By on June 25, 2013

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Next up on the CVT’s hit list is this Honda Civic. Honda’s Tetsuo Iwamura confirmed that the Civic will get an all-new Earth Dreams powertrain, featuring direct injection and a CVT transmission, within the next couple years.

The re-designed Fit, coming this fall, will get the new technology first, as Honda looks to capture buyers who are interested in fuel economy despite gas prices leveling off in recent months. Iwamura told Automotive News

“Gasoline prices are stabilizing in the mid-$3-a-gallon range, and Detroit is selling quite a few pickups,” Iwamura said. “Yet while the average person sees those numbers, their income hasn’t risen that much. It’s wrong to say Americans don’t care about fuel economy. They care.”

Signs point to a 2015 introduction for the powertrains, as the most recent refresh in 2013 will necessitate another round of tweaks to keep the car competitive.

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62 Comments on “Honda Civic Next Up For CVT-ification...”


  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    Iwamura is correct, Americans do care about fuel economy. Sadly for Honda, many do not care for the proposed solution of a CVT transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      Highway27

      If it works, and isn’t obviously a problem, most people won’t care. All they want is something they put in ‘D’ and it goes. If Honda doesn’t make a big deal about it, and it just works, then it just won’t be an issue. I think Nissan’s pretty much broken through with CVT’s, and Honda will be fine following them.

      • 0 avatar
        EquipmentJunkie

        I don’t disagree with you. However, I’ve heard people describe their innocent experiences with CVTs with statements like:

        “I bought the X because the Y felt weird during the test drive.”

        “It sounded funny.”

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          The Honda one is pretty darned good. Better than by far most regular autos. The ZF 8 speed may be preferrable, and perhaps whatever Lexus and MB is using in their higher spec models, but below that, the Honda CVT is the pick of the litter for transmissions built for cripples, incompetents and amputees… :)

          Now, Honda’s “real” tranny is of course also amongst the very best, so unless you fit in one of the above categories, you’d still be a fool to get one, but….

          • 0 avatar
            jpolicke

            I guess you must be one of those because you probably don’t have a hand crank and manual spark advance like those ‘real’ drivers. Probably have those sissy e-lectrical turn signals too. Poser.

      • 0 avatar

        I got a note from my ex-girlfriend’s Dad concerning his 2014 Forester stating “I should have got the manual, the CVT is sucky”. This from a guy who could not care less about cars and previously drove a Toyota Highlander 4-cyl. They can be off-putting even to those who aren’t rabid car nuts. But I think in general most people don’t care.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          “Sucky” how? I mean, can he quantify it? Does it get poor fuel economy or does he somehow find that it doesn’t offer the performance of the stick Forester?

      • 0 avatar
        ezeolla

        My mom has a Rogue and is the kind of person who doesn’t care about cars (she also always drives with her headlights on which drives me crazy). Her lease is ending soon so she came to me asking about new crossovers to look in to. Her only requirements are heated seats and no more CVT. I directed her to the CX-5

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          I care about cars, and I religiously drive with my headlights on.

          Because it makes it easier for drunks and idiots to see me.

          • 0 avatar
            otaku

            The better they can see you, the easier you make it on their attempts to aim. I prefer stealth.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            I drive with my headlights on deliberately, too, and I turn them on/off every time I fire it up. Visibility is good.

            I started doing this when I was 17. I was driving to school gray morning and listening to NPR (yes, I was that kind of teenager), and they had a report about daytime running lights. I watched how much farther away I could spot the cars, and I could spot the cars with their headlights on much easier than those without. And the weather wasn’t that bad. That standard of proof isn’t good enough for a scientific study, but it is good enough for me to flip a switch in the morning. I started the habit, and I’ve kept with it. I haven’t owned a car with DRLs yet, so I haven’t even been tempted to try to break the habit.

            I get my stealth from driving a gray minivan.

            I had lunch with some fellow car geeks, and one of them was surprised when I mentioned that I’d replaced the car she thought I had with a minivan over the winter. I swear, I got out of the car in front of her at a party the other week, with my son in tow, and it just didn’t register. THAT is stealth!

            She and her husband are both pretty high up on the engineer/tinkerer/biker scale!

            P.S. One of my Indian co-workers noticed this habit and commented that, in India, turning on your lights during the day means you have an emergency. Different culture, different rules. If I travel to India, I’ll do it their way, including that little detail about driving on the left side of the road.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      Two of my relatives have Sentras with CVTs and they like the way the cars drive. At least one of them understands the CVT-ness of the car and likes it, in part, just for that reason. They might not be thrilled, of course, if they suffer an early transmission failure…

      However if a CVT offers some benefit, with Honda (or Toyota) standing behind it, I’d certainly be willing to buy one. As far as how they drive, my Prius has an eCVT (I’m not going to pretend I understand it) and I like that there’s no pause to downshift when you want more power.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        The Prius eCVT is a big differential gear with an electric motor on one side and a engine+generator on the other.

