By on January 10, 2013

The most satisfying parts of this job isn’t the constant flow of new cars or the luxury vacations with colleagues who never learned how to hold a kinfe and fork properly. It’s watching them look for a sacrificial lamb to offer up to the Gods of The Wobble and then see it survive the slaughter, only to maintain its death grip on the market. In this case, I’m referring to the banner year that the 2012 Honda Civic enjoyed, prior to its quick mid-cycle refresh.

Before we embark on an essay full of self-congratulation and disdain, let’s examine the context. Mark Rechtin of Automotive News talked to a Honda product planner in his story on the Civic’s refresh, who detailed how Honda made the wrong bet initially, with respect to the packaging of the Civic

“After the Lehman shock, we thought there would be different consumer behaviors. We knew that unemployment would last a long time and that there would be recessional trends. We thought consumers would be more sparse in their needs and be tightening their belts. The Civic was going to reflect that world.”

Just as Honda went downmarket, Hyundai, Ford and Chevrolet all decided to go upmarket with fancy turbo engines, direct injection, backup cameras, heated seats galore and much more attractive styling. The press was going ga-ga for these opulent compacts, especially the Golden Calf Euro Focus, and just as eager to poop on the lowly, peasant-grade Civic.

Except things didn’t quite turn out that way. The Civic outsold them all. Without any fleet sales. Yes, there were some aggressive lease programs on Honda’s part, but unlike the Focus, they didn’t dump nearly half of their inventory into fleets on any given month like Ford did.

The first inkling of the Civic’s success came when my Grandma had a week-long loan of a 2012 LX model while her pristine, 55,000 mile 1999 Civic was in for maintenance. Despite her last-of-the-double-wishbone car being considered the holy grail for Honda fanatics  she couldn’t get enough of the new car. The one flaw in her mind was the lack of an illuminated ignition switch. Otherwise, the 2012 car is, in her mind faster, smoother riding and has a better stereo.

I consistently invoke my grandmother because not only is she fairly knowledgeable and passionate about what she drives (having owned everything from a Skoda, an MG Magnette, a 289 Mustang and an original 1973 Civic), but she is representative of the typical Civic buyer, unlike those who wear Piloti driving shoes to the Hyundai Tuscon launch. Her primary interests are safety, fuel efficiency and price. Not only does the Civic deliver on all three, but it hasn’t suffered the same hiccups as its highly lauded rivals, like bogus mileage claims and transmissions made of glass. For those of us who sample cars a week at a time, these are trivial concerns, but someone keeping their car for a couple hundred thousand miles may take these matters more seriously.

Want a truly dated, obsolete product from Honda? Try the Fit, the darling of the automotive enthusiast press, it fails to measure up to the rest of the crowd, most notably the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic.

 

 

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153 Comments on “The 2012 Honda Civic – The Industry’s Most Successful Turd...”


  • avatar
    BigMeats

    I wish your Grandma would write a column for TTAC.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I witnessed my grandma do a burnout in her Grandma rquis, and it wasn’t by accitent at the coffee shop. Perhaps these two grandmas should start their own car blog.

    • 0 avatar

      I may have her do a guest post about buying the first Civic in the wake of the oil crisis.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      My late Grandma’s nickname was LeadFoot and she was ticketed twice since her 50th birthday for drag racing! She also loved to get speeding tickets dropped as she worked for the city. The day they tried to take away her drivers license b/c of her eyesight I never heard her swear (enough my Dad put his hands over my ears). People around her learned to never try to sneak in the merge lane from a stop light when she was there (her last 2 cars I remember was a Montego and a Cougar). All ordered with the bigger engine.

    • 0 avatar
      swilliams41

      Am I the only person in America who doesn’t obsess over gas mileage? First and foremost I care about how it drives, then is it a quality piece at its price point, then reliability, then mileage. Grace, space and pace. That’s why car mags and sites like this exist, because of folk like me. Driving for me IS NOT about getting from point A to B. It is an activity, you think many brain dead are driving the autobahn?

      • 0 avatar
        Idemmu

        Right now i have two cars in my driveway that could be considered polar opposites. In the left, we have the American with Japanese heritage, The four cylinder 5 speed ulev Honda accord EX. In the right, we have the black German muscle head, 8 cylinder, God’s choice in automobiles, a 2000 BMW 540i M sport. Of course, the Honda is as reliable as a fridge, and the BMW is like that mistress who gives it to you the right way, and then sticks her hands out for money to get the most expensive shoes..Every week. Right now i am relentlessly trying to track down a vacuum leak in the bimmer, thus the fuel efficient reliable Honda is my daily driver right now. Man i can’t wait to indulge in the fickle thirsty expensive to repair goodness that is my 540 once i fix her. I say all this to lend comfort to swilliams41 that he is NOT the only person on earth that couldn’t care two shifts about fuel economy.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        I really don’t care that much about fuel economy either – although the most thirsty vehicle in our fleet averages 20MPG.

        As a side note – I’ve driven several hundred kilometers through German Autobahns. I have to say that the thing I found most surprising was the sheer number of dumbasses on the road. As Americans, we’re always told that the Germans have it all together as far as driving is concerned. Definitely not in all cases. It’s better than the US in general, but nowhere near the mythical status it’s gained. There are plenty of distracted drivers in Europe. When some old lady cuts you off, and you’re doing 120 (she’s only doing 90), it gets real pretty quickly.

        There was even some dude driving a 1980′s Chevy celebrity outside Frankfurt, but he made sure to stay in the right lane.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        One of the main reasons for buying an economy runabout like a Fit (or a Civic or a Sonic, etc) is fuel economy. Those other things are important, true, but MPG isn’t last, not for a car like that, at least not for most people. And look how many small 4-cyl diesel cars are sold in Europe, for “driving the autobahn”. Don’t you think they like them because of how economical they are?

        Someone else posted that they liked the Sonic best in class but were seeing 21-22mpg. That’s terrible, that’s embarrassing for a car like that. My GTI gets better than that.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        mnm4ever, you can check out the 2012 Sonic’s EPA fuel economy here:

        http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bymodel/2012_Chevrolet_Sonic.shtml

        25-29 in the city and 35-40 is highway (bigger engine + automatic is the most fuel-sucking). That’s not great for the city for a small car, considering how many cars can do better — a Nissan Altima 4-banger claims 27 city.

        However, if you are leadfooting it everywhere, as an enthusiast-type driver from this site might do, then you certainly could end up in the low 20s as you rev the crap out of it. Part of the issue is that the highest technology isn’t going into a subcompact typically, but it’s also that you need to rev to get these things moving.

      • 0 avatar
        chas404

        You sir are my hero. cost of ownership matters more than gas mileage (if you are trying to be cheap). people obsess over gas mpg but then pay more for insurance. or over pay for a hot model high mpg car (prius). or resale.

        my perspective is:

        1. life is short i like to hear the sound of a V8
        2. we spend too much time in our cars to be in an uncomfortable little car

        if you want high mpg that’s fine. just seems to be overprioritized.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “people obsess over gas mpg but then pay more for insurance. or over pay for a hot model high mpg car (prius). or resale.”

        Agreed. As I mentioned in another thread, I knew people who dumped their recent model SUV for a smaller car and/or Prius when gas prices went up. It was stupid — they probably paid a ton more by buying a new car and selling a barely used one.

        I would never have dumped my 10-15 mpg then-10+ year old Panther for another car when I was a broke student. I was spending at most $500-1000/year on maintenance in some years, and I didn’t drive that much. Buying *any* other car would have cost me significantly more.

        Similarly many hybrids don’t actually pay off monetarily until after many people would have dumped the car. But didn’t Ford or Lincoln have a model that sold for the same price, hybrid or not?

        I don’t worry about gas mileage generally and evaluate the car as a whole. That leads me to V8s too, on occasion.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s what most car-enthusiasts would say, but unfortunately we’re not where the majority of the money is. I can appreciate both mindsets. I would like at least two cars…something fun and tossable, like a Mustang or a Volkswagen turbodiesel, for occasions. But at the end of the day, I want my daily-driver to be comfortable, full of features, front-wheel-drive, economical, and maybe even high off of the ground…like a crossover.

        Let the flaming begin.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        >>Am I the only person in America who doesn’t obsess over gas mileage?

        For me, a car needs to get a minimum of 20 mpg city, 30 mpg highway. Sadly, that rules out V8s and many V6s. Still, it’s a pretty low bar and leaves room for a lot of fun cars — Civic SI, Mazda3, Miata, MINI, FRS/BRZ, you name ‘em.

        Back to the original topic, I understand why Grandma prefers the 2012 Civic to her 1999 Civic. But perhaps she’d also like one of these: Ford Focus, VW Golf, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda Mazda3. TTAC — sign her up! I’d like to read her reviews.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Unlike Ohio, where dawdling in the left-lane, five-under some underposted numbers on a sign (blissfully unaware of the mile-long line of traffic behind you as you text obsessively), is considered a spectator sport (even though the OHP has almost universally gone to a “nine you’re fine, ten you’re mine” stance), is it still a ticketable offense to break “lane discipline” rules–drive right, pass left?

