2008 Acura CSX Navi Premium Review

2008 acura csx navi premium review

Evaluating the Canadian-designed, built and sold Acura CSX without mentioning the Honda Civic is no easy task. (See?) Comparisons are so tempting, namely because the latter is an excellent car in its own right. The feeling’s mutual. Honda of Japan loved the Acura CSX so much that it served as a template for the JDM Civic. And why not? The CSX delivers an excellent compact luxury package without the reliability issues bedeviling certain (cough German cough) imports. Said otherwise, the CSX is the penny-pinching—I mean, thinking man’s luxury compact.

Seen from afar, you’d be forgiven for thinking the CSX and the Civic ARE the same car. Given its resemblance to its platform mate, the CSX is a perfect spiritual successor to the Civic EL of yore. My tester’s CSX’s exterior upgrades included chrome wheels and door handles, Acura rims, double exhaust and a re-styled front fascia with the all-important Acura badge. Fortunately for the CSX, the humble Civic’s rakish styling plays well even in the semi-luxury market, giving the car a sporty stance without reducing interior space

The donor Civic’s good genes are also apparent across the interior. Acura preserves the Civic’s futuristic double-decker dashboard and small, deep steering. (Honda drivers who don’t get the whole Star Wars thing need not apply.) On the list of what feels the same: the shifter, parking brake, arm rests, steering, thigh support, and storage areas. Get the idea? The major differences are easy to spot. The Acura’s manumatic comes with flimsy, thin paddles mounted on the steering column. Though crisp and responsive, they feel cheap and demand hand placement at exactly nine and three.

Acura swapped-out the Civic’s plain Jane HVAC set-up for an all-controlling screen and voice-activated satellite navigation, which dominates the minimalist instrument panel. Gloved Canadians may curse the unit’s Chicklet-sized buttons, but they’re sensibly-placed, suitably smooth operators. The Acura’s leather front seats are heated for cold Canadian cabooses. The CSX’s rear seats are spacious; easily as comfortable and commodious as the ones found in the previous generation Accord. Provided you have no more than two car chairs in the rear, the CSX is the Goldilocks of family cars.

The CSX is blessed with a 2.0-liter I4 good for 155 HP. RSX owners know this engine well; the mini-mill revs smoothly operates in tight harmony with the automatic transmission— obviating the need for those cheesy paddles. That said, the wheel-mounted cog swappers are quite satisfying, with very little delay between tap (of the finger) to blip (of the engine) to take-off. Though adequately refined and propelled, the CSX’s accelerative performance isn’t class leading– not by a long shot. The MINI Cooper, Volvo C30, BMW 128i and Audi A3 2.0T all have it outgunned. Not to mention the similarly-priced Civic SI. D’oh!

On the road, the CSX’s chassis’ tuning is the automotive equivalent of the Missouri compromise. The ride’s too harsh for the Lexus crowd, and too soft for the BMW crowd. But it works (for a while). The CSX doesn’t mask any of the road’s imperfections, but does a capable job of reducing most of them to the level of minor nuisance.

Put the CSX through its paces at a normal speed and you’d never think it’s really an econobox wearing a silk suit. There isn’t enough torque or power to make the drive wheels matter. The CSX offers up a healthy dose of sportiness, carving into turns quite happily and with minimal body roll when driven reasonably. Leave the realm of reasonableness (in pursuit of that VTEC cam switchover, perhaps) and the car will betray its roots faster than Pamela Anderson on safari. The unrelenting understeer will make one pine for the better-tuned Si. For a comparable experience, the CSX is only slightly less crisp than the Mazda3/Volvo S40 siblings. That is to say it’s excellent for its price point, but not a selling point.

Given Acura’s failures to follow Lexus and Infiniti up the food-chain, Honda can take the Acura CSX as its consolation prize. By steadfastly refusing to ante-up and offer purpose-built luxury cars with V8’s, Acura’s U.S. sales have been evaporated. Now, Honda finds itself with an excellent, fuel-sipping luxury car built in the NAFTA zone ready to go stateside with minimal delay.

At only a $7k mark-up over a regular Civic, given its appointments, the CSX represents tremendous value. In a time of ballooning gas prices and shrinking wallets, it may be just what the doctor ordered to restore Acura’s sagging U.S. sales. Canadians have made whatever Civic-variant Acura the hottest seller for the premium brand since the days of the EL. Whether the CSX will ever go stateside, though, depends on Honda’s ever-changing aspirations for its luxury brand. But I can’t see it doing any more damage to a brand that never moved beyond “mid-luxury” in the first place.