        They vary the speed of the car by varying the balance between the engine-side and the motor-side.

        What you’re hearing, I think, isn’t the transmission shifting but the ECU moving the motor between sweet spots. The extra generator on the engine side (in addition to being a starter motor?) allows them to run the engine a little above or a little below the required power setting to put it into an efficiency sweet spot.

        That’s my guess anyway, given the architecture of the thing. Whatever they’re doing, it works!

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Turbo-4! Turbo-4! Turbo-4! Oh well.

    The Chevy Spark is doing well.

    http://m.autoblog.com/2013/06/24/chevy-spark-tops-sales-projections-in-first-12-months/?post=1&icid=autoblog_river_article

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Well Honda is getting back into Formula 1, with turbos too, so… maybe we’ll finally see a real Honda turbo in a “fun” car – instead of sticking one in an Acura CUV nobody cares about it? We can only dream, heck maybe that’s where this silly Earth Dreams name came from anyway. People dreaming of Honda making “fun” cars again? [insert standard ex-Honda owner rant here]

  • avatar
    Jacob

    Considering the glowing reviews of the CVT Accords, this development is not too bad. Personally, I am waiting for the Civic SI with an Earth Dreams engine, 6MT, and steering ratio lowered to what it used to be.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      +! about the Accord CVT, I don’t think Honda gets enough credit for taking out the “CVT-ness” from the driving experience. If I only had a choice of one or the other, I’d take their CVT over the first batch of DI engines.

      • 0 avatar
        ShoogyBee

        Agreed, I test drove an Accord Sport last month and I didn’t even notice the CVT. I was not as impressed with the electric power steering, but at least it wasn’t as vague as the 2012 Civic’s electric power steering.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I think the bigger story here is the Corolla, although will mostly be sold with a CVT in its latest flavor of artificial vanilla, still plugs along with a boat anchor reliable, but by modern standards outdated engine, and the 4-speed auto still lives in the rental car trimmed out version.

    Toyota is falling behind, especially in the C-Segment and even the worst players in the game (that comment not directed toward Honda) are advancing much faster.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      Toyota was never an innovator. They like to wait it out and learn from everyone elses mistakes. Somehow they got associated with technology because of the prius but even with that the insight was first.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        People buy Corollas because despite them being sold in greater numbers than any other car in history, there is still no recorded incident of a single one of them ever needing any repair done. The kind of buyer that want’s the high school graduation present he inherits from grandpa to be the only car he ever needs in life, probably isn’t too concerned about the latest and greatest in technology……

        Toyota has plenty of technological capability to bring to bear on models aimed at a different buyer profile.

        They are conservative, though, and for good reason. That whole “ultimate reliable”, “third world taxicab” brand image, is hard won and extremely valuable, and I bet any executive that suggests gambling with it in order to woo some Audi enamored fashionista, is expected to quickly either withdraw his suggestion, or commit Harakiri.

        • 0 avatar
          Summicron

          So agree but Jim Lentz doesn’t.

          “We were weak in the past in terms of the emotional side of purchase: Styling, interior and fun to drive. That’s where you will see the big changes.”

          Had to groom a gaijin to Ready-Fire-Aim “all three silos” of sales, manufacturing and engineering.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Styling, interior and fun to drive can be accomplished without why-tech engines. There’s no reason an entirely conventional mechanical package can’t be wrapped in interesting styling, have three kinds of interior trim, and turn in without heeling over.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            True. Lentz isn’t Toyoda.

          • 0 avatar

            “Styling, interior and fun to drive can be accomplished without why-tech engines. There’s no reason an entirely conventional mechanical package can’t be wrapped in interesting styling, have three kinds of interior trim, and turn in without heeling over.”

            Very much like the 1939 Lincoln Zephyr: interesting styling on top, but utterly conventional mechanicals underneath.

        • 0 avatar
          Ion

          The last gen corolla/matrix ate belts every 30k and let’s not forget all the recalls

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            Sounds anecdotal, and my anecdotes say otherwise.

          • 0 avatar
            Ion

            It’s only anecdotal if your a fanboy. My family owns a 06 matrix there’s a TSB for the shoddy tensioners of this generation corolla/matrix. The only oil change fallacy is a myth perpetuated by the ignorant.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            Then there was the generation with electrical problems, specifically with the DRLs/headlights. I think it started in the 8th, but it didn’t go away for the 9th either. I know someone dumping a Corolla now because they can’t drive it at night, and multiple visits haven’t fixed it (including getting parts from Japan).