    • 0 avatar
      jimmyy

      Old people strongly purchase Detroit products. Young educated people usually purchase Asian products. That is the way the world works. This whole Grandma story is a joke.

      I would never want to be seen driving something from Detroit. I would feel like a fool driving an overpriced vehicle with a bunch of technological toys and well below average reliability.

      The Honda Civic is the best vehicle in the class. If reliability and durability are everything, then the Toyota Corolla is the best. That stuff from Detroit are nothing but cheap copies of the Civic and Corolla.

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    Glass would only lubricate (and improve reliability) the Auto-Tragic dry clutch transmission.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    The outdated, obsolete Fit shames much newer rivals in real world fuel efficiency and cargo/people room, and is near the top of the class for acceleration. This comes at the expense of refinement and comfort. Our ’07 Base model has been the perfect runabout, delivering no less than 30mpg in the dead of winter with snow tires and short city trips. Our drives upstate to go camping yield 43-45 mpg on rural back roads, and 40-41 driving on the interstate. As negatives I’ll say it’s nowhere as nicely furnished as our dearly departed 1990 Civic Wagon, and has had a dash rattle in the cold almost since new. Also, it is very tiring to drive for taller people, seats are totally inadequate and the pedals are positioned for people with smaller feet.

    For people seeking a ‘big car feel,’ the sonic and fiesta beat the Fit hands down. But that doesn’t make it obsolete by any stretch of the imagination.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      No-one said the Fit was obsolete and 2007 isn`t that long ago. The Fit is handily outsold by the Sonic, we will see if that continues in 2013.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Well yes, Derek said the Fit was obsolete, last paragraph of the article, so someone did say it. Now the Fit Derek is talking about is the new model, not the same as @gtemnykh’s 07 model. Which may explain the huge disparity in performance and fuel economy he is reporting compared to the newer ones. Not to mention:

      “As negatives I’ll say it’s nowhere as nicely furnished as our dearly departed 1990 Civic Wagon, and has had a dash rattle in the cold almost since new. Also, it is very tiring to drive for taller people, seats are totally inadequate and the pedals are positioned for people with smaller feet”

      These seem like very big negatives when the only positives seem to be the gas mileage and being the fastest subcompact of its day. I looked at the new Fit recently, and was not impressed at all, mostly it was the poor fuel economy that bothered me. The Civic does much better.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        You are correct, I forgot in replying that Derek said that. I think he was harsh in that view.

        As for the importation of the Fit costing Honda money and that is why they limit sales. They sold 80K in 2008, 67K in 2009 and down to 49K in 2012. So they have imported more in the past. It seems the sales have dropped away over time due to “better” competitors.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        The newer generation of Fits are as fuel efficient, if not MORE so than the 07-08 generation. Honda wasn’t gaming the EPA with their Fit, they just made a lightweight car with a sweet running 1.5L like they always have in the past. Our 07 MT is rated at something like 28/34, yet we beat that handily. As for the seats and pedal positioning, yes this is a serious minus for taller folks. In around town driving I never notice it, but when driving for 2 or more hours on the highway, without cruise control, it gets quite tiring.

        You are ignoring the MUCH roomier trunk and versatility of the seats that the Fit has as well.

        As for performance, 0-60 both old and new Fits did quite well, in the 8.5-9.0 second range for 5spd models. This compares favorably to a 5spd Fiesta and Mazda2, not sure about the Sonic.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Thanks for the comparisons of the Fit to the Civic wagon (one of the best cars Honda ever made IMO). I’ve had two of the 1988-91 wagons and they were perfect for a tall person – my father-in-law is 6’7″ and he still drives one. The seats in those were very nice as well, with the only downside being the typical wear on the LH driver’s seat bolster.

        I’ve always wanted to do a direct comparison between the two vehicles side-by-side – I don’t know if any websites or car magazines have done this yet or not.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      gtemnykh, your analysis is almost a perfect parallel to our 08 Yaris sedan. Same advantages, same complaints.

      The Fit and Yaris were top of class for their 2007 timeframe, and are far from terrible or obsolete today, but I still think I would trade in a few mpgs for the added refinement and adult driving position of a Sonic.

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      gtemnykh, I’d be interested to know how your fuel economy in that 1990 Civic Wagon compared to the fit.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        The Civic wagon only saw around-town driving in hilly Ithaca, and it was an automatic. I’d typically see 26-28 mpg driving too and from school. But talk about a dog, a 4spd Hondamatic harnessed to 92hp of throttle-body injected fury! Hills required a kickdown to 3rd, where it would continue to bog, then finally a kickdown to 2nd, the RPMs shooting up, and you’d buzz your way up the hill, half deaf.

        The Civic rode MUCH rougher than the Fit, but it also handled with almost zero body roll. The suspension was stiff and didn’t have much travel, and relatively speaking, the body structure had loads of flex. The hydraulic power steering was worlds better in terms of feel compared to the Fit’s EPS, which has a very quick ratio, making it sort of fun, but in a video-game like way because it has so little feel.

        The Civic also had more cargo space with the seats up, infinitely better visibility, and a classy tan/brown tweed and soft vinyl interior. I got tired of losing the battle against the notorius Honda rust and we sold it, I miss it to this day :(

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      Having driven quite a few of all of these, the Fiesta definitely does not feel like a “big car.” At all. It feels like a roller skate. It’s more refined than the absurdly loud, cheap-feeling Honda, but we shouldn’t confuse refinement with feeling large.

      The Sonic feels much more like a well-sorted large car, although it’s still pretty nimble. Not as lightning-quick as the Fiesta or Fit, though.

      The Fiesta, in my experience, gets stellar fuel economy. High 30s easily with a lead foot, low to mid 40s with some care. This fits (no pun intended) right in line with the Honda.

      The Sonic is by far my favorite car of the three, despite abysmal fuel economy (I’ve been driving the same one for three weeks as of yesterday, a ’13 LTZ 5-door with the 6 speed auto) and I’m hovering between 22.0-22.2 mpg in mostly city driving. For comparison, that’s about 1 mpg better than my 209k mi, 1995, in need of a tune-up, 192 hp V6, 4-speed auto Toyota Avalon in the same commute.

  • avatar
    prndlol

    I have successfully been converted by all the internets into believing that the O-TWELVE is a deadbeat shitbox.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the used ’12s will do in the used market. Just the one model year is considered substandard with the record-breaking speedy 2013 redo doing a lot to redeem the model.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Didn’t TTAC pan the new civic as well? Is that different?

    • 0 avatar

      I panned the Civic, and if I was reviewing the 2012 today I’d pan it again.

      By the same logic we could argue that McDonald’s makes great hamburgers and whoever is at the top of the Billboard charts is a great musical artist. Or that GM and Ford, during those years when they vastly outsold Toyota and Honda, made much better cars.

      Honda was smart enough to realize that momentum alone wouldn’t sustain Civic sales, and rushed to improve it.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Agreed, while Honda may have knocked down the price of entry to the Civic, even when compared with optioned up rivals at the same price point, it feels severely lacking.

      • 0 avatar
        BigMeats

        The Toyonda Means Quality phenomenon is as much a political attitude as any other deeply held convictions of mainstream liberal America. It was formed during the 70s-80s while the college atmosphere was thick with revulsion of corporate America. I watched the college communities embrace Corollas, Camrys, Accords and Civics (and Datsun B210s!), transferring their former family loyalties from Cutlasses, Malibus, Fords…etc.

        It is an unreasoning political bias baked into mostly late baby-boomers amidst a milieu of Watergate, Iran-Contra, Pershing IIs, and individually cemented by having their 70′s American cars crumble before they were paid off.

        Right now and among the demographic affected, Toyota and Honda will get a free pass every time, just like any ghetto cop-killer. It’s indoctrination bolstered with just enough reality during formative years to make it life-long.

      • 0 avatar
        car_guy2010

        @BigMeats- What in the blue hell did I just read?

        Oh right, more mindless liberal bashing. This time, you somehow put 2 and 2 together to equal 5.

        The Big 3 snoozed with their shitty landau-topped, emission-choked blandmobiles back in the 70s.

        That’s why they lost. They were slow to realize that people didn’t want to buy that shit anymore.

        I’m glad most of those bloated shit-mobiles have gone to the giant wrecking yard in the sky. The Big 3 deserve it.

      • 0 avatar
        Macca

        I know I shouldn’t feed the troll (Big Meats) here – but I can’t help it.

        So are you suggesting that I’m a liberal because my garage has three Japanese cars in it? Or do I get a little Republican street-cred since I have two Nissans and a Mazda?

        Are you further suggesting that it should be our “civic” (wink, wink) duty to purchase ‘Murican-made (in Mexico/Canada) cars? Phil Ressler – is that you?

