The Truth About Cars » Civic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 26 May 2015 10:31:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Civic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com It’s Time To End The Non-Sporty Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/its-time-to-end-the-non-sporty-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/its-time-to-end-the-non-sporty-coupe/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 12:12:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071410 Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to bring an end to an automotive segment that simply needs to die: the non-sporty coupe. For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean when I say “non sporty coupe,” allow me to describe the two types of coupes that currently exist today. One is the sporty coupe. […]

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2015 Honda Civic

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to bring an end to an automotive segment that simply needs to die: the non-sporty coupe.

For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean when I say “non sporty coupe,” allow me to describe the two types of coupes that currently exist today. One is the sporty coupe. This is a car with sleek styling, and a cool interior, and a lot of power, and some modicum of performance suspension, or performance brakes, or something performancey, like a faux carbon fiber door panel.

Examples of the sporty coupe include the Porsche 911, the Ford Mustang, the Subaru BRZ, and – if you ask the Germans – the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, though the rest of us just consider that to be an overpriced sedan.

And then you have the other type of coupe. The non-sporty coupe. This is a car that was a sedan, until some auto industry geniuses got ahold of it and decided they could create an entirely new segment by just throwing on a new, two-door body and marketing it as “sporty.” Examples include the Honda Civic, the Honda Accord, and, well, that’s about it.

2015 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Coupe

There’s a reason those are the only options: because everyone else has gotten out of this segment. For years, we had the Toyota Camry coupe, later called the Camry Solara. It’s gone. The Chevy Monte Carlo. It’s gone. The Chevy Cobalt coupe, the Chevy Cavalier Coupe, the Ford Tempo coupe, the Ford Focus coupe (look it up!), the Dodge Avenger, the Chrysler Sebring coupe. Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone. All gone. The Nissan Altima Coupe. Gone. All because this segment is a massive dud; the automotive equivalent of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld.

So why is Honda still in it?

My theory is Honda has abandoned every other sporty car they’ve ever had – from the NSX and the S2000 on down to the CR-Z – so they feel like they have to offer some piece of “performance” somewhere in their lineup. So they offer the Civic in sedan and coupe varieties, even though virtually everyone else has realized the actual place to be, when it comes to compact cars, is sedans and hatchbacks.

Interestingly, it seems like Honda still doesn’t have the hatchback memo. At this year’s New York Auto Show, Honda displayed a bright green Civic intended to preview what’s to come for the compact car’s next generation. So what body style did it use? The highly popular sedan model, which accounts for more than 80 percent of all sales? A hatchback to let us know they’re finally going to take on the Ford Focus, the Mazda3, the Kia Soul, and the Volkswagen Golf?

No: they showed off a Civic Coupe, suggesting they plan to continue the non-sporty coupe even after everyone else has jumped ship.

It’s the same situation with the Accord. Every time there’s an Accord redesign, I expect Honda to finally announce that they’re doing away with the Accord Coupe. And every time there’s an Accord redesign, Honda instead surprises me and brings it back for another round.

The question I have for people who buy these cars is: WHY?????

If you really examine the Civic Coupe and the Accord Coupe, what you’ll find is that both models are really just less practical versions of the sedans. Neither one is a sports car. Neither one offers especially sleek styling. In fact, if you ask me, the Civic Coupe is actually a bit ungainly in its current form, in the sense that it appears, at any moment, that it may be blown over by a strong gust of wind.

So basically, the “non sporty coupe” is just a sedan with less practicality. Same Accord styling. Same Accord engines. Same Accord equipment, and platform, and suspension, and brakes. The only difference: in the regular Accord, you can get out of the back seat without making the front passenger get up and exit the vehicle first.

I’ve talked to a few people who own these vehicles, and I’ve come to learn they actually believe these are sports cars. “Well,” they say. “I couldn’t afford a 370Z. So I decided to get an Accord Coupe.” As if the two are equals. This would be like saying that you couldn’t afford a place overlooking Central Park, so you instead decided to get a studio apartment in downtown Newark.

So I guess the simple truth here is that Honda is going to continue to make these things as long as people keep buying them. But as the market shrinks, and as people realize they’d really rather have a sedan, and as the tens of buyers disaffected by the cancellation of the Chevy Cobalt coupe move on to something else, I hope Honda wises up and gives us hatchbacks instead. Because the days of the non-sporty coupe are coming to an end.

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Trackday Diaries: Civics Lesson http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/trackday-diaries-civics-lesson/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/trackday-diaries-civics-lesson/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 12:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1070562 Trust me on this: You will start your trackday career because you love cars, but if you are any good at it you will end up hating cars. Allow me to explain. I took my first lap around a racetrack (Mosport, back in 2001) because I wanted to eventually race wheel-to-wheel and I knew I’d […]

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civic1

Trust me on this: You will start your trackday career because you love cars, but if you are any good at it you will end up hating cars.

Allow me to explain.


I took my first lap around a racetrack (Mosport, back in 2001) because I wanted to eventually race wheel-to-wheel and I knew I’d have the greatest chance of success if I followed a defined path of individual coaching and patient but consistent escalation of speed and and risk. I wanted to race wheel-to-wheel because I’d had a series of injuries that had effectively murdered any chance I had of racing BMX competitively into my thirties. In that respect, I was unlike the vast majority of the people I’ve met at the over two hundred open-lapping days I’ve attended since then. Every once in a while I will get a student who is focused on a future in club racing and/or LeMons-style enduros, but most of my guys (and girls) don’t want to have anything to do with racing.

The typical “track rat” is, first and foremost, a car enthusiast, not a would-be racer. He’s there because he wants to drive his car as fast as possible. Very few of them drive an entirely stock vehicle; whether it’s swaybars, a turbo kit, or an engine swap, there’s usually something going on with their cars. But even the stock ones are fast. Lots of five-liter Mustangs, boosted Volkswagens, cambered-out Z-cars. They’re knowledgeable about the history of their preferred marques and nameplates. They can speak at length about everything from options codes to the differences between various manufacturing locations. They own a lot of T-shirts from Blipshift and various car clubs and tuner shops.

17-Racing_Vans_In_24_Hours_of_LeMons

By and large, they’re nice people, and most of them will enjoy their time on-track, but it’s important for me to remember that their goals are fundamentally different from the goals I had when I started – and the goals I have today. For me, the car was, and is, secondary to the purpose of racing. If auto racing didn’t exist, I’d be racing something else. I’ve been racing something for three-quarters of my life. I continue to attend open-lapping days and coach students because it makes me a better driver and therefore a better racer. The more seat time I have, the better I get. Even seat time as a passenger helps; it makes me think about how to get around a track better.

My students, on the other hand, primarily want to enjoy their cars in an environment without speed limits or oncoming traffic or SUVs. They want to take endless GoPro videos and bench race at lunch and maybe experience a moment where the car is sliding around on its tires a little bit. If they were transported back in time and found themselves in a situation where the only trackday opportunity involved forty-eight-horsepower MG TCs around a narrow track like the old Waterford Hills at an average speed below that of their commute, they wouldn’t bother to leave the house. Most of them would rather drive a Z06 Corvette at four-tenths the limit than run a Daihatsu Charade around just as fast as Lewis Hamilton could do it.

This fundamental disconnect between me and them causes friction more often that it does not. I ask them to go home and read a Ross Bentley book; they go home and buy a new ECU that promises ten more horsepower. I suggest they watch track videos and learn reference points; they log onto their favorite car forums and argue about option packages. When I ask them to attend additional weekends to get faster, they stay at home and do entire seasons of iRacing or, G-d forbid, Grand Theft Auto.

In short, they treat being the owners of performance cars the way I treat being a guitar player. I’d rather work extra hours to buy a new (insert name of exotic wood instrument here) than stay at home and practice the modes and scales. I’d rather visit vintage musical-equipment stores and argue about “Murphy aging” than memorize jazz standards in Nashville-number notation. Most of all, I’d rather shop for guitars than fix the ones I already have.

Whenever I start to become frustrated with my students, I just remind myself how my guitar teacher(s) must feel, and it really helps me put things in perspective. They love cars more than they love driving; I love my Paul Reed Smiths more than I love creaking through a twelve-bar-blues with one of them.

This past weekend, however, I was lucky enough to have two of my favorite students return for the Trackdaze season opener at Summit Point Shenandoah. My novice student was Benny Blanco, now resembling a Platoon-era Willem Dafoe due to a program of exercise and nutrition, cheerfully reporting a complete brake-system service on his Boxster in preparation for the event. My intermediate student was a TTAC reader and occasional contributor who had swapped out his rental car for his own high-mileage 2008 Civic EX 5-speed, fortified with Akebono pads and rotors. We met at the hotel Friday night and discussed goals a bit. I was pleased to see that they’d both been devoting some time to the theory of performance driving over the winter, although neither had driven on-track since last October.

While there were three car-into-wall incidents before lunchtime on Saturday, none of them involved my guys. They were both fast and smooth, if a bit rusty from the time off. By Sunday morning, they were both very quick, and by Sunday afternoon neither one of them required much input from me other than the occasional reminder to stay off the throttle in the midcorner. It was a true pleasure to see how well they both did and how much improvement they were able to demonstrate over the course of four hours on-track.

Here’s the funny thing; although both of them were among the best students I’ve ever had, they spent much of the weekend letting faster traffic by. Time after time, my student in the Civic would get through three or four corners in a row in a manner that wouldn’t disgrace a good mid-pack club racer, only to have to put his hand out for a far less talented driver behind the wheel of a turbo VW or V8-powered roadster. In the “green group”, Benny strung together four kick-ass laps, gapping the new-gen WRX behind him at each corner exit, only to have the blue Subaru eventually pull out and pass him on the main straight from ten car lengths back.

I knew going into the weekend that our 2008 Civic would be painfully slow, even if it could be coaxed into some oddly heroic slip angles in my hands, with the help of the emergency brake. (See above.) But I wasn’t prepared for just how slow a 1997 Boxster is nowadays. True, Porsche never claimed it was terribly quick, and buying an entry-level model from Zuffenhausen has never been a recipe for massive horsepower, but when a VW Beetle (with a VR6) can drop you like you’re towing a trailer, it really opens your eyes as to the progress in modern automobiles.

When Sunday drew to a close, I stood with my students and we watched people load perfectly street-legal Corvettes and Mustangs onto trailers pulled by Denalis and F-250s. “I got pretty sick of waving people by,” my Civic driver noted with resignation in his voice.

“Buy a new C7. Or a C7 Z06.” But what I wanted to say was this: I’d rather be the kind of truly skilled, talented, and dedicated trackday driver who can get the most out of a Civic than any mere owner of a high-performance automobile. And there are those of us who can watch someone go around a racetrack, even at a distance, and pick out the very few drivers among those owners. A true driver shines at a trackday like a polished nugget of gold in a field of anthracite. There are few satisfactions in the world like the one you have knowing that you extracted what Michael Schumacher used to call “today’s maximum” from an automobile.

Even if that car is a Civic, trundling down Shenandoah’s back straight at eighty-nine miles per hour.

For a true driver, a car is just a tool. And to operate that tool perfectly, only to be forced to yield again and again to people whose lap times come from the showroom instead of the woodshed…

It’s enough to make you hate cars, really.

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While You Were Sleeping: Jeep GC Pickup Render, Brilliance V3 Debut and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs (Or a Lack Thereof) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-jeep-gc-pickup-render-brilliance-v3-debut-jobs-jobs-jobs-lack-thereof/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-jeep-gc-pickup-render-brilliance-v3-debut-jobs-jobs-jobs-lack-thereof/#comments Fri, 08 May 2015 10:11:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1064017 As trucks ride a heat wave of interest from consumers, I look at this Grand Cherokee render and think, “That’ll do.” Jeep Trailhawk (Theophilus Chin) Self-titled Automotive Manipulator Theophilus Chin has put together a compelling image of a Jeep Grand Cherokee pickup. Exclusive: Honda Australia pensions off Civic diesel (GoAuto) As car enthusiasts scream for diesel […]

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Jeep Trailhawk Truck Render

As trucks ride a heat wave of interest from consumers, I look at this Grand Cherokee render and think, “That’ll do.”

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Mockup Of 2016 Honda Civic Spec Sheets Fools Autoblog http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/mockup-2016-honda-civic-spec-sheets-fools-autoblog/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/mockup-2016-honda-civic-spec-sheets-fools-autoblog/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 14:12:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1063554 [UPDATE: Autoblog owned up to its mistake with the following: “Alright, we made a mistake. Turns out this “leak” was actually just a mockup done by a CivicX forum member, and we totally went along with it. Sorry, folks. You’ll have to wait a little longer for your hot Civic pricing news.” – CA] Earlier […]

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2015 Honda Civic Concept

[UPDATE: Autoblog owned up to its mistake with the following:Alright, we made a mistake. Turns out this “leak” was actually just a mockup done by a CivicX forum member, and we totally went along with it. Sorry, folks. You’ll have to wait a little longer for your hot Civic pricing news.” – CA]

Earlier this morning, Autoblog published a leak regarding the pricing of the 2016 Honda Civic. In its rush to be first, however, it forgot to confirm.

The specs sheets were originally pulled from a CivicX forum around speculation of the upcoming compact’s pricing and other features. Those sheets were a mockup from member RobbJK88, a graphic designer who wrote the following about them:

I just did this for fun, i was bored at work. It’s in no way official, just speculation based on what we know about the civic already, the current civic, and what honda has mentioned in various interviews. I based most of the standard equipment listed on the features for the current civic while moving a few things around based on Honda’s promises of more standard equipment and such. Any speculation on what we might see, or would like to see that i may have missed?

RobbJK88 adds that he pulled the specs from from the Civic models currently listed on Honda’s website, then tweaked them and the prices to match up with speculation.

[Photo credit: Honda]

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Honda Civic Hatch “Near Identical” To NY Coupe Concept, Will Get Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/honda-civic-hatch-near-identical-ny-coupe-concept-will-get-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/honda-civic-hatch-near-identical-ny-coupe-concept-will-get-hybrid/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 10:59:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1058010 If a report from Britain’s AutoExpress is to be believed, the front clip of the next-generation Honda Civic hatchback – due to arrive in North America for the first time since 2000 (in non-Si form) – will look “near identical” to the Civic Coupe concept revealed in New York. Head of Honda UK, Philip Crossman, […]

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Civic Concept

If a report from Britain’s AutoExpress is to be believed, the front clip of the next-generation Honda Civic hatchback – due to arrive in North America for the first time since 2000 (in non-Si form) – will look “near identical” to the Civic Coupe concept revealed in New York.