      • 0 avatar
        wumpus

        Still, the toyota CVT seems to be the elephant in the room. It might be willing to be a CVT (and not pretend to have a bunch of gears), but the idea of a transmission with neigther gear changes nor moving belts (all gear ratios depend on the speed of internal gears) is likely to be huge.

        Make sure the “gear motor” is sufficiently robust to handle the load, and that transmission looks like it will live forever. Something you can’t be sure about most CVTs.

      • 0 avatar
        84Cressida

        No, the Prius was first. Look it up.

      • 0 avatar
        danwat1234

        Toyota did make the Prius before Honda made the insight. The Insight may have been first in the USA but before that time the Prius was already being driven in Japan I think

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “a boat anchor reliable, but by modern standards outdated engine”

      It’s almost like people want an engine that won’t break more than one that’s “modern”.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Pedant Alert!

    “…featuring direct injection and a CVT transmission, within the next couple years.”

    CVT transmission is redundant.

    Ok, I feel better now.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    CVTs are fascinating, mostly in that car reviewers love to fret about them as if they cause cancer or something. They’re different at first, but once you become accustomed to them, going back to a traditional automatic feels really strange.

    I’ve owned a half a dozen Subarus over the years with a various assortment of 4 speed automatics and 5 speed manuals. Now I have also driven their (Subaru) phase 1 and 2 CVTs and thought they were executed rather nicely.

    I’m sure the most important thing that consumers are really looking for in a new vehicle is ‘soft touch points’ said nobody in the history of anything ever, except for car reviewers of course.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Indeed. We have a 2005 Nissan Murano SL with a CVT, and at one point we had a 2007 Dodge Caliber SXT with a CVT. I’ve gotten so used to the rubber-banding and the lack of a shift-bite that driving conventionally-powered cars feels *really* weird.

      • 0 avatar
        grzydj

        And neither one of those are shining examples of a well done CVT either. Honda is known for their clever engineering and I think they’ll design a nice CVT for the Civic and for the Fit.

        Hopefully Honda will figure out a way to make their CVT reliable, something that Nissan and Dodge haven’t been able to figure out just yet.

  • avatar
    redgubbinz

    “Yet while the average person sees those numbers, their income hasn’t risen that much.”

    Wow, a guy that works for Honda understands the economy (for real people, not the Wall Street Gambling House) better than most politicians.

    Heh, politicians: the CVTs of people! Slippery, unresponsive makers of noise and not much else. I should write for Leno, maybe I’ll get a tour of his garage.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      For a second I though you wrote “I should VOTE for Leno.” Considering the current alternatives, that actually struck me as quite brilliant. Leno for President! The guy with the most toys wins, right?

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    “Earth Dreams powertrain”
    “SkyActiv Technology”

    Never, ever, underestimate a Japanese company’s capabilities to come up with corny trademarks.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Someone had to compete with “EcoBoost”.

      (Like the engines. The name is dumb.)

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I would rather have an Earth Dreams or SkyActiv engine, but I don’t think the name EcoBoost is anywhere near as silly. This is not to say that I want to see eco on any product that I buy.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t forget “Super Handling All-Wheel Drive”

    • 0 avatar
      danwat1234

      Earths dreams engines may be more advanced than Mazda SkyActiv engine because SkyActiv is just direct injection with high compression ratios and variable valve timing, like the Ecoboost engines (Ecoboost also has a turbo) and most other newer engines.
      Earth dreams may be more advanced in that the 2L and smaller engines may be able to be an Atkinson cycle engine at low loads, the same type of engine in a full hybrid car like a Prius or Camry Hybrid. This is done by keeping the intake valves open past bottom dead center, reduces pumping losses. No other engines will do this probably, due to patents.
      It’ll be OTTO cycle at higher loads so it’ll have all the power of a regular engine but can go into Atkinson cycle for more efficiency.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    It’s fine with me if the Civic and Fit get CVTs. The 5-speeds have got to go, and Honda already seems to have made the best-feeling CVT in the industry with the 2013 Accord. I say go for it!

  • avatar
    Slave2anMG

    Great. Drone-o-matic transmission from Honda.

  • avatar
    Madroc

    If memory serves, the mid-late 90s Civic HX was among the first production cars to feature a CVT. I vaguely recall an entire Motortrend article devoted to explaining just what the Sam Hill it was.

    It was also available on the early-2000s jellybean Insight and was standard on CNG Civics of that vintage.

    Not exactly “next up.”

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      And theyd been making CVTs for their scooters since at least the early 80s. Ive owned many, and never had one fail. Easy to maintain as well, at least compared to trying to repair a vespa gearbox.

      I would assume a CVT would be easier to rebuild than a comparable automatic

      • 0 avatar
        Mitsu_fan

        Unless this has changed with the newer generations of CVTs, automotive CVTs are not serviceable so they should not be rebuilt. If it fails, it should be replaced with a whole new unit. Honda could be engineering theirs to be serviceable, but JATCO CVTs are one time use only.