        Funny that one of my colleagues – by far one of the staunchest right-winged individuals I know – just replaced his aging Malibu (2nd gen) with a …wait for it… new Corolla. When I asked, not a single domestic car made his shopping list. I guess I should inform him that he’s been hoodwinked by the liberal conspiracy to ruin the domestic auto industry.

        Oh, and hat-tip to you car_guy2010 – excellent post.

      • 0 avatar
        stryker1

        “By the same logic we could argue that McDonald’s makes great hamburgers”

        By what logic? What are you talking about?

        “The most satisfying parts of this job isn’t the constant flow of new cars or the luxury vacations with colleagues who never learned how to hold a kinfe and fork properly. It’s watching them look for a sacrificial lamb to offer up to the Gods of The Wobble and then see it survive the slaughter, only to maintain its death grip on the market.”

        So… are you making fun of yourselves, or what?

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        I’m with you Michael. I’ve owned 4 generations of Civic, and I couldn’t see a good reason for anyone in need of a car to plunk down money on a 2012 with that awful choice of interior materials. I haven’t seen the ’13s in person, but the photos I’ve seen lead me to believe they now have their act together.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Most people don’t buy Honda’s for their awesome styling and interior materials. they buy them for bullet-proof drivetrains with long track records, and electronics that keep on working, and working, and working….

        Are the new Chevy’s, Hyundais, and Fords just as solid? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else, only time will tell. Nothing wrong with taking the safe bet, especially if you can’t afford the mechanics’ bills that come with picking a loser.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I honestly don’t understand the heartburn over interior mateials.

        Reviewers: “Oh nos! The plastics, they are hard–oh, so hard! Whatevers shall I do?” [faint]
        Car-buying public: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

      • 0 avatar
        Freddy M

        Agreed. I think there’s a huge tendency in the market, and especially on the interwebs to automatically conclude that great sales mean the car itself is absolutely great. One look at TOV would show you that type of fanboyism that’s willing to forgive almost any mediocre product a car company can dole out.

        The ’12 Civic was universally panned by almost all the critics for being lackluster. Do the stellar sales erase that fact?

        Ultimately, this move to address their misstep is taken by me at least to be a positive sign that Honda is not willing to sit on its reputation. Otherwise they would have flipped all the journos the bird and said something to the effect of “king of the sales charts. U Mad Bro?”

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “The Toyonda Means Quality phenomenon is as much a political attitude as any other deeply held convictions of mainstream liberal America.”

        Are you serious? I see plenty of commenters here who express very Tea Party-like opinions on this site who only seem to recommend buying Toyotas and Hondas because of reliability . Nice tinfoil hat theory/trolling, though. The same commenters seem to hate VWs, so maybe they’re racist against Germans, eh BigMeats?

        You are correct that many boomers are only buying Toyota and Honda, but that’s because they got the Chevy Citation and other Malaise nonsense, not because they are left of center.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Motor Trend didn’t get the memo in time that they were supposed to bash the 2012 Civic. They held a compact comparison test for their July, 2011 issue and the 2012 Civic finished 2nd out of 8. They liked the Elantra more because it could be had with 4 heated leather seats and navigation for about the same price as a Civic with cloth. Other than love for the virtually forgotten Elantra, the Civic saw off the Mazda 3 Touring, VW Jetta TDI, Ford Focus Titanium, Cruze LTZ RS, Kia Forte and Toyota Corolla. The Civic was judged to have the best back seat, described as cavernous and comfortable, and it returned the best fuel economy of any of the gas powered cars. The great Focus finished 5th due to having the smallest interior, a horrible, half baked, and clunky transmission, and a gimmicky design that compromised function.

        Motor Trend has forgotten that they once wrote that the 2012 Civic was quite a bit better than the cramped Focus, or the Cruze, which was fitted with “thrashy” gas guzzling 1.4 turbo that only managed average performance to go with its CUV thirst. Taking any auto reviewers too seriously is a mistake.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        On my third (soon to be fourth) Honda, and have been told by some folks that I could teach Rush Limbaugh a thing or two!

        Liberal values? Don’t think so!

        Just was one of those burned in the 1990s with a $500 repair bill (which would be well into the mid-$1Ks today) on a Pontiac Sunbird head-gasket on a college-student budget, while my Dad dropped a couple thousand dollars to get GM to attempt to repair a 1986 Century which would stall when cold. (Last year of the carburated 2.8L V6s–only several years after he sold the car did a mechanic friend come across a TSB which would have solved the problem.) Only after talking to a flunkie in the office of the President of Buick Motor Division was my Dad able to get most of his $$$ back, before he sold the car. (Hell, that Sunbird of mine had the steering-rack problem, known as “morning sickness,” where the power-assist would be intermittent until the parts warmed up–I just learned to live with it.) I, too, purchased my 1994 Civic after I graduated college, and have since purchased two more Accords–my 2013 Touring, my third Accord, is on order.

        Long story short, my family’s been driving Hondas ever since. (Well, except for my brother, whose Passat (dumb move #1) impressed my Mom enough to buy a 2000 (MkIV) Jetta (even dumber move #2)! She’s learned, and drives a 2007 Civic now, while my Dad’s on his fifth Accord.)

        Is Honda perfect? Hell no–they lost the plot when they put the MacStruts on the Civic! But after the CrossTurd, Acura schnoz (and ZDX), and bloating Accords, hopefully they’ve “hit bottom” with the Civic! The Accord, despite going to struts, uses some Acura TL-spec pieces up-front which mitigates the strut disadvantages somewhat. (The “feel” is only a touch less “crisp,” but its still above-average for a family sedan, and the ride and NVH is improved substantially over previous generations.) And, yes, the 2013 Cvic looks like the car Honda should have brought out to begin with! Now, the only thing to watch is if Honda actually learned its lesson because of this!

  • avatar

    The Fit? I don’t like it. The drive is uncomfortable, the plastics are glossy, the price (in Brazil) is obscene, the performance is just not there. Darling of the press? Not in my case…

    Comparing to those 2 cars the Fit beats them in space for say a small family. In Brazil however, due to its price and the way the market is, the Fit has all kinds of competitors that do it better (Chevy CObalt, Spin, Fiat Grand Siena, Doblo, Renault Logan, Sandero, Nissan Livina among others I surely forgot. Even Honda has a better car for the same price, the City).

    As to Civic, seems like they’re going with the design launched in Brazil. Evolutionary but somehow much better than the outgoing one. The backlights a la Mercedes are much better than the previous ones a la Audi. The interior however is still a mess.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      Your inputs to TTAC always help me understand just how different the US market is compared to other parts of the world. We hear about China and Europe all the time, but not much about Latin America. None of those others mentioned are offered for sale here.

      In the US, the Japanese made Fit is a “loss leader” for Honda. Civic is the volume seller with $99 leases and such that are not offered on the Fit, but the retail price of the Civic is higher. I pre-ordered a Fiesta and bought the Fit anyway.

      • 0 avatar

        He nikita, thanks!

        In Brazil, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai are like BMW or Audi in America. Volume is not the criteria. They make their money on margins. For you to have an idea, the Honda City (a sedan version of a Fit) is built in Brazil and exported to other LA countries. In Brazil it costs about 27k dollars. In Argentina 23k. In Chile 18k dollar and in Mexico about 16k dollars. That is absurd! The makers all allege it’s taxes. To a point, but margins are just very high in Brazil.

        All the cars mentioned are similar in size and power to a Nissan Versa. They have bigger trunks though as they function as a family car. The Chevies are Sonics underneath so nowadays you drive similar cars. None are very exciting but most are more comfortable than a Fit and have enough internal space. They don’t have the Fit’s modularity.

        For the price of a Fit you can get Fiat Linea, VW Polo Sedan, Ford Focus, Chevy Cruze hatch. The Linea and Polo are in the same class as Fit but much better finished and are more refined. The Focus Cruze are a category above. So you see, the Fit is pressured from under and from above. I could buy a used one, but a brand new one is very hard to defend.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Marcelo, it would be informative if you would give us an idea how much certain cars cost in Brazil, along with other various costs of living; utilities, food, housing, etc. so we can make an apples-to-apples (more or less) comparison.

      I always find your perspective on things interesting.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks Zackman! I always read and enjoy your posts, too.

        !0 or 15 yrs ago, everything but electronics and cars was cheaper in BRazil than in America. Nowadays, everything in Brazil is more expensive than in the US except for food at the supermarket. I once read that it took an average American worker about 8 hours to earn enough to fill up his tank. In Brazil the average worker takes about 15 days of work to do the same. Not very aplles-to-apples but it gives you a general feel.