Head of Honda UK, Philip Crossman, told the UK outlet the next Civic hatchback will only differ from the coupe at the rear third of the car and all sheetmetal fore of that will be the same. In addition to a coupe, sedan, and hatchback, AutoExpress also posits a new Tourer model will likely be available, though we can’t see this version of the Civic coming to our shores.

The Civic will ride on a common architecture for both European and North American models. Under hood will be a brand new drivetrain with a hybrid version available later.

“We’ll come back with a class-leading hybrid powertrain in the next five years,” said Crossman, “and it’s likely to make as much impact as the VTEC valve system.”

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Ask Jack: CRX No Longer In Effect? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ask-jack-crx-no-longer-effect/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ask-jack-crx-no-longer-effect/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 12:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053625 It’s the return of Ask Jack, one of my your favorite sections! You can now ask me questions about nearly anything, as long as there’s a kinda-sorta automotive aspect to it. Kinda-sorta. In the meantime, check out today’s question: Hey Jack, I’m in a bit of a dilemma. I’m a self-employed delivery driver (delivering restaurant […]

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CRX

It’s the return of Ask Jack, one of my your favorite sections! You can now ask me questions about nearly anything, as long as there’s a kinda-sorta automotive aspect to it. Kinda-sorta. In the meantime, check out today’s question:

Hey Jack,

I’m in a bit of a dilemma. I’m a self-employed delivery driver (delivering restaurant meals, not pizza) and until recently I’ve been using a 1989 Honda CRX HF for that duty. I was averaging about 48mpg in 80% city driving and it was good for parking in downtown Portland, OR (as good as it can in a city where cars are practically banned). And the A/C actually worked!

About a week ago, a Range Rover cut in front of me and we came together, with predictable results. The mechanical components all survived, but the body damage is just on the bad side of drivable. Currently, the body shop and insurance company are arguing about whether to repair the car or total it. Assuming they do total it, I’m going to need a replacement. Right now I’m doing my deliveries in a 1999 Dodge Dakota 5.9 R/T, which eats more fuel than a burning oil refinery.

At this point, I don’t know how much money I would be getting in that situation. I paid $1800 for the car just a few months ago. A quick search of Craigslist reveals that the Countach LP400 is much more common than a stock-engine CRX HF. As one Honda enthusiast put it: “I didn’t know they made ’em stock.” Assuming a budget of $2500, and with a top priority on gas mileage, park-ability, and not sucking, what would you recommend to replace the HF?

You bought a decent-condition CRX HF for eighteen hundred bucks? Don’t bother playing the lottery for the rest of the year – that’s all the good luck you’re going to have, in one single transaction. As you’ve discovered in your initial searches, lightning is unlikely to strike twice for you. The second-generation CRX is now firmly established in the pantheon of all-time great Hondas, and prices reflect that. I’ve seen a couple solid examples for sale between four and six grand. That’s big money for quarter-century-old cars that often have nearly 200,000 miles on them.

As fate would have it, you’re not the first person I know who’s had to replace a CRX due to a crash. My friend Sam, who’d been racing Hondas in NASA as a team owner and manager for over a decade, started off with two second-gen Si rollerskates. One of them hit the wall several times during a particularly difficult race year, forcing him to contemplate a replacement. His answer? The 1989 Civic DX. Fortified with an 8000-rpm handbuilt motor, it was fast enough for me to lose a major endurance race by approximately the amount of a fuel-spill penalty. He’s been running a pair of them for more than five years, with tremendous success.

Even without the race prep, however, the 1988-1991 Civic DX is a brilliant replacement for the CRX. It has virtually all of the two-seater’s virtues with the further advantages of cargo and people space behind the front chairs. It’s also just as fast around a racetrack, assuming you have the same engine in both cars. Don’t tell anyone.

Of course, Civics of that generation aren’t much cheaper than CRXes. If you’re willing to consider a left-field alternative, you might want to think about a Breadvan Colt. These cars were basically Mitsubishi copies of the Civic. They’re not nearly as good, but they’re not bad. More importantly, they don’t have that remarkable Honda resale value.

If you’re looking for a genuinely courageous choice, how about this Geo Metro XfI on eBay? When you’re done using it for delivery duties, you can put a junkyard Hayabusa engine in it and rule the backroads. A motorcycle engine, in a Geo Metro, complete with chain drive and definitely not complete with reverse gear? It’s been done!

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Fifth-Gen Honda Step WGN Debuts With New 2016 Civic Engine, Tailgate System http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/fifth-gen-honda-step-wgn-debuts-new-2016-civic-engine-tailgate-system/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/fifth-gen-honda-step-wgn-debuts-new-2016-civic-engine-tailgate-system/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 17:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052169 Honda revealed the fifth-gen Step WGN for the Japanese market Thursday, which not only features a new flexible tailgate, but the same engine planned for the 2016 Civic. The main draw for the seven-passenger Step WGN is the “Waku Waku” tailgate, which can be lifted up in most circumstances, or can be opened from the side […]

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Honda Step WGN 01

Honda revealed the fifth-gen Step WGN for the Japanese market Thursday, which not only features a new flexible tailgate, but the same engine planned for the 2016 Civic.

The main draw for the seven-passenger Step WGN is the “Waku Waku” tailgate, which can be lifted up in most circumstances, or can be opened from the side via the tailgate’s sub-door. The sub-door has three levels of opening angles, allowing greater ease of access to cargo for occupants when the kei van is parked in a tight space, such as a shopping center or home garage. Third-row passengers can also use the door to exit without opening the full tailgate when the door is paired with the third-row 60-40 Magic Seat.

Under the hood is the 1.5-liter direct-injection VTEC turbo set to provide power for the 2016 Civic. Horsepower and torque figures were not mentioned at this time, but Honda claims output is “equivalent to that of a 2.4-litre engine even while driving with multiple passengers and on hilly roads.” Power is directed to the front or all four corners via CVT.

[Photo credit: Honda]

Honda Step WGN Gallery

Honda Step WGN 01 Honda Step WGN 05 Honda Step WGN 09 Honda Step WGN 02 Honda Step WGN 06 Honda Step WGN 10 Honda Step WGN 07 Honda Step WGN 08

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Patent Search Reveals Images Of 2016 Honda Civic Coupe, Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/patent-search-reveals-images-2016-honda-civic-coupe-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/patent-search-reveals-images-2016-honda-civic-coupe-sedan/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 10:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1047785 Recently unearthed by an enthusiast forum, above is just one of the renders for the upcoming 2016 Honda Civic. CivicX.com conducted a patent search for the 10th-gen model of the storied Civic, whereupon the forum found “official patent images” of the production-ready coupe and sedan variants; only the hatchback was not found as of this writing. […]

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2016-civicsedan-2

Recently unearthed by an enthusiast forum, above is just one of the renders for the upcoming 2016 Honda Civic.

CivicX.com conducted a patent search for the 10th-gen model of the storied Civic, whereupon the forum found “official patent images” of the production-ready coupe and sedan variants; only the hatchback was not found as of this writing.

A few differences from the very-green concept that turned up in New York earlier this month include: less-aggressive, smaller lines and vents in the front and rear bumpers; the lack of a rear spoiler on the coupe — though said piece may likely be offered on high-performance models; and revised headlamps that retain the concept’s LED daytime lights. The coupe also retains the wraparound tail light on the concept, while the sedan does not receive the treatment.

2016-civic-1 2016-civic-2 2016-civic-3 2016-civic-4 2016-civic-5 2016-civicsedan-1 2016-civicsedan-2 2016-civicsedan-3 2016-civicsedan-4 2016-civicsedan-5 2016-civicsedan-6 2016-civicsedan-7

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Review: 2016 Acura ILX (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2016-acura-ilx-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2016-acura-ilx-video/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:55:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1026105 It has been two years since we last looked at the ILX, and my conclusion went like this: The 2.4L engine needs an automatic and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these, the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but […]

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2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front.CR2

It has been two years since we last looked at the ILX, and my conclusion went like this:

The 2.4L engine needs an automatic and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these, the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but as a competitor to Buick’s new-found mojo, Acura has some catching up to do.

2016 brings what I was expecting: a mid-cycle refresh with a new nose and new rump to keep the photos fresh. What I didn’t expect was for Acura to also address the major mechanical systems that we all complained about. Neither did I expect the ILX to be so transformed by a “simple” heart transplant. Can the ILX live up to the legendary Acura Legend? I snagged the keys to a “A-Spec Technology Plus” model to find out.

Exterior

Acura is not the kind of company that dishes out one daring design after another, especially since the Acura “beak” went over so poorly. As a result this ILX, like its predecessor, plays right to the conservatively styled heart of the traditional Acura shopper.

As has been said in the past, the ILX is related to the Honda Civic, but the relation is more third-cousin than sister. The ILX never shared sheetmetal or glass with its plebeian platform mate, and the ILX isn’t a simple re-skin either. While the wheelbase is shared with the Civic, nearly every hard point was changed from the A-pillar moved 8-inches rearward, trunk and door openings modified to the lowered roofline, the 2016 ILX shares as much with the Civic as the original Chrysler 300 shared with the Mercedes E-Class.

As expected, Acura swapped in a set of full-LED headlamps styled after the multi-beam modules we first saw in the MDX and RLX, and further massaged the front end to look more like the larger TLX. Acura’s quest to give the ILX more of a “wedge like” appearance rather than a tall hood translates to a somewhat pointy front to the side profile. Out back the changes are minimal but the A-Spec trim our tester wore gives the sedate sedan a bit more style and a tasteful chrome strip on the trunk spoiler.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Dashboard.CR2-001

Interior

Interior parts quality is right in line with the Buick Verano which, as expected, is a notch below the more expensive A3, CLA, S60, IS 250 and 320i. As you’d expect in a “near-luxury” vehicle, most of the ILX touch-points are soft plastic but you will find hard plastic lurking below the faux-metal trim and making up most of the center console. Front seat comfort is good but the lack of adjustable lumbar support is surprising. All models get an 8-way power driver’s seat, but only upper trims offer seat memory or a power passenger seat. An important side-effect of Acura’s modifications to the platform’s roof-line is limited headroom. Headroom is further limited up front by the standard sunroof, a nice value feature for sure, but at 6-feet tall my head missed touching the ceiling by millimeters. Acura will no doubt show taller shoppers the TLX.

The ILX’s rear seats are slightly less comfortable than the Verano, but a step above the mainstream compact segment with more thigh support for adults and considerably more legroom than the Mercedes CLA, Volvo S60, and despite the spec sheet saying otherwise, the A3 sedan as well. The key seems to be in combined front and rear legroom where the ILX shines. On the downside, Acura chose to share the rear seat frame with the Honda Civic giving the ILX a 100% folding bench seat that is far less practical than the more common 60/40 variety. This would be less of a problem if the trunk had grown in 2016, but it is still stuck at a smallish 12.3 cubes, smaller than the Verano, Lexus CT or Mazda3.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Shift Paddles

Speaking of the Mazda3, the small Mazda is in many ways a similar vehicle despite Mazda and Acura targeting different demographics. Interior parts quality is quite similar, although the ILX is more of a mixed bag by borrowing switchgear from both the Civic and the TLX. Where they differ notably is the steering wheel, gauge cluster and infotainment systems where the ILX shares more heavily with the more expensive Acuras while the Mazda is a little more constsient but lacks the spendy parts.

To keep things simple, Acura bundles features into packages, leaving essentially no stand-alone options. The base model comes well equipped with dual-zone climate control, 5-inch infotainment display, LED headlamps, Bluetooth/iDevice integration, backup camera, keyless entry/go and a cabin air filter for $27,900. Since the base model is rarely the volume leader, the second trim is the most interesting because the $29,200 “AcuraWatch Plus” trim adds radar adaptive cruise control, collision warning, collision mitigating autonomous braking, lane keep warning, lane keep assist, and electric pre-tensioning front seat belts. This safety system package is included in every trim above as well, making the ILX one of the least expensive vehicles with this kind of tech near-standard. (If you want all that in your TLX it will set you back $42,600.) The $29,900 Premium adds leather seating, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic detection, XM radio and a sub-woofer to the base 6-speaker system, swaps the 5-inch infotainment screen for a dual screen system featuring an 8-inch display high in the dash and a 7-inch touchscreen lower in the dash. The last jump is the $32,900 Technology package adds factory navigation to the 8-inch screen, 10 speakers, AcuraLink (Acura’s answer to OnStar), an upgraded backup cam, color LCD in the gauge cluster and GPS-reading/solar-sending to the climate control system. The only option is the $1,999 A-sped sport trim package netting the buyer 18-inch wheels, fog lamps, faux-suede inserts in the seats, a spoiler and some aluminum pedals.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Infotainment Navigation System-003

Acura’s two-screen infotainment system isn’t as polished as BMW’s iDrive but it is considerably snazzier than you’ll find in any mass-market competitor like the Mazda. The base system lags behind the Verano’s touchscreen radio, while the two-screen system tops it in elegance. Why two screens? The engineers say the concept is as follows: the lower touchscreen handles the audio, freeing the upper screen for navigation and other tasks. My opinion of the system has improved since I first encountered it on the MDX but I still think the casserole needs more time in the oven. You can skip tracks/albums using the touchscreen, but changing playlists or more detailed browsing requires the rotary/joystick lower in the dash and the 8-inch screen at the top. In my mind, this sort of kills the dual-screen sales proposition. On the positive side, the system is very responsive and the graphics are all high-resolution and attractive. Compared to the other entries in this segment, it lacks the online connectivity features found in Volvo’s Sensus Connect and Audi’s latest MMI, but offers more screen real estate and a more modern feel than either connected system.

2016 Acura ILX 2.4l EarthDreams Direct Injection Engine-001.CR2

Drivetrain

When it launched, the ILX borrowed the complete engine line-up from the Civic, including the lackluster 1.5L engine, 5-speed auto, underpowered hybrid, and the rev-happy 2.4L from the Civic Si mated only to a 6-speed manual. The 2.4L engine was the only engine worth buying, but slow manual sales meant it was a small portion of the sales pie. For 2016, Acura dropped all three engines in favor of the direct-injection 2.4L four-cylinder engine from the TLX. Closely related to the 2.4L in the Honda Accord, the  “EarthDreams” engine is tuned for slightly higher output. At 201 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of twist, this looks similar to the Civic Si’s 2.4L until you look at the power and torque curves. Thanks to the new design, and the direct-injection system, both power and torque arrive lower at RPMs and stay strong at higher revs.

