Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dan Neil Reviews the 2012 Honda Civic

This is Neil's "Rumble Seat" column, which used to be exclusively at the Los Angeles Times.

Now (also?) at Wall Street Journal, "Honda's Sporty New Civic, Heavy on the 'Ick'":
And just like that, a giant stumbles. The redesigned 2012 Honda Civic—one of the most successful cars in U.S. auto history, a nameplate burnished with the grateful tears of generations of Americans—is a dud. A sham. A shud. Massive fail, LOL.

Civic's U.S. sales were down 26% in September and 15.6% year-to-date, a cratering rivaled only by the 15.7% decline registered by the Honda Accord. Some part of the losses was caused by supply-chain issues associated with the April earthquake; the greater part, surely, is bad press. The Civic sedan/coupe recently got scratched off the Consumer Reports list of Top Five recommended cars—which for Honda is like getting your name scratched off the frontispiece of the family Bible.

Over at the Honda fan site they're in the midst of a high-tech Spanish Inquisition, with John Mendel, American Honda's executive vice president for sales, as guest of honor. It ain't pretty.

I've just spent two weeks enjoying the company of the 2012 Civic Hybrid sedan (see sidebar) and the Si sedan—the sport-tuned version with a 201-hp four-banger, a limited-slip differential, and a six-speed manual gearbox to slap around—and, to damn them with faint praise, they're actually pretty good cars. Still, they do not burn with Honda's once-routine overachievement, and the ire the company faces reflects the high expectations and great trust consumers have placed with the brand. In other words, merely decent feels like a betrayal from Honda.

What's going on with these cars? I have a theory....
Keep reading.

I've had three Honda Civic LX sedans, the second two with GPS navigation systems. They're awesome cars. But Honda does this every couple of iterations. They alienate the car's core fan base, perhaps attempting to appeal to a larger, family demographic, etc.

In any case, I used to read Neil's column every Wednesday at the Los Angeles Times. I thought I read something of his over there a few weeks back, but he might be syndicating his reviews now across different newspapers. He's fun to read, in any case.