        Brazil has been growing. People are making more money. The number of miserable people has declined. The number of people entering into the C class has grown. The car market has grown from 1.5 million cars 10 years ago tp 3.7 million due to the fact that these people now buy cars in Brazil. They can now take credit and buy a car. I read somewhere that the average financing in Brazil is about 48+ months and that the average monthly installment is roughly 300 dollars and change. People who pay with this kind of financing pay about 1.0 to 1.5% a month as interest. A month. So in the end people end buying almost 3 cars for the (high) price of one. But people don’t care. They’re feeling more secure in their jobs, salaries are rising. To BRazilians the important thing is that they can squeeze the intstallment into their monthloy paycheck. Interest be damned.

        The Fit starts at about 27.5k dollars in Brazil. The other cars mentioned start at 20k dollars. AS per purchasing power there was a recent study that Brazilians purchasing power is about a 40% of an Americans. You can see just how crazy Fit prices are.

        Honda, Toyota are not volume makers in BRazil. That role belongs to VW, Fiat, GM, Ford and Renault. All others have less than 5% of the market. Roughly 80% of the market is in the hands of those 5 makers. 50% of the market in Brazil is made up of small hatches (not available in the US). The sedans, station wagons, PUs derived from these cars are 75% of the market. This truly the land of the compact.

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    Wasn’t the Citation the best selling car in 1980? Big sales numbers don’t necessarily imply a great car.

    Also your article suggests that the sales volume was achieved without fleet sales. I’ve been seeing Hondas (and Volkswagons) in the rental fleets at Budget lately. I’ve no idea what percentage of their sales are to rental fleets, but until rexently I never saw those two brands as rentals – so something has changed.

    While Civic sales have been strong, Honda had to offer higher incentives than in the past, which eats into margin and can reduce pricing power in the long run.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I’m not sure about the Citation, but I do know the Celebrity was the best selling car of 1986.

      • 0 avatar
        car_guy2010

        @danio3834- shows that even in 1986, people STILL didn’t get it.

        You can buy American all you want but it won’t erase the existence of the malaise era and the ignorance that it spawned.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        @car_guy2010:
        “You can buy American all you want but it won’t erase the existence of the malaise era”

        Two problems with that:
        1) The malaise era ended 30 years ago, and has no bearing on what is being offered today.
        2) Pretty much *everything* was rotten during the malaise era. Japanese cars from that time were underpowered, cramped, unsafe, rustprone little tin cans, so if you’re going to hate on a carmaker for what they made during the malaise era, you have to lay some hate on the Japanese automakers as well.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        The Celebrity was a popular company car in 1986, just like the Taurus was from at least 1987 or 1988 to at least 1992 or later, so that partially explains the high sales of both in those respective years.

        Speaking of which, I saw a Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport Wagon in Tahoe a few weeks ago, obligatory:
        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/junkyard-find-1985-chevrolet-celebrity-eurosport-wagon/

        I was shocked what great condition it was in — this was right after a snowstorm, but it looked like the Chevy had never been driven in the winter, and the paint was still in great condition. I have no idea how they kept it that clean if they drove it in the winter. Someone was definitely taking good care of it.

      • 0 avatar
        car_guy2010

        @PenguinBoy- 30 years was not that long ago.

        Despite the fact that they were cramped and prone to rusting, the Japanese vehicles got their respective companies where they are today by offering reliability. I honestly think that once Lexus and Infiniti came along, that the Japanese started to slack off. That’s why their cars are now the equivalent of American vehicles during the malaise era.

        Reliable? Sure.

        Bland? Absolutely.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Unlike practically every other automaker in the US, Honda doesn’t have a corporate fleet sales option. Hondas do show up in fleets every so often, but those purchases have to be negotiated with a dealer on an individual basis. Honda models almost always have fleet %s well down in the single digits, while Camry is typically 15-20%, and GM’s fleet mules can be 60-75%.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        The CNG Civic GX is probably the only one that goes to fleets in any significant percentage, and you are right, they are still purchased from dealers.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Fleet sales can be a good thing. And in some cases, it is intentional marketing. For example, Ford gave Hertz a deal on a bunch of C-Max, and they are being featured in the Gold Choice lane so that folks can choose to try one. I did, and I loved the thing. Smart.

        As to the Civic – I find ALL of the “space shuttle” Civics to be pretty dire. The lack of a fifth door means I would never even consider one to start with, then they are loud and even the latest is kind of nasty inside with that ridiculous instrument panel. Blech – too many nicer options out there, and all cars are reliable these days.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The 1980 Citation debuted in April 1979, so it (and the other GM X-cars) had the the benefit of an extended model year. That boosted its sales for the 1980 model year.

      More telling is that Citation sales had fallen dramatically by 1983-84, and the car was off the market by 1987. The X-cars were the most recalled cars in history at that time, and had a terrible reputation for quality, which was reflected in rapidly declining sales.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      I’ve definitely gotten and seen Honda Accords as a rental car for Hertz. I’ve also gotten Toyota Avalons, Camrys, RAV4s, and Highlanders from Hertz. I’ve never gotten a Corolla, but my buddy bought an ex-rental Corolla from Hertz.

      First link I could find by Googling suggests that Honda sells Accords, CR-Vs, and Pilots to Hertz, Toyota sells Camrys, Corollas, RAV4s, Siennas, Highlanders, 4Runners, and Tacomas to Hertz, and Nissan sells Altimas, Maximas, Sentras, and Rogues to Hertz.

      http://www.buyfromhertz.com/newandusedcars.aspx

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    “Fit…fails to measure up to the rest of the crowd, most notably the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic.”

    Really? Granted, I haven’t really looked at either of the other 2 lately, but if I was to take a snowboarding trip with 3 buddies and a Sonic pulled up, I think we would just look at each other and say “Is this really our ride?”. I’ve made such a trip in a Fit and had no problem even with boards inside. Maximum use of space in these small cars is paramount to me, ox-cart suspensions and 100hp engines be damned.

    I don’t agree with the asking price of a Fit however.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Derek – you make some valid points and the new Civic was never as bad as some made out. But Honda obviously knew something was wrong or they would not have gone to the trouble of doing a change one year in.

    Just because a car sells well doesn`t mean it is the best. The Civic was class competitive but not class leading. Honda want to be class leading – as witnessed by the Accord. The Camry sells the best but by all accounts the Accord is better, so why isn`t the Accord the best selling mid-size?

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      It can take years and years for quality to catch up with reputation. A full 5 years of the 2012 design might have shown an erosion that one year wouldn’t. But it can happen, so I think Honda was right to update it.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        As I stated above, Honda lost it when the Civic went to struts. My mom’s 2007 Civic EX Sedan with R20 motor is competent, and can handle, but unlike her 1990 EX Sedan (basically a CRX with a 4-door body and four-speed slusher) and my 1994 EX Sedan (same thing–B16 Si mill, this time with VTEC variable-valve timing added), her latest Civic just tolerates curves, while my ’94 Civic could *** HANDLE *** (as Murilee, 4th-Gen Civic owner, should know), and her ’90 Civic was a roller skate!

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “Just because a car sells well doesn`t mean it is the best”

      I tend to agree. Interesting, though, that strong sales figures are used both as weapons against cars one doesn’t like (oh, the lemmings have bought the inferior product again, when will they learn?), and as a defense against cars one does like (the 2012 Civic is outselling its competitors, so Honda must have done something right).

      This is a debate that will rage on into the automotive eternities.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Very fair point that sales success is used both in a positive and negative way. Just depends on what point the commentator is trying to make.
        To my earlier point, the Camry is not a bad car, very few of those now, but the Accord is regarded much better by the automotive media (including TTAC) yet that hasn`t translated, yet, into the Accord being #1.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Honda responded because they need to keep the positive press coming. It was the media that slammed the Civic. 1 year of media bashing is OK. 4 years? That could be enough to knock the Civic off forever.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “It’s watching them look for a sacrificial lamb to offer up to the Gods of The Wobble and then see it survive the slaughter, only to maintain its death grip on the market.”

    You’re referring to the Toyota Camry. Not sure why the 2012 Civic has so fully captured your attention when everyone’s favorite Toyota punching bag has been reviled by automotive reviewers yet loved by American consumers for well over a decade now.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Pffft! Who needs turbos or direct injection?!

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Those who are interested in better low-end torque, greater horsepower, and increased fuel mileage?

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        Those who are interested in clogged fuel pumps, oil coking (thought that was a thing of the past before these new generation VGTs started dropping like flies after several years of use) and expensive injector replacements?

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      Well put. Turbos, CVT trans and direct injection will be a maintenance nightmare down the road. A smart car shopper would do well to stick with tried and true technology in a Corolla or Yaris.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        Honestly, that is why we ended up with the 12 Accord and had also seriously considered a 12 Fusion SEL/Sport. That and price, otherwise I had planned on ordering a 13 Fusion 2.0l.