Sending power to the wheels is the same 8-speed dual-clutch transmission as the bigger Acura. DCTs are nothing new, but Acura takes things a step beyond Audi and Mercedes with an 8-speed unit and a torque converter tossed in for good measure. The biggest issue with DCTs is their unrefined low-speed / hill-start performance. The torque converter solves that by allowing the clutch to completely engage first gear at low speeds.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Gauge Cluster-002

Drive

On the surface of things, the Frankenstein transmission sounds like the unholy union of all that is wrong with an automatic and a manual. Part of this is because early DCT adopters told us that torque converters were the root of all evil and DCTs were so blindingly efficient that the relatively poor 0-10  performance is compensated by brilliant 10-60 performance. In reality, the combination creates one of the finest transmissions in the world. No kidding. The Acura DCT is at the same level as ZF’s 6-speed and 8-speed automatic. Rather than hamper performance, the torque converter improves off-the-line acceleration because it can transmit more power to the gearset than a slipping clutch can. After the initial start, the converter spends most of the time “locked up” giving the drivetrain a very linear, manual-like feel. When shifting is called for, it delivers the speed of a dual-clutch transmission (slightly faster than most of ZF’s offerings) and the smoothness of an automatic because the torque converter is momentarily “unlocked” to soak up vibration during the shift. My only complaint is that Acura didn’t jam at least a low-pressure turbo on the 2.4L engine because this transmission deserves more power. Or AWD, or both.

The difference in refinement is immediately noticeable when driven back-to-back with the A3′ wet-clutch DSG and night-and-day different from the DCT in the Mercedes CLA. (The Mercedes transmission has been improving, but is still shockingly rough around the edges.) Likely largely to the new transmission, 0-60 times are a full second faster than the 2015 2.4L model and a blazing 3-seconds faster than the 2015 base model. Some of the credit goes to the new engine since the Civic Si engine has to scream like a leaf blower to deliver maximum thrust. This engine has a more luxury car appropriate torque band. In absolute terms, the 6.2 second sprint to 60 is faster than the Verano Turbo we tested, faster than the A3 2.0T, IS 250 and a just 4/10ths slower than the CLA 250 and S60 T5 Drive-e.

2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear-001

Handling was never an issue with the ILX and that continues for 2016, despite what the folks at CR may say. The light curb weight of 3,093lbs is impressive, not just because it is 100lbs less than the lightest A3 in America and nearly 200lbs lighter than a CLA 250, but because the ILX is 6-inches longer than the German as well. With a similar weight distribution to the A3 and CLA and 225/40R18 tires (A-Spec), you’d expect the ILX to run with the sportier entries in this pack and you’d be right, with a twist. The light curb weight and wide tires provide excellent grip, but even in the A-Spec trim the ILX avoids bruised kidneys with a surprisingly refined suspension. Acura’s “dampers with two valves” allow the damping to be firm and body roll to be well controlled under most conditions while soaking up large imperfections like a sedan with a softer suspension. The system retains 95% of the Civic Si’s road holding ability while delivering a ride more composed than the turbo Verano. Similarly, the steering is a little less direct than the Si but yields better feel than the Buick. The ILX lacks the precision and astonishing grip you find in the CLA, but taken as a whole the ILX is the best balanced since it lacks the jarring ride of the CLA with the sport package but gives up little grip in the process. The CLA is a hoot and a half on your favorite winding mountain road, but the ILX is the kind of car you can also stick your mother-in-law in and she won’t think you’ve gone “all boy-racer” after turning 30. Limits are lower in the non-A-Spec trim largely due to the 215-width tires, but driving the ILX back-to-back with a Audi A3 1.8T made me question the sanity of the folks at Consumer Reports who berated the handling. Go figure.

Fuel economy was a concern of mine because of the torque converter, and indeed I averaged 2 MPG lower than the EPA combined 29 MPG, but that may have had something to do with my driving style. Treating the ILX gently it was possible to get 35 MPG out of the baby Acura on the open highway besting most of the entries in this segment and matching Volvo’s new Drive-e engines.

Despite sharing quite little with Honda’s Civic and not looking like a fancy Civic, the 2015 ILX felt like a fancy Civic. Now there’s nothing wrong with that per se (after-all the success of the Lexus ES is largely due to the fact that for many years it was little more than a fancy Camry), but that’s not the Acura that the brand’s faithful remember. This ILX however is that Acura. The drivetrain and excellent pricing scheme, more than the infotainment system or LED headlamps, are the reason. Sure the ILX has some discount plastic, but the interior on the whole feels like a TLX that’s been discounted than a Civic that’s been “tarted up.” While the old ILX could only be compared with the Verano, Mazda3 and similar vehicles with a straight face, the 2016 model is different. No, I would not call it direct competition to the 320i, IS 250, CLA 250 or S60 per se, but with pricing up to $10,000 less than those models comparably equipped, the ILX is unquestionable the value alternative. While the Acura RL may have replaced the Legend in 1995, the 2016 ILX is its true successor.

Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.2 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 @ 95 MPH

Interior sound level: 72db @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 27.1 MPH over 981 miles

 

2016 Acura ILX 2.4l EarthDreams Direct Injection Engine.CR2 2016 Acura ILX 2.4l EarthDreams Direct Injection Engine-001.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Exterior A-Spec Wheel.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front-001 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front-002 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front-003 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front-004 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front-005 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Grille.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Headlmap Turn Signals.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Headlmap Turn Signals.CR2-001 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Headlmap Turn Signals 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Headlmap Turn Signals-001 2016 Acura ILX Exterior ILX Logo 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear Side 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear Side-001 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear-001 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear-002 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Side 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Side-001 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Side-002 2016 Acura ILX Interior 2016 Acura ILX Interior AcuraLink Telematics 2016 Acura ILX Interior AcuraLink Telematics-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior AcuraLink touchscreen.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Interior AcuraLink touchscreen 2016 Acura ILX Interior CMBS 2016 Acura ILX Interior Dashboard.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Interior Dashboard.CR2-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Dashboard 2016 Acura ILX Interior Dashboard-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Gauge Cluster 2016 Acura ILX Interior Gauge Cluster-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Gauge Cluster-002 2016 Acura ILX Interior Gauge Cluster-003 2016 Acura ILX Interior Glove Box 2016 Acura ILX Interior Infotainment Navigation System 2016 Acura ILX Interior Infotainment Navigation System-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Infotainment Navigation System-002 2016 Acura ILX Interior Infotainment Navigation System-003 2016 Acura ILX Interior Rear Seats Folded 2016 Acura ILX Interior Rear Seats 2016 Acura ILX Interior Rear Seats-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Seat Controls 2016 Acura ILX Interior Seat Controls-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Seats 2016 Acura ILX Interior Shift Paddles 2016 Acura ILX Interior Steering Wheel Controlls.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Interior Steering Wheel Controlls.CR2-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Steering Wheel Controlls 2016 Acura ILX Interior Steering Wheel 2016 Acura ILX Interior Trunk 2016 Acura ILX Interior Trunk-001

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Honda Adds Over 100k To 2014 Takata Recall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/honda-adds-100k-2014-takata-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/honda-adds-100k-2014-takata-recall/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 12:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1025745 Over 100,000 Honda vehicles have been added to the ongoing recall linked to Takata airbags. USA Today reports 104,871 vehicles join the now-5.5 million Hondas and Acuras affected by the supplier’s airbags, linked to several injuries and five fatalities thus far. The affected models are: 2008 Pilot: ~89,000 recalled 2004 Civic: ~11,000 recalled 2001 Accord: […]

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2004 Honda Civic Sedan

Over 100,000 Honda vehicles have been added to the ongoing recall linked to Takata airbags.

USA Today reports 104,871 vehicles join the now-5.5 million Hondas and Acuras affected by the supplier’s airbags, linked to several injuries and five fatalities thus far. The affected models are:

  • 2008 Pilot: ~89,000 recalled
  • 2004 Civic: ~11,000 recalled
  • 2001 Accord: ~5,000 recalled

The three models are part of an expansion of the 2014 recall over the same issue, which includes the 2003 Acura CL, 2006 Honda Ridgeline, and 2003-2011 Honda Element. Driver-side airbags are the focus of the expansion, with key components being replaced free of charge.

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Paris 2014: Honda Unveils Refreshed, New Civic Models http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/paris-2014-honda-unveils-refreshed-new-civic-models/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/paris-2014-honda-unveils-refreshed-new-civic-models/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 12:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=918450 With only days to go until the 2014 Paris Auto Show, Honda has gone ahead and unveiled its refreshed Civic and Civic Tourer, as well as the new Civic Sport. The Civic models all have sportier looks from stem to stern for the 2015 model year, with LED taillights capping things off. As for inside, […]

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honda-civic-euro-12-1

With only days to go until the 2014 Paris Auto Show, Honda has gone ahead and unveiled its refreshed Civic and Civic Tourer, as well as the new Civic Sport.

The Civic models all have sportier looks from stem to stern for the 2015 model year, with LED taillights capping things off. As for inside, Honda’s all-new, Android-powered Connect infotainment system is meant to give the driver “convenience and connectivity whilst on the road.” The system uses Android 4.0.4, with its smartphone gestures very much intact.

Meanwhile, the new Civic Sport — a diet Civic Type-R, if you will — arrives on the scene with either 1.6-liter i-DTEC diesel or 1.8-liter I-VTEC petrol firepower, driving 118 to 140 horsepower to the front line. Color-coded rear spoiler and 17-inch alloys add to the hot hatch’s looks alongside other Type-R-esque features.

Finally, all of the above will have Honda’s City-Brake Active system as standard. The braking system is meant to minimize or avoid entirely low-speed accidents by applying the brakes if such an event — up to 30 km/h — is detected.

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Piston Slap: The Self-Lathing CRX? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-theres-rub/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-theres-rub/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:58:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=888017 Gareth writes: Good afternoon Sajeev, Read your latest and I’m determined to help you out. I recently had a bone-stock 87 CRX Si follow me home from an impound auction and, if I can get the damn thing through an Ontario Safety Inspection, I’ll let TTAC’s very own Derek K drive it. Therein lies the […]

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photo courtesy: flickr.com

Gareth writes:

Good afternoon Sajeev,

Read your latest and I’m determined to help you out. I recently had a bone-stock 87 CRX Si follow me home from an impound auction and, if I can get the damn thing through an Ontario Safety Inspection, I’ll let TTAC’s very own Derek K drive it.

Therein lies the rub, or brake rub really. The front discs were rubbing, a lot. Constant grinding sound as the wheels turn. I have since removed/lubricated the caliper sliders (they were a bit stuck from sitting) and measured the discs and pads using a measuring tape and straight edge, everything is above min specs.

With the pin lube the grinding noise has abated somewhat but continues, worst is passenger side.

The discs don’t feel warped (no front shudder under hard braking).

Your thoughts?

Sajeev answers:

OMG SON, why can’t someone find ME a nice CRX in Houston?  What’s so wrong with giving the Piston Slap Guy a ride in your whip, huh? I care not of the distance between us, I can still feel the pain inflicted upon me! How could this happen to me?  It must be my fault!

Perhaps less self-loathing and more self-lathing is in order.

Your situation reminds me of an old road test of mine, where the subject’s rear brakes rusted shut waiting for a test drive. Popping them free was fun, actually. That said, I don’t know what’s out-of-place on the CRX.  My gut says that driving more will wipe off the rust/squeaks like a lathe in a machine shop.  Assuming you’ve only driven it a few yards…sorry, meters for you Canadians.

So either replace the discs/pads/calipers now (and flush all the brake fluid) OR drive it slowly another 0.25 to 0.5 miles kilometers to learn more.  This depends on the population density nearby and your faith in this machine. Driving the CRX it will either clear things up or the offending part will come forward as the brakes continue to lathe themselves.

Who knows, it could be a bad hub! But I bet you have rusty/sticky calipers, so flush the brake fluid and put fresh pads/calipers/new or turned rotors on too.

Cheap insurance, totally worth it. Don’t mess with rusty brake systems, DK will appreciate it.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Condensing Honda’s Hot Air? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-3/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/piston-slap-3/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 12:24:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=884769 TTAC commentator Land Ark writes: Sajeev: I recently acquired a 2007 Honda Civic EX sedan from a neighbor who moved out of the country. I got a really good deal on it and for the most part it’s in good shape. It has 80k miles, 5 speed, and one major flaw. The air conditioning is […]

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Don’t be so dense, airhead. (photo courtesy: http://www.full-race.com)

TTAC commentator Land Ark writes:

Sajeev:

I recently acquired a 2007 Honda Civic EX sedan from a neighbor who moved out of the country. I got a really good deal on it and for the most part it’s in good shape. It has 80k miles, 5 speed, and one major flaw. The air conditioning is a little bi-polar; sometimes if blows cold and sometimes not.

It always feels cool to cold coming out of the vents but it doesn’t cool the cabin down. It seems to get warm most consistently while sitting still, like at a red light. My first thought was that there wasn’t enough R gas and I would just trundle down to my local big box retailer and pick up some Cold in a Can. But my thinking was that 2007 is too new for it to be out of gas, could it be leaking? I determined that was not too likely since the air coming out was still cold and because the temperature fluctuates and I would think a leak would cause the temperature to remain constant as the gas leaks out until there is no cold air blowing at all. I definitely could be wrong on that though, I’ve never had an A/C go bad on me before.

Symptoms:

  • AC is cool but not cold.
  • At red lights the inside of the cars gets noticeably warmer. On the highway it gets noticeably cooler most of the time and warmer on occasion.
  • At idle the temp just outside the vents ranges from 68 – 72
  • If I get the RPMs up to 2500 the temp just outside the vents will drop to 65.
  • Clutch on the AC audibly engages when turning it on
  • AC cycles on and off as I would expect. The vent temp rises about 5 degrees before kicking back on.
  • The fuses are good.
  • I swapped the relays and noticed no change in behavior. I left the compressor relay out and it stopped functioning as I would expect.
  • The clutch spins when the AC is turned on and does not spin when it turns off.
  • Both fans spin when the AC is turned on.
  • I ran the self diagnostic check and the recirc light did not blink.
  • I measured the pressure with both front doors open at ~80 degrees and got 40 low and 160 high.

I took to the Civic forums and it appears it is a wildly common problem with this and the previous generation. There doesn’t appear to be one common cause or solution. Lots of people trying things and having that fix it only to post a few days later that it stopped working again. I have checked and both electric fans are functioning, I can’t say that they spin all the time but when I checked both were working. So that is the only symptom I have ruled out. I read that sometimes something in the compressor can break off and block the lines. My fear of trying to add some R-134 would be that most cans come with leak sealer and if there is a blockage and no leak I wouldn’t want to send sealer through the system.

