Ask the Editor: When Will the Civic Become the Accord? Drink Your CAFE and I'll Explain

Mark Stevenson
by Mark Stevenson

TTAC reader Brennan writes:

Hey Mark,

Long-time reader, first-time e-mailer. This might be a question for the TTAC’s Best & Brightest.

This all started when I was looking over the specs for the 2016 Honda Civic after reading your first drive review and really liking what I saw (both the car and your writing). I wanted to see how much of a size difference there was to my wife’s 2001 Honda Accord coupe, which is getting on in age and will need replacing soon. It turns out they’re almost identical in size.

That got me to thinking, how much bigger is the 2016 Accord than the 2016 Civic’s cabin and trunk?

Doing a quick number check of the specs, there only seems to be about a 3-percent size differential between the two (aside from the hip room in the back seats of the Accord).

This leads me to my question: Why would one buy an Accord over a Civic (if a V-6 is discounted as a reason). They’re almost the same size interior-wise, have very similar features, the Civic gets better gas milage, similar horsepower numbers if you go with the turbo, has a smaller overall footprint and is cheaper.

When did compact cars become the new mid-sized cars?

Will the Civic become the Accord? Will that new model be called the Civic-Accord?

(I did look at the size difference between a Mazda3 and a Mazda6 out of curiosity, and while the 6 was bigger by a larger margin, they were still pretty close together.)

Mark answers:

Flattery will get you everywhere! Or at least on the pages of TTAC. Thank you!

Cars and trucks tend to grow with the birth of each new generation of almost any given nameplate. There are exceptions, but that’s typically the rule. Consumers equate “bigger” to “better,” especially in North American markets. If the next Civic isn’t better than the last — read: bigger, as it’s technically classified as a midsize car now along with the Chevrolet Cruze and Sonic, Dodge Dart, Hyundai Elantra, etc. — a repeat customer might not see much reason to trade-up to a newer model.

But you weren’t asking about that.

To put it simply, the Civic will never be the Accord, but you shouldn’t discount the Accord’s ability to grow in subsequent overhauls to maintain a healthy gap between itself and its little brother Civic. However, Honda needs to be careful how much it grows its midsize Accord, and it only needs to look to Ford on lessons in growing a model outside of its market.

The Ford Taurus, once one of the most popular vehicles in America, probably won’t be offered in our market much longer. The once-midsize sedan and wagon grew and grew until the Fusion took over the vaunted midsize spot in Ford’s lineup. The Fusion was now the prime-time sitcom; the Five Hundred/Taurus moved to the Friday Night Death Slot.

For an even starker example of the same phenomenon, look at Nissan. The Altima, now one of the roomiest midsize sedans money can buy, measures in at 101.9 cubic feet of interior volume. The “larger” Maxima? 98.6 cubic feet. Even worse, the Maxima is effectively newer than the refreshed Altima. Nissan had the chance to grow the Maxima last year to give the Altima some space — but didn’t.

And here’s why: The biggest dimensional comparison between the Altima and Maxima isn’t interior volume. Both models have the exact same wheelbase and track, giving them the exact same footprint.

If you’ve been around TTAC longer than I have, you might remember Derek Kreindler’s explanation of Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations and how footprint plays a massive role in how those averages are calculated:

Unfortunately, the footprint method has the opposite effect; rather than encouraging auto makers to strive for unprecedented fuel economy in their passenger car offerings, it has incentivized auto makers to build larger cars

Now, remember, CAFE takes sales volume into consideration. The Altima’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder — which arguably outsells the V-6 models and the Maxima — gets 31 mpg on the combined cycle, according to the EPA. The Maxima, which is only available with a V-6 engine, manages just 25 mpg. So, while it would make sense to grow the Maxima to better achieve CAFE targets, it makes even more sense to grow the more-efficient Altima and pick up some CAFE credit thanks to its massive sales volume.

So, to answer your question: the bigger, more fuel-efficient Civic is currently ensuring the existence of the Accord V-6, in a roundabout way. And while we will never see a “Civcord” come to fruition, discord between models is a reality, and one that needs to be fixed quickly before the great unwashed catches on and starts buying too many high-po Accord Coupes.

Mark Stevenson
Mark Stevenson

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22 of 117 comments
  • Thelaine Thelaine on Jan 15, 2016

    As long as an army of regulators remain employed, limiting your choices and sucking down your sweet tax money, your masters are happy. Whether the regulation makes any sense is irrelevant. Your Mandarins will do the thinking for you. You are not even competent to choose your own lightbulbs, idiots.

    • See 19 previous
    • Thelaine Thelaine on Jan 16, 2016

      @Drzhivago138 Whatever Dr. Z, I don't take any of it seriously.

  • Carlisimo Carlisimo on Jan 16, 2016

    I'll just point out that the last Taurus never felt nearly as big on the inside as it looked from the outside. It may have died because it just wasn't well laid out.

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