        Ironically, and this is directed towards BigMeats, is that one reason the Accord won out is because it was made in the US. Maybe the money goes to Japan, but Japan is paying American workers to build the car. And choosing to buy a car from American workers, whom are not unionized, is even less “liberal” leaning.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        “Legendary 34 mpg” tag line in Toyota ads is quite the tickler. Must be a new Corolla coming out and Honda wanted to pump up the sales with the newest compact.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I think Norm is being sarcastic. He’s criticized Honda and Toyota for not have DI on other occasions

  • avatar
    jaybird124

    I was with you till you said Honda didn’t have a transmission made of glass. Um, right…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Frequently and conveniently forgotten by Camrcordistias.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      In his defense, the Civic does not, and has never had a run of uber-fragile transmissions. Now, the 6-cylinder stuff to which you’re referring…

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        You are correct and the glass transmission debacle was limited to a much smaller number of models, with some being sold as supposed luxury cars. I can only imagine if it had happened with the 4-cyl transmission and not the six, gives me goosebumps to imagine smug Honda loyalists broken down on the side of the road en masse. Fortunately for them Honda seems to have been more conservative in their 4-cyl offerings.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        The V6 transaxle was resolved in 2006 with a redesign. So, we’re talking about a run of 5 years and yet Honda is being panned as still producing that same transaxle. They even extended the warranty and fixed all claims. Time to move on.

        I guess I don’t understand why it’d make you happy to see someone broken down. What a poor mentality to have to wish ill on others because they made a practical decision on a vehicle to carry their family around in. I may not care for many car manufactures, but why would I hope that the buyers of those brands would be broken down? So, it could further help my fanboyism?

        After a nice long 15 year run with an Integra, I bought a 2006 Mazda3 wagon using my Ford supplier discount. Great car in terms of driving dynamics but it rattled, and for other reasons was lemoned. I replaced it with an Outback, because I was living in Idaho and sold an old truck so 1 vehicle replaced 2. Replaced headgaskets under warranty, and have spent about $3k in various repairs. That’s more than I ever spent on maintenance with that Integra. My wife and I got married, immediately dumped her dying 84 760 Turbo and picked up a nice used Acura TL. I regret selling that car after only a few years, but I had the itch for a new car (the 12 Accord). Anyways, I wonder if people that are not fans of Mazda, Subaru, or Volvo were excited when they’d see me on the side of the road with the hood up, a huge puddle underneath, or getting pulled up on a flatbed. I doubt it except maybe on the internet.

      • 0 avatar
        scrappy17

        I am a fan of the civic; but just google 2001 Civic automatic transmission issues.They did fix it in 2003

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        Uh, yes they did. The CVT in the early Civic hybrid and GX (CNG) was crap. We went through three of them within warranty on a GX, with less hp than a standard Civic.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @TEXN3

        Simply because Toyonda is generally given credit by the average person as being perfect, and its simply inaccurate. Professionals and enthusiasts know how complicated a car is, they are well aware no auto manufacturer is perfect. But if the domestics cooked up a disaster like this, you’d still hear about it on a daily basis. People *still* talk about GM’s Dex Cool fiasco and it dates to the same period, and with good measure, GM needs to be held accountable. So does Honda, its a black mark on their otherwise clean reputation (unless you also count the Honda Passport frame rot issues from the same period you never hear about either). As for desiring to see people broke down, its just a bit of schadenfreude on my part and perhaps in bast taste, my apologies.

        “The V6 transaxle was resolved in 2006 with a redesign. So, we’re talking about a run of 5 years and yet Honda is being panned as still producing that same transaxle.”

        Trouble is alot of those models fixed or not are making their way through the used market right now, because as you point out they are not very old, with some on their second or third transmission. What about average people who believe the hype and buy these models used only to have them blow up 5-10K later? I have personally met people who bought off lease TLs and Odesseys only to have them break in a year, and these are the kind of people I truly pity because its not as if they got the cars for a bargain, they all paid a mint and then have to cough up more. So many swore off GM for issues with their Citations or Caddy 4100s etc, and for good reason, why the double standard today?

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        GM had more than Dex-Cool to deal with, I think that was a breaking point for many after years of GM not caring about customers. I watched my folks, and several of their friends and co-workers across the US, deal with the same crap that GM put out, and how they were treated as customers.
        My dad was all GM from mid 60s-late 80s. After that he switched to Ford and Honda, with an E430 4matic thrown in to remind us that German brands are for pretentious folks with more money than brains. The Hondas were always used little commuters and for myself and my siblings. But they cost the least to operate and maintain.

        I think people want to consider a GM in many cases, but the market is just too competitive these days. There are no truly “crap” cars anymore, and that is why I believe Honda is partly held to the standard they inherited a few decades ago. I hold them in high regard, mostly because of the vehicles I tried out (and those were Japanese branded). If I could have really reasoned the need, not desire, for a CPO G8 or CTS then I’d have a GM in my garage. Same with some other nice rides that can hold a family on a long trip, but they’ll probably beat up the inside no matter how hard I try. I’d rather have a car that is easy to clean and maintain. I’d like to think that is “average” thinking and why Camrys, Accords, etc… are where they’re at in the market. Mass market appeal for the masses. Ford is the closest to hitting that market, of all the US brands. As a side, I actually wanted a Taurus but the wife didn’t like the visibility and only size difference between that and the Accord was the trunk.

      • 0 avatar
        silverkris

        The Honda model with a significant history of transmission problems was the early generation Odyssey minivans – though I understand that they’ve improved them since. Come to think of it, just about all the early minivan models from the leading makers – Chrysler, Honda and Toyota, had tranny problems.

        Just anecdotally, we had a 2000 Civic for 13 years and it never had any problems with the transmission. My wife traded the old Civic in for that infamous 2012 model that’s been slammed by the trade – but nevermind, she likes it.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        My 2000 Accord V6 had the grenading tranny, which Honda replaced with a remanufactured unit containing the fix for the 2nd-gear lube problem. I believe the 6-speeds they’re dropping in them now are doing OK–don’t see near the number of complaints as from early-to-mid-2000s Oddyseys.

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        TEXN3: Fact check ahead.

        The V6 Odyssey came out in 1998 as a 1999 model. If the tranny issue, which was already well defined as a 2nd gear lubrication design flaw within a year or two of release, was not corrected until 2006, what does that tell you about Honda’s attitude toward the customer? As far as extending the warranty: yes, this was done. After a class action suit forced it. If you’d already paid $3K+ once or twice to replace the defective unit: good luck getting reimbursed. It was like dealing with freakin’ VW. And, as mentioned elsewhere, this defective transmission was used in several other Honda products for years. Not sure how those customers were treated.

        Now, as to whether the current generation of trannies are also junk, I cannot say. After that experience, someone else can be the guinea pig.

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    I think the 2012 Civic is an example of “nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems.” Was it top of the lot when it comes to engineering like direct injection and gee wiz electronics? Nope, but it was a reasonable Civic and didn’t offend Honda buyers, obviously. I didn’t see or feel the shortcomings that CU and other auto rags harped on. But then, I drove a 2012 Accord and never felt it was nearly the machine that C&D and everyone else raved about either. Don’t believe the positive or negative hype I guess is the lesson learned here.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Goes to show that anyone who buys a car based solely on the fickle and inconsistent whims of the glossy magazines and enthusiast reviewers will forever be going in circles. Try ‘em all. Buy what you like. Chuck C&D in the recycle bin where it belongs.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Instead, I suspect a large portion of those Civic buyers instead relied on the whims of Consumer Reports.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Odd that CR attacked the 2012 Civic, isn’t it? They gave the Corolla high marks despite its similar downmarket approach, citing fuel economy, reliability, and practicality as positives. Positives the 2012 Civic also has. CR is boring, but they are usually consistent.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        danio3834: Instead, I suspect a large portion of those Civic buyers instead relied on the whims of Consumer Reports.

        Past owners of Chevy Cavalier just called and confirmed your opinion.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    It takes years to destroy a reputation. But once it has been destroyed, it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to earn it back.

    The early refresh was a good idea. Turning a bread-and-butter model into a Recession Special was not. If they wanted to target belt tighteners, then they should have done that by offering a decontented entry-level trimline, rather than by cheapening out every offering.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      I agree and think long-term this car would have lost major ground. One year sales are just momentum-based and refresh fever. 5 year sales figures might have painted a very different picture.

    • 0 avatar
      yesthatsteve

      “It takes years to destroy a reputation. But once it has been destroyed, it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to earn it back.”

      Lincoln?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Never had much of a reputation in the past twenty or so years to lose. Lincoln suffers from lack of unique product among other things, and the product they do have is priced far too high.

      • 0 avatar

        Just ask Hyundai/Kia, the latter in particular. They’re producing very competitive, alluring and reliable vehicles, and yet there are tons of people who won’t buy one because (in nasal voice) “The Optima is probably the best deal, but I just can’t get over that Kia badge on the front grille.”