The most likely candidate for the problem seems to be the compressor clutch. I don’t know why I think that other than it was mentioned and seems like it would be impossible to fix in your driveway so no one has tried to replace it and reported back that it didn’t work.

I haven’t dug too deeply into the car but I bought it to get used to driving a stick and it spends lots of time sitting when it’s hot out so I am missing some good opportunities to drive. And because I plan on selling this car in a few months, I am not interested in putting a whole new A/C system in it. So what should I be checking/testing? I’ll try anything that doesn’t require releasing the pressure on the system, otherwise I’ll have to take it in.

Sajeev answers:

I’ve personally experienced poor air conditioning in a co-worker’s Civic on a wonderfully hot and humid Houston afternoon. And when A/C systems don’t work but pass your (comprehensive) diagnosis, thank goodness for forums that agree with us. In particular, commentator Rayspitcher41:

“Went and had my A/C recharged and a dye test done for $50. Turns out my compressor was starting to go and so was my condenser. It cost about $650 to repair with labor, but my extended warranty covered it all so I had no out of pocket. I have a 07 with 60K on it. Now the A/C is running Ice Cold within a mile of starting and driving and I’m in south florida with a heat index of 103 every day.”

In theory, air conditioners operate below peak efficiency when the engine is idling (below 1000-ish rpm) because the compressor isn’t effective at those speeds.  But that’s Problem #1 in this two-pronged quandary. I suspect one of the HVAC’s radiator lookin-thingies is also to blame: the condenser or evaporator.

I suspect the condenser. Look at which HVAC component takes the most abuse: the condenser is a big net that catches anything in front of the vehicle. (The evaporator safely nests inside the dash.)  Assuming that every 8th Gen Civic owner is happy with the HVAC when new, odds are the condenser loses efficiency over time.  Combine that with a compressor’s ineffectiveness at idle and you have a hot mess of a problem.

4624-062-speedometer-tachometer-480

So what do I suggest? In this order:

1. Check the pressures you find against a Honda service manual, add or remove refrigerant safely (don’t vent to the atmosphere, obviously).

2. Keep the idle above 1000 rpm when you need cold air.

3. Clean the condenser “fins” and inspect for physical blockage.  Use a condenser fin comb (yes, really) to fix bent fins.

4. Replace condenser, look for an upgrade from a revised design or newer model.

5. Replace compressor.

6. Give up and sell it.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Vellum Venom: Honda N600 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/vellum-venom-honda-n600/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/vellum-venom-honda-n600/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 12:57:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=880466 What’s the difference between car design and styling? My stint at CCS in Detroit makes me think styling is the shallow, frilly, cosmetic side of car design. Freshman designers are (were?) trained to focus on styling, but anyone integrating with marketing/accounting/engineering departments after school knows the real deal. They gotta know car design. The folly […]

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What’s the difference between car design and styling? My stint at CCS in Detroit makes me think styling is the shallow, frilly, cosmetic side of car design. Freshman designers are (were?) trained to focus on styling, but anyone integrating with marketing/accounting/engineering departments after school knows the real deal. They gotta know car design.

The folly of a sheltered life aside (don’t us delusional autobloggers know it?) the Honda N600’s heavily constrained blueprint came to life with nearly to zero style.

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Is this a golf cart with mad retro styling? Those pub style tables could seemingly support the N600’s shockingly small footprint. Except not, but compare the N600’s seats to the chairs. Then note how “open” the greenhouse is relative to the diminutive body underneath. Like many of our younger readers, I never saw an N600 in person…they actually sold a car this small in America?

photo credit: imcbd.org

My only recollection of the N600 was “CHiPs” reruns as a kid. Watching a huge guy destroy a perfectly servicable machine horrified took me aback, yet most viewers probably found it entertaining.

Be it Architecture, Graphic, Product or Car design; I wonder if designers recoil in horror when their art (so to speak) extends past its prime in such a public manner. It’s gotta hurt.

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To see it is to understand the term “bare bones.” With a healthy smattering of chrome, that is. The N600 cleanly mounts headlight pods, a toothy grille and a subtle emblem into its tiny body. The signal lights are an unfortunate afterthought. But the massive bumper must be a last minute addition for the American market. It’s an interesting dynamic, but like damn near any car from the early-to-mid 70s, looks better with small bumpers.

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This emblem, like the bodywork, has been refinished. This blend of midcentury modern in the “H” with a prominent model designation within a clean wedge of a badge does work. But the dual grille texture (metal bars with latticework behind) is an unexpected surprise, adding depth and…um…excitement?

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Shame about the protective bumper tubing: note how the hood tapers down to the grille and effortlessly surrounds the headlight’s northern hemisphere. Without that merry-go-round grab handle, the N600 would be an appealing little car.

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Even better, there’s no odd cut line separating the front fascia from the headlights. And there’s the hood’s logical end point at the headlight’s center line. This ability to hide cut lines at natural transition points is something we love in today’s Aston Martin, and rarely elsewhere.

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Too bad Aston craftsmanship is so damn expensive: exposed bolts/screws and slip-fit panels are the marks of a super cheap whip.

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This wee machine can’t fit all its mechanical bits inside the body!

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I’m enamored with the N600 from this angle: looking like the Plymouth from Stephen King’s “Christine.”

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Sadly all the subtle integration, the blend of flat planes and voluptuous curves of the front end absolutely disappear once you turn the corner. VW Beetles and MINI Coopers rest easy: this is design over styling.

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Some strange bits: the blocky, stagnant negative area making a hood valley, on something small enough to need no contouring for curbside appeal. And the teardrop bulge, which I was couldn’t verify was needed, as the hood wouldn’t open. A tricky latch, that!

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The washer nozzle is adorable.

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The hood vents cleanly integrate into the N600’s form, even if they shouldn’t need to “fight” the valley in the hood. The simple cowl treatment looks clean, staying that way those who battle snowfall or falling leaves/debris.

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Wait, where did all the round-ish and somewhat appealing style go? Uber static lines! Gone, in the name of design?

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Afterthought chrome aside (needed for chrome hungry Americans?), there’s nothing appealing from this angle. It’s in stark contrast to the front.

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Much like the grille’s emblem, the N600’s hubcap makes a strong statement in its minimal form: that Mad Men worthy Honda emblem inside a “keystone” perimeter with a subtle lip at the cap’s edge is a nice touch. The size of the hubcap relative to the wheel makes it close to a full wheel cover, and more chrome here means the N600 is less warehouse trolley-like.

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SITTIN ON KUMHO TENZ, Y U HATIN SON???

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The N600 is cleaner/faster looking without the chrome spear. And note again how large the greenhouse is relative to the body: necessary considering the N600’s cramped cockpit.

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Practical says the decal? Some Americans embraced the N600’s appeal, but Detroit ruled the roost back in the early 1970s. They had size, and style. The N600’s uncanny ability to lack any sense of style a la VW Beetle, Mini Cooper or Fiat 500 musta hurt sales.

To wit, note how the A-B-C pillars lack a cohesive flow in terms of complementary rake, size and shape.

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The fender emblem possesses similar elements to the one on the grille, but with unique textures/topography. It’s cooler than the front emblem.

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Clearly a victim of an almost-professional restoration, yet I suspect door/rocker panel gaps weren’t laser perfect back then anyway.

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The A-pillar is rather fast and sleek on its own, not to mention the full length rain gutter accentuating the speedy demeanor. The windshield rubber is another sign of a lost era…for good reason.

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Poor paint/body work, but still more appealing than a modern car’s black plastic triangle of A-pillar DLO fail.

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Not only does the B-pillar fail to emulate the A-pillar, it’s not symmetric! Square off the lower portion of the quarter window (or round the door) and curb appeal increases.

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While the integrated release button/key cylinder is trick and space efficient, the flat profile and lumpy negative area do not help with the N600’s lack of cohesive style. Is there any room for style on this machine?

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Real estate for a fuel door is in Manhattan-grade short supply on the N600’s body.

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It doesn’t get more honest than a roof-mounted antenna, perfectly mounting on a curved shape. Nice.

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While the front end’s roundness was a stark contrast to the fender’s solidarity, the N600’s middle section softens up thanks to a modicum of tumblehome (seen in the door cutaway) from the base of the door to the roof.

Curves, they are a good thing.

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Imagine how much more “wrong” the N600 would look without that tumblehome from this angle!

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While the tail light flows into the body like that clean roof antenna, the rain gutter, molding and vent louver are necessary(?) afterthoughts.

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But it’s quite fetching by itself!

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The N600’s proto-CVCC DNA is showing! The taillights and trunk cutout is a nice cross between pre-war automobile construction (exposed hinges and a bustle trunk) and the future of hatchback design once a little more rear overhang was deemed necessary.

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The back end’s flattened demeanor is very MINI Clubman, without the charm. Or the functionality, thanks to the fixed rear glass. Luckily there were no Sam’s clubs back then.

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The pudgy, cheeky contour of the trunk is both ungainly and adorable at the same time. Design over Styling!

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Nice bit of retro kit functional design for the grab handle, I was tempted to fix the logo’s problem with a Testors enamel marker.

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Quickly glance at this shot and you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a whip from L.A. Noire.

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Logical and well-designed license plate light, note the exposed screws that’ll make bulb replacement a breeze. Hopefully.

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Exposed hinges in the 1970s? No wonder that dude on “CHiPs” ripped it apart so easily!

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There’s a material heft and functional beauty presented in the lock cylinder’s one piece, polished design. Pictures fail to show the craftsmanship.

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Now let’s bring it home: no overhang is a big, BIG problem.

How can you “style” a design this restrictive? Imagine your job if your boss halved your budget. Or didn’t give you one in the first place! Therein lies the “beauty” of the N600, so to speak.

The Honda Civic that followed was a leap forward, the public’s reaction to Honda’s design and engineering prowess was logical. Because when you give enough room (literally and figuratively) to a design department, they will can make a nicely styled vehicle.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

 

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Hammer Time: The $700 Repo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/hammer-time-the-700-repo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/hammer-time-the-700-repo/#comments Sat, 28 Jun 2014 02:07:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=854689 My brother-in-law’s 1997 Honda Civic took a vacation recently, and it only cost me about $700. The customer who escorted the Civic to the humidity ridden swamps of Crystal Lakes, Florida, let’s call him, Mud, had already been financing a 2005 Ford Freestar from my dealership. Some weeks he would pay on time. Other times, […]

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My brother-in-law’s 1997 Honda Civic took a vacation recently, and it only cost me about $700.

The customer who escorted the Civic to the humidity ridden swamps of Crystal Lakes, Florida, let’s call him, Mud, had already been financing a 2005 Ford Freestar from my dealership.

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Some weeks he would pay on time. Other times, he would be late. The phone always worked though, and since the Freestar had been one of my unsellable cars of the past year, I was just happy to have the vehicle out there to what I hoped would be a good owner.

If only it were so.

One day, I got a call from Mud while his chain smoking soon-to-be pregnant ex-girlfriend was screaming at him in the background.

“Hello?”

“Steve, I’m returning the Freestar today. Me and Wildflower are splitting  and…. shut up! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!!!”

“Aaahhh… that’s fine. Just call me back in a few.”

The few turned out to be a day.

“Hello?”

“Hey Steve. That  Civic you have on the lot. Can I exchange that with the Freestar and just make the same payment?”

Normally I say no to these things because the math doesn’t work out and, even if it does, exchange customers often get into the habit of delaying maintenance on their vehicles. Right around oil change time, these customers will come back to the lot and ask for an upgrade. What I do instead is tell them of a place a mile down the road where they can get the oil changed for $20. The cheap price has a surprisingly nice halo effect on the affordability of the vehicle they drive, and then I never hear from them until I start having payment issues.

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Mud wasn’t bad when it came to payments. But his ex-girlfriend’s smoking meant that the Freestar would need to have the interior detailed, and God knows what else.

“Bring the Freestar down and let me see what we can do.”

When I saw the platinum colored Freestar, I was both surprised and not surprised. The interior was still in decent shape. It had a faint smell of smoke, but not too bad. What did surprise me was a nice big dent on the driver’s door. That would cost some money to pop out along with the interior detail.

178,000 miles. When he had bought it from me it had all of 170,000. Or so I thought. This guy was driving close to 1,000 miles a week, and whatever I gave him, if I gave him anything, it needed to be able to handle that constant driving.

Thankfully, my brother-in-law’s Civic had more or less been overhauled before I got it. New belts, water pump, tensioner, plugs, wires, on and on. I did need to put four new tires on it, which turned out to cost only $233 thanks to my usual discount and a $100 gift card promo that the chain tire store was offering at the time.

I tried retailing the Civic for $3500, then $3300, and then $3000.

Nobody wanted it, and those that did just didn’t have the money. I had two kids in college and one older fellow tell me that they were going to get it in the next week, two weeks, when they got a settlement check, etc.

I didn’t care that much either way. Even though it was an unsellable car, I enjoyed driving thanks to my brother-in-law’s maintenance regimen. I knew it would eventually sell.

Then things started to get a bit, complicated. My sister-in-law mentioned to my wife, that my BIL hadn’t sold the vehicle for a lot of money, and that she thought it would get more than the $2000 I had paid for it.

When I hear things like this, I pretty much assume that this recent decision may not have been as smooth as I had initially thought.

I also couldn’t ask for nicer in-laws over the years. They have always been wonderful to me and my wife,  and I didn’t want anything that would cause hard feelings.  When their Camry’s engine blew up a couple years ago, I bought the vehicle for all of $500 with a very nice body and a perfect interior.   I replaced the engine with a JDM 2.0 four cylinder, financed it, had it voluntarily repoed in Denver (owner went out there and ran out of money). I then paid $750 for it to be delivered back to Atlanta, and sold it for $3000 cash which turned out to be my net profit.

I was thinking about selling the Freestar for cash, financing the Civic, and when I got my money back out of the Civic (about $2400), I would give my in-laws the profits. They had two young kids and I figured out this money, nine months from now, would be a perfect way to balance out their monthly daycare costs that I remember paying for back in my 30’s.

It was not meant to be. At least not when it came to Dirt, I mean, Mud. He was a pathological liar along with, what I would later found out, a serial impregnator. I should have taken the keys to the Freestar, shot him, and Jersey dumped his ass in Deliverance country.

