged than the Corolla/Matrix.

        It beat the Japanese, quite handily, at their own game.

        Or rather, it would have, if it hadn’t gone on to set the record for recalls in a single year.

      • 0 avatar
        FromaBuick6

        Heh. The first-generation Focus.

        I remember the press drooling over that car when it came out. All the C&D “10 Best” appearances and whatnot. A friend bought one of the first ones and even I thought it was a pretty appealing package. I seriously considered buying one myself.

        Then I came to my senses and bought an ’02 Civic. A dull choice but I don’t regret it. Every time I got stuck with a dreary base-trim Focus with the thrashy non-Zetec engine, I felt so much better about my choice. I felt better still when car wasn’t constantly at the dealer for recall work and when my car didn’t drop a valve seat at 80k miles and grenade the cylinder head.

        After almost 10 years, that Civic has been handed down to other family members, bought back as a commuter and is now back to being my only vehicle. And it hasn’t missed a beat yet. No, it’s not a fun car or a cool car, but it also isn’t a disposable car. Those early Focuses are long gone.

        In fairness, Ford got most of the kinks worked out around 2005, when they brought out a cynical, phoned-in facelift of their own and switched to the Duratec. But those scumbags at Car & Driver kept it on the 10 Best list through 2004.

        Long story short, I don’t trust a word that’s published about the “class-leading” new Focus. If the new one holds up, maybe it’s worth putting on my shopping list later this decade, but the initial reliability reports don’t hold a lot of promise.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @jj99:
        The current crop of Detroit compacts ARE better than the Civic in numerous ways – they drive better, they handle better, they are much nicer inside, they offer more equipment, and they are competitively priced. Subjectively speaking, the Focus and Cruze also look WAY better than the Civic. None of these are trivial differences. The main advantage the Civic has is reliability. But that doesn’t mean its competition is unreliable, only that they’re less reliable than the Civic.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @FromaBuick6:
        “Those early Focuses are long gone.”

        OK, I just did a search nationwide of all 2000-01 Focuses for sale on Cars.com, versus 2000-01 Civics. I found 558 Focuses and 751 Civics.

        No, they aren’t all long gone. And the ones I found were pretty decent looking.

        Now, if you want a car that IS long gone, try searching for Chevy Cavaliers of that era. Those WERE crap cars. The Focus wasn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob Finfrock

        A measured +1 to the reliability of the first gen Focus. We have several 2001-2005 Foci in our fleet with over 300,000 miles on them; one is pushing 425K. They aren’t pretty, but they don’t die.

        That said, I dumped my 2002 Focus ZX2 automatic in less than two years and with under 30,000 miles on it, after three radios, two batteries, and a transmission that refused to move the car above 9,000 feet MSL (on a drive up to Sandia Crest, east of Albuquerque.) It was a fun car to drive and an amazing handler for a subcompact, but quality was at most Job #8.

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    To say anything additional would be repeatitive, but the one thing that just absolutely p***es me off with the whole Honda line is very simple. I should NOT need to order the top of the line trim level to control my iPod. For God sakes, two years ago I drove a base level Hyundai Accent with a USB iPod jack. I swear they brought some joker from the 80′s Buick design team to take on some of their interior packaging. Honda only needs to come up with “competitive” as I will buy it. It doesn’t need to be the best, it just needs to be compareable. Thing is, it’s simply not comparable. I drove a Fusion and Accord back to back last year and the sporty, powerful, fun one was the FORD!!! You could have knocked me over with a feather.

    • 0 avatar
      FromaBuick6

      Honda might be the worst manufacturer when it comes to gaming the equipment levels. The popularly-priced LX models are always kneecapped by cheaper/deleted exterior trim, plastic wheel covers and – my favorite – non-variable intermittent wipers. Those features cost the company nothing, but they’d prefer you get an EX-L.

      The slow adoption of USB interfaces by Honda is unsurprising (although the new Civic offers a fairly nifty usb interface and lcd display on all but DX now). Honda stereo systems have always been some of the worst in the industry.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    This article is about the Civic, but for me the most telling botch is the demise of the Element. Honda left it out there on the market to die, unable to bestir itself to fix even the most glaring of the Element’s shortcomings. The episode reeks of internal politics combined with the fatal Japanese character flaw of being unable to admit a mistake. Now competitors are moving into the niche Honda slept in.

    Other recent canaries in the darkness of Honda’s coal mine include the CR-Z, Insight, and me-too Accord, the latter indistinguishable at a distance from at least a half dozen other current vehicles. The breadth of Honda’s disasters is proof the rot starts high; Honda’s most serious, dangerous problem is that top management never fires itself.

