The Truth About Cars » Civic The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:26:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Civic Hammer Time: The $700 Repo Sat, 28 Jun 2014 02:07:16 +0000 civic1

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, 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.


“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.


“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.


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 Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:46:46 +0000 2014-Honda-Civic-Coupe-12-of-29-550x366

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.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (28 of 29)

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.


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!”

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (14 of 29)

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 Mon, 28 Apr 2014 13:00:04 +0000 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 ]]> 51
Piston Slap: Crystal Ballin’ With Yo Tranny! (Part II) Wed, 09 Apr 2014 12:24:30 +0000 Anything is Possible... (photo courtesy:

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,

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,

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 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 Wed, 05 Feb 2014 17:15:59 +0000 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 Tue, 07 Jan 2014 13:00:28 +0000 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:

Photo courtesy of:

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   Photo Credit: Brett Neilson

Photo Courtesy of
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 Thu, 21 Nov 2013 14:44:29 +0000 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.

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Review: 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 (With Video) Sat, 26 Oct 2013 13:00:29 +0000 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.


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

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


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


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


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


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First Drive Review: 2014 Mazda3 (With Video) Sat, 19 Oct 2013 16:17:22 +0000 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.

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.

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

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


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 ]]> 191
First Drive Review: 2014 Toyota Corolla (With Video) Mon, 14 Oct 2013 13:00:17 +0000 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.


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


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.


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.



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


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 ]]> 111
Piston Slap: When Does The Car Own…You? Mon, 26 Aug 2013 12:00:14 +0000

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 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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The Truth About Honda’s Fleet Sales Sun, 25 Aug 2013 13:00:32 +0000 hondafleet

TTAC has a long tradition of digging deep into manufacturer sales data, frequently focusing on retail versus fleet sales. It’s become commonly accepted that high fleet percentages are a sign of weakness in product lines, at least as far as retail consumer preference goes. The traditionally low fleet percentages of Japanese brands have been singled out as evidence of those companies’ ability to attract crucial retail dollars, or at least their superiority in matching production to demand. And they were right. For many years, Toyota and Honda in particular could count on strong retail sales of premium-priced products in a way that the Big 3 couldn’t. Changing trends in the American vehicle market are undermining this model, though.

When I wrote about Toyota’s rising vehicle stockpiles, heightened fleet sales, deep discounts, and the resulting collapse of its pricing model, there was plenty of heated discussion. Although I was tarred and feathered by some as a Toyota hater and Detroit homer, they mostly missed the point: it’s no longer valid to think of Toyota as an “exceptional” car company from a business perspective, regardless of your personal opinions about the relative merits of their products. As the Camry debacle shows, the market is no longer willing to reward Toyota simply for the sake of being Toyota. For the sake of fairness, it’s time to ask the same set of questions about the company whose business strategy most nearly matches Toyota’s: archrival Honda. The evidence suggests there are some rather unpleasant fleet skeletons hiding in Honda’s closet, ones that don’t match the traditional image of the company as the retail leader.

On the surface, things look fine. Honda’s incentive spending on the marquee Civic and Accord is significantly lower than rivals. And its much-vaunted strategy of ignoring the fleet market and concentrating on retail sales is usually interpreted as a sign that Honda leads on per-unit profitability and “real” market share. Automotive News puts the Accord at around 1% fleet mix, well behind its rivals. But what if Honda’s position relative to the fleet market isn’t as strong as previously believed?

“Honda is the retail leader” has long been a mantra for that company’s boosters, one that is repeated by a fair number of autojournos. It’s a well-known fact that Honda has no corporate fleet sales department, in contrast to every other mass-market auto company in America. Even so, Honda products have a habit still show up in a variety of fleets. The vehicle-sales sites of several rental car companies have plenty of Hondas for sale. As of this writing, Enterprise Car Sales lists 200 former rental Hondas for purchase. The majority of these are Accords, with Civics not too far behind, and models from the entire rest of the range sprinkled in. For those feeling like something a little fancier, 22 Acuras are also available. Hertz also has hundreds of Hondas available, mostly 2012 Civics and a few Accords. Avis has no Honda products listed; nor does Budget.

It’s also worth noting that there are far fewer Hondas available for sale than, say, Chevrolets, Chryslers, or Fords. However, those makes include substantial numbers of trucks and commercial vans that Honda doesn’t offer. Honda has openly partnered with Zipcar to put hybrids in its fleet. Unfortunately, major fleet vehicle remarketing company Manheim doesn’t provide data on sales to anyone but licensed auto dealers, so I wasn’t able to scan their listed inventory for Hondas. However, salvage-auction company IAAI does provide listings of insurance-totaled Hondas, albeit ones that are difficult to sort and frequently incomplete. Even so, a casual scan through the listings reveals a surprising number of totaled-out Accords and Civics that had titles held by rental car companies or otherwise appear to have been former rentals. So clearly, a decent number of Honda products are winding up in America’s rental fleets. Many of the B&B have offered anecdotes about rental Hondas, but it’s nice to have a few solid numbers to go by. Maybe a reader with Manheim access could help flesh out the data.


Besides rentals, governments are another important consumer of fleet cars. Honda’s CNG Civic fleet program is well-known, although these make up a tiny fraction of overall Civic sales. Even so, Honda has been enthusiastic about trying to expand this program, with Honda alternative fuel vehicle manager Eric Rosenberg previously quoted as saying “We’re looking forward to much healthier fleet sales as the economy makes that positive turn.” Civic Hybrids have made their way into government and corporate fleets as well, in far larger quantities. New York State has invested significantly in updating its fleet with hybrids, purchasing large quantities of Civics and the former Accord Hybrid from 2007 onwards.

As municipalities have looked to green their fleets, they’ve turned to Honda hybrids as well. A quick search of industry site Government Fleet turns up hundreds of examples of municipalities and state and local governments acquiring Honda hybrids. Toyota and Ford are also heavily represented in these hybrid fleets, but Honda still makes a strong showing. There’s less evidence that regular-drivetrain Hondas make it into government fleets in any great quantity, although I have personally seen them used by some universities as service vehicles. Many government fleet operators are restricted in their purchases by “Buy American” laws that can exclude foreign-make vehicles, even if they are American-assembled.


Corporate fleet sales are always difficult to estimate, but anyone who’s lived in Central Ohio as long as I have can tell you that Honda products are popular choices for local businesses. The reliability and resale records of the Accord, Civic, and Odyssey no doubt attracts many operators looking to maximize their ROI. And although Honda has no corporate-level program for direct fleet sales, there are plenty Honda dealers who operate their own. Lindsay Honda of Columbus  explains that “With 14 acres of more than 700 Honda’s in inventory, Lindsay Honda can manage your order and pricing cost effectively, thus passing the savings to you.” Similarly, Don Carlton Honda of Tulsa promises customers “the benefit and tremendous value of our Honda Fleet Pricing while making the process of buying a new Honda vehicle simple and stress-free,” with a website specifically dedicated to facilitating fleet purchases.

In fact, it’s difficult to find a high-volume Honda dealer that doesn’t operate some kind of fleet program. And virtually all of these programs tout “preferred fleet pricing” and volume discounts for buyers, a seeming contradiction to Honda’s notorious stinginess with incentives. If you’re looking to buy ten Hondas for your fleet, there’s no shortage of dealers willing to cut you a discount, and take care of your service needs afterwards. But these dealers seem to be ignored or downplayed by Honda corporate, which steadfastly maintains that fleet sales are a vanishing percentage of Honda’s business. A press release from Honda on July 2 about rising sales crowed that “These solid results further showcase Honda’s pure, market-driven momentum achieved by customers choosing Honda vehicles one at a time rather than relying on fleet sales to drive volume.” The mantra about retail sales is clearly a big part of Honda’s marketing schtick. It seems that nobody has thought to ask the dealer body what they think about becoming Honda’s default fleet sales program, a role they may not appreciate. I can’t help but be reminded of an earlier episode in Honda’s corporate history where dealers took it on the chin.


Steve Lynch’s Arrogance and Accords is the definitive history of the early-90’s Honda management scandal. Lynch, a Honda insider, describes in detail a culture of malfeasance amongst American Honda executives that led to incredible acts of extortion against the Honda dealer body. Buoyed by the explosive growth of Honda in the go-go 1980’s, many prospective dealers were willing to enter into silent partnerships, kickback schemes, and other fraudulent behavior to secure valuable Honda franchises and a steady supply of cars from the corruption-riddled allocation system. When the market for new Hondas declined in the early 90’s (and dealers could no longer sell the cars for thousands of dollars above sticker), the whole scheme unraveled. Overproduction and flopped model introductions meant that cars sat on lots. A frustrated and abused dealer body finally ratted out the executives wholesale, leading to their firing and eventual federal prosecution after a failed cover-up attempt. But the dealer body didn’t get much out of the prosecutions; many of them lost millions of dollars, and others alleged that their businesses were ruined because they refused to “play the game” with Honda execs.

Obviously, much has changed since then; I’m not accusing Honda or its executives of engaging in criminal malfeasance. However, I do believe it is worth noting that Honda has a history of treating dealers as if they were replaceable; because for many years, they were. Lynch described a corporate culture that saw dealers as a nuisance and an inconvenience, a culture he alleges was facilitated by averted eyes in Tokyo. Now that the market for Honda products has matured, and the dealer body has been stabilized, perhaps it’s worth questioning whether making dealers solely responsible for the disposal of excess stock is a healthy policy. It’s also worth noting that many of the ex-rentals described above were 2012 Civics and Accords. Production of both of these models was stopped by the 2011 Asian tsunami, and for a long time Civics especially were thin on the ground at dealers. Yet despite these shortages, many newly-redesigned Civics still wound up in rental fleets, supposedly the dumping ground of last resort for unwanted models.

Auto industry watchers know that the redesigned Civic was harshly reviewed, prompting a quick 2013 refresh in response to criticism. Would it be unreasonable to suggest that dealers pushed many 2012s into fleets, knowing they would be a difficult sell if the much-improved version was right around the corner? The 2012 Accord as fleet car is easier to understand- a model at the end of its run is always a hard sell, and a few fleet sales at rock-bottom prices would have relieved the pressure on dealers to move the metal. But in both of these cases, the dealers were acting alone, with few corporate incentives to help cushion the blow.  The marketing department’s retail mantra remains untainted, and the cars move off the lots- but the dealers take the hit. The production recovery after the tsunami is unquestionable, but the sales recovery deserves an asterisk.