Instead I took $305. $120 for what he owed on the Freestar, $120 as a payment cushion on the Civic, and $65 for the actual cost of the detail. I forgave the dent on the Freestar because, psychologically, if you do a nice favor for someone, they tend to be far less screwy with you in the future. However this isn’t always the case,  which is why I also asked him to give me the afternoon so that I can straighten it all out with my bank.

Well, the Bank of Steve has certain strict requirements. One of them is when you have a high-risk customer, you always put a GPS on that vehicle. Since I had initially planned on selling the Civic for cash, I had to take it to the mechanic shop so that we can put one in it. The cost of the unit is $129, and once we had three successful hits on the GPS, Mud got the keys.

Mud then took the car, went to Florida, and decided to play the BS game.

Instead of telling me the truth, that he had no job, he decided to tell me over the weeks, “I’ll get the money in on Tuesday.” Or, “I’ll be riding up to Georgia this weekend and I’ll get the money in and set up an automatic payment with Wells Fargo.” Every week was a new lie, a new excuse, and a new headache.

My policy with payments is relatively straight forward.

If you can’t pay me, then just tell me the truth.

If you can’t tell the truth, at least return my call.

If you can’t bother to return my calls over the course of three days, I’m going to get back my property.

And it is my property. Just because someone pays for the use of it, doesn’t mean they own it.

I get especially steamed when someone tells me, “It’s my car.” or “I already paid too much for it.” Hello? You don’t own my property. I am also not here to lecture you . My business is to provide for my wife and family and if you have some genuine catastrophic event that’s taken place, I’ll put the payments on a temporary hiatus. If you’re nice, I may even try to figure out a way to work off the balance with a side job related to your former work, so that you can become a long-term owner (and keeper) instead of a perpetual debtor.

Most of the time, I don’t want the car back. In the past I’ve had cleaning women do interior details. Small farmers pay me in chicken, eggs and tomatoes. I have even accepted lawnmower repairs, small generators, automotive repair work, assistance with transporting vehicles to and from the auctions, and  minor landscaping projects.

However in this case, I wanted the car back, big time. Last night the repo company scooped up the Civic that was suntanning in Lakeland, Florida. The old cost was $250 for the repo. $65 to transfer it to a nearby auction. $20 to mail the auction the keys so that it can be loaded onto a transport truck next Tuesday, and $275 to have it hauled back to my dealership.

I hope to see it on Thursday. From there it will likely need a $65 interior detail, and $42 to relist it on Autotrader and Craigslist.

So now I have another stickshift back on the lot. The Freestar sold for $3000 cash to a Latino family thanks to my posting the Craigslist ad in Spanish. By my calculations, this guy managed to do about 10,000 miles of driving for which I netted about $700. I got nailed by Mud, but that doesn’t mean I can’t wash myself of him and move forward to the next chapter in life.

 

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Review: 2014 Honda Civic Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/review-2014-honda-civic-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/review-2014-honda-civic-coupe/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:46:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=836401 Once upon a time, the Honda Civic was like McDonalds: its wide-ranging menu had something to offer for everyone, in an easily-digestible and economical format. There was even a time when the Japanese compact was offered as a sedan, coupe, and a hatchback (and for a brief spell, it even offered some British go-fast goodness!). The […]

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Once upon a time, the Honda Civic was like McDonalds: its wide-ranging menu had something to offer for everyone, in an easily-digestible and economical format. There was even a time when the Japanese compact was offered as a sedan, coupe, and a hatchback (and for a brief spell, it even offered some British go-fast goodness!).

The Civic used to be a fantastic thing.

Unfortunately, the ninth-generation Civic was a bad hamburger. When Honda served it up in 2012, they were treated to numerous complaints about the cheap interior, inexcusable road noise, and incompetent suspension. The outcry was so loud that Honda did something they’d never done before.

“Let us reheat that for you,” they said.

I’ll make one thing clear from the get-go: I didn’t get a chance to drive the Honda Civic Coupe in ’12 or ’13. Not that I’m overly sad about it. From the multitude of reviews available, it looks like I didn’t miss much.

However, I did own one of the last sporty-ish, mildly-hot Civics sold on our shores.

My 2000 Honda Civic Coupe, in Canadian Si trim (EX to you Yanks), was certainly no sports car. Yet, with a real trunk, upon which rested a fairly sharp spoiler, and a sleek-yet-subdued body, my silver Civic at least looked the part without being pretentious or trying too hard. Its SOHC VTEC-equipped 1.6-litre D-series four-cylinder gave a somewhat exciting growl above 6,000 revs. The shifter, too, felt very mechanical, providing a certain notchiness when throwing the lever into each gate.

Most of all, I felt connected with my old coupe. It got me back and forth to work each day before doing double-duty as an evening pizza delivery car. We spent a lot of time together and shared many great memories.

Unfortunately for me, and maybe Honda as well, I crawled into the new ninth-generation coupe with some possibly misplaced nostalgia.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (15 of 29)

My tester was a mid-level EX trimmed coupe with only a single option – the continuously variable transmission, which is new for this year and replaces Honda’s venerable 5-speed automatic transmission. The gearless transmission, along with a big, green ECON button to the left of the steering wheel, dashed all hopes of connecting with the latest Civic.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (11 of 29)

Powered by a 1.8-litre SOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder engine, the Civic is still motivated by aspirations of driving something faster on your way to the dragstrip. The engine has been slightly improved and now produces 143 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque (up from 140 hp and 128 lb-ft the year before), but you can still do better in the compact coupe segment. The Hyundai Elantra Coupe and Kia Forte Koup, equipped with identical 2.0-litre mills, get 173 hp and 154 lb-ft. If you desire more power, you may want to look across the street.

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The new fangled continuously variable transmission may keep engine revs at the peak of the power band, but it’s far from exciting, especially with ECON mode engaged. Fuel economy was the main reason for introducing the CVT, though a real-world average of 29 MPG is far from the official mixed EPA rating of 33 MPG. The difference means you’d pay an extra $184 per year at today’s US average regular gas price of $3.67 per gallon if you drive 12,000 miles per year.

Fuel economy aside, the CVT’s paddle shifters provide some entertainment for the Gran Turismo set, and even some fairly quick ‘shifts’, but those of us familiar with clutch pedals or traditional automatic paddles will be disappointed.

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In fact, the only connection made between myself and the Civic Coupe was with the headliner and my skull each time I sat in the car. The EX model tester came equipped with a power sunroof that takes away a serious amount of headroom for a 6’1″ human being. Even with the driver’s seat height adjustment all the way to the floor, my head made frequent contact with the Civic’s ceiling. My only way out of this situation was to go into “gangsta lean” mode, which, now that I think about it, explains the driving position of so many Civic Coupe drivers.

Elsewhere inside, the two-door did provide acceptable ergonomics. Materials were, again, acceptable, but the design did nothing for me in comparison to the knockout interiors in the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla. Infotainment wise, Honda is still well behind the curve, and that applies to more than just the Civic. Even the Acura MDX, lauded in some circles, has a horribly designed headunit.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (23 of 29)

It wasn’t all bad, however, as the Civc did provide a good balance between ride and handling. Not all cars need to be sprung like race cars (I’m looking at you Hyundai and Kia) and, gladly, none of my head-on-ceiling contact in the Civic was suspension induced. Steering was slightly vague, though not bad by any margin.

Outside, the Civic Coupe still isn’t going to win any awards for earth-shattering design. While the emergency refresh available this year is certainly an improvement over the launch model, it’s still too close to the eighth-generation model to really be considered all-new. The painted pocket 16-inch wheels are a try-hard move to catch up to the Koreans, while the the overall shape screams “I’m mildly edgy!”

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Overall, it seems like Honda is now fully content with resting on their laurels, bringing in repeat customers who’ll never cross shop. Considering this version of the Civic is built solely for North America, maybe Honda just doesn’t want to drop a ton of money into a vehicle with limited marketability. Hell, the Civic isn’t even sold in Japan anymore; Europe gets their own version that’s actually appealing with a nice selection of engines.

However, back on our shores, the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe is a bad hamburger, slightly warmed over.

Mark Stevenson is a freelance automotive journalist based in Nova Scotia, Canada with a certain penchant for dead brands, on both two and four wheels. He’s a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), former member of Texas Automotive Writers Association (NAMBLA), and the human pet of two dogs – Nismo and Maloo

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagovan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1988-honda-civic-4wd-wagovan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1988-honda-civic-4wd-wagovan/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 13:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=810810 Before Subaru finally nailed down the sales-clinching formula for a car that had four-wheel-drive but didn’t seem too truck-like, all the major Japanese car manufacturers took at shot at building little sedans and wagons with power going to all the wheels. Since I live in Colorado, I get to see examples of each of those […]

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17 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBefore Subaru finally nailed down the sales-clinching formula for a car that had four-wheel-drive but didn’t seem too truck-like, all the major Japanese car manufacturers took at shot at building little sedans and wagons with power going to all the wheels. Since I live in Colorado, I get to see examples of each of those 1980s efforts, most of which didn’t result in much showroom action but are still pretty interesting today. In this series, we’ve seen a Camry All-Trac, quite a few Corolla All-Tracs, lots of Tercel 4WD wagons, countless elderly Subarus, and so on. The Honda Shuttle aka Civic Wagovan shows up in Denver wrecking yards as well, and I don’t bother to photograph most of them. This late Wagovan with the futuristic “Real-Time” four-wheel-drive system, however, is a rare find even in Colorado.
26 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinReal-Time 4WD didn’t require the driver to throw a lever or push a button when snow or mud threatened, and thus you didn’t have to worry about leaving the car in four-wheel-drive on dry asphalt and tearing up the tires (or worse). Of course, there was a fuel-economy penalty for using a center differential and driving all four wheels all the time, but Subaru proved that this doesn’t hurt sales.
22 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere are emblems boasting of this technology all over the car.
03 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe ’88 4WD Wagovan also got a super-low (I assume that’s what the “SL” stands for) first-gear, which was probably great for climbing steep driveways and busting CV joints.
12 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinUnder the hood, the pretty-potent-for-1988 106-horse D16A6.
02 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNearly 180,000 miles. No rust on the body, interior not too bad, so my guess is that a blown head gasket doomed this car.

I couldn’t find any Japanese-market ads with the screeching tires and macho voiceovers that the Civic Shuttle deserved.


At least they still appreciate the 4WD Wagovan in Sweden.

01 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1988 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Piston Slap: Crystal Ballin’ With Yo Tranny! (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-crystal-ballin-with-yo-tranny-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-crystal-ballin-with-yo-tranny-part-ii/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 12:24:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=789569 Aaron writes: Hey Sajeev, Huge fan of TTAC and the piston slap articles. My problem is that I noticed my car(2007 honda civic)would shudder, under light throttle and low rpms especially when going up a slight slope. This usually happens at 30km/hr or 40km/hr. I took it to the honda dealer(4 months ago) and he […]

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Anything is Possible... (photo courtesy: http://theinspirationroom.com)

Aaron writes:

Hey Sajeev,

Huge fan of TTAC and the piston slap articles. My problem is that I noticed my car(2007 honda civic)would shudder, under light throttle and low rpms especially when going up a slight slope. This usually happens at 30km/hr or 40km/hr. I took it to the honda dealer(4 months ago) and he said the torque converter(tc) needs to be replaced(300 for tc plus 900 for labour and stuff).

My university got a bit busy and I took some time to think about it. The problem might be slightly worse now so I recently went back to the dealer to get more details about the cost and now they are saying the price of the tc has increased to 800 plus another 800 for labour. The guy suggested maybe just changing the transmission fluid(because it is starting to get dark) and driving the car until it fails and getting a new transmission for $3000 because the transmission will probably go out soon anyway.

I’m not sure what to do now. I’m considering going to a transmission shop and see if they can change the tc, but I’m worried about going to a random mechanic. I know a small time mechanic whom I go to for small stuff but I’m not sure if his shop is capable of swapping the tc(is it that complicated?). I have also looked online and found other people saying that if the torque converter is failing, the transmission is probably going to go soon. Some other people have said that if the torque converter fails, it could take out the rest of the transmission which might have been working fine otherwise. I then found another group of people saying that I should just drive the car without changing the transmission fluid because even changing the fluid could cause the transmission to fail sooner.

I just want to know which of these are actually true and what should my next course of action be. If the torque converter can be changed for a reasonable price and my transmission keeps working, I would like to do that. Or maybe I should see if I can get the entire transmission rebuilt or replaced.

Thank you,
Aaron

P.S: Not sure if this matters, but the car once overheated severely (about 3 years ago) and about half the engine had to be replaced under warranty. The engine has been running smoothly since then and the only other problem is that recently(2 months ago) my engine starter and battery had to be replaced. The battery connectors also look pretty bad so I’m going to replace that soon. Hmmm maybe I should just sell my car.

Sajeev answers:

Oh great, another mystery box transaxle/crystal ballin’ yo tranny problem: one day the B&B will string me up for these blind guesses.

That said, on a more serious note, how many miles are on the Civic?

Aaron responds:

Hey Sajeev,

Thanks for the quick reply. It has 156,000 km(96,000 miles). Admittedly, the car has been driven pretty hard. I just did a quick stall speed test(mashing the brake and hitting the throttle) and the revs went up to 2,500rpm in both drive and reverse. That seems pretty normal. I drove around trying to recreate the problem(Light throttle and flat roads or slight inclines).

It happens at:

  • 15 or 20km/h (9 or 12mph)
  • 30ish km/h (18mph)
  • 40ish km/h (25mph)
  • And at 55ish km/h (34.18mph), the shuddering is only minor at this speed

There is also a sound when this happens, it sounds like metal spinning against metal in a liquid. However, this sound can only be heard if the shuddering is not too violent. If it is violent, it just sounds like the car kind of wants to stall. I checked the transmission fluid and it looks pretty brown and has a slight burning smell. If the car is accelerating faster( atleast above 2000rpm), it feels like there is no problem. Also no problem when slowing down.
Thank you,
Aaron

Sajeev concludes:

Great assessment!  At this age (under 100k miles) odds are new and correct fluid will solve it: flush the old fluid out of the converter and also drop the pan to change the filter. Which might be asking a lot for many shops, but I’d want all the old ATF out of the system. So will this cure the problem?  Will thoroughly removing varnished ATF cause even more problems than a shudder?

Maybe on both counts.  Or maybe one and not the other.  See how much fun this is for me?

My best guess: do as the dealer said, change the fluid. If it fails, get a rebuilt transaxle from a Honda savvy shop.  Because opening up a transaxle for anything and not doing a rebuild is likely a waste of time, labor and money.

