How Far the Mighty Have Fallen

In a recent Consumer Reports test, the new Honda Civic scored too low for them to recommend. The Honda Civic has long been a CR darling for an infuriatingly long time, until now. They report:

So what happened? The new Civic feels insubstantial with a cheap interior. You don’t get much feature content for the $19,405 that our Civic LX automatic costs, either. That’s a problem given the high bar set in this class by the new-to-market Chevrolet Cruze, the redesigned-for-2012 Ford Focus, and the redesigned-for-2011 Hyundai Elantra.

But a savvy buyer could sit in a showroom and realize those Civic shortcomings. The problems that really hurt the Civic’s score run deeper and they showed up at our test track. Stopping distances are long. The steering is lightly weighted and comes up short on feedback. Body lean appears early in the corners. The ride is marred by frequent short pitches. And road noise still remains an annoying companion.

So, why now? Well, the Civic is fresh off a lukewarm redesign that saw a few bits like the interior and exterior tweaked, while the engine and suspension were either unchanged or softened. These changes were somehow deemed sufficient against an incredibly strong field of competitors. It is almost as if Honda was a procrastinating college freshmen during finals time. They waited until the last night, got drunk, and then tried to turn in what they did last time.

The worst part of this news is the timing. The Civic’s mediocrity comes during the strongest small car market to date. The Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, are ALL better then the dowdy Civic and the geriatric Corolla. At least the Civic is still ahead of the dreadful new VW Jetta.

It is with mixed feelings that this news is viewed. It is saddening to see what was once such a fine product be tarnished by ignorant product planners. Such talent wasted. It is especially to hard to realize that what made Honda great – clean styling, great driving dynamics, in a cheap and efficient package- is gone. It is like watching your favorite sports star phone it in on the court, night after night, or like the career of LeBron James.

On the other hand, this news brings much glee. Now, it is out in the open about the Civic and Honda’s mediocrity. For far too long, they have ridden reputation and marketing to hold onto their spot in the marketplace, instead of having a superior product. The domestic and Korean competition has been leagues better, yet the ignorant car buying public refused to see the evidence. Now, there is nowhere to turn. The most objective source available has called your “tried and true choice” a turd. People will ignore the new version and instead shop for used Honda Civics or another brand.

So yes, a bit of schadenfreude is in order. It is enjoyable to see a car that was undeserving of its praise be knocked down a few pegs. It is also enjoyable to see companies like Ford, Chevy, and Hyundai receive the recognition they deserve for doing the math and making great cars. Here’s also hoping that this news spurs Honda to start making great cars again, instead of using marketing muscle to spin their way to undeserved praise.

Source: Consumer Reports


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