Honda Element Car Wraps-resized-600

The strategy of ignoring or underreporting fleet sales enables Honda to claim that its cars are somehow above and beyond the dynamics that the rest of the market faces. Every manufacturer will eventually face problems of excess inventory caused by a botched model launch or overproduction, no matter how sainted said company might be. It’s getting harder and harder for Honda to maintain this self-image after a series of uncompetitive new offerings has left dealers with large numbers of hard-to-move products. Civics are piling up on dealer lots as consumers gravitate towards the compact offerings of other manufacturers.

Toyota, at least, has acknowledged its difficulties with the Camry and has moved to help out its dealer network with a combination of incentive spending and diverting excess production to fleets. Even if it costs Toyota some credibility, it’s a better strategy than simply throwing cars at dealers and hoping a miracle happens. And it’s not as if fleet sales are an inherent evil; they’re a reality of doing business in the United States, one that no mass-market auto maker can evade forever. It’s impossible to put a solid number on the amount of Hondas currently being pushed to fleet by dealers. Even so, in the face of mounting evidence, the 1-2% figure most commonly put forth by Honda is almost surely too low. Given the state of flux and increasingly competitive nature of the American car market, industry watchers and the press corps need to regard that percentage with skepticism.

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Junkyard Find: 1993 Honda Del Sol Thu, 25 Jul 2013 13:00:52 +0000 10 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAs the owner of a much-loved 1992 Honda Civic (unfortunately, I’m not the only one who loves fifth-gen Civic hatchbacks), I know how hard it is to find parts for my V8-hauling hooptie at my local self-serve wrecking yard. The 1992-95 Civic has become to the 2010s what the ’57 Chevy was in the 1970s: the affordable car with great performance potential that all the 24-year-olds want. That means that these cars get picked clean within minutes of showing up at a low-price/high-inventory-turnover wrecking yard. The two-seat Del Sol version of the Civic is even harder to find in such yards; in fact, this is perhaps the third Del Sol I’ve seen in my last five years of junkyard crawling.
08 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has about as much flesh left on its bones as the remains of a roadkill squirrel after a month on a highway median.
03 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinTo carry the ’57 Chevy analogy further, the 102-horsepower D15B7 engine is about as desirable to Honda guys now as was the 235 six to shoebox Chevy freaks in, say, 1976. A good, reliable engine, but pretty much worthless. My own Civic is getting a B18C1, just as soon as I knock out Items 1 through 48 on my Hell Project To-Do List.
02 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIf this car ever had a custom leather interior, it’s long gone now.
04 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinDuring my Generation X slacker period in the early 1990s, with recession raging, I took a temp job driving brand-new ’92 Del Sols from a dirt field at the Port of Richmond to a trainyard a couple miles away (the return trips took place in an Econoline with no doors). I had this job for about a week, and I drove about four plastic-wrapped new Del Sols per hour with no lunch breaks, which means my lifetime driving experience includes approximately 160 Honda Del Sols. In other words, I have driven more Del Sols than any other type of car.
06 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSoichiro Honda died at just about the same time I was driving Del Sols, and I often wonder if he knew what a betrayal the replacement of the beloved CRX felt like to the generation of young drivers who worshiped the zippy little Civic two-seater. As Chrysler learned with the Neon, cuteness in a car equaled showroom death in post-Gulf War America, and the Del Sol was sickeningly cute. Fortunately for Honda, the Super Cub helped keep the company afloat.

No mention of the incredible driving-fun-per-buck ratio of the CRX in the ads for its successor.

Though, as always, the Japanese-market ads were more fun.

Still, the Del Sol was no CRX, and sales weren’t so great.
07 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMeanwhile, Acura had no V8 to compete with its rivals, and Honda’s amazing 15-year run of success faltered.

01 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1993 Honda Del Sol Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]> 44
Piston Slap: Me Thinks It’s Undiluted BS! Tue, 28 May 2013 11:34:13 +0000

Fernando writes:

I own a 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid. At exactly 7 years and 7 months, and 68k miles, the battery quit. Being well within Honda’s 8 year, 80k miles warranty, the dealership replaced it fully free of charge. The vehicle is working like a charm again. Other than this mishap, it has been completely trouble-free, and does its job as a good commuter car perfectly.

So……where is the rub, you ask?

Well, when I queried the service manager about the warranty for the new battery pack, he told me until the vehicle reaches 8 years, which is only 5 months away. Is this BS? Or is it reasonable?

Me thinks it’s undiluted BS.

Sajeev answers:

Usually, usually, replacement OEM parts have a modest warranty that’s significantly shorter than the original coverage for a new vehicle.  It is usually 1 year.  This aftermarket vendor provides the usual 1 year warranty of replacement battery packs, too.

But if the service manager said there is no warranty after 8 year/80k miles, he probably knows better than all of us. I Googled to find the warranty duration of the OEM, Genuine Honda replacement battery packs and found…nothing. Not on the Hybrid forums, not on Honda forums.  Then again, I won’t be depressed if someone hyperlinks their way to beating me at my game.

So what’s the final analysis? The warranty period is moot, OEM replacement parts are rarely warranted for longer than a year. And that battery pack will last longer than a year: making the warranty pointless. Probably.

So who cares?

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Now forget about fancy-pants Hybrid parts we rarely encounter.  Many aftermarket (not OEM) auto parts are available with a lifetime warranty. This is good and bad.  The quality of lifetime replacement parts has improved in the past decade, if you shop wisely. My first and secondhand experiences with “Platinum” branded alternators from O’Reillys rings true.   You can still buy the “junk” alternator with the lifetime warranty, but for a mere $20-ish more…why would you?

If you like to work on your car and know that some replacement parts are better with the lifetime warranty because you will need a replacement 10+ years from now, avoid the OEM manufacturer part and go lifetime. I’ve cashed in several times (alternators, suspension wear items, ignition parts) thanks to my lifetime warranty paperwork, arriving at the store with 10-12 year old receipts.  The staff gladly accepts them, sometimes even complimenting me for being such a tightwad!

Well, at least it felt like a compliment…hmm!


 Send your queries to 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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Review: 2013 Honda Civic EX (Video) Mon, 27 May 2013 18:00:50 +0000 2013 Honda Civic EX, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

People assume that car companies know their competition’s every move, as if there was some sort of mission impossible crew sent in every weekend to monitor R&D progress. While some less-than-ethical information exchange goes on, on the whole, a car manufacturer like Honda finds out what the competition’s latest widget looks when we do. Need proof? Look at the 2011, 2012, 2013 Honda Civic. The 9th generation Civic was intended to début as a 2011, but the financial implosion caused Honda to go back and re-work their compact car as a 2012 to keep prices low. In the perpetual game of auto-leapfrog, Honda miscalculated the direction Ford, Hyundai, Kia (and perhaps even Nissan) were headed. The result was bashed by Consumer Reports and raked across the coals by most of the press. Did buyers care? Apparently not. The 2012 Civic was purchased in impressive quantities by real-people. Honda could have found solace in their sales, but instead they did something unusual: they re-re-redesigned the Civic for 2013. Say what?

Click here to view the embedded video.

The 2013 Civic isn’t just a second-year options package shake-up, and it isn’t even a mid-cycle color and trim shuffle. The changes after only a year on the market land somewhere between a refresh and and a redesign-on-the-same-platform. How can I call it a redesign? Well, if Lexus can call the “new” LS a new car… But I digress.

While I didn’t hear as many complaints from my comrades in the auto-biz about the Civic’s curb appeal, Honda took the opportunity to graft a chrome smile from the 2013 Accord onto the Civic, redesign the bumper covers (front and rear), add smoked tail lamps, new wheels and finished everything off with a trendy honeycomb grille. While I didn’t have a single issue with the way the old Civic looked, I have to admit this one looks better, especially from the front or back where Honda spent some cash to have the tail lamps cross onto the trunk lid giving the Civic’s heinie a more premium feel. From the side it would seem that noting has changed with the same four-window silhouette, but the difference is in the glass: it’s thicker this year for improved sound isolation.
2013 Honda Civic EX, Interior, Dashboard, Stitched, Vents, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


The problem with the 2012 Civic wasn’t the exterior. And, in my mind, it wasn’t the interior design OR the interior plastics quality. Yep, you heard me right with that. The old Civic’s plastics weren’t great, but they were easy to clean, textured attractively and I just didn’t expect anything different from an $18,000 car. What I did have a problem with was a lack of color-matched bits and ill-fitting panels. Our 2012 tester’s four main dash components sported four different variations of the same target color. For 2013 Honda cranked the thumbscrews on the parts suppliers and all the colors in our Civic EX were the same.

In addition to the color change, Honda had an eye on touch points, swapping out the hard doors and dash “faces” for squishy injection-molded units with fake stitching. Keeping costs d0wn, the same gauge cluster and dash structure remain from last year as well as the dash parts farther from your reach, but they have all been re-cast to texture-match the new bits. Even the radio’s plastics have received a color and texture upgrade to look classier. The change has brought the Civic from slightly below average to a solid contender, although I think I prefer the style of the Elantra, Sentra and Focus to the Civic’s dual-level dash.

2013 Honda Civic EX, Interior, Dashboard, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Honda continues to put fairly exaggerated lumbar support in the front seat backs, something you don’t find in many of the competition. The extra support was perfect for my back, but since it isn’t adjustable, you should get plenty of seat time before you buy to be sure you can live with the shape. For my average six-foot frame, the seating and driving position proved ideal enough that despite sharing driveway time with a 2013 Mercedes CLS63, I found myself choosing the Civic for longer trips during our week. Say what? The Civic’s compliant suspension and seat ergonomics were better on my back than the $120,000 Merc.

As with most cars that have families in mind, the Civic’s rear seats are close to the floor and the door openings are wide and tall making ingress/egress easy with or without a child seat in tow. Honda has a reputation for function over form, and that pays dividends in the rear with a high roofline that allows a more upright seating position, more than can be said of the Elantra. Fold those 60/40 rear seats down and you’ll notice an area Honda didn’t touch: cargo. The Civic’s trunk pass-through is still somewhat small and oddly shaped preventing larger items from riding along. The trunk’s 12.5 cubic feet is in line with the Focus and Corolla, but a few Cubes behind the Elantra and Sentra. When it comes to bag carrying, the Sentra has a further trick up its trunk: a 24-inch roller bag can ride vertically in the Sentra’s cargo hold allowing you to carry a surprising seven carry-on sized rollerbags, try that in your Panther replacement.