It’s usually best to prolong that moment with anything…including a fluid change. Even if the fluid change actually shortens the tranny’s lifespan. So much fun!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Europe’s Role In Honda’s R&D Gains Greater Influence http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/europes-role-in-hondas-rd-gains-greater-influence/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/europes-role-in-hondas-rd-gains-greater-influence/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 17:15:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=734169 With the debut of the European developed and British-built Honda Civic Tourer in the middle of this month, a new era of greater influence from the contintent over the automaker’s R&D unit has begun. Adrian Killham, the tourer’s project leader at Honda’s R&D facility in Swindon — the first non-Japanese engineer to hold the title […]

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honda-civic-tourer-1

With the debut of the European developed and British-built Honda Civic Tourer in the middle of this month, a new era of greater influence from the contintent over the automaker’s R&D unit has begun.

Adrian Killham, the tourer’s project leader at Honda’s R&D facility in Swindon — the first non-Japanese engineer to hold the title — believes developing cars for Europe in Europe is crucial for success in the continent, from driving dynamics to luggage space, and even the type of carpeting now used throughout the automaker’s global lineup.

The European influence will also come into play when the new Civic is introduced in 2017. In the meantime, Honda aims to raise the profile of the Civic Tourer by entering it into the 2014 British Touring Car Championship season, the first estate to trade paint with the likes of BMW and Kia since Volvo’s turbocharged 850 R in the 1990s.

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Little Car Lost: When Thieves Come Calling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/little-car-lost-when-thieves-come-calling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/little-car-lost-when-thieves-come-calling/#comments Tue, 07 Jan 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=693545 The joke was that the little Honda was so old and undesirable that it would take a ten dollar bill on the dash and the key in the ignition to attract a thief. With 300K miles on the clock, the little car was old and tired, but my sister Lee and her husband Dave aren’t […]

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Honda

The joke was that the little Honda was so old and undesirable that it would take a ten dollar bill on the dash and the key in the ignition to attract a thief. With 300K miles on the clock, the little car was old and tired, but my sister Lee and her husband Dave aren’t the kind of people who replace their cars very often. The Chevy Chevette they bought new in 1981 lasted ten long years under their care so the little Civic, purchased used in 1991 from one of my father’s workmates, was on target to last forever. Other cars came and went in the driveways of the other houses up and down the street, but in their driveway the Civic endured, a fixture of solidity and reliability in an ever changing world. And then one day, it was gone.

The little car had aged in the 21 years since it had left the assembly line. On the outside, its body was still in good shape but its rubber pieces had gone grey in places and its bright red paint had had faded from decades under the summer sun. Inside, daily use had made the car’s once plush velour seats worn and threadbare and the touch of human hands had removed the texture from the plastic shift knob, leaving it cue-ball smooth. Those same hands had worked on the steering wheel as well, leaving patches of shiny black plastic where they rested the most while other body parts, a resting elbow here a rubbing knee there, had worn other interior pieces. Below the line of sight, the edges of the pedals were worn smooth from use while the carpets, protected by at least three generations of thick rubber mats, still looked surprisingly good. It was not a luxurious place to sit, perhaps it never had been really, but time and familiarity had made it comfortable.

Photo courtesy of: imganuncios.mitula.net

Photo courtesy of: imganuncios.mitula.net

Mechanically, like almost all Hondas, the little Civic was solid. Thanks to regular oil changes and the kind of thorough maintenance routine that only an aerospace engineer like my brother-in-law could abide by, under the hood the car was as good as ever. Sure, things wore out once in a while, but they were supposed to, and when they did they were replaced. The efforts paid off and, despite the decades that had elapsed, the car remained a reliable daily commuter; a testament to its engineers and its owners.

The theft of the little Civic hit my sister’s family hard. Like anyone who is a victim of theft, they took the loss of the car personally. They may have joked that the old car was undesirable and toyed with the notion that not even a thief would want it, but that didn’t mean the vehicle was unloved. Losing it was like losing a member of the family and anger welled up inside. Within minutes of noting the car’s loss they were on the phone to the police.

Salt Lake City isn’t a hot bed of criminal activity. It’s a safe, clean city filled with upstanding, honest people who take pride in their community. Even so, the theft of the Honda wasn’t front page news and, although the police took the report and promised to get right on the case, the return of the car in useable condition wasn’t likely. Most “vintage” cars, my sister and her husband were told, end up in chop shops and even a simple joyride could end in a crash or vandalism. Chances were, the police informed them, if the car wasn’t already in pieces, it soon would be – one way or another. They steeled themselves for the worst.

Photo Courtesy of Wikpedia.org.   Photo Credit: Brett Neilson

Photo Courtesy of Wikpedia.org.
Photo Credit: Brett Neilson

Sometimes, however, there are happy endings and just two days after the police were made aware of the car’s theft, the little Honda turned up abandoned downtown, the flotsam and jetsam of a night’s worth of petty criminal activity, and a bag of half-eaten gummy worms, left scattered around the interior. There was no real damage, no bashed in body panels and no sliced up seats. In fact, the worst thing the thief, or thieves, had done was to shake up a can of Red Bull and spray it all over the headliner. Overall, the damage was light and with a little elbow grease the cars was soon restored to its former glory.

Today, the little Honda is back where it belongs and everything is, once again, as it should be. Other cars come and go from the driveways of the other houses up and down the street, but in my sister’s driveway the Civic endures, a fixture of solidity and reliability in an ever changing world. There are no more jokes about leaving the keys in the car and a ten dollar bill on the dash. The car is old but it’s not undesirable. It’s family.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Los Angeles 2013: 2014 Honda Civic Gains CVT, Higher MPG http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-2014-honda-civic-gains-cvt-higher-mpg/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/los-angeles-2013-2014-honda-civic-gains-cvt-higher-mpg/#comments Thu, 21 Nov 2013 14:44:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=659338 The current Honda Civic has experienced a refresh cycle last seen in the 1950s from the Big Three, and the 2014 model year is no exception with the introduction of the CVT in response to Toyota’s action with the new Corolla. The result? Future Civic HF owners will see an average of 35 mpg in […]

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2014 Honda Civic Coupe 04
The current Honda Civic has experienced a refresh cycle last seen in the 1950s from the Big Three, and the 2014 model year is no exception with the introduction of the CVT in response to Toyota’s action with the new Corolla.

The result? Future Civic HF owners will see an average of 35 mpg in the city and 42 along the highway, while sedans shall see 30/39 mpg and coupes 29/38; the combined cycle for the latter two variants is 33 mpg.

Want power? The Si has 205 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque to get you to where you need to be. Other goodies to be found in the range include a seven-inch touchscreen that will function through swipes, pinches and the like in the same manner as their smartphone, push-button starting, smart entry systems, and finally, Honda’s own LaneWatch safety system transplanted from the Accord.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe 06 2014 Honda Civic Coupe 05 2014 Honda Civic Coupe 04 2014 Honda Civic Coupe 03 2014 Honda Civic Coupe 02 2014 Honda Civic Coupe 01

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Review: 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2014-acura-ilx-2-4-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2014-acura-ilx-2-4-with-video/#comments Sat, 26 Oct 2013 13:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=629290 The Acura ILX has been derided as being nothing more than a gussied-up Honda Civic, an analogy that I too applied to the compact Acura when it first arrived. But then our own Brendan McAleer caused me to question my dismissal of the ILX. How many shoppers out there are willing to option-up a base model […]

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2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Acura ILX has been derided as being nothing more than a gussied-up Honda Civic, an analogy that I too applied to the compact Acura when it first arrived. But then our own Brendan McAleer caused me to question my dismissal of the ILX. How many shoppers out there are willing to option-up a base model by 50% and don’t think twice about the fact their “limited” model looks just like the base model? All of a sudden the ILX, especially the 2.4L model we tested made sense to me. What was the revelation? Click through the jump to find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

 Exterior

I know that we have a segment of readers that believe all modern cars look-alike, but I’m going to say it any way. The best thing about the ILX is that it doesn’t look like a Civic. Don’t believe me? Park a Civic and an ILX next to one another and you might even think the two cars are totally unrelated. How is this possible?  First off, no sheetmetal or glass are shared between the two and Acura decided to tweak just about every hard point other than the wheelbase for Acura duty. If you look at the picture below (which highlights how poor my Photoshop skills are) I have overlayed the ILX on the Civic for reference.

In addition to a blunter nose, lower roof and a more aggressive character line, Acura modified the structure of the car by moving the pillars around. The A pillar moves 8 inches rearward vs the Civic giving the ILX a hood that is several inches longer and a windshield that is more deeply curved. The C pillar has also been tweaked giving the ILX a more graceful silhouette and a smaller trunk lid. While they were at it they swapped in an aluminum hood for some moderate weight savings.

2013 Honda Civic EX-L SedanThe result of Acura’s nip/tuck is an attractive, albeit sedate, premium look. I think that Buick’s Verano is more exciting and the not-yet-on-sale 2015 Audi A3 looks more luxurious, but the ILX plays right to the conservative heart of the target Acura shopper. In keeping with the premium image, 17-inch wheels are standard on all ILX models except the hybrid where things drop to eco-minded 16-inch rims. The most demure Acura “beak” integrated into the front grille and hidden exhaust tips complete the design of the smallest Acura.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes
Interior

The ILX’s interior represents more of an upgrade over the Civic than I had expected. Soft injection molded plastics span the dashboard and very few parts are shared with the Honda . By my estimation. the interior parts sharing is limited to a traction control button, air vent open/close dials and the door handles. Anyone worried that the Civic’s funky two-tier dash is along for the ride will be pleased, the interior style of the ILX is very mainstream from the double-bump dashboard to the four-dial gauge cluster.

In typical Acura fashion the ILX comes well equipped in base form and options are bundled into packages helping to keep dealer inventory manageable. All ILX models get zone climate control, keyless ignition, push button start and a steering wheel wrapped in soft leather. Base hybrid models get manual cloth seats but all other ILX models get heated leather thrones coated in perforated leather with a driver’s side only 8-way power mechanism.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-012Front seat comfort is substantially similar to the Honda Civic thanks to shared seat frames and adjustment mechanisms. The ILX’s front seats get more generous seat back bolstering in keeping with its more premium and sporting image while the seat bottoms remain as flat as Kansas. Thanks to the platform changes that make the ILX more attractive on the outside, interior room is compromised slightly with headroom and legroom figures falling when you compare it to the Civic.  Compared to the Buick Verano the numbers are right in line.

The ILX’s rear seats are slightly less comfortable than the Verano, but a step above the mainstream compact segment with more thigh support for adults. Opting for the hybrid ILX forces the removal of the folding rear seat backs (the batteries have to go somewhere), while the ILX 2.0 and 2.4 sport the same 100% folding mechanism as the Civic. This means it’s not possible to carry long cargo and three or four passengers like you can in the Verano. This deficiency is made more of a problem by the ILX’s small 12.3 cubic foot trunk, notably smaller than the Verano, Lexus CT, or even the Mazda3.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

Nestled in the “double bump” instrument cluster is a standard 5-inch color LCD that does double-duty as a trip computer and infotainment display. This base system runs the same software as the Honda Civic but places the screen in a more “normal” location and uses a button bank that should be familiar to current Acura owners. The base system features standard iDevice/USB integration, Bluetooth speakerphone/streaming and Pandora smartphone app integration. The 200-watt amplifier and 7 speaker sound system are well-balanced but volume isn’t this system’s forte.

ILX 2.0 and Hybrid models with the “technology package” link the climate control system to a sun sensor and the GPS system for improved comfort and bumps the sound system up to a 10-speaker surround sound system with a 410-watt amp. Also along for the ride is the same 8-inch navigation system found in the Acura TSX and TL. The system doesn’t sport the improved high res interface in the MDX and RLX but is among the easier to use on the market as long as you don’t try to use Acura’s voice commands for browsing your iPod. Seriously, just don’t even try. Sadly 2014 hasn’t brought any major changes to the options lineup meaning that the more powerful engine and the more powerful sound system are mutually exclusive. The choice to saddle the 2.4L model we tested with the same 5-inch display and software as the Civic is the biggest flaw with the ILX so far.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Under the ILX’s long hood you’ll find an “interesting” assortment of engines. Why interesting? Let’s start at the beginning. First off, Acura uses three different engines in the various ILX models. Rumors that Acura planned to kill off the base 2.0L four-cylinder appear to be unfounded as the 2014 ILX can still be had with the 150 horsepower mill. This is the same engine found in European market Accords and other world Honda models but appears to be exclusive to the ILX in America.  Honda’s old 5-speed automatic was tapped to send the 140 lb-ft to the ground. The ILX Hybrid gets the Civic’s 111 horsepower, 127 lb-ft hybrid system without modification. While the 1.5L engine seemed adequate in the Civic, I found the small engine and traditional belt/pulley CVT vexing in a near-luxury sedan.

On to what we’re here to talk about: the 2.4L Civic Si engine. Yes, Acura decided ILX shoppers should get a little sport-love and snatched the Si’s 201 horsepower engine for premium duty. In typical Honda fashion, the 2.4L engine screams like a banshee on its way to its 7,000 RPM redline and matching 7,000 RPM power peak. 170 lb-ft come into play at 4,400 RPM and the engine is mated exclusively to a 6-speed manual. Yes, you heard that right, Acura is trying to get a larger share of the premium compact market with a high-revving engine four-cylinder and a slick shifting stick. Although the manual-only policy is an obvious impediment to sales success, if you have outgrown your Civic Si, or if you think the Honda looks a little too “boy racer”, you can get a classier, leather coated version at the Acura dealer.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Once out on the road the ILX’s powertrain deficiencies become obvious. The base 2.0L engine may be smoother and more refined than the 1.8 in the Civic, but compared to Buick’s modern 2.4L direct injection mill, it is rough around the edges and anemic. How about the 111 horsepower ILX hybrid? It is quite possibly the only car that can make Lexus’s underpowered CT 200h seem quick. But we’re not here to talk about those ILX models, this is TTAC and we’re interested in MOAR POWARR.

