Honda’s decision to redesign the current Civic after barely a year on the market was described to me by one former Honda insider as “the closest they will ever come to admitting to gross incompetence.” Even though the Civic has been panned by most outlets, the staff at About.com called the Civic one of the Best New Cars of 2012.
Aaron Gold, author of the piece, lauded the Civic for being
“… the most comprehensive compact car on the market. You can get a sedan or a coupe; a high-fuel-efficiency version; a high-performance version; a leather-lined version; a hybrid version; even an alternative-fuel version that runs on clean natural gas. And whichever Civic you choose, you’re virtually guaranteed years of trouble-free motoring.”
Gold’s depiction of the Civic brings to mind an automotive buffet. And like most buffet restaurants, the abundance of choice cannot be correlated with the quality of the offerings. Seeking a neutral, third-party perspective, I decided to get the opinion of a car enthusiast with decades of experience driving all kinds of cars on multiple continents – my grandma.
At 78 years old, Yvette Lerner has lived a rich and full life and shows no signs of slowing down. Although she is more interested in bridge, Masterpiece Theater and her adult education classes, Lerner is a car enthusiast, having owned everything from an MG Magnette, a Skoda convertible, a ’65 Mustang with a 289 V8, a Chrysler LeBaron K-Car and a 1993 Escort with a 5-speed manual, that she purchased after she had turned 60. Grandma also owned one of the first 1973 Civics in North America, and now drives a 2000 Honda Civic sedan (with a 4-speed automatic) with 47,845 miles, and had a 2012 Civic LX as a service loaner while her car is in the body shop. She also notes that she “did [her] driving test in England. It’s harder, and I had to do it on a [manual] shift car. And park on a hill.” That’s more than can be said for most drivers today.
“I liked that new Honda!” said Lerner. “It was really peppy, much more than mine is. The windows go down automatically and you sit higher up. The radio was much better too.” When asked if she would trade in her 2000 Civic, considered to be the best generation ever made by enthusiasts, the answer was an emphatic yes, but Lerner noted she’d spend her money on something besides a new car, and her current Civic was in “immaculate condition.” Notably absent were complaints about MacPherson struts, electric power steering systems or the ECO mode, though Lerner did praise the ride quality as being “smoother than my Civic.”
While journalists such as Gold get their Civics dropped off and picked up from their home or workplace with a full tank of gas and insurance provided, Lerner paid for her own fuel, used her own insurance policy and was weighing a possible purchase decision, as a retiree living on a fixed income. Her car enthusiast pedigree is also stronger than that of some of the people you meet on press launches.