2013 Honda Civic EX, Interior, Radio, Infotainment, Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


The Civic’s reputation is a huge feature that can’t be ignored in a review. Honda has long been known for reliability, solid build quality and high resale value. That’s great, but like many shoppers I care more about plugging my iDevice in and pairing my phone. Thankfully Honda got the note and for 2013 Bluetooth phone integration and audio streaming are standard, as is Pandora smartphone integration. As of the time we drove the Civic, the Pandora app integration is only compatible with Apple iPhones, but word is an Android app is happening at some point. Unlike BMW’s iDrive, you don’t need a Honda app to use streaming radio, you just download the Pandora app and the car knows what to do. If you want to see the system in action, click on the video at the top of the review.

As before, the 160-watt four-speaker audio system is standard on base models while EX models toss in A-pillar tweeters. Also unchanged is the somewhat funky split-level nature of the system where the radio controls are in the center of the dash but the display is integrated into the dual-level instrument cluster binnacle. If you feel particularly spendy, you can add Honda’s easy-to-use but quite expensive $1,500 nav system to the Civic EX or EX-L. The touch-screen unit does bring a bevy of voice commands to the party, but for the price, I’d skip it. If you are debating between the EX with nav and the EX-L without, go for the L without. 2013 hasn’t brought any significant changes to either system, although thanks to software changes from Apple and Honda, you can now use your iDevice’s native music browsing interface to select your tunes. Is that safe? Who knows, but it is handy.

2013 Honda Civic EX, Engine, 1.8L 140HP Four-Cylinder, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


If you had hoped 2013 would bring a variant of the new EarthDreams engine from the Accord, you’re not alone, I had fantasies about that as well. It’s not that the 1.8L, 140 horse four-cylinder engine in the Civic is a bad mill, in truth it’s smoother than the diesel-like nature of any gasoline direct-injection engine, the problem is the power to fuel economy ratio. Especially with that Accord sitting on the same lot. The four-banger is still mated to Honda’s 5-speed manual or 5-speed auto which seem designed to highlight the low 128lb-ft of twist. The broad ratio spread of the 5-speed trying to balance off-the-line acceleration with highway fuel economy leave the Civic feeling strangely breathless when you’re hill climbing or passing. The lack of a 6-speed transmission or a CVT (Nissan claims their CVT has a ratio spread similar to a 7-speed auto) is a serious omission and largely the reason the Civic is a full 1.5 seconds slower to 60 than a Focus, more than 2 seconds behind an Accord and even 0.2 slower than the less powerful CVT-equipped Sentra. We were unable to get our hands on the Elantra for a 0-60 test in time, but other outlets tell us its faster as well.

The cog swappers may be old school, but they do manage to deliver good EPA numbers. Our 5-speed automatic Civic wore a 28/39/32 (City/Highway/Combined) rating and managed to get a TTAC real-world score of 33.5 MPG in mixed driving. It’s rare that any vehicle get over the EPA combined score in our testing, so this is particularly noteworthy. The Fusion SE delivered its 31MPG combined last time we tested it, the Corolla claims 29MPG combined but we scored 28 last time we had one, and I’m sure you’ve heard about Hyundai’s MPG woes. The new Sentra scored the highest in the group we tested at 36.2MPG and the Cruze 1.8L the lowest at 27, you can thank the CVT in the Sentra for that number. Speaking of CVTs, the 2013 Accord EX tester scored 32.5 on the same commute thanks to Honda’s new cog-less swapper.


2013 Honda Civic EX, Interior, Split-Leven Instrument Cluster, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


I didn’t think the last Civic was a sloppy mess out on the road, but other reviewers weren’t so kind. One has to be mindful of the competition when comparing, and that’s why I scratched my head. The Corolla is ancient and drives like a Tonka truck, yet it’s the sales leader, the Cruze’s steering is so numb and overboosted its like driving an RC car. (The Corolla is proof that car shoppers are lemmings, except for our readers of course.) I liken the old Civic to the new Elantra since it straddled the middle between firm and soft, sporty and not with plenty of “numb” tossed in for good measure. The Focus attempts sporty with firm springs and a well-tuned chassis, but electric power steering makes sure that every compact car has a healthy dose of Novocaine when it comes to steering feel. At issue was the Civic’s rep as a fun to drive subcompact with plenty of feel, sharp dynamics and feel, 2012 killed that in favor of trying to be everything to everyone.  To make the Civic “crisper” and satisfy the forum-fan-boys, Honda swapped out every bushing they could get their hands on and tweaked everything that was tweakable. The changes certainly give the Civic the starched collar it lacked last year, but do little for ultimate grip or steering feel. Grip is something you can fix yourself with new rubber, but steering feel should just be mourned because it’s not coming back.

The other thing Honda underestimated about the competition was how far they would go in terms of noise isolation. Hop in a Cruze and it’s as quiet as an entry-level luxury car, the 2012 Civic? Not so much. To fix the issue Honda jammed as much foam as they could find in the wheel wells, firewall area and under the carpet. They swapped the window glass out for thicker material all the way around and spent some extra time to resolve dashboard squeaks. The difference is nightand day, while the Cruze is still the quietest in the bunch, the Civic is on par with the Focus and Elantra (well ahead of the Corolla.)

2013 Honda Civic EX, Exterior, Rear, Tail lamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Most refreshes do little to alter the substance of the product, so the 2013 Civic is all the more impressive. It also begs the question: if Honda could do this just one year later, why didn’t they just go here in the first place? We may never know.

Refinement costs money, but thankfully Honda seems to be eating most of the expense as the 2013 model is only $160 more dear than last year. Considering the added feature content and the more upscale interior and exterior, dealers can start saying “and, it’s a Honda” at the end of the sales pitch instead of “but, but, it’s a Honda!!” as customers walk next door to the Hyundai dealer. OK, I kid, but the distinction is important, it takes the Civic from a purchase you had to justify to your car buddies, to one that is solidly competitive and understandable. At $18,695, the Civic LX (automatic) is finally within a few bucks of the $18,650 Elantra GLS.  At that point it comes down to aesthetics and brand preference. I prefer the way the Civic looks to the new Elantra (although I’m told I’m crazy by our Facebook peeps), but I am also mindful that the Elantra carries a better warranty and a comparably priced Elantra or Sentra still offer a few more standard goodies.

There’s just one more elephant in the room. I drove the Civic and the new Accord back to back, something that I suspect many a shopper will do. (You know, because they are on the same dealer lot.) I know it’s a slippery slope to compare a car with its larger stablemate, I posit the Civic’s biggest threat is its big brother, and for good reason. The Civic/Accord comparo is even more apt if you’re considering a $20,815 Civic EX (like our tester) or the $22,265 EX-L. Jumping up to an Accord LX gets you dual-zone climate control, an 8-inch infotainment screen, backup camera, more interior room, more refinement, a bigger trunk, and 2-second faster sprint from 0-60. That’s before you think of the value of having an Accord badge on your trunk vs a Civic. What’s the toll for this jump? A cool $1,665 (or $36 a month on a four-year loan) and the loss of the EX model’s sunroof. What about economy you ask? That’s the kicker. Thanks to Honda’s new engine and CVT, the Accord averaged 32.5MPG on the same commute as our Civic, just one MPG less. If you’re looking for basic transportation, the Civic LX model is finally able to sell on more than just Honda’s brand, but if you’re drawn to that Civic EX, take a ride in the Accord before you sign on the dotted line.

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • The comfortable interior is a serious improvement from 2012.
  • Honda’s reliability and resale value reputation can’t be discounted.

Quit it

  • Both transmissions are one-cog shy of competitive.
  • Power and fuel economy are behind the competition.
  • I’ve never been a fan of the non-standard gauge layout.


 Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and gas for this review

Specifications as tested

 0-30: 3.47 Seconds

0-60: 9.78 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.46 Seconds @ 79.8 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 33.5MPG over 751 miles


2013 Honda Civic EX 2013 Honda Civic EX-001 2013 Honda Civic EX-002 2013 Honda Civic EX-003 2013 Honda Civic EX, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Civic EX-005 2013 Honda Civic EX, Exterior, Rear, Tail lamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Civic EX-007 2013 Honda Civic EX-008 2013 Honda Civic EX-009 2013 Honda Civic EX-010 2013 Honda Civic EX-011 2013 Honda Civic EX-012 2013 Honda Civic EX-013 2013 Honda Civic EX, Interior, Radio, Infotainment, Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Civic EX, Interior, Split-Leven Instrument Cluster, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Civic EX-016 2013 Honda Civic EX-017 2013 Honda Civic EX, Interior, Dashboard, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Civic EX-019 2013 Honda Civic EX-020 2013 Honda Civic EX, Interior, Dashboard, Stitched, Vents, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Civic EX-022 2013 Honda Civic EX-023 2013 Honda Civic EX-024 2013 Honda Civic EX-025 2013 Honda Civic EX-026 2013 Honda Civic EX-027 2013 Honda Civic EX-028 2013 Honda Civic EX-029 2013 Honda Civic EX, Engine, 1.8L 140HP Four-Cylinder, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Civic EX, Engine, 1.8L 140HP Four-Cylinder, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes ]]> 97
Junkyard Find: 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Thu, 02 May 2013 13:00:53 +0000 16 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 1973-79 Civic was a very good car for its time (mostly because just about all the other subcompacts of the era were so bad and/or boring), but the second-generation Civic was the one that gave Honda its reputation for bang-for-buck performance and miraculous-for-the-price build quality that seemed unbeatable for nearly 15 years. The value of the 1980-83 Civics became so low by the late 1990s that it wasn’t worth fixing any problem that cost more than a couple hundred bucks to fix, and so nearly all of them were gone by the time the 21st century rolled around. Here’s a Civic wagon, painted in very Malaise-y beige, that managed to hang on for thirty years. More than a year has passed since the last second-gen Civic in this series.
05 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOnly 139,302 miles! The interior and body are in nice shape, which suggests an indoor parking space and very sparing use. Maybe the head gasket blew back in ’94 and it sat in a garage, or maybe it was an extra car that was well cared for but didn’t get driven much.
08 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHow late into the 5-speed era did bragging rights last? I’ve seen early-90s Sentras and Tercels with 4-speeds, but 5-speeds weren’t particularly exotic in subcompacts by 1983.
10 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car’s early years were spent in Northern California.
07 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe first-gen Civics were just tiny, even by the standards of the time, so the added room in the second-gen cars was most welcome.
24 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBelieve it or not, this vacuum diagram was simple compared to what CVCC-equipped Hondas with computer carburetors had by 1985. Good luck getting this setup through a California smog check!
21 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin64 horsepower seemed adequate in these cars, amazingly enough.
14 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWill these things ever be considered collectible? Hard to say— 20 years ago, very few thought that Country Squire wagons would be worth saving, and now we have legions of Malaise Era wagon fanciers.