The 2.4L four-cylinder is an entirely different animal. With 33% more power than the base model our 0-60 run clocked in at a respectable 7.29 seconds. That slots the ILX between the regular Verano and the Verano Turbo that accomplished the same task in 6.5 (Verano Turbo with the 6-speed manual). The time was closer than I thought it would be considering the 90 lb-ft of torque that separate the two but the driving experience couldn’t be more different. The Verano’s turbo engine provides an extremely broad torque curve which negates the need for frequent downshifting on winging mountain roads while the ILX’s engine needs to scream like a leaf blower to deliver the maximum thrust. While I found the Verano’s power delivery more liveable, the ILX at 7,000 RPM made me giggle. (Yes, I said that out loud.) As you would expect from the “luxury Civic Si,” the ILX’s shifter action is precise, clutch engagement is nearly perfect and the shifts are short. In contrast, the Verano’s clutch is rubbery, vague and the shift throw is lengthy.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-006

Instead of lifting the Civic Si’s suspension as is, Acura decided to tweak the design with dual-valve damper technology lifted from the RLX and MDX. The two valves allow the damping to be firm and body roll to be well controlled under most conditions while soaking up large road imperfections like a sedan with a softer suspension. The system retains most of the Civic Si’s road holding ability while delivering a ride that more composed than the Verano. Similarly the lightly revised steering setup is a little less direct than the Si but yields better feel than the baby Buick. Despite incorporating laminated glass and an active noise cancellation system, the ILX manages to be several decibels louder than the eerily quiet cabin of the Verano.

At $29,200, our ILX was about $6,500 more than a Civic Si. When you factor in the additional equipment you find in the ILX and the expanded warranty coverage, the difference between the Honda and the Acura drops to about $2,000. When you look at the ILX in this light, the sales proposition makes perfect sense. While the Civic Si is a great compact car, it looks just like a regular Civic. The ILX on the other hand nets you a better brand name, longer warranty, an improved ride and car that won’t make your boss question your maturity. Like the Integra of yesteryear, this is the sort of “gateway” product Acura needs.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-009

There are just a few problems however. The ILX’s option list and spec sheet is a mess. Despite getting better fuel economy than the Verano in every trim, Acura needs to drop their 6-speed tranny into their base model for spec-sheet-shoppers to give it a second look. Likewise the 2.4L engine needs a 6-speed auto and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but as a competitor to Buick’s new-found mojo, Acura has some catching up to do. The ILX’s driving dynamics may be superior, but taken as a package the only reason to avoid buying the Verano is if you still associate Buicks with the blue-haired set.

 

Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.55 Seconds

0-60: 7.29 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.6 Seconds @ 89.9 MPG

Interior sound level: 74db @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 26 MPG over 345 miles

 

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-010 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-009 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-011 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-010 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine-001 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-009 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-008 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-005 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-008 . 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-004 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-015 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-014 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-003 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-006 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-005 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-002 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-012 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-002 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-001 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-011

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First Drive Review: 2014 Mazda3 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-mazda3-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-mazda3-with-video/#comments Sat, 19 Oct 2013 16:17:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=582817 The mainstream compact car segment is the perfect example of the infamous “driving appliance.” The Corolla and Civic sell in enormous volume because they are the middle-of-the-road “white bread” option, not in-spite of the vanilla. Unlike many in the automotive press, I don’t find anything wrong with that. In fact, I love me some Wonder […]

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2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The mainstream compact car segment is the perfect example of the infamous “driving appliance.” The Corolla and Civic sell in enormous volume because they are the middle-of-the-road “white bread” option, not in-spite of the vanilla. Unlike many in the automotive press, I don’t find anything wrong with that. In fact, I love me some Wonder Bread. But sometimes you feel like a pumpernickel, and that’s where the 2014 Mazda3 comes in. Mazda was so excited about their new loaf that they invited me to spend the day with them in San Diego. Want to know if you should spend 5+ years with one? Click through the jump.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior
Accounting for 30% of Mazda’s worldwide volume, calling the Mazda3 their most important product would be putting things lightly. As a result 2014 brings a complete overhaul to every aspect of the 3 and the compact sedan now rides on a platform derived from the larger 6. The “Kodo” design language of the larger sedan has also been brought down to its smaller stablemate to astonishing effect. While the old Mazda3 was all smiles and bubbles, the new 3 is all grown up and aggressive with Mazda’s incredibly attractive grille. Before the 3’s release I was quite torn about who was the fairest of them all but now there is no contest.

2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The 2014 dimensions play a huge role in the way the 3 looks on the road. Mazda moved the A-pillar 3.5 inches to the rear making the hood longer, lengthened the wheelbase by 2.5 inches, dropped the height by 6/10ths and made the whole car 1.6 inches wider. So far so good, but somehow Mazda managed to slash the front overhang and increase the wheel-to-front-door distance to an almost RWD like proportion. That would probably have been enough in a segment dominated by slab sides, but Mazda puts two distinctive character lines to separate the 3 from the pack. Out back we have tail lamps that mimic the front styling and your choice of a hatch or a trunk. Opting for the hatch gives the Mazda3 a side profile reminiscent of BMW’s X1, not a bad thing to be reminded of.

Interior
The problem with pumpernickel is that people’s tastes are different. The same thing can be said of the new interior. Rather than scaling down the Mazda6’s dashboard, the engineers went for something slimmer without a “double bump” for the infotainment screen. Taking a page out of BMW’s playbook, Mazda sets the 7-inch touchscreen inside a thin housing perched on the dashboard. Think of an iPad mounted to the dash. The look turned off some but I find the style appealing because it maintains a high screen position while reducing dashboard bulk. Mazda’s new “fighter jet inspired” heads up display is similarly perched on the dash, however, instead of being fixed, it folds itself flat when you turn the feature off. The display is as functional as any other heads-up display I’ve seen but the pop-up trick stuck me as being more gimmick than feature. Mazda tells us the reason for not projecting on the windshield which makes sense if you check out how much HUD compatible windshields go for.

2014 Mazda3 5D interior, Picture Courtesy of Mazda

Mazda says they benchmarked the BMW 3-Series interior which, given that BMW’s 3 went downmarket in some ways makes the comparison valid in  a way that it would have been laughable in 2006. Except for a segment average headliner, the plastics and materials choices in the cabin are all top of the class. (A logical finding since it is the newest as well.) Seat comfort proved excellent with well positioned controls and more side bolstering than you would find in the competition’s non-performance models. Rear seat room was a problem for the last generation Mazda3 and, despite the stretch, this continues to be an area where it lags the competition. For the biggest back seats and the largest trunk, look to the Corolla. Toyota’s 2014 offering has more leg room than the mid-sized Mazda6.

Despite a long list of optional features and gadgets, real leather seating surfaces happen only in the sGrand Touring model with mid-range models sporting faux-cow and lower end 3s wearing fabric.  Some comment has been made in the press about the 3’s 1990s era headliner, but it failed to offend me and here’s why: This segment is all about value and value is about cutting corners. Want snazzy dash plastics and metal trim bits-and-bobs? That headliner is the toll you have to pay and it’s one I’m OK with.

MY2014 Mazda 3
Infotainment and gadgets
If you recall my review of the Mazda 6 a few months ago, you’ll know I reserved my harshest criticism for the infotainment and navigation system. Forget everything I said because Mazda has taken customer feedback to heart. The Mazda3 is the first vehicle to receive MazdaConnect. The system combines a bright 7-inch touchscreen with an iDrive/MMI-like controller knob and button array in the center console. Similar to Infiniti’s systems, you can navigate with either the controller, or the touchscreen, or both depending on what is easier at the moment.

The system is as intuitive and snappy as the Mazda6’s is slow and painful. High resolution graphics, a completely redesigned interface and vastly improved voice commands join to create a system that rivals uConnect, iDrive and MyFord Touch for best in the industry. In that comparison the only things MazdaConnect lacks is smartphone app integration and some form of crash-notifying telematics system. If you want to dive into the details, check out the video.

MY2014 Mazda 3

The minimum point of entry for Mazda Connect is $23,340 because you cab only get it in the iTouring model with a $1,600 option package. Ouch. All models that directly compete with the white-loaf get something that looks like a clock radio molded into the dashboard (see the picture above). The logic was to keep the controls high and in the line of sight for the driver to reduce distraction and it does work as intended even though it looks a little odd. If you’re a high roller Mazda offers a high level of tech for this segment with everything from blind spot monitoring and backup cams available to surround sound, radar cruise control, collision prevention systems that will stop the car below 19 MPH (just like Volvo’s City Safety system), parking sensors and automatic high beams.

2014 also brings Mazda’s new “it’s-so-mild-that’s-not-called-a-mild-hybrid” system to the 3. i-Eloop’s is a mild energy recovery system that uses a large capacitor, variable voltage alternator and a DC-DC converter to recover energy when decelerating. The goal of the system is to limit the parasitic loss of the alternator by charging the capacity when you’re braking so that the car can disengage the alternator and use that power while accelerating or cruising. The system can’t help drive the car, which is why Mazda doesn’t call it a hybrid system, but the claim is that it can give you around one extra MPG in certain city driving cycles. Why so little? Because the alternator consumes less engine power than your air conditioning. The system is only available as part of a technology package and only on the top-end sGrand Touring model.

2014 Mazda3 Drivetrain

Drivetrain
Late in life, the old Mazda3 received a partial SkyActiv drivetrain. The reason it didn’t get fully implemented is obvious when you look at the Medusa below. That bundle of snakes is the Mazda “4-2-1″ exhaust manifold which is designed to prevent the start of cylinder 3’s exhaust stroke from interfering with the end of cylinder 1’s exhaust stroke. The convoluted pipes are there so that the catalytic converter, which is no longer “closely coupled” as is all the rage, heats quickly and less heat is lost on the way to the cat. This enormous contraption simply wouldn’t fit in the old 3 because of the shape of the engine bay and the firewall. To make the 4-2-1 manifold fit in the 2014 Mazda3, it was necessary to form an enormous bulge into the car’s firewall and chassis design, something only possible in a complete redesign process.

2014 Mazda3 exhaust manifold

With the final piece of the SkyActiv puzzle in place, Mazda cranked up the compression ratio on their new 2.0 and 2.5L engines to 13:1. Why not the 14:1 that Mazda advertises in Europe? Because in the USA all engines must operate “safely” on regular 87 octane gasoline by law. The boffins tell us that this results in a 5% loss of efficiency vs the higher compression EU engines that will grenade themselves on lower octane fuel.

The base engine for 2014 is a 2.0L 155 horse four-cylinder that’s good for 150 lb-ft of twist and 30/41/34 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) with the 6-speed automatic. If you have the cash you can upgrade to the 2.5L engine (shared with the CX-5 and Mazda6) which bumps these numbers up to 184 horses and 185 lb-ft while dropping fuel economy to 28/39/32.

The 2.0L engine comes standard with a slick shifting 6-speed transmission that is one of the best manuals in the ever shrinking compact segment. Engagement is precise, throws are moderate and the clutch engagement is linear and well-balanced in relation to the motion of the other two pedals. Sadly this transmission can’t be had with the more powerful 2.5L engine. Don’t shoot the messenger. Most Mazda3s rolling off the lot will use Mazda’s 6-speed automatic transaxle which chases efficiency and a direct feel by engaging the torque converter lockup clutch in every gear, as soon as possible, and as long as possible. While Mazda tells us this is unique to the compact segment, ZF’s 8-speed RWD transmission plays the same trick in the name of efficiency. Manual lovers and speed freaks should know that Mazda is cagey about a MazdaSpeed3 only saying that there would not be one “at launch.” Read between the lines if you like.

2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-004

Drive

Being the mechanical geek that I am, one more thing caught my interest: the caster angle. That’s the angle that the steering mechanism acts upon the front wheel. Think of this like a clock with vertical being right at 12:00. Most cars out there have a slight caster angle of maybe 12:03 while the 2014 Mazda3 winds it up to 12:06. Why does it matter? Because we have electric power steering (EPAS). EPAS is the modern equalizer and has made all steering dull and lifeless. By dialing up the caster, you dial up the forces that come back up the steering column from the tires. This means that by the time EPAS dulls everything down there’s the hint of something left. I’d like to say it turns the Mazda3 into a Mazda Miata but I’d be lying. Instead what you get is a hint of feedback in corners and a tiny touch of road feel at other times. Because we’ve been living in a feedback-desert, the taste has overly excited some. No it isn’t your 2007 Mazdaspeed3, but it is livelier than the Focus or Civic.

Zoom-Zoom is more about handling than 0-60 times, made obvious by our 7.6 second run to 60 in a hatchback with the 2.5L engine. If you want more speed in the “non-hot hatch segment”, wait for Kia’s turbo Forte  I didn’t get a chance to test the 2.0L model during the event but my “butt-dyno” tells me it should be about 2 seconds slower and right in line with the competition. It’s when the road starts to curve that the difference is obvious. This 3 can dance. The Mazda is quite simply the best handling and best feeling compact car in stock form. Yes, the Civic Si is a hair more fun but it’s not a main stream car, doesn’t have an automatic and still doesn’t feel as connected as the Mazda. With road manners like these, I’m looking forward to a Mazdaspeed3 vs Focus ST shootout, I suspect the 3 might dethrone Ford’s hot hatch.

2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-009

What about daily driving? It’s all well and good to be the best handling compact, but in order to be a sales success you have to be able to sway some white bread buyers. Sound levels at 50MPH rang in a 73db, below the Corolla but above the Civic. No worries there. The sedan’s ride is on the stiffer side of the segment but quite similar to the Focus, that might be a problem for the average Corolla shopper. The big selling point for most cross-shoppers will be the fuel economy. The sedan with the 2.0L engine and automatic is the volume model and snags 30/41/34 MPG (City/Highway/Combined). That’s one MPG better than Sentra, two better than Civic or Corolla and three better than Focus.  While that doesn’t translate into much cash saved on an annual basis, it is one of the largest purchase factors shoppers site in this segment. I should mention however that the last time we had the Sentra it scored better than it’s EPA rating while the Mazda3 was fairly close to the EPA score. My big take away from this is that Mazda managed to beat the CVT equipped competition’s fuel economy with a more traditional feeling automatic. White bread buyers won’t care about the feel, but the numbers might cause them to take a second look.

With pricing that ranges from $16,945 (sedan) to a hair under $30,000 (loaded hatch) if you check all the option boxes on a Mazda3 hatch, it’s obvious the Mazda spans the price spectrum from white bread in a bag to a paper-wrapped organic artisan cheesy sourdough. Like the Ford Focus, this large price span means the $19,495 iSport and $20,645 iTouring compete with the bulk of Corolla/Civic shoppers while the upper level trims compete with the Ford Focus, Acura ILX, Lexus CT200h, Buick Verano, and the few that shopped Volvo’s defunct C30.