    BTW, my dad and I had some time to kill, and dropped by a Honda dealer. The old guy got into an Accord, eyed the mass of buttons in the middle of the dash, and got right back out. I had to laugh, because I had the exact same reaction not long before.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Eh, I have mixed emotions here. I don’t buy the hype about all the new “class leaders.” At the same time, the new Civic is dreadfully unappealing – and I say this as the owner of a dumpy 7th-gen model.

    All the fanboy gibberish about carryover power trains and no more double wishbones really doesn’t mean anything to me. As I understand it, the steering’s less twitchy, the rides more compliant and the MPG’s better on the new car. And it has to be quieter than my two-generation old car. To someone who drives 50 miles a day on crappy pothole-ridden highways, that’s all a relief.

    But the car’s so freaking ugly. And that stupid dashboard, ugh. Big windshields and quarter-lights are a pet peeve of mine, too – I don’t want to feel like I’m driving a 1990 Pontiac Trans Sport.

    I wouldn’t be automatically opposed to one of the new Detroit compacts. Or the Elantra. But my mediocre experience with the Mustang and its questionable transmission really put me off buying another Ford (with another questionable transmission). And 1.4L turbo in a 3100 pound car (from GM, no less) just sounds like a recipe for trouble. Strip away the hype (and the Honda’s goofy dash) and the Hyundai really isn’t any prettier and more exciting.

    All of these cars are pretty depressing in the lower trim levels – Chevy, Ford and Hyundai are just doing a better job that promoting the feature-bloated $25,000 top-end cars. And I think you’re a total sucker if you pay more than about $20k for a new compact, regardless of who sells it. You can get a decently-equipped midsize with similar mileage for the same money.

    • 0 avatar
      Seminole 95

      Yes about paying about paying too much for a compact. I don’t why you’d spend $20K on a Civic. Pre-tsunami, I bought my son’s manual 06 Accord VP new for $16.6K, $17.2K on the road. Great car and handles pretty sporty. Also never makes sense to buy a Honda used because they don’t depreciate.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    The key to success is in front of them – every single prior generation had a hatchback, especially the one straight in the middle, that’s when Honda really squished things down for that go-cart feeling.

  • avatar
    dwight

    Give us the European Honda Civic. It looks awesome and the dash is top rate. It is like Honda likes Europe better than North America. Their Civic (from what I’ve seen in pics) looks more high-end.

    As much as I like the eighth gen, I like the back end of the 9th gen better than the blunt cut-off back end of the eighth gen. It never looked right. I prefer the coupe of the 8th gen, so I bought one. Great car. Honda makes great, free-revving, very economical engines. Even with 5-speed, they still get great gas mileage. I would like to challenge the true, real world mpgs on any of Honda’s competition. Honda is the lightest in the compact category — Cruz and Elantra are fat pigs.

    In a recent test of several compact cars (a shopping excursion with my nephew) my best bets were between the new Focus and the Honda Civic. I simply don’t like the Elantra (boring dynamics) and the Cruz needs more refinement and a fun-to-drive quotient and some comfortable seats. And while something like the Kia Forte was fun to drive, the gas mileage sucked. And the Jetta shouldn’t be offered with the base 8-valve engine. Felt like a tank and gas mileage sucks.

    Yes, the new gen civic could use a nicer dash (but it is currently very user friendly) and some swoopier lines, but it is a great solid value that you’ll be buying off the lot 10 years from now, while passing on the Elantra with the mushy suspension bits.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Funny how a few problems can change your mind about a manufacturer. A coworker has a 2007 Civic. Had leased both previous models of Civics for four years apiece with zero problems.

    One day at work, he asked me to come out and take a look at his car, because it was making loud clunking noises from the front end. Driver’s side brake caliper was loose and flailing about. Very nice.

    Then that summer after a trip to Ontario, the car returned with the rear tires ruined. Turns out that there was some rear suspension design issues that caused the ridiculous wear on his and many other Civics.

    Another acquaintance had the engine block on his 2006 Civic crack and fail. Honda fixed that without much fuss, almost on the q.t. Weird.

    Tell me again why I should consider a Honda? The statistics say none of this will ever happen to an individual car, but it kind of worries me. I drive a lot harder than most folks I know, and the thought of the brake caliper falling off is not reassuring. My brother’s 2005 Element left a large pool of pinkish liquid in his driveway right after he drove it home brand new. Power steering rack kaput. Right on Honda.


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