02 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1983 Honda Civic Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]> 15
The Cost Of Doing Business In Canada Is Too High For Honda Thu, 17 Jan 2013 14:00:23 +0000

The high cost of auto manufacturing in Canada isn’t solely an issue for domestic auto makers; Honda, which manufactures the best-selling car in Canada (the Civic) is grappling with this issue as well.

The Windsor Star spoke to Jerry Chenkin, Executive Vice-President of Honda Canada, who summed up the biggest issue with Honda’s Canadian production:

“Our challenge quite simply is to be competitive,” Chenkin said during an interview at the North American International Auto Show. “We’re producing Civics. We have a factory in Indiana that’s producing exactly the same vehicle. Our challenge at Honda Canada is to be competitive with our sister plants in the U.S.”

The Alliston plant has pumped out everything from the Civic to the Acura MDX, Honda Pilot, CR-V, Odyssey and Ridgeline. But most of those products have departed for other Honda plants, namely the Alabama facility that builds their minivans and SUVs. Most recently, the next-generation MDX has been the latest vehicle to leave Alliston, though Chenkin said that the capacity will be used to build Civics and CR-Vs, which are strong sellers in both Canada and the U.S.

A big part of Honda Canada’s messaging has been the Canadian origins of the legions of Civics sold over the years. The compact Honda has enjoyed a nearly two-decade long stretch as Canada’s best-selling car, with a customer base that spans the gamut of ages, genders and socioeconomic groups. There’s no reason to doubt Chenkin’s assertions that Canadian production is secure; if the market keeps growing at the kind of pace we’ve recently seen, then Honda is going to be glad that they have the extra capacity (some 390,000 cars annually) on hand.

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Auction To Crusher: 12 Weeks In the Lives of Two Cars At a Self-Service Wrecking Yard Thu, 20 Dec 2012 14:00:23 +0000 I’ve loved high-turnover self-service wrecking yards since I used to hang out at U-Pull Auto Wrecking in Oakland as a teenager in the early 1980s, and so it makes sense that junkyard-related stuff became so central to the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™. During the last year, as my Junkyard Find series has evolved into a near-daily thing, I became increasingly curious about the life-cycle of the vehicles in these yards. A new row of fresh cars appears one day, replacing one that was put out a few months before, and that’s all I knew. Then, earlier this year, I was able to convince the brass at U-Pull-&-Pay Self Serve Used Auto Parts to give me a behind-the-scenes look at their operation, and I chose to follow the trajectories of two cars I thought would be typical junkyard inmates: a 1991 Honda Civic Si and a 1994 Toyota Camry XLE. I visited the auction at which they were purchased, I documented the pre-yard preparations, and I visited both cars every week for their three-month stint as parts donors. After that, I watched them get fed into the cold steel jaws of The Crusher. Here’s how our Civic and Camry spent the final months of their lives.
It all started last winter, when I found this ’78 Chrysler Cordoba at a self-serve yard near Chez Murilee in Denver. This fine example of Malaise Era personal luxury had a genuine Corinthian Leather bench seat in excellent condition.
So, I went back, bought the seat, and made it into a very comfy garage couch. In that tale, I’d mentioned some unpleasant experiences I’d had with certain California self-serve yard employees, experiences that make me reluctant to ask for help— say, moving a junkyard welded-wheel jackstand that made Cordoba seat bolts difficult to access— from any junkyard employees. The folks at the yard that provided the Corinthian Leather seat have always treated me well, so I had no complaints there… but then I got an email from a TTAC-reading employee at the corporate HQ of the chain that owned another Denver yard that has provided many Junkyard Finds: “I think you frequent our Aurora and Denver stores (from what I can see in your pics anyway). If you ever do need assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask. For safety reasons, we’re reluctant to bring mobile equipment into the yard during store hours. But someone could’ve helped you get that last nut.” I assured him that I had no complaints about any employees at those yards (in fact, Colorado junkyard employees tend to be several orders of magnitude pleasanter and more competent than their California counterparts)… but, while we’re on the subject, perhaps he might be able to find a way to get me access to the inner workings of one of their yards, for a future TTAC piece?
Next thing I know, I’m wearing a hardhat backstage at the Denver U-Pull-&-Pay yard, talking to John Fernbach, chief vehicle buyer for the company’s Colorado yards (sharp-eyed readers might recognize in the background the ’71 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser that later got picked completely clean within days of being put out on the Denver U-Pull-&-Pay yard). John, who holds a degree in economics and specialized in commodity studies, doesn’t exactly conform to the the hardbitten, gas-axe-wielding junkyard dog stereotype some of us old-timers might hold. These days, running this sort of operation is a tightrope-walking science, where even slightly bad moves can move the balance sheet right into the red. His job is to obtain the feedstock for the three Colorado U-Pull-&-Pay yards, and that job gets tougher every week nowadays. High scrap-metal prices, well over $200/ton at the scrapper, just for cars dragged in off the street, and years of a grim economy have created legions of car-hungry scavengers who scour the land for any vehicle they can drag to the scrapper for a quick buck. Meanwhile, the same grim economy means that money-strapped working folks keep their old cars limping along longer than ever. The upshot is that finding fresh inventory for three major yards is like pulling teeth, and the job requires nonstop hustling.
John buys a lot of vehicles at local auctions, so he took me along to a nearby operation with plenty of inventory to move. A decade back, I used to buy Tercels and Civics at the San Francisco City Tow auctions of towed-away cars, a Wild West operation at which you could pick up runners for a C-note… but those days are long gone. In a few minutes at this auction, mostly watching beater 15-year-old dealership trade-ins go under the gavel, I became shocked at the prices being paid for these heaps.
For example, are you shopping for a rough-looking early-90s Ford Escort with bad oil rings? This car sold for 800 bucks, at an auction mostly attended by hard-eyed car-biz veterans. Whaaaaat? Blame high commodities prices, tough credit for new-car buyers, and general economic misery. Still, John manages to buy enough cars and trucks at sufficiently low prices to keep the yards in business; keep in mind that high prices for scrap metals mean that the picked-over hulks leaving the yard are worth much more than they were a few years back, even if the value of their parts to junkyard shoppers hasn’t increased much. Back to the Denver yard we went, so that I could pick out a couple of cars purchased during a previous auction visit.
We headed over to the holding area, where fresh arrivals are kept. I wanted two cars, one that I knew would inspire an instant feeding frenzy among car-enthusiast junkyard parts seekers and another that would be sought after by those patching together their daily drivers. For the latter car, I picked this ’94 Camry XLE, the kind of cockroach-grade survivor that’s usually worth fixing up when something breaks.
For the car that would really put some blood in the water for the junkyard sharks looking for bits for personal projects or maybe to resell on eBay, I selected this 1991 Honda Civic Si.
The 1988-91 Si hatch was once the factory-hot-rod Honda of choice for street-racer types, and the fourth-gen Civic still retains enough of a devoted following to ensure that one that appears at a low-priced self-serve yard will attract hordes of parts-pullers.
I was really tempted to go with this 1978 Mercury Marquis, just because it was so incredibly cool. Unfortunately, cars like this don’t get much action at a self-serve yard these days; probably a guy with an F-150 would yank the 400M engine and maybe the C4 transmission, and the rest of the car would go right into The Crusher’s jaws without giving me much of a story (plus this yard separates imports from domestics and I wanted the two cars parked side-by-side, meaning I’d need two Detroit cars or two imports). I tried my best to get a certain TTAC writer with an irrational love of Malaise Era Blue Oval products to buy this rust-free car— which ran and drove perfectly and which U-Pull-&-Pay was offering at a very reasonable price— but he didn’t feel up to the Denver-to-Houston, single-digit-MPG drive that would be required.
Once I chose the cars I’d be following, it was time for me to watch the U-Pull-&-Pay grunts prep them for placement among the rest of the inventory in the junkyard proper. At this point, my bullshit detectors kicked into DefCon One mode, as I geared up for any sign that the men running this yard were faking up a Potemkin village of just-this-one-day-only safe-and-clean fluid-disposal procedures and so on; such is the level of suspicion that interacting with car-company PR flacks engenders in a properly cynical automotive journalist. Having watched plenty of junkyard-chain employees in allegedly-enviro-conscious California dumping oil on the ground a few hundred yards from the endangered species of San Francisco Bay (and no doubt playing Crush The Alameda Whipsnake with old car batteries when customers weren’t watching), I was ready to pounce on signs of phony safety and/or waste-disposal hijinks.
As suspicious and pessimistic as I try to be, and as much as I want to write an Ida Tarbell-grade muckraking exposé, I’ve got to admit that the operations at U-Pull-&-Pay Denver (and, I hope, the rest of their yards) appear to be legitimately safe-n-sane, and that what I saw behind the scenes this summer looks like their typical workday.
Before a new arrival gets put up on the rack for fluid and refrigerant removal, the U-Pull-&-Pay employees harvest all the loose change they find under the seats. This goes into a bucket, and the contents of the bucket are used to buy pizza for the whole crew on Fridays.
Batteries are removed from vehicles and brought to this area for testing. Good batteries are sold to customers, bad batteries are sent to recycling plants.
The air-conditioner refrigerant is harvested and stored, and all fluids— including windshield-washer juice and brake fluid— are sucked out and sent off for recycling or disposal.
A vampire-like device punches into the fuel tank and drains all the gasoline without spilling a drop. Good gas is given to employees; bad gas gets recycled with the other petroleum-based liquids. The entire procedure is weirdly clean and not anything like the puddles-of-burning-gear-oil Superfund nightmare I’d imagined.
After that, the cars were put into the on-deck area, where they’d wait until it was time to pull out an old row of imports and replace it with fresh meat.
So that the forklift drivers would keep the Civic and the Camry together on the yard, my name was written on the windows in paint-pen ink. This made me feel like a junkyard VIP.
I was off at a distant 24 Hours of LeMons race when the cars were placed at the end of a row in the Imports section, so they’d already been exposed to parts shoppers for two days when I visited them.
The hood and a couple of wheels had sold off the Camry, but otherwise it was untouched.
The Civic Si, on the other hand, had already given up a bunch of high-value parts. The Si instrument cluster probably lasted about 20 minutes; these things fetch good money on eBay— not bad for a part that U-Pull-&-Pay gets $20.99 for. The factory aluminum wheels and many interior components were gone as well. I visited this Civic every week for each of its 11 weeks in the Import section, but we’ve only got room for a brief outline of what parts got pulled when; go here for the complete start-to-finish photo-essay of the 1991 Honda Civic Si’s life at U-Pull-&-Pay Denver.
The following week, the Camry’s dash had been hit, but the factory radio, once removed, was judged to be not worth buying. Go here for the complete start-to-finish photo-essay of the 1994 Toyota Camry XLE’s life at U-Pull-&-Pay Denver.
Under the Camry’s (nonexistent) hood, the usual scramble for pocket-sized relays and electronic devices had begun.
Next door, the Civic had donated a fender and most of its front body parts to Denver Honda fanciers.
The door panels and inside latches had been taken, along with about 50% of the remaining interior parts. Exterior trim pieces were also evaporating.
By Week Three, the Camry had started to lose some in-demand bits; the driver’s-side rear-view mirror, for example.
At the same time, someone had removed a valve cover and begun the process of pulling out a couple of the camshafts, before giving up and leaving the cams in place.
Not much had changed on the Camry the following week. Nice front door panels on sub-20-year-old import sedans mostly get snapped up from self-service yards, and that’s what happened to our Camry.
By Week Five, the Civic was looking even more naked. Taillights, most of the exterior trim, and a sprinkling of parts from all over the car had departed.
The Camry’s interior, which looked pretty clean for an 18-year-old car, was bearing the brunt of the scavenging by this time. Part of the center console and the parking-brake lever now live on in a still-on-the-street Camry.
< After the Civic Si spent six weeks on the yard, someone finally came and pulled the car’s 108-horse D16A6 engine. The transmission, oil pan, and most of the accessories were left behind.
By that time, the Camry had yielded some more interior parts, including the driver’s-side armrest and power-window controls.
While Civic-parts shoppers continued to pick the ’91 Si cleaner with each passing week, the Camry at seven weeks was still 90% there.
With 266,542 miles on the clock, this Toyota served its owners well.
A row of cars stays out for two or three months at this type of yard, so time was running out for these two after 11 weeks.
The next row over was replaced around this time, with this ’73 Super Beetle parked nose-to-nose with the Camry.
High-demand parts are often pulled from a car and stashed in an adjacent car, while the buyer runs home to get money and/or check to see if he really needs the thing. I’m not sure why anybody would care much about a Mexican Solex 34PICT knockoff, but I found the Super Beetle’s carb sitting in the Camry’s trunk.
Twelve weeks after our Camry and Civic were placed on the yard, it was time for some new inventory. In their place, a Mazda Protege and a Lexus SC400.
Meanwhile, the junkyard-browsing public having had three months to pick over the Civic and Camry, our cars waited in a holding area next to The Crusher.
The forklift man grabbed the Toyota first.
The aluminum-laden engines of modern cars are removed before crushing at U-Pull-&-Pay; the forklift operator just tears the engine and transmission right out of the car.
This guy then jumps in and begins clipping off valuable copper wiring from the engine.
After that, he’ll remove the alternator, starter, and other accessories that have value as rebuildable cores.
While that’s going on, the forklift goes back in and rips out the dash wiring harness and whatever remains of the engine harness.
Copper is money!
18 years and the equivalent of 11 trips around the world’s circumference, and the end of the line has been reached for this Camry. Into The Crusher it goes.