Compared to the Civic and Corolla, the Mazda3 delivers superior dynamics and more premium dash materials in exchange for less tech and no touchscreen infotainment. This is a dangerous trade in a segment known for placing features before fun. On the flip side, the Mazda3 has everything it needs to compete with the Focus, ILX, Verano and CT200h. Mazda’s chassis tuning makes the Mazda the most fun to drive (even considering the ILX 2.4’s Civic Si roots), the infotainment system is entry-level luxury worthy and 2014 brings all full-speed range radar cruise control and ever gadget the Buick and Lexus shopper could want. So is the Mazda3 the perfect pumpernickel for Wonder Bread prices? As good as. Civirolla shoppers who can be convinced to cross-shop will be pleased with Mazda’s sexy exterior, comfortable seats and road manners, but those after large seats and large trunks will return to the white bread alternative. I suspect the near luxury shoppers are the ones that will miss out the most however thinking that nothing this tasty could come in a package with a Mazda logo on it. Their loss.

Mazda flew me to San Diego, put me up in a hotel and fed me stuffed mushrooms.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 4 Seconds

0-60: 7.6 Seconds

Interior sound level at 50 MPH: 73 db

 

2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-007 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-009 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-010 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-001 MY2014 Mazda 3 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-002 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-003 2014 Mazda3 5D interior, Picture Courtesy of Mazda MY2014 Mazda 3 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-004 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes MY2014 Mazda 3 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-006

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First Drive Review: 2014 Toyota Corolla (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-toyota-corolla-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-toyota-corolla-with-video/#comments Mon, 14 Oct 2013 13:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=607433 Calling the Corolla “Toyota’s most important car” would be an understatement. This single model accounts for 38 percent of all Toyotas ever sold in the USA and they expect to shift 330,000 next year alone. If the sheer quantity wasn’t amazing enough, ponder this reality: 75% of sales will be split between just four different […]

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2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Calling the Corolla “Toyota’s most important car” would be an understatement. This single model accounts for 38 percent of all Toyotas ever sold in the USA and they expect to shift 330,000 next year alone. If the sheer quantity wasn’t amazing enough, ponder this reality: 75% of sales will be split between just four different configurations. If you’re in a 2014 Corolla, the odds are about one in five that the Corolla next to you is identical save for paint color. Often derided by the automotive press as a “driving appliance,” is there more to the 2014 Corolla or is it just a toaster with wheels? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

When you plan on selling 330,000 of anything, mainstream styling is essential. When many of those shoppers are repeat Toyota and repeat Corolla buyers, it’s also essential to avoid anything that could be described as “adventurous.” The result is the attractive but plain sheetmetal. You won’t find any Mazda-esque swooshes, any Ford/Aston inspired grilles and you certainly won’t find anything “aggressive.” And that’s how Corolla shoppers like it. Corolla shoppers apparently also like getting bigger cars with every re-design, so this 11th generation model has grown by 3.9 inches. Why don’t they shop up the ladder to a Camry? Who knows.

2014_Toyota_Corolla_S, Picture Courtesy of Toyota

Plenty of reviewers have found fault in the way the 11th gen Corolla looks, most of them complain vehemently in private and say little in public. I however, am not afraid to say what I think in public: the Corolla is pedestrian but far from offensive. I also find the Corolla S (pictured above) to be the more attractive of the bunch although neither nose is any more or less exciting than the Sentra, Civic or Elantra. The biggest problem with the way the Corolla looks has nothing to do with the Corolla and everything to do with timing. I drove the 2014 Corolla two days before sampling Mazda’s hot new Mazda3. If looks matter to you, the Corolla is unlikely to be on your short list. Adding a little visual flair to the front, Toyota made LED headlamps standard on every Corolla. Yep, even the $16,800 stripper model. The other thing that’s standard is an oddly tall ride height resulting in a larger than average distance between the top of the tire and the wheel-well making the Corolla look “off road ready.” Make of that what you will.

2014 Toyota Corolla Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

After a week in the RAV4’s discordant interior, I was concerned what Toyota would do with the volume leader. Thankfully my concerns were unwarranted and I found the Corolla’s interior surprisingly elegant. Yes, I said that out loud, I found the design elegant. (Notice I didn’t say exciting.) There are a few caveats however. While the dashboard styling reminded me a great deal of the Mazda6, parts quality still lags behind the Focus, top-level Forte and, in some ways, even the Chevy Cruze. The picture above is of the more attractive (in my opinion) two-tone interior. You’ll only find this on the LE, LE Plus, LE ECO and LE ECO Plus model as everything else is black on black and looks a hair cheaper. 2014 brings soft touch points to most of the Corolla’s cabin and a new fabric headliner in most models. The exterior may be plain my bottom line on the interior is that I could live with it long term without a problem.

Front seat comfort proved average for the segment but I found the lack of adjustable lumbar support to be a problem for my back. Stepping up to the “Premium” trim LE or S gets you an 8-way power seat but still very little back support. The big change for 2014 is out back, the stretch allowed Toyota to add 5.1 inches to the back seat, ballooning to 41.4 inches total, just 2/10ths less than a Camry. More legroom meant more room for the seats themselves and allowed the rear bench to be lengthened for more thigh support. Putting that in perspective, that’s 5 inches more than most compacts, four inches more than the Sentra’s cavernous back seat and a whopping 8.2 inches more than the Focus. Sadly even the Corolla hasn’t been able to escape the low-roof trend limiting headroom for taller folks in the back. 2014 brings some trunk love, bumping the cube carrying to 13, respectable for the class but below the Sentra’s large booty. If bag carrying is your thing, you should know that the Sentra can swallow four 24-inch roller bags in a vertical orientation, and four more horizontally. I can’t even think of a modern full-sized sedan that can do that.

2014_Corolla_S_017

Infotainment and Gadgets

The new Corolla gets Toyota’s latest infotainment software package and this represents a new direction. Previously there were two separate navigation/infotainment operating systems, a low cost unit found in cars like the Prius C, and the totally different (and expensive) one found as an option in vehicles like the Avalon and the Lexus line. Toyota shifting to common software running on different hardware depending on the model. Cheaper cars get smaller screens, Toyotas stick to touchscreens while Lexuses (Lexi?) get the joystick.

Representing the Corolla’s place at the bottom of the Toyota food chain, you’ll find an 6.1 inch touchscreen standard on all models except for the L. (The L is expected to represent less than 10% of sales.) While I find this software one of the worst in the luxury class, my negative impression is entirely down to the Lexus joystick. In the Corolla the system is fast and responsive and the graphics are all perfectly suited to the 6.1 inch touchscreen. Toyota tosses in weather and traffic updates on certain models without having to add navigation which is a handy feature. USB and iDevice integration is excellent and easily the equal of Ford’s SYNC in terms of voice control and tops the segment in touch-screen ease of use. The standard Bluetooth speakerphone worked well and had excellent sound quality. Depending on the trim you can also add smartphone app integration to Pandora, OpenTable, etc. Like the rest of the Corolla, the Entune system doesn’t break any new ground, but it is easy to live with.

On the gadget front the Corolla covers all the basics with those LED headlamps, a standard cabin air filter, air conditioning and power door locks and windows. LE and higher models (again, 90% of sales) gain  automatic climate control, six speakers, a backup camera, cruise control and keyless entry. If you want any whiz-bang features like self parking, heads up displays, blind spot monitoring, power folding whatnots or dynamic cruise control, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

2014_Toyota_Corolla_LE_ECO_013

Drivetrain

The engine under the hood of 90% of Corollas is carried over from last year. The 1.8L four-cylinder engine is good for a class middling 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. A new six-speed manual replaces the old 5-speed as the base transmission and delivers 28/37 MPG (city/highway) when so equipped. If you’re one of the incredibly few that plan on getting an L with an automatic, be warned that this is the same old four-speed automatic as last year’s Corolla.

All other Corollas, even the supposedly “sport” S model, get Toyota’s new continuously variable transmission. I can already hear the groans, but if you’re groaning about finding a CVT under the hood, then I’m going to generalize and say you’re not the target demographic. For the rest of you, you should know this CVT is one of the best I’ve ever driven and is a close second to the Honda CVT in the new Accord. Somehow Toyota and Honda have managed to exorcise the rubber band demon from the CVT in a way that Nissan has been unable. Ratio changes are quick and fuel economy is an impressive 29/38 MPG. S models get paddle shifters and all models will imitate a  seven-speed automatic when floored. The impersonation is passable, but I fail to see the point.

If you want to break the 40 MPG barrier, than the 30/42 MPG LE ECO model is the one to get. In order to get there, Toyota swaps new heads onto the 1.8L engine which incorporates their new ValveMatic variable valve lift, timing and duration system. Like BMW’s Valvetronic and Fiat’s MultiAir, this system acts as the throttle body under most circumstances to increase efficiency. When so equipped, power rises to 140 HP and torque drops to 126 lb-ft. It was hard to tell if the system delivered any real-world benefit because of the limited time I had in the Corolla but I can tell you that the extra 8HP didn’t make the ECO model any faster to 60.

2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Why does the Corolla sell so well? It has more to do with brand loyalty and a reputation for reliability than road manners. Everything about driving the Corolla can be summed up in one word: average. From steering feel to suspension dynamics and road holding the Corolla is neither class leading nor class trailing. After a day and 140 miles, it reminded me of my flight to Seattle to see the Corolla in the first place. I flew in one of Southwest’s new 737-900 planes and the experience was entirely ordinary. The plane got me from point A to point B, it was as comfortable as I expected and the looks didn’t offend.

This middle-of-the-road mentality explains why Toyota jammed their new CVT into the Corolla. They aren’t the first to the CVT party and they won’t be the last. The CVT lags a hair behind Honda’s new Earth Dreams CVT but is more refined than Nissan’s Sentra. The combination of 132 ponies and a CVT make mountain climbing easier in the Corolla than the Civic with ye olde 5-speed, but not as nice as the large engine equipped Forte or Mazda3. Repeat Corolla buyers will find the Corolla peppier than before thanks to the CVT, since the old 4-speed automatic seemed to never have the right ratio for the situation.

2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Cabin noise measured in higher than average at 74 db at 50 MPH. 74db is a bit disappointing since even Honda made the latest Civic considerably quieter. Fuel economy was, yet again, middle of the road at 29 MPG over all after a day of city driving and stop-and-go traffic.

Even the Corolla’s recent “marginal” IIHS small offset crash score is class middling with the Civic snatching “good,” the Focus and Elantra “acceptable” and the Forte and Sentra slotting in below the Corolla at “poor.” While I can think of good reasons to buy something other than the Corolla, I honestly have troubles finding any reason to not buy one. When I tallied up my personal score card I was shocked to find I had ranked the Corolla 3rd behind the new Mazda3 and the Kia Forte. That ranking is based on the easy to use infotainment system, enormous back seat, large trunk, attractive interior and (of course) the reliability reputation the Corolla has maintained over the years. Yes, even I can be tempted (at least a little bit) by the logic of the driving appliance.

Perhaps that is what the bulk of the automotive press finds so vexing: The Corolla is probably the only car on the market that is deliberately designed to be average and Toyota nailed it.When I talked to a few Corolla owners about their purchase, none of them considered another model or brand before signing on the dotted line.

 

 Toyota provided airfare, accommodations and meals for this event.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.93 Seconds

0-60: 9.7 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.61 Seconds @ 81.8 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 29 MPG

Cabin Noise at 50 MPH: 74db

2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-001 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-002 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-003 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-004 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-005 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-006 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-007 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-008 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-009 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-001 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-002 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-004 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-005 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-006 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-007 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-008 2014 Toyota Corolla Interior-009 2014_Toyota_Corolla_LE_ECO_013 2014_Toyota_Corolla_S, Picture Courtesy of Toyota 2014 Toyota Corolla Exterior-003

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Piston Slap: When Does The Car Own…You? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/piston-slap-when-does-the-car-own-you/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/piston-slap-when-does-the-car-own-you/#comments Mon, 26 Aug 2013 12:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501126 Keith writes: Hey Sajeev, Longtime lurker on TTAC that’s coming out of the woodwork. Love your columns and thanks for your time. I’ve got a 99 Civic with 199000 km (124000 miles) that needs new rear trailing arm bushings on both sides. I’m looking at about $500 to get them replaced. Now here’s the rub. […]

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Keith writes:

Hey Sajeev,

Longtime lurker on TTAC that’s coming out of the woodwork. Love your columns and thanks for your time. I’ve got a 99 Civic with 199000 km (124000 miles) that needs new rear trailing arm bushings on both sides. I’m looking at about $500 to get them replaced.

Now here’s the rub. I can afford the repair but I can also afford to buy a new car too. But I really like my car. It’s cheap, cheerful, fun to drive and utterly reliable. Even the bushings, from what I gather, were close to the end of their useful life. I’m sure the awful Toronto roads didn’t help though. It has been religiously maintained according Honda’s maintenance schedule and the brakes were done within last year. The other thing you and fellow TTAC readers should know is that there’s a crack in catalytic converter and the fuel & brake lines are rusted & corroded. They are areas of concern but have been so for several years now. I’m not too worried about them but when one of them does go, that’s the absolute end of the car for me.

If I buy, I’m looking at a 2013 Mazda3 hatchback (Yes, I don’t mind the big goofy smile). I know they’re great cars for the money and well within my budget, especially considering dealers ought to blowing them out with the 3rd gen coming to their lots in the next few months.

Is the Civic worth keeping or am I just being a sentimental fool?

Sajeev answers:

I don’t see why a bad catalytic convertor is “the absolute end of the car” for you. The replacement (and installation at a local muffler shop) is a fraction of the cost of a new Mazda’s monthly payment. Ditto brake/fuel lines.  Old cars get old, especially on brutally rough urban streets and salty-cold weather. That’s life.

It is the classic quandary…do you own the car, or does the car own you?

At what point do you go from a warranty-laden, Ain’t Got a Care in the World motoring attitude to…ZOMG WHAT’S BREAKING NEXT AND AM I GETTING HOSED ON THE FIX?  I’ve made quite the name for myself being the latter of that statement, but I understand the frustration.  And the tiring weekends when you could be doing something else.  Anything else: it is, on occasion, a colossal resource hog in one’s life.

Would I have it any other way?  Hell no, but I also have a new(ish) truck with a decent warranty that happily gets me to work.  Taking the Civic’s sentimentality out of the equation (i.e. have you looked at the new Civic?), can you live with one car of moderate reliability? I’d sell when the Ontario winters finally put holes in the Civic’s floorboards, but that’s by no means the right answer.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

And by the way, I’m running low on the Piston Slap reserves of user-submitted questions, so read what’s below and help the TTAC community out.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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