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      I agree that the rushed refresh was a good idea (and the changes to the car do make a big difference), but I also hope that Honda has corrected the decision-making process that led to the 2012 Civic in the first place. This car hasn’t been the company’s only misfire over the last few years.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        CrossTurd (and ZDX), 8th-Gen “orca” Accord, current Pilot pre-MMC, allowing Element to wither and die on the vine. Acura “beak,” (especially on overstyled TL), “flagship” RL which has little to offer beyond the TL, and especially, the ILX, an underpowered, tarted-up Civic. (Civic 2.0L standard, hybrid powerplant optional, only stick available with 2.4L K-series four, but yet that model CANNOT be had with the Tech package, which includes Nav, kick-ass stereo, and other doodads.)

        My 2013 Accord Touring (when it’s built) will kick the existing TSX and TL’s butt in many aspects: Neither offer Adaptive Cruise Control, though the ELS stereo in either Acura Tech package still is better; neither Acura has LED Headlights; general interior “feel” in the Accord is only a little below the Acuras instead of something you can ** definitely ** detect; the EarthDreams V6, which now contains the cylinder-deactivation AND variable-intake-valve timing, will nearly match the performance of the Acura TSX-V6 on 87-octane gas, while thumping the TL! All for ~$4K less than the TSX-V6, and around the same, if not a little more, of a difference than the TL.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      It was an expecially bad idea because those who can afford to buy new can afford to buy something relatively nice as a general rule. Those who can’t buy used. I too think the Civics sales numbers where pure momentum. As I have said about the early Bangle Bimmers – imagine what they sales would have been if they had been good looking cars!

  • avatar
    BigMeats

    Heh… I love the Dewey-Defeats-Truman aspect of auto enthusiast sites.

    I reiterate…. please hire Yvette Lerner!

  • avatar
    thornmark

    The Fit easily outclasses the Sonic and Fiesta in utility and resale value. The Fiesta is another in a recent string of Ford disappointments.

  • avatar
    ant

    it used to be that when you bought a Honda, you paid more. You paid more for a product that had more thought put into its design, and lasted longer than its cheaper competitors.

    Now days, Honda strives to undercut it’s competitors on price.

    They used to build cars they were proud of. Now they take pride in shareholder profits.

  • avatar
    niky

    The Civic is a big disappointment. If you’re an enthusiast.

    The steering sucks. The throttle response sucks. The ECON mode makes you want to pull your hair out. The suspension is about as sporty as a Corolla’s.

    But if you’re buying a car to own and drive, it’s pretty swell. Big interior, smooth ride, smooth transmission and engine, quiet and refined. There aren’t many reasons not to buy one if all you need is a commuter.

    The Fit is a great car that’s merely in need of a better looking interior and a cosmetic refresh. The only reason it doesn’t sell as well as it did is because it’s old and the Fiesta and Sonic are prettier.

  • avatar
    Prado

    “she is representative of the typical Civic buyer…. Her primary interests are safety, fuel efficiency and price. ”
    But she is not representative of the TRADITIONAL Honda Civic/Accord buyer. The traditional Honda buyer is educated, compares all of the available options, and comes to the conclution that the Honda is the best overal product/package available, even if it means paying a little more than other choices. Honda has lost alot of traditional Honda buyers with mediocre products like the 2012 Civic and previous generation Accord. Glad to see them working to change this.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      It sure was, 15 or 20 years ago when Honda hadn’t built a substantial base of past customers so it was cross shopping conquests or nothing.

      Honda enthusiasts talk a lot about tradition. They don’t seem to buy many new cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Volkswagen took over that spot, up until the current Passat and Jetta were released.

      Speaking of which, I think the Jetta should be getting just as much ridicule as the 2012 Civic did/does. Talk about a no-win deal. And as for the Passat? They could have at least included projector headlights, since they are standard on everything else in the market, except the Malibu LS…

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    The Civic is a bad example of what you’re trying to point out. Honda themselves admit that they messed up. You should have used the Passat or Jetta as the examples. They did cheaper well and Honda didn’t. The civic has a ton more model loyalty and default choice purchasing, so turning on the spigots after the natural disasters is going to produce some good sales without great product but driven by other things (loyalty, dealers, resale, residual purchase funnel metrics…).

  • avatar
    carguy

    There are a number of reasons why the 2012 Civic sold well but none had anything to do with it being a compelling product – because it wasn’t.

    1. 2012 Civics came with discounts that would make GM blush. Way below invoice was the norm and this was the markets signal that they weren’t prepared to pay premium dollar for a non-premium car. They may have sold large numbers but they didn’t make much money.

    2. Brands have momentum and a single off-year is not enough to change perceptions of loyal customers. For that it takes a decade or two of neglect.

    Either way, Honda clearly wasn’t happy with the situation and spent considerable money on a quick refresh. I’m sure they some analysis before they took this step and clearly by their own evaluation decided that the product was not competitive. To claim that, just because they moved a moved bunch of metal, that the 2012 Civic wasn’t a mistake is a very one dimensional analysis.

  • avatar
    bkrell

    THANK YOU for this story. I bought a Fit Sport in 2009 based on the rave reviews. I spent 3 years cursing that car for being neither sporty nor fuel efficient. When I traded it in for a 2012 Si, everyone thought I was nuts. I love my drive again…

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    To put the 2012 Civic’s sales success in context, I use the analog of outrunning a bear — you don’t have to be faster than the bear, only faster than the other guy running away from the bear.

    In this case, it means that the ’12 Civic didn’t nead to be better than the Focus, Cruze and Mazda3, only that it needed to be better than the usual sales leader, the Corolla. Not a high bar, but one that the ’12 Civic easily surpassed.

    Now that 2012 is over and we have an enhanced 2013 Civic, I hope that people will spend as much energy praising it as they have complaining about the 2012s.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    I’ve put about 70,000 mi on my 2009 Fit. I whole heatedly agree the Sonic and Fiesta – even a Kia Rio – have nicer interiors, quieter rides, and better tech options. That notwithstanding, I’d never trade my Fit for either of those cars. A friend has a Fiesta and I’ve spent significant time inside. It is extremely cramped and gets significantly worse real-world fuel economy than my Fit.

    I love my Fit because its one of the few ‘honest’ cars left on the market. It doesn’t pretend to be a shrunken luxury car or tech-crammed computer on wheels. It just carries the most amount of people and things using the least amount of space and gas possible. My friend’s Fiesta is so dang small that no one will ride in the back. Not the case with the Fit, in which I routinely take 5 people and stuff with no complaints. Fold the seats down and you’ve got an Escape’s worth of cargo room. It doesn’t break (see TrueDelta data), it doesn’t eat all the space in my garage, and it is much like an old Volvo in that most wear items can be replaced at home with a minimum of effort.

    It is a jiggly highway cruiser, but I never feel unsafe or at risk because of the enormous greenhouse. Real world insurance loss data shows that the Fit has substantially lower personal injury loss claims than any other subcompact – so its real-world crash must be better than its peers (unless careful drivers self-select the Fit). And I paid a shade under sticker for my car – according to KBB, my private party resale value means I’ve only lost 25% of the value in depreciation. Fiestas, Sonics, and Rios cannot compare. Once again, the real world value of a Fit eclipses that of its peers. If the market really did not demand Fits, resale value would crater.

    I’m far from a Honda fanatic – the Fit is my first Honda product. But on a day-to-day basis for people focused on value and practicality, the Fit remains an excellent choice.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Drove Civic, drove Fit, drove Corolla… Looked myself in the mirror, what a putz! Got Mazda3i Touring for 16K, stick, blue tooth, 36mpg hwy, 30avg… what a car. Every turn I thank myself………..

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    If this is what you call a bad car, then we are truly living in a golden age. Go back 20 or even 10 years ago and I guarantee you, this would have been like a Rolls-Royce Phantom in comparison to some of the compacts back then.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    I don’t think there is a car on the market that has the same space inside as Fit, with similar price and gas mileage. Those rear seats are amazing when you start flipping and folding them to either store tall plants, or a bike, to change clothes in cold weather or to crash and sleep. Everything FITs.

    Xb 1 used to be close but dead now.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      The other car I cross shopped was the Versa hatch, It was the closest to the Fit in the utility department. Still, the goofy Renault styling cues were even worse to me than the 2nd gen Fit styling.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    The difference is that the Fit will be going strong after 5 yrs and the Sonic?Fiesta will be worthless pieces of junk,

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      Please show video of the crystal ball that shared this insight with you?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        While ‘junk’ is definitely an overstatement, long term running costs I’m almost certain will be lower for the Fit, although a stick shift Fiesta without all the infotainment crap might be as economical.

        The Fiesta’s Powershift transmission that has been the source of countless ‘reflashes’ for harsh jerky shifts and burnt clutch (!!) smell sure doesn’t inspire confidence. Some sonics have been recalled for missing brakepads, and the longevity of Chevy’s 1.4T engine is up in the air.