If you have a ghoulish fascination with watching cars die, here’s a video compilation of the sequence I just described.
With the Camry pressed flat, The Crusher has room for another course in its meal. The forklift fetches the Civic.
The engine and much of the wiring had already been pulled by customers, so there wasn’t as much to extract from this car.
Placed atop the Camry in The Crusher, the Civic gets mashed flat quickly.

Here’s the video version of the Civic’s demise.
The two-car pancake is then hauled over to the stacks of squished cars awaiting a trip to the scrapper.
The two cars together couldn’t have been more than 18″ thick.
I’ve owned a few fourth-gen Civics and liked them a lot, so this sight made me a bit sad. Still, the endless cycle of cars and steel must continue.
The crushed carcasses are loaded onto a truck, which then takes the load of steel about ten miles south to the scrapper.
The pressed remains of our Camry and Civic then get shredded and put into shipping containers. Maybe they’ll be hauled by train over the Rockies and Sierras and put into a China-bound container ship, or perhaps they’ll head to foundries in the United States or Europe. And that’s it— two more cars reenter the food chain.
For the complete story of the ’91 Civic Si’s 11 weeks as a parts donor, go here.
For the ’94 Camry XLE’s saga, go here.

13-71-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-01-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-02-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-03-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-04-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-08-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-09-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-11-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-13-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-15-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-17-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-20-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-21-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-23-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-30-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-32-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 01-01-UPAP_Week1- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 01-11-UPAP_Week1- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 01-21-UPAP_Week1- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 02-11-UPAP_Week2- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 02-16-UPAP_Week2- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 02-25-UPAP_Week2- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 02-32-UPAP_Week2- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 02-43-UPAP_Week2- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 03-32-UPAP_Week3- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 03-39-UPAP_Week3- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 04-03-UPAP_Week4- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 05-19-UPAP_Week5- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 05-29-UPAP_Week5- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 05-31-UPAP_Week5- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 05-36-UPAP_Week5- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 06-04-UPAP_Week6- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 06-05-UPAP_Week6- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 06-27-UPAP_Week6- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 06-28-UPAP_Week6- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 07-13-UPAP_Week7- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 07-22-UPAP_Week7- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 08-01-UPAP_Week8- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 08-06-UPAP_Week8- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 08-17-UPAP_Week8- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 08-30-UPAP_Week8- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 10-33-UPAP_Week10- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 11-01-UPAP_Week11- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 11-17-UPAP_Week11- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 11-18-UPAP_Week11- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 11-38-UPAP_Week11- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 12-UPAP-Week12- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-01-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-07-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-13-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-20-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-25-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-26-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-38-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-41-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-42-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-49-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-52-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-56-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-59-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-63-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-68-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-69-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-00-UPAP_Story-Top 22 - 1978 Chrysler Cordoba Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Corinthian Leather' Greden 21 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 00-33-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden ]]> 112
Piston Slap: Time to Twist Up the Tach? Mon, 10 Dec 2012 13:54:58 +0000

TTAC commentator David Holzman writes:


I have a new (to me) ’08 Civic LX 1.8 liter, stick, bought with 35k on the clock. The previous owner was a woman who traded it for a RAV4 I think (I bought the car from a Toyota dealer). I’m guessing partly based on gender stereotypes that she wasn’t availing herself of the high revs to flog a lot of performance out of the car.

If I want to wind it up a lot, does it need first to be broken in for high revs ? (Red line is 6750. I’ve taken it just a little beyond 5. It seems happy to do that.) If so, what’s the best procedure for this? For whatever it’s worth, after slightly under 2,000 miles since the dealer change the oil, it’s still clear, though ever so slightly darker than the first time I drove the car, about 1800 miles ago.

As an aside, for anyone interested, I got 36 mpg from Boston to Quakertown, PA, 34 from Quakertown PA to northern Virginia, against a strong headwind, and 39 driving home from NoVA, including a brief traffic jam on America’s Main STreet (the New Jersey tpk), and a drive through Manhattan, with a 70-plus mph average on the highway.

Best, –David

Sajeev answers:

First, I gotta compliment your machine’s inherent beauty, compared to the 2012 I sampled recently. Second, gender stereotypes? That’s just begging to be 100% wrong. Come on, son…welcome to the current millenia!

Let’s be clear on one point: the Civic (@35k) is already broken in, it’s too late for that.  6750 on the tach’s been your friend since you drove it off the lot!

Now let’s look at the logical extension of this question: what about a “warm up” procedure before twistin’ the Civic up to redline? Everyone has an opinion on the matter, and since TTAC readers seem to like my opinions, here goes:

1. Unless we are in below zero degree weather, there’s nothing wrong with immediately driving a vehicle after the initial cold start.  Quickly move off the lot, but don’t move fast. Idle time is serious engine wear time: slowly circulating cold oil is a no-no, you want oil temperature up to spec ASAP.  In a safe manner!

2. Do NOT rev it to red line until the temperature gauge is up to its normal place (whatever that is) for about a minute or so.  Oil takes a little longer to get to temperature than engine coolant, and since many vehicles don’t show oil temp, just hang around for a while as the oil plays catch up to the coolant. Accelerate modestly, taking full advantage of the engine’s torque peak at this time.  Google wasn’t helping me, but I expect the torque peak on a Civic LX is around 4000 rpm.  So keep the motor in that general area while accelerating, or lower: traffic conditions determines this, obviously.

The insane high torque peak of some cars (Scion FR-S and even the 3.6L DI Cadillacs, to a lesser extent) give me serious pause on my advice, but whatever.  No theory is perfect.

3. Once the motor’s lived at normal coolant operating temperature for “a while”, your only worry is the rev-limiter: try not to hit it.  So now you can just go right ahead and beat the living shit out of that little motor. 

Have fun!


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Vellum Venom: 2012 Honda Civic (Hybrid) Fri, 30 Nov 2012 19:19:12 +0000 Sometimes promises are kept in the car design biz: the 2013 Civic sounds like a big step up from this 2012 model. Which was a big step down from the ’70s concept car chic of the 8th generation Civic. Aside from Wayne Cherry’s professional nightmare, how often does a manufacturer make such significant changes after one year of production?  This model insulted more than one autojourno and countless fanbois, apparently Honda doesn’t mess around when reputation and $$$ are on the line.  But just how bad was it in 2012? What in the hell is that?

The 8th generation Civic’s bumpers had a flat and clean, 1970s People Mover vibe to it. Radical yes, but not offensive. The 9th Gen’s redesign added lumps and bumps to the bumper, with the aesthetic pleasure of a pear-shaped silhouette. Adding insult to injury, all the folds and unique planes on the bumper’s face. This nose doesn’t work on a body this tall and, um, People Mover like.


The pear shape isn’t obvious from this angle.  Aside from the blocky-cheapness of the grille (even in fancy Hybrid trim), the Civic looks okay from here.  A perfectly flat nose (without the high point for the license plate) woulda been nicer, however.


This is a good time to mention that I gladly put my fingers in strange holes for TTAC’s readership. And, that solid casting behind the logo looks even cheaper in real life.  Shouldn’t Hybrids have a flat, solid badge for better aerodynamics?