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  • RobertB RobertB on Sep 14, 2008

    My CSX owner 2 Canadian cents worth... The leather interior Civic EX-L is now available in Canada (2008 models) MSRP C$23480 or C$26500 incl tax but navi still not available(not important). My CSX premium navi 5 speed purchased new in 2007 discounted cost C$27652 plus 13% tax = C$31246 on the road. I plan to buy a Civic as a second car to my CSX, the equipment differences are now negligible compared to the cost savings. Why the CSX? It was the leather sold it for me, I like all Japanese cars but for years no leather seating in their compacts. As for cost of leather I have previously been mugged for upwards of C$2000 for leather by Volvo and Mercedes, I don't get it - it is after all a byproduct of the hamburger industry! The 2 litre DOHC engine is quieter and more driveable that the base Civic but I don't consider it a deal breaker - bonus, the Civic burns about 15% less fuel, gas just hit $1.40 this weekend. The CSX has electric steering, I don't know if that is more reliable or what advantage it has. Acura dealership experience is good, both sales and service. Honda shops are crowded madhouses here, a victim of their success due to their extreme popularity. Looking like a Civic is fine - I can drive it and park it anywhere anytime and crooks don't think I'm a rich target. I even refer to my car as a Civic, no shame. Whether these minor items are worth $4000 is arguable. In Canada a fuel efficient fully loaded car with a great rep for around $30,000 is OK by me especially since I have moved down from Mercedes,Volvos costing over $50,000 and am really enjoying spending the savings on other stuff than car payments/repairs/gas so what I'm saying is sure it's 30 grand - but it could be a lot worse! In summary I would (and will) gladly take one of each! Robert in Toronto

    • 514csx 514csx on Aug 10, 2012

      Robert, pleople don't understand that it's resale value will also be higher. We had a grand cherokee and after my dad passed, my mom needed a nice not too expensive car. The CSX was perfect. I always liked it better then a civic and appreciated the extra sportyness it has. Not only does it have all those extra ppl are talking about, it also has larger brakes which hasn't been mentioned and sportier suspension. I liked it so much, i couldn't say no when they were discounting the 2011's with tech and bought another one in white(first was midnight blue). I'm a happy CSX owner, I'm proud of it and do refer it as a civic aswell LoL

  • Csxgurl Csxgurl on Oct 18, 2008

    I own a CSX, and I must say I love my car. The ride *is* smooth. The price point cannot be compared to an American civic...price differences in vehicles, and standard of living etc etc... Anyways, I test drove an 8th gen civic, then crossed the street and test drove the CSX...and yeh, it won. The price is not a sore point for me at all. I *love* my CSX! I couldn't get the civic with the same features that the CSX had in 2007. The leather seats were a biggie for me! Needless to say, I would like to get another one. :D The only thing I would have liked different is seat memory! :D Cheers!

  • FreedMike In unrelated news, my left shoulder has gotten used to me patting it with my right hand, while saying “man, were you smart for buying last year before this all got out of hand.”
  • FreedMike I’d like to say I’m outraged and won’t buy anything from GM, but aside from a Stingray or a CT5 V Blackwing, they don’t make a damn thing I want anyway.
  • FreedMike Well, given that the plastic “wrap,” featuring any number of colors ranging from off-the-wall to utterly obnoxious, is now a thing, maybe these guys figured they’d get a piece of the action.
  • SCE to AUX Hyundai still gives 3 years of Bluelink for free, then it's $99/year after that. I like it, and I pay for it.I agree that GM is just finding a way to raise prices, but what happens after 3 years - does OnStar disappear?This isn't different from other moves by mfrs. For instance, many drop the FWD option and standardize on AWD, while raising prices $1500. Few people complain about that.
  • KevinB I have three vehicles with OnStar solely for the purpose of accident response. Everything else they offer is useless to me because Bluetooth pairs my phone and car for hands free calls, Android Auto pairs with my newest car just fine, and if my car gets stolen, I don't ever want to see it again. The monthly diagnostics report in my email are also a good thing, but roadside service is a joke. My older cars, however, will cease operating by the end of the year because 2g/3g will go away. GM has no plans to retrofit an upgrade to these cars. It makes me wonder how many subscriptions they will be losing because of this.