        Besides a few interior rattles, I have seen very few, if any reliability/build quality complaints on the Fit forums. The most astounding thing is the resale value of Fits. 07-08 cars with 60k+ miles routinely top $10k. Not that I’d buy one for that much, but apparently that’s what the market will bear. The one thing I wonder about is how well the Fit will hold up on our salty roads…

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        Americans just don’t want to learn from history’s lessons. Honda products vs Ford and Chevy small cars

  • avatar
    philadlj

    As someone who’s owned nothing but Hondas, when my ’98′s steering column gave out, I considered the 2012 Civic, despite the negative press. Five factors led to me purchasing a CPO 2009 instead (in no particular order):

    1.) Styling. The Eighth-gen Civic may have looked strange in 2006, but it’s aged remarkably well. It lacks the boring tailights and DLO FAIL of the 2012.

    2.) Interior. The first time I saw the 2012 Civic’s interior, I thought it was a aesthetic step down. Like the exterior looks, I just prefer the look and feel of the ’09′s interior.

    3.) Moonroof. I wasn’t going to shell out a large amount of cash on a new(er) car that lacked glass in the roof. I’ve always wanted one, which brings us to…

    4.) Price. Even the cheapest 2012 Civic on the lot stickered for about $3K more (after $1K trade-in) than the 2009 EX I eventually went with. I wasn’t about to pay considerably more for a car whose looks I didn’t care for inside or out, and lacked the moonroof I so desired.

    So, would I buy a 2013 Civic? Probably not; it would still be just out of my price range and still doesn’t look as good as the 2009.

    I won’t rule out buying a tenth-gen Civic if they bring back the three-door hatch. With a diesel, please. ;)

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    “We thought consumers would be more sparse in their needs and be tightening their belts. The Civic was going to reflect that world.”

    I’m sorry but this is just an excuse to cut corners in quality here, plus if you want a car that truly reflects a more money conscious world you need to offer a hatchback, preferably gray over gray.

  • avatar
    afflo

    I was smitten with the Fit’s cargo hauling abilities in its small, economical footprint, and bought one in 2009. The car is genuinely charming, and cheerful in the way it drives – it puts aside pretenses and surprises you with its capabilities.

    My problem – I’m 6’1, mostly in my legs. Due to the gas tank design, the seat offers very limited adjustments – slide forward and back, and recline. The seat design itself is terrible – the foam is too soft, there’s almost no bolstering on the sides, and the seat frame can be felt through the seat. In my case, I was never able to slide the seat far enough back to every get really comfortable. My knees were always elevated, and the metal frame inside the seat put pressure on my sciatic nerve in my right leg. I tried quite a few tricks and mods to make it more comfortable, but other than installing an aftermarket seat, there was no good solution.

    I traded it in at 17000 miles after only 18 mos. for a Scion tC. The TTAC crowd seems to hate the tC, but I found it to be a home run in nearly every area (my only complaints are cheap fabric and a hard armrest, both cured by the aftermarket – Clazzio fitted leather covers and a Redline goods padded leather armrest cover) and the high road-noise (a bit better with non-OEM tires).

    Re the Fit:

    The Good:
    Amazing space behind the front seats. There is plentiful kneeroom for rear seat passengers, and the trunk area is terrific (mom has a Fit, Dad has an Accord coupe. Guess which one was easier to fit two large rolling suitcases after a recent family visit!). I was able to flip the rear seat-bottom up and just toss my mountain-bike across the rear seat area with the front wheel removed. Economy was OK in the city, great on the highway (27-28 city, 37-40 highway).

    The Bad:
    Engine is overwhelmed by a full load of passengers.
    The seat is, as mentioned, terrible.
    The interior is much maligned, but it’s not that bad – just a bit bland.

    Something I personally didn’t like was the low windowsill beltline with a high seat (personal preference – I like to sit low, stretched legs, with higher windowsills. Maybe not Camaro gunslit windows, but it’s a car, not a San Francisco apartment – it doesn’t need bay windows!)

    Mom loves hers. Sold my brother her Civic and bought a Fit… but she’s a 5’4 teacher: the interior fits her perfectly, and she can haul school junk in the back.

    Re: the Civic:

    I had an ’01 and thought the ergonomics were perfect. The ’06 and later designs have kept putting the seat higher and higher, and decreasing the foot/leg/knee room.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Is this some kind of rebuttal of the Honda hate you hear on the internet? LMAO. The problem for Honda – and what has turned buyers off is that their cars are behind in engineering.

    This makes for a reliable car – sure. But it doesn’t reflect the wishes of its founder. Honda has a legacy in racing and motorsports and would use excellent engineering to make dependable products. Its companies like GM that used things like simple reliable pushrod engines..

    Also – almost all Hondas look like crap – outside of the new accord which is passable. Cars like the Integra or the Legacy used to look GOOD in their time.

    Honda is just now a big souless company that just concentrates on the traditional strengths of Japanese efficency and quality control. Its a good choice for a consumer but its no longer the reliable sporty fun to drive alternative to Toyota during the time when all cars were unreliable..

    big meats isn’t trolling IMHO. He is mostly correct. Most babyboomer types think any thing other then Honda or Toyota is likely to burst into a ball of smoke after a year and has zero resale value.. So they only buy Honda or Toyota..

    So the fact that Honda doesn’t even MAKE a sports car doesn’t bother the boomers at all. But it does bother the journalists and guys who grew up dreaming about sporty Hondas.. When I was a kid I wanted a Prelude (a stupid choice for me because I would grow way to big for most Japanese sports cars). But thats what I wanted..

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “what has turned buyers off is that their cars are behind in engineering.

      This makes for a reliable car – sure. But it doesn’t reflect the wishes of its founder. Honda has a legacy in racing and motorsports and would use excellent engineering to make dependable products.”

      Honda came out with VTEC in the 1989 Integra. BMW didn’t come out with single VANOS until 1992, and Porsche didn’t use variable timing until 1992 either. For reference Toyota introduced VVT in 1991 in Japan only, not the US.

      Honda used to be a leader in technology like this, but now shies away from it. Many commenters on TTAC theorize that Honda and Toyota avoid things like direct injection early on because they think it will make the cars unreliable, but forget the engineering history of Honda and Toyota in their bias against technology.

      Honda also used to be more innovative with transmissions (Hondamatics started this in the 70s), but now they are laggards with 5- and 6-speed automatics. They first came out with a 5-speed in 2000, and a 6-speed in 2010 because they stubbornly use their own transmissions. A lot of other companies use Aisin and ZF, and ZF first came out with a 6-speed auto in 2000.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        Honda had VTEC before 1989 in the JDM CRX. And even then the VANOS, VVT etc are all cam phasing systems, not quite a variable timing and lift system (i.e. 2 different cam profiles) like the VTEC.

        It was innovative stuff and a long time before the others caught up. Honda is not the same company any more.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        That’s exactly the problem–too many bean-counters, not enough people with Honda “DNA” to make up for it!

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Why, I would buy a Fit over the Civic thank you very much.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I guess “The Truth About the Civic” is grandma’s love them. Personally the syling and driving dynamics of the Civic (and all honda/acura lately) makes me want to vomit, and this coming from an self proclaimed Honda fanboii.

    The very first time I shopped Honda I recall the sales guy saying how Honda was a more youthful and exciting brand than Toyota. It was the 90′s and he was correct. Today? Youth died with the S2000.

    Who cares if the competition may have some teething issues. I know for a FACT that the Focus is worlds ahead in driving enjoyment…and youth appeal. Marketers make a big deal about the coveted demographic that is somewhere between 18-39. That’s not grandma. If you can’t excite the younger generational buyers you are eventually going to have issues eventually. Honday may be finding that out soon, even if sales are high today.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I’m sorry, from the tone of the headline I thought I was reading Jalopnik for a minute…

  • avatar
    makabe

    I bought a 2012 Fit base manual last June to replace my 1991 Civic wagon (5 spd manual, 2WD). I still own and drive both (and a 2000 civic sedan which I hate), but the Fit is getting more and more of my time. To begin with, the cars on the outside are exactly the same size, and nearly the same weight (Fit is a little heavier due to safety stuff I imagine), but the similarities end there. The Fit is way faster, funner, more stable in every situation than the old civic. Admittedly, my civic needs new springs (and a high performance motor swap), but going between the two is night and day difference. The civic averaged 27 MPG combined, and the Fit is getting 33.5 (over the first 7K miles). With the rear seats folded down, the fit also has more cargo capacity.

    Bottom line: the Fit is a great car for the old Civic owner that doesn’t want what the civic has turned into (which is an Accord, and the Accord has turned into a Buick).

    Before buying my Fit, I drove the Fiesta, Focus, Rio, Sonic, and Accent, and none of them had the combination of cargo capacity/acceleration/toss-ability that the Fit does (with a big exclamation point on the cargo capacity).

    I wish the Fit had a 6 speed manual. And a small diesel. And height adjustable seats. And a bunch of other things. And a puppy. But it didn’t, and I needed a new car. We’ll see what the Fit turns into with the new model next year. Hopefully Honda doesn’t screw it up. I’m not holding my breath.

  • avatar

    Fit is a great little car. Love seeing Derek’s trolling in action though.