This blue strip of Hybrid Snobbery is kinda cool.  First green was marketed for unique Hybrid markings, now blue. Which any luck, we will see more brown hues taking over in the Eco-Friendly color challenge.  After all, isn’t the earth mostly made of brown stuff?  There’s just a lot of green and blue on top of the chocolatey goodness!


While I’m all for unique trimmings on unique models, this blue lightbulb umbrella is a bit much.  Anodized(?) blue on a cheap metal stamping doesn’t look better, it accentuates something that’s better left in chrome camouflage. The only thing worse would be my brown remark from above, translated here.


If there was no fender flare, no pear shape to the bumper, this would be a decent enough looking machine. Then again, the 8th Gen Civic already had that covered. Much like the awful Chevy Uplander (CUV-wannabe) to the mediocre Chevy Venture (Minivan) that came before it, sometimes change is a very bad, very half-assed thing indeed.


On the plus side, the plane of the bumper that flows into the headlight is pretty cool from here.  And the bumper to fender seam is logical. There’s a bit of the 1970s wedgy perfection here.  Just not enough of it.


The 9th Gen Hybrid wheels are as contrived and overwrought as the front end.  The 8th Gen’s totally futuristic wheels were so much better.


Contrary to most cab-forward designs, the Civic’s plastic trim on the cowl is quite minimal and clean.  It’s nice to see more painted hood and less black plastic in this manner.


Too bad about this slab of plastic.  The Daylight Opening (DLO) of the 9th Gen is so, so much worse than the 8th Gen.  What used to be a cool ’70s people mover with those sleek bits of glass in front of the door turned into plastic triangles of DLO FAIL.  It’s very sad to see Honda go to Pontiac Aztek levels of cheapness in their quest to…well, I have no idea what they were thinking.

That’s right, they were thinking about the $$$.  And since the 2013 model still has the plastic triangles of DLO FAIL, we see that it’s still all about the money. Ain’t a damn thing funny!


DLO FAIL from another angle, complete with round-ish mirrors that fight the very wedgy greenhouse.  Remember when Honda spent the money to put covered headlights on the 3rd Generation Accord?  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  Hyundai and Kia: the ball is in your court.


And yet, just like my review back in 2007, I still hear Jazz-Rock Fusion when I see a Civic.  The 70′s never died, it just went mainstream pop. The watered down wheel design, big hunka DLO FAIL, unnecessary muscular crease by the door handles and generic taillights don’t totally negate the wedge greenhouse. Probably.


Ack: bargain basement Hofmeister Kinkery!!! Try saying that three times fast!

Another reason to love the 8th Gen Civic.  While this isn’t DLO FAIL like the front, this cheap bit of (tacked on, not-flush fitting) trim at the end of the DLO means Honda took a page from GM’s beancounting playbook.  A very sad move indeed, son.

Since I am not one of those autojournos that gets all-expense paid trips to the LA Auto Show (sorry about that), I don’t know if the 2013 Civic improved here.  From what I see on the web, I have my doubts. Too bad about that.


Is this one piece plastic casting of parcel shelf and high-mount stop light (CHMSL) a clean and modern design, or a cheap bit from the dark days of GM and Chrysler interiors? I like carpet better, personally.


Most (all?) Civics in the history of Honda Awesomeness sported taillights that were either full width or something close to it. This cheapness is too Toyota like, and shameful.  Luckily the 2013 model goes back to a lamp arrangement befitting the brand and the Civic lineage. Now if only I knew for sure that bumper shelf below the taillights also met the chopping block for ’13.

At least you can’t see the DLO FAIL from this angle.



The strong shoulder line in this panel extends logically into the rear door.  It looks good enough, but the flat and wedgy profile of the 8th Gen was far more appealing from this angle. Mostly because it didn’t over promise on style, in an overwrought Toyota way. Hondas used to be so lithe and clean!


Thank goodness that mustache above the license plate isn’t chrome, as Honda would be just a fender ventiport away from copying every design cliché in the book! And that “shelf” at each corner really needs to go from this angle.  The pear-shaped Civic must never been seen again!


While there is an interesting dynamic of busy angles at the border of the Civic’s body, it is lumpy and frumpy.  This design will not age well.


Dare I say that, compared to what you see here, the 8th Gen Civic was downright gorgeous from this angle? While all the planes and wedges all lead to complimentary vanishing points somewhere out there in interstellar space (hopefully), there are simply far too many of them.


More blue tinting and pointless chrome bits. The lights would look better if they were flush to the body. It would also eliminate many lumps you’ve seen in the last two pictures.


And the spoiler adds a coupla more unique planes into the mix.  Just waaaay too busy.


Too many clichés, too much abandonment of what made the Civic a quality product with progressive and/or upscale design. The best thing you can say about the 2012 Civic is that the 2013 model should be in the showrooms very shortly.

Thanks for reading, you have a lovely weekend! This photo from 2006 will help.

1 1_1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 13_2 13_3 14 14_1 15 16 16_1 17 18 19 I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO SAY HERE! (photo courtesy: Sajeev Mehta) WOW. 2006 Civic Hyrid. (Photo Courtesy: Honda Motor) Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail


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Honda Civic To Be Developed in Ohio? Mon, 26 Nov 2012 14:01:37 +0000

Honda will shift development of the next-generation Civic to the U.S. reports by The Nikkei [sub] and Reuters say. Reuters has a quote from Honda spokesman Satoshi Takami, who said: “Localizing Civic development in the United States is among various factors we are considering. Generally speaking, Honda wants to develop cars locally where we sell them.” The Nikkei said that the Accord may also be developed in the U.S.

North America accounts for half of total Civic sales. The 2012 Civic, was panned by critics. A facelifted 2013 Civic will be shown on Thursday at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

According to Reuters, Honda is considering developing the next generation Civic at its R&D center in Ohio, rather than at home in Tochigi,

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Kill Switch Thwarts Denver Civic Thieves Once Again, Junkyard Parts To the Rescue Thu, 19 Jul 2012 14:30:21 +0000 I love my beater 1992 Honda Civic, and living near downtown Denver is great, but the combination of fifth-gen Civic and urban living means that thieves are going to try to steal my street-parked car on a depressingly regular basis. Would-be thieves tore up my steering column less than a year ago, and they did it again a couple of weeks back. Both times, my homebrewed kill-switch system kept the bad guys from starting the car. Both times, I got the car back on the road with cheap junkyard parts.
The first indication I got that something was wrong was the sight of the open glovebox— itself the victim of many break-ins when the previous owner lived in San Francisco and Chicago and repaired with non-color-matching junkyard parts just recently— and the busted steering-column cover on the passenger-side floor. Not again!
After I had an ’87 Civic hatch ripped off in Oakland back in the 1990s, I’ve installed kill switches on every Honda I’ve owned since; this is the fourth time (that I know of) that such a switch has saved one of my cars from theft. The problem with Civics of the 1980s and 1990s is that any random Honda key has a pretty good chance of starting any Honda; most thieves just carry a bunch of keys with them and keep trying keys until one works. This thief went for the old-fashioned break-the-column-lock/pry-the-ignition-switch-off approach, which tears the hell out of everything on the steering column.
I’m not sure exactly what tools are used to do this, but some major leverage must have been used to crack the tough steel of the column-lock collar.
I’d like to share my kill-switch secrets with the world, but I don’t want to make things any easier for the Honda thieves prowling my neighborhood. What I’ve got is a device that doesn’t look like a switch and requires a certain amount of contortion to reach from the driver’s seat, and it’s a double-pole/single-throw switch that cuts power to both the starter solenoid and the fuel pump. Actually, that’s the setup I had, before this incident; now I’ve got the two circuits on separate camouflaged switches. It would take a very patient thief indeed to find both switches, and meth use doesn’t encourage such patience.
One of these days I’m going to master the art of Field Expedient Ignition Key Making, as seen at towed-car auctions: you jam a key blank in the lock, abuse it cruelly with a pliers, and then file away the areas where the lock pins made marks on the blank. For now, I buy a lock cylinder and ignition switch at the junkyard and get a locksmith to make a key; in this case, I found a great deal on eBay for a 5G Civic cylinder/switch assembly with keys already there, so I went that route.
Since the steering-column covers had been torn to bits by the amphetamine-crazed Civic thief, I headed to my favorite self-serve wrecking yard to do some plastic shopping. Someone had already pulled the ignition switch from this ’95 Civic sedan (nearly every 5th-gen Civic in self-service yards has had the ignition switch assembly removed, which tells you something about the prevalence of theft with these cars), and he or she had been kind enough to not destroy the steering column cover pieces. It’s nice to find that the parts you need are removed and conveniently located.
Success! I’m pretty sure my car had been stolen and recovered several times before I bought it, because every lock and latch in the car was already pretty well thrashed; the steering column cover was already beat to hell before the latest thief finished it off. I’ll have to give the car’s previous owner a call and ask him about the car’s theft history.
Removing the old switch is a medium-grade pain in the ass, mostly because the car is so small and it’s hard to get to anything. To get to the shear bolts that hold the switch assembly on the steering column, you need to drop the column down to seat level.
This is the sort of job for which the factory shop manual is a must-have, and Honda has always done a beautiful job with their manuals. I’m a technical writer by trade, and I’ll use Honda factory shop manuals as course materials if I ever teach a tech-writing class (if I ever teach a fiction-writing class it’s going to be Flannery O’Connor all the way).
Right. So, you center-punch and drill out the two shear bolts that hold the lock cylinder assembly on the steering column, and then you unplug the two connectors from the ignition switch harness to the fuse panel.
Here’s the old ignition switch and harness assembly.
You can install the ignition switch/cylinder assembly with regular bolts and it probably wouldn’t matter; any thief who is willing to remove the half-dozen fasteners required to get access to the switch mounting bracket is going to apply his talents to more valuable targets. My switch came with new shear bolts, courtesy of the eBay seller, so I used them.
It doesn’t take much torque to snap off the heads of the shear bolts; one hand on a short 1/4″-drive ratchet was sufficient.
At this point, punching and drilling of the bolt will be needed to remove the assembly.
In a job like this, there’s always some nickel/dime headache that slows things down. In this case, the replacement switch’s wiring harness didn’t have one of the two one-way hold-downs that keep the wires out of the way of nearby moving parts.
I could have drilled a second hole in the bracket and used a zip-tie, but instead I opted to free up one of the hold-downs on the old harness and install it on the new one.
A quick test showed that the new switch worked fine, so I buttoned everything up.
Ready to go!
I’m glad my kill switches have saved my Civic, which has been the best daily-driver/parts-hauling beater I’ve ever owned, but these constant theft attempts are getting old. To prevent such occurrences— which seem inevitable, given that I park a known-to-be-easy-to-steal car with high parts demand in a nice neighborhood adjacent to a sketchy/tweeker-centric ‘hood— in the future, I’m going to take additional steps:
1. I’ve been parking the Civic (which I don’t drive much since I bought a much more VIP daily driver) in a dark parking space where it can’t be seen from my house, mostly so my ’66 Dodge A100 van can be seen from the house. Since I remove the battery from my hot-wireable-in-10-seconds van when it’s parked, and demand for A100 parts isn’t particularly high, it’s probably safe to let the Civic live in the A100′s spot.
2. Car alarms are pointless and annoying, but the cost of a flashing LED and resistor is about 99 cents. There’s a small-but-real chance that the appearance of an alarm will deter potential thieves, so I’ve installed a blinky LED on the dash. I’ve also added a club-style steering wheel lock, because a thief might decide that the added 30 seconds to hacksaw through the steering wheel isn’t worth the risk of getting shot full of holes and/or bludgeoned with a lag-screw-studded 2×4 by an enraged car owner.
3. I’ve added a second kill switch, so now the fuel pump and starter are interrupted by separate switches. Good luck finding both switches, thieves!
4. Long-term (i.e., before I swap my Integra GS-R B18C1 engine in), I plan to install a racing-style quick-release steering wheel in the car and stash the wheel inside the house. Most thieves don’t carry a collection of steering wheels with all the popular quick-release hubs, and using a Vise-Grip as a steering wheel works poorly on a non-power-steering-equipped car.
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Working On a Harlequin Interior For My Civic, One Junkyard Piece At a Time Wed, 30 May 2012 18:03:27 +0000 There’s a liberating feeling when you have to fix some interior component on a beater transportation car (e.g., my destined-to-become-a-track-car 1992 Civic DX) and you don’t care about color matching. Item #3,491 on the list of Parts Whose Failure Doesn’t Stop You From Driving, But Still Drives You Crazy: the glovebox door latch.
My Civic led a rough life before I bought it five years ago; its previous owner was a blues bass player who lived in Chicago and then San Francisco, parking the car on sketchy side streets near sleazeball blues clubs in both cities. Street-parked cars in San Francisco get broken into about once every two weeks on average, which meant that every lock on the car has been punched or pried out at least a dozen times, and every storage compartment in the interior has been pawed open by many desperate thieves in the throes of amphetamine psychosis and/or the DTs and/or the hippie hippie shakes (in Denver, they just try to cold steal the car itself). The glovebox in my car was always flaky, with a balky latch mechanism damaged by the scrabbling fingers of so many urban entrepreneurs, and last week it finally gave up completely.
Yes, the plastic handle finally snapped off when I opened the glovebox to grab my cassette of I, Fish Driver. I called my local Honda dealer and was quoted a price of just $17.95 for this piece, but it wasn’t in stock. I planned to do a junkyard run that day and shoot Junkyard Find photos, anyway, so I thought I’d do some glovebox-latch shopping at the same time. If I couldn’t find one, I’d just wait a few days for a new replacement part.
The first yard I visited didn’t have any fifth-gen Civics that hadn’t been completely gutted (I’m still waiting for 1992-95 Civics to show up in large quantities in self-service junkyards, but this hasn’t happened yet), so I looked at Integras, Accords, and Preludes from the same decade. Honda has been known to share components across different models, so maybe the Accord’s glovebox latch will fit the Civic.
This one has a lock, but the overall shape is identical to the 92-95 Civic unit. What the heck, it’s held in with just two screws and the junkyard wanted only $2.99 for the entire latch mechanism. As an added bonus, it’s even the correct gray color!
Unfortunately, the location of the striker is about 1/4″ different in the Accord latch, so it wouldn’t work without a bunch of pain-in-ass modifications. The good news was that I planned to do another photo expedition at a second junkyard that afternoon… where I found this fifth-gen Civic coupe.
The interior of this Civic was a very mid-90s beige, which was sort of horrible, but the latch was mechanically correct. This junkyard charged just $1.49 for it.
30 seconds of work and the swap is done.
In a non-beater, this would be a major fashion don’t, but I’m this car’s final owner!
Anyway, the latch goes well with the only-one-I-could-find replacement for the window crank I snapped off while loading 8-foot 2x6s in the car at the lumberyard. Now I’m tempted to get a green steering wheel.