    • 0 avatar
      gmrn

      I had to confirm my suspicion via wiki, but the first car with the distinction of having a CVT for sale in the U.S. was… the Subaru Justy, circa 1989. That CVT was reportedly developed by their corporate parent, Fuji Heavy Industries.

      CVT tech and NWA were both breakin-it-down around the same time.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    CVTs are awful. But so are automatic Civics. When you have a 3000lb car with 140lbs of torque there isn’t a whole lot of fun to be had – unless you opt for a manual.

    The Japanese are all betting on CVTs – and the europeans (and most domestics) are sticking with 8 and 9 speed convential trannies for the most part. I personally have found the modern ZFs to be better then CVTs. The major advantage is that while they are not continously variable they can switch gears faster – and thus if you want to ‘go’ they ‘go’. Acceleration is all about power put to the ground. So being able to jump to the right gear is more important then sliding over to the perfect gear with regards to driving enjoyment.

    What you want is a linear response to your pedal press (with an automatic transmission). The ZF comes closer to this then the CVTs – probably because they handle more torque.

    On the downside the CVT does better on the EPA tests and cost less to manufacture. It’s driving pleasure vs. low costs. The europeans like driving pleasure hence they fact that they have the best automated manuals. Its too bad they cost so much.

    • 0 avatar
      otaku

      “When you have a 3000lb car with 140lbs of torque there isn’t a whole lot of fun to be had…”

      Since when do Civics make that much torque? I thought the 1.8L put out 140hp but only 128 lb-ft of torque at 4300 rpm.

      • 0 avatar
        CelticPete

        The DI earth dreams should be good for a few more lbs. 10 – 15 I’d wager.. But yeah the current car..128 is awful with any kind of automatic.

  • avatar
    V6

    I recently rented an Elantra for a week and my partner has an i45/Sonata, both with 6 speed auto. Although I have not driven a CVT yet, I think I’d prefer them to an auto with 6+ gears. More gears allow lower rpm at higher speeds than my old 4 speed auto Galant, but I preferred my 4 speed to driving the newer 6 speeds. The only think that really puts me off them is the reliability

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Taste will vary. But the reason why auto reviews don’t particularly like CVTs is the rubber band effect.

    If you are cruising along they drift towards the equivalent of sixth gear. But then say you want to floor it. It takes time to get down to the equivalent of 2nd gear.

    Interestingly during this time period the engine revs high and makes a whole lot of noise but your car doesn’t go anywhere. After a while you get up to the speed you wanted and then your car starts accelerating very quickly. So you shoot past where you wanted to go. Much like a rubber band..

    Obviously a large capable engine and a modern CVT undoes some of this. The best Nissan CVTs handle the 3.5 liter transverse engines – and they have both planetary gears and a torque converter. So they are pretty close to traditional automatics.

    But why bother when traditional automatics have gotten so fast and capable. They all have lock up torque converters and now have 8 or 9 gears. On paper CVT seems like the superior technology – but in practice I definetly prefer a traditional auto.

    Even a 5 speed speed auto works fine hooked up to a large V-8.

    • 0 avatar
      Mitsu_fan

      This isnt entirely true with a lot of current CVTs. If you roll into the throttle for more acceleration, then yes many of them will change the ratio gradually until they find the perfect ratio. But if you swiftly apply the throttle for more acceleration, many CVTs will simulate 1 or 2 downshifts like a conventional automatic, the RPM will snap to a certain point and stay there until you let off the throttle. If you’ve driven one CVT equipped vehicle, you have not driven them all, they are all programmed differently from manufacturer to manufacturer.

      • 0 avatar
        CelticPete

        But a convential automatic can downshift 6 or 7 gears now. That’s the thing. You are talking about a huge downshift in very few ms for the very best convential autos.

        CVTs can’t do that because of how they work. They work differently. A CVT doesn’t skip gears – they have to pass through the gears (ratios) between.

        I am not hating on CVTs here. They are cheaper to make and they can find the perfect gear something convential transmissions cannot. Thus they can get better gas mileage. They downside is that they CANNOT change as fast between gears (Ratios).

        Watch this video of how they work:

        And you will instantly understand what i am talking about and why Nissan added some planetary gears to the system. As you can see a Cvt changes ratio pretty quick. But people like the near instant ‘kick down’ into the correct gear. This combined with a high torque engine gives you the best driving experience.

        This is why good automated manuals have the best feel. VERY fast gear changes to the right gear with very little parasitic losses. A PDK is in fact the best gear box in the world. You need to drive that and compare it to a Nissan (they make the best CVTs in the world).


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