  • avatar
    Ion

    I dont really see a dramatic difference as far as the interior goes. It seems to me that the 13 refresh was more so that the Civic didn’t look so dated sitting next to an Earth Dreams Accord

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    By the way, whenever someone on TTAC says that they did nothing but oil changes and brakes on a Toyonda for 150K-200K miles, I always wonder what their car was like afterwards.

    For example, did they have any broken CV boots, or does Toyonda use magical unicorn-leather CV boots? Did they never change brake fluid? Hoses? Coolant? On my supposedly unreliable well-maintained American cars, I had to do some of these things when it had over 150K miles. I think my old 1st-gen Taurus needed a tierod once and an alternator, in terms of mechanicals.

    Is this a neglect thing, and if a wheel falls off, salut? I’m pretty sure I could have used the TTAC (non-)maintenance regime with my Taurus, except for the alternator, but I wanted to keep it running and drove on long trips with it, as a student.

    • 0 avatar
      Charliej

      I don’t have a Honda at present, but I have had a bunch of them. I have had no big problems with any of the Hondas that I have owned. I also had a 1990 Acura Legend that I kept for sixteen years and 228,000 miles, before I sold it to one of my employees. The Legend, did have a few problems. I replaced both CV joints, one at 40,000 miles the other at 80,000 miles. I put two new batteries in the car. The timing belt and water pump were changed every 90,000 miles. Other than that, I changed the oil every 7500 miles, I replaced the air filter twice in 228,000 miles. When I sold the car, the seats were still perfect. The clear coat paint peeled, I guess that this was from being out in the southern sun every day for twelve years before it started peeling. Living in the south, there was no rust problem with the car.

      My current car is a 2005 PT Cruiser. It is not the car the Legend was. However, after eight years, it has had the water pump and timing belt replaced. Also the left front wheel bearing and all four tires. The Legend went through a few sets of tire, too. I like Hondas and Acuras. The PT Cruiser has given good service and I am sure that it will last for several more years. The PT was also used to haul an enclosed trailer with all our belongings 1600 miles from the southeast US to central Mexico, when we retired. I hear about how bad Chrysler quality is, but I don’t buy it. The PT is a little shit box, but a reliable little shit box. Since I now average driving about five miles a day, I likely will keep the PT from now on. I won’t feel as if I am missing anything either.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Funny I was thinking this exact same thing when I saw a 2000 something Accord sitting across the road in front of my house with the front passenger wheel sitting sideways! In talking with the owner I got the distinct impression that this guy actually thought he could go 150K miles without ever needing the tie rods checked. I have to wonder how this car got through inspections without this being noticed.

  • avatar
    jayzwhiterabbit

    Not to mention that lots of the domestic automakers famous “issues” are apparently a bigger deal now than they ever were at the time. My parents had several of GM’s “X” cars back in the early ’80s, and they remember them as generally great cars. My father was the general manager of a Chevy dealership during that period and has no memory of any fiasco with the Citations. I’ve asked other people who owned those cars and they’ve never heard one damn thing about such a “crisis” with GM cars of that era.

    All my Dad will buy is GM. The following were bought new and kept for many trouble-free miles: ’79 Buick Electra, ’81 Chevy Citation, ’85 Buick Century, ’88 Pontiac Grand Prix, ’84 Chevy 1500 Blazer, ’89 Olds Cutlass Supreme coupe, ’92 Olds Cutlass Supreme sedan, ’81 Chevy Citation, ’98 Olds Intrigue, ’06 Chevy Impala. I clearly remember all of these cars – no problems. So, at the age of 30, I have no memory of domestics being so “awful” as so many baby boomers supposedly remember. Everyone I’ve asked about domestics from the last 30 years says they were actually great cars, but just bashed by a biased press. Something, it seems, that still goes on today. To me, it’s Camry’s and Accords that seem very bland and cheaply made. To each his own, I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Growing up as a kid the only cars that I ever remember hearing about that were below par were the early Pintos, the Vegas, the 1976-77 Volare/Aspen with bad rust issues and finicky carburetors and the first year X-body cars such as the Citations in 1980. Other than that our Malibu’s, Cutlass Supreme’s, Grand Prix’s, Ciera’s, Impalas, Intrigues, Taurus’s and Bonneville’s etc were all decent reliable vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        My family, too was GM all the way from the ’70s-1990s: 1971 Cutlass “S” Coupe, 350 w/2bbl., 1980 Cutlass Sedan (base trim, Salon equivalent), 1983 Regal Custom Sedan; the latter two were Dad’s company cars, handed down to my Mom. No major problems, except for oil leaks on the ’71. The Regal, especially, ran like a top, as did the ’80 Cutlass, despite the agricultural nature of their 3.8L Buick V6s–it kept me out of trouble as a young driver, and could get out of their own way well enough. (The Regal had an occasional stumble on cold-acceleration because of the infamous Computer Command Control carburator.)

        However, my Dad’s 1986 Century with the CCC 2.8L V6 was dangerous in the cold because unlike the Regal, this car *** STALLED *** upon acceleration–not a good thing!! After several attempts by Mr. Goodwrench to rectify things, my Dad, as stated further up these Comments, had to appeal to the office of the Buick President to get some compensation. (As it turned out, there was a TSB for the problem, which a mechanic friend of our family found later.) But the damage was done.

        For me, my first car, a ’78 Cutlass Salon (aeroback–the hatch-looking coupe) with the 260 Olds V8, was used up by the time I got it, but I had been saving through my first year of college, and bought my late Aunt’s 1984 Pontiac Sunbird, whose head gasket cost me a “mint” to replace. After seeing, and driving my parents’ Hondas, it was a revalation! The Accord was considered a poor-man’s Beemer for its 4th-Generation; built like a brick outhouse, and “that’s a *** FOUR *** under that hood??!!” (Though, as with many long-running GM cars, the last years are damn near bulletproof, and I’d love to have a fully-loaded, numbers-matching, mint-condition 1987 Cutlass Supreme Brougham Sedan to drive during the summer. Including the 5.0L injected V8 and 4-speed overdrive slusher.)

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      “My parents had several of GM’s “X” cars back in the early ’80s, and they remember them as generally great cars.”

      “My father was the general manager of a Chevy dealership during that period…”

      These may be related conditions.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “… safety, fuel efficiency and price. Not only does the Civic deliver on all three, but it hasn’t suffered the same hiccups as its highly lauded rivals, like bogus mileage claims and transmissions made of glass.”

    YEP!

    The DCT in the Focus will not last over 100-120 k, after driving it for 2 months, I hated the MF! Dont miss it at all and no worry for a huge repair bill out of warranty. “Normal and you have to get used to it” Ford says. BS!

    To the effete car critics, take a hike. And Honda addressed the concerns, instead of saying “We dont care”. Corolla has not been modernized since God knows when.

    The Cruze and Elantra are also fleet dumped, and will be in BHPH lots, within 3-4 years.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Aside the DCT and CVT probs, Ford can’t even make (source) decent manuals:
      http://jalopnik.com/5792482/faulty-chinese+built-transmissions-plague-new-ford-mustang

  • avatar
    rpn453

    “The most satisfying parts of this job isn’t the constant flow of new cars or the luxury vacations with colleagues who never learned how to hold a kinfe and fork properly.”

    Is this just a conformity thing or is there some science to back up the ergonomic efficiency of the “correct” position? I’ve tried, but fail to see how holding a fork the “correct” way is advantageous to holding it like a pencil or upper chopstick. With a pencil grip, the fork angle can be drastically altered in multiple directions using only small finger motions. The wrist doesn’t need to move much at all. With the “correct” way, the whole wrist must bend to move the fork. It seems equivalent to sitting way back from the steering wheel with your arms at 10-2 and steering with your shoulders instead of getting closer to the steering wheel and steering with the smaller, more precise muscles at 9-3. I’ve been told that the former is “correct”, yet I’ve never seen a professional driver sit like that during a race.

    For a knife, yeah, the “correct” position makes sense to me. The wrist is aligned in a natural state in that position.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My co-worker bought a 2012 orange LT Sonic sedan. Sadly his wife’s 2010 Caravan was totaled so she got the Sonic until that mess was settled. The co-worker got a rental 2012 Civic base sedan with auto. At the end of the week he couldn’t wait to get his Sonic back. The Civic was so sub-par and noisy and gutless and lacked some basic features his Chevy had. Amazing considering the Civic costs more!

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    in 1976 a new Accord was more expensive than a much more awesome looking Chevrolet Malibu, and the Malibu even had a bigger engine(you could have it with a 6.6 litewith 175 hp)and a three speed auto, while the Honda only had a two speed Hondamatic…And unlike the awesomely shaped Cordobas of the time you could not get an Accord with any sort of fine Chorinthian leather…
    People still bought Accords back then too….
    just saying…

    (There may be sarcasm or irony hidden here, don’t buy a 76 Malibu)


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