18 - 1992 Honda Civic Glovebox Latch Repair 01 - 1992 Honda Civic Glovebox Latch Repair 02 - 1992 Honda Civic Glovebox Latch Repair 04 - 1992 Honda Civic Glovebox Latch Repair 05 - 1992 Honda Civic Glovebox Latch Repair 06 - 1992 Honda Civic Glovebox Latch Repair 08 - 1992 Honda Civic Glovebox Latch Repair 12 - 1992 Honda Civic Glovebox Latch Repair 16 - 1992 Honda Civic Glovebox Latch Repair 17 - 1992 Honda Civic Glovebox Latch Repair Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 24
Review: 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas Wed, 23 May 2012 16:51:09 +0000

Since 1998 Honda has been quietly producing one of the cleanest vehicles in America. In 2001 the EPA called its engine “the cleanest burning internal combustion engine in the world.” No, it’s not a hybrid, it’s Honda’s Civic Natural Gas (formerly known as the Civic GX). Until now, the Civic Natural Gas has only been available for retail sale in a handful of states like California and New York. For 2012, Honda expanded sales to 37 states and lent us one for a week.

As Honda dropped off the CNG Civic one bright Tuesday morning, I realized I had absolutely no idea what I had gotten myself into. Like most of the motoring public, I didn’t know much about CNG and it was only when the compact sedan arrived that I asked: “where do I fill this thing up?” Once I found a CNG station, I realized I had no idea how to fill it up either. If you’re dying to know, check out our video below.

Click here to view the embedded video.


The all-new 9th generation exterior is instantly recognizable as a Civic. While there are virtually no carryover parts from 2011, the changes are subtle enough to be a refresh. Unlike the Civic Hybrid, which gains a few blue-tinted trim bits and some LED brake lights to set it apart from the rabble, the only way to identify the Civic Natural Gas is by the legally required blue diamond CNG logo on the trunk lid. (The sticker is supposed to help emergency responders know that high-pressure gas lurks within.) Limited production means limited options, and you can get your Civic Natural gas in any color you want so long as its light grey, dark grey, periwinkle or white.


The Civic Natural Gas started out  in 1998 as a cleaner alternative for the meter maids parking enforcement specialists in Los Angeles. Since then, the majority of gaseous sales have gone to fleet customers looking for lower operating costs, a green image and a vehicle that uses the same fueling infrastructure as their vans and buses. Honda’s focus on fleet customers (and their needs) is obvious by the lack of options found on Honda’s retail-focused models. The interior is only available in one color scheme, with cloth seats and only one option: Honda’s touchscreen nav system. You won’t find leather seats, automatic climate control, heated seats, or an up-level speaker package at any price.



Under the hood beats the biggest change: a re-worked 1.8L engine. This is one of the few engines in the world built specifically for CNG. Unlike conversion kits that blow gas into the air intake, the Civic uses a CNG  multi-port injection system. To compensate for the lower energy density of CNG, the compression ratio is increased from 10.6 to 12.7. Despite this, power drops from 140HP to 110HP while torque goes from 128lb-ft to 106lb-ft. Honda toyed with a CVT in the past, but for 2012, the 5-speed automatic from the regular Civic makes a cameo. I’m probably the only car guy to wish the CVT from the hybrid was under the hood as it would have improved the fuel economy

According to the EPA, this engine produces 70-90% lower smog forming emissions, 20-30% lower CO2 and virtually no evaporative emissions when compared to a regular Civic. It’s smog numbers and CO2 numbers are lower than VW’s most efficient clean diesel and it delivers considerably lower NOx and particulate emissions when compared to clean diesels. A side benefit of CNG engines is improved spark plug and oil life as there are fewer impurities to foul either one.



Sound too good to be true? There are a few problems. First off, natural gas must be stored in a pressure cylinder. By their design, these cylinders are large, need to be placed somewhere safe, and can’t be shaped like your typical gas tank. This means the cylinder is in the trunk and cargo space gets cut in half from 12.5 cubic feet to 6.1. As you can see below, it is still possible to fit two carry-on sized roller bags and some small hand luggage in the trunk, but larger items like large strollers might not fit.


About CNG

According to the EPA, CNG is a plentiful and as a result, 87% of the natural gas consumed in the United States in 2011 was produced domestically. The rest came from Canada and Mexico. If you are simply seeking to reduce this country’s dependence on foreign energy without changing your lifestyle, CNG is one of your better options. While there are about 120,000 CNG powered vehicles in the United States, most of them are buses. You want something other than a cargo or people hauler, the Civic is the only factory built CNG vehicle around.

Since virtually all natural gas consumed in America comes from underground deposits created by ancient decaying matter, it’s not a renewable resource in its current form. Unlike gasoline, diesel and liquid propane, natural gas isn’t sold by the gallon. Instead, it is served up by the Gasoline Gallon Equivalent or GGE. At 3,600psi this equates to 0.51 cubic feet of gas. In California we averaged $2.19 per GGE while gasoline was around $4.27 a gallon.


Finding CNG can be tricky as there are only 1,000 stations in the US, and half of them are closed to the public. Approximately 250 public stations are available in California with New York and Utah coming in second and third at 101 and 84 respectively. Operating your CNG Civic in a state like Texas could be tricky, with both long driving distances and only 36 stations to fill up at. Most stations are located near airports and industrial areas, so if your commute takes you near these locations it’s an easy sell. While there are home refueling stations available, Honda does not recommend them as they may not sufficiently dry the gas and allow moisture to build up in the tank. The home unit costs $4,900 without installation and is only good for 3,000 GGE of CNG. Although not recommended, it is much cheaper to fill up at home, with an estimated cost per GGE of $1.43 in California. While the CNG station nearest to my home is 20 miles away, there are several on the way to my office and one only 0.2 miles from my office, making commuter-car use a real option for me.



Honda’s Civic Natural Gas carries a mid-range feature set despite its price tag. This means that although a nav system is available (the only option on the CNG), upgraded speakers are not. The sound quality is mediocre with dull highs and muddy lows. Remember, this is a fleet-oriented vehicle. The only real reason to get the factory nav system is that it is preloaded with a CNG station database which can be handy if you don’t have a smartphone. If you have a smartphone, stick with the base radio and get a CNG finder app.



Out on the road the Civic Natural Gas drives just like a regular Civic, with less power. From a standstill, 60 arrives in 10.9 seconds, about 2 seconds slower than a regular Civic, but only 3/4 of a second behind the hybrid. When it comes to road holding, the CNG performs essentially the same as a regular Civic LX sedan, since Honda chose not to use low rolling resistance rubber on the CNG like they did on the hybrid.


You should know that essentially all the tax credits for CNG vehicles have evaporated. This means your CNG Civic is a whopping $6,710 more than a comparably equipped Civic LX and even $2,105 more than a Civic Hybrid. Based on current fuel costs in northern California, it would take 5.5 years for the CNG to break even with the Hybrid and 7.5 with the Civic LX. The Civic Natural Gas has a trump card to play in California: Solo carpool usage. If you live on the left coast as I do, and “enjoy” a “healthy” commute, the CNG may just be the best investment you could make in your family. On my daily commute, being able to drive in the carpool lane saved me 25-35 minutes of commute time per day. That adds up to 125 hours less commuting a year, or 5.2 days less time in a car on my commute. The scarcity of CNG filling stations will continue to ensure Civic Natural Gas sales remain low. However, for those that live near CNG infrastructure, the Civic Natural gas makes an interesting proposition. While it will take nearly a decade to justify the cost of buying one, in states like California where you can use the HOV lane, it presents quite a different reason to buy one. It also makes a compelling case against EVs, as America is the land of coal and gas power plants, the CO2 emissions from the CNG Civic are similar or lower than the Leaf depending on the state you live in.


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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 4.2 Seconds

0-60: 10.9 Seconds

Average fuel economy: 35.2MPG over 820 Miles


2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, front, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, front, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), CA carpool sticker, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), CNG logo, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), refueling, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), refueling, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), refueling, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), refueling, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), CNG prices , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, front, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, dashboard , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, dashboard , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, HVAC controls, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Trunk /  Cargo room, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Trunk /  Cargo room, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, tachometer, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, instrument cluster, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, fuel economy, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, radio / infotainment, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, ECO button, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Interior, door switches, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Engine, 1.8L CNG, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas (Civic GX), Engine, 1.8L CNG, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 65
Review: 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid Sat, 19 May 2012 13:00:37 +0000

More than just a mere model, the Honda Civic is an institution. With 9 million examples sold on American shores, and nearly 20 million worldwide, calling it “Honda’s most important car” doesn’t express the importance of getting the 2012 redesign right. Michael got his hands on the EX model last May, but today we’re looking at the green poster child of the Honda line-up.  Visit TTAC next week as we get gaseous with the Civic CNG.

Click here to view the embedded video.

If the Civic were a brand, it’s volume would rank above the likes of BMW, Mazda, Mercedes and Chrysler. As you would expect from a volume player, Honda played it safe with the sheetmetal. While overall proportions are exactly the same as the 2011 Civic, the 2012 sports a 1.2-inch shorter wheelbase. The hybrid’s new nose sports a grille with horizontal bars, chrome bling and blue trim to show that the planet is being saved. The overall look is evolutionary and elegant, a logical move for the Civic as the hybrid model can cost more than $27,000 after destination charges. Aside from the subtle blue band up front, a hybrid logo and LED brake lamps out back, there are no visual clues to the Civic’s powertrain.


If you thought the Civic was small , then you haven’t been inside one recently. Interior volume is up by four cubic feet and rear leg room has grown by nearly two inches. Four average sized Americans will have no problem spending time in the Civic, but 5 is still a tight squeeze. Honda’s redesigned battery means trunk room has grown slightly from 10.4 cubic feet to 10.7, but still a notable reduction from the non-hybrid’s 12.5 cubic foot trunk. The battery is still located  behind the rear seat meaning the seat backs can’t fold for longer cargo.

The Civic’s interior continues to feature Honda’s “two-tier dash” which places a digital-style speedometer, MPG and fuel gauge high on the dash. Next to the them is a high-resolution 5-inch LCD “Multi-Information Display” (i-MID) which displays hybrid system, audio, trip and fuel-economy information. The lower tier has the tachometer and warning lights and is behind the steering wheel. The cockpit continues to be driver-oriented with the HVAC and radio controls angled towards the driver.


As the Hybrid shares its interior with the Civic Coupe (starting at $15,755), plastics are hard and the texturing does little to disguise it. In truth, most of the competition isn’t any better, but that’s not to say we can totally excuse some items. Our tester’s passenger-side airbag color was a distinctly different shade than the surrounding dash, a problem we also noted on the Civic Natural Gas tester. Front seat comfort is excellent for long trips, but as Honda continues to put fairly exaggerated fixed lumbar support in the Civic ‘s front seats, (something I personally prefer) you might want to spend some time sitting in the seats before you buy. Rear seat cushions continue to be positioned low in the Civic making longer journeys tiresome for your long-legged friends, but your kids will be happier with seats that start lower to the floor.


Since the Civic Hybrid is essentially the flagship Civic, all models come standard with Honda’s 6-speaker, 160-watt sound system independent of the head unit. Base models come with an MP3 CD player that and basic a USB/iPod interface. The optional navigation system adds a large screen for navigating your “iDevices” as well as XM Satelite Radio with XM Nav Traffic. The system’s interface is logical and well laid out, but the graphics are not as nice as Toyota’s or Ford’s systems. Although you cannot voice command specific tracks from your iPod like you can in Acura or Ford products, practically every other command in the system is “voice commandable.” The $1,300 premium to step up to the nav system is a tough pill to swallow when after market systems deliver a more pleasing interface for less.


With little fanfare Honda has significantly updated the “Integrated Motor Assist,” or IMA hybrid system. At the heart of the fifth-generation system is a larger 1.5L engine.Although larger than last year’s 1.3L unit, the displacement increase doesn’t improve power, which falls by 3HP. The biggest change is a revised torque curve for more efficient driving. As before, the electric motor is sandwiched between the engine and a traditional CVT. The new motor is not only more powerful, bringing 23HP and 78lb-ft to the party, but it’s also smaller and lighter than before. With Toyota’s hybrid synergy drive you can’t add “engine+motor” to get total system figures, but with IMA you can. Because the torque and HP curves of the motor and engine differ, the maximum output is where the two lines intersect: 110HP at 5,500RPM and 127lb-ft of torque from 1,000-3,500RPM. (Thank the electric motor for that flat torque curve). Also new to this system is a dual-scroll A/C compressor, first seen in the defunct Accord Hybrid. The new compressor is a huge improvement for the Civic because the A/C can now run with the engine off, improving city MPGs.

Powering the electric motor is an all-new lithium-ion battery and new control circuitry that is 35% more efficient than before. Although the battery’s capacity has gone down (from 5.5Ah to 4.7Ah), lithium batteries can charge and discharge  more quickly, allowing the 2012 Civic Hybrid to recapture more energy from regenerative braking as well as roll around in EV-only mode. Yep, this Civic can now cruise around solely with electric power – for short periods of time. Since Honda doesn’t use a clutch to disconnect the engine from the motor (ala Infiniti’s M35h or Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid), the engine is always turning. Even during 100% electric mode. If you are driving around town, on a flat road, under moderate throttle and speeds under 40MPH, the Civic Hybrid will close the engine’s valves, cut off the gasoline and the 23HP provides all the power to spin the wheels, and the engine. Since the tachometer is still reading motion, the only way you know you’re in EV mode is by looking at the i-MID screen.


Since the motor delivers all of its 78lb-ft at low RPMs, off the line shove is better than the numbers might suggest. Not all is perfect with the latest IMA system however as transitions between regenerative and regular braking are considerably less polished than in Toyota’s hybrid products, especially when the battery reaches capacity. On the bright side, the CVT and the broad torque curve also turn the Civic Hybrid into a fairly effective hill climber. The Civic Si is incredibly satisfying on a windy mountain road and I would like to say the same could be said of the Hybrid, but I would be lying. When the going gets twisty, the low rolling resistance tires howl and give up early and extend braking distances significantly. Still, road holding isn’t what hybrids are about. Fuel economy is the name of this game.

As I am sure you’ve all heard, the previous generations of Civic Hybrid have had some bad press over fuel economy. Honda obviously took their recent legal woes to heart and not only improved the EPA numbers on the Civic Hybrid, but seemingly the real world mileage as well. EPA economy is up from 40/43 to 44/44 and in our week with the car we averaged a respectable 42.8MPG over 889 miles. Before you comment on the difference between EPA and observed economy however, this was not a typical commute week for me. Instead of my blend of mountain/city/highway driving, the Civic spent the majority of the week going up and down a 2,200ft mountain pass with little highway time. Still, this included the 2012 Hybrid scored better than the 2011 I tested previously, which averaged 36MPG.

How much does Honda’s compact fuel sipper cost?Pricing is easy, and there are only four ways to buy your Civic Hybrid. $24,200 buys the base model with cloth seats, $25,700 adds navigation, $25,400 gets you the base Hybrid with leather and our tester was the $26,900 model with navigation and leather. That’s about $3,500 more than a comparably equipped Civic EX, not to mention pricier than the Insight. For those paying attention, that’s just about the same as a Prius when you adjust for the extra features in a Prius “Four.” If your goal is simply to burn less gasoline, then the Prius is the green car for you. If however you’re looking for something more traditional that is “green enough,” the Civic Hybrid fits the bill perfectly. Of course, there’s still the question of the Insight. Although leather isn’t available, the most expensive Insight (EX with navigation) is $510 less than the Civic. Although the Civic Hybrid is slightly faster and handles slightly better than the Insight, it’s easy to see why the Civic Hybrid has remained, and is destined to remain a slow seller in America.


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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.95 Seconds

0-60: 10.2 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.6 @ 79.5 MPH

Average fuel economy: 42.8MPG over 889 Miles


2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, trunk, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, trunk, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, 3/4 view, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, front grille, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, hybrid logo, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, rear 3/4 , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, side , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, 3/4 , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, 3/4 , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, 3/4 , Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, engine bay, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Engine, Integrated Motor Assist, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, engine, 1.5L, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, hybrid display, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, tachometer, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, speedometer, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, i-MID, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, HVAC controls, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, front, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, aux jacks, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, speakers, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Photography Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 64