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Consumer Reports 'chronicles decline in Honda's design competitiveness'

Consumer Reports created quite a stir on the Internets when it announced that it would no longer recommend the Honda Civic. The reason? The consumer advocacy institution cites issues such as the brakes, fit and finish and sporty handling all diminishing for the 2012 model year. In other words, the Civic isn’t as good as the model it replaces.

Now CR is taking its criticism of Honda one step further, pointing out that several recent model updates have fallen short of CR’s expectations. The Civic received an overall score of 78 back in 2006, but the new model scores only 61. The Pilot received a smaller drop from 2005 to 2009, going from a score of 79 to a 74. The Odyssey, too, took a hit, as the 2011 model scored an 83, down from the previous model’s 91. Those models all show a clear decline in scores, but all-new models have fared even worse. The Insight managed to receive a 54, while the CR-Z could only muster a score of 57.

The reasons for these declines tend to correlate from model to model. Brakes, interior materials, steering feel and fit and finish tend to be some of the biggest reasons. Even worse for enthusiasts is that CR’s testing shows that driving excitement (as nebulous as that term may be…) has diminished.

The results of recent Consumer Reports testing shows what we’ve been hearing for a while now. Honda appears to be struggling with new models, with few signs of progress on the horizon. CR points out that even the mighty Accord, which routinely finishes second in sedan sales, is now playing second fiddle to the Ford Fusion when it comes to reliability, ride and handling and cabin noise.

We want to know what you think. Has Honda design taken a step back? Let us know in the poll below.

A make of car falling short of the previous model is nothing new. Many people, including me, thought the 1958 Chevrolet was not as good a car as the 1957 Chevrolet. The 1957 Pontiac was much better in the handling department than the 1958 Pontiac.
CR thought that the changes in the 2011 Toyota Sienna made the model less desirable than the 2010 Sienna. I’m not sure about driving excitement. I need a minivan for my activities and when you have driven one minivan, you’ve driven them all. A minivan is a minivan. For my driving excitement, a Mazda Miata would be great. However, I don’t think with my height and age I would fit in one. I used to love driving the Austin-Healey Sprites and MG Midgets in earlier days. I don’t think I could do this anymore.

CR did predict that the Honda Civic would be reliable. For an old geezer like me, that would top my list for important attributes.

Triedaq you are on the same page with me on this one. I use to drive an Austin Healy “bugeye” Sprite back in high school. A good friend of my dad’s had it on his car lot and it attracted no buyers. My dad traded a truck to his friend and I got the little car. Years later when I was in the Air Force my brother tried to sell me his MGB GT while I was home on leave. I got into the vehicle thanks to gravity but it took 3 people to pull me out. My “falling short” vehicle is the 1975 Nova. It basically killed any large sales by Chevrolet for the Nova line for the rest of it’s run.

I think most Hondas are not very stylish in my opinion. I think the Civic is particularly ugly–right up there w/the Toyota Prius. They need a complete makeover & the Accord is simply too big of a car–has also out-priced itself for the kind of car it is. It’s just too big & too expensive.

I think that Honda is trying to age with its owner group. Look at how the Civic and Accord have grown older over the years. Trying to figure out what your old, reliable customers want while trying to attract new customers is not easy. And trying to keep the price down is not easy, either. Both lead to compromises that people who expect continuity can be displeased with. Both Honda and Toyota remind me of GM and Ford in decades past in this respect.

I’ve been saying that for a little while now, myself. I think they might have gotten used to being on top and just kinda frittered away some of their design money. “We don’t need to change, they’ll buy whatever we put in front of them because they love us so much.”

If I remember correctly, they didn’t like that they didn’t have a trunk cover. I still haven’t noticed if I have them or not even though I’ve opened the trunks a number of times. Guess its pretty important to CR though.

I’ve been saying that for a little while now, myself. I think they might have gotten used to being on top and just kinda frittered away some of their design money. “We don’t need to change, they’ll buy whatever we put in front of them because they love us so much.”

Gee…where did I hear that before??? Sounds like GM all over again…

Well if it’s true…I hope Honda sees the light and changes their way…before it’s too late. People buy Honda’s and Toyota’s because of their reliability and affordable vehicle…Just like GM back in the 60’s and early 70’s.

Not just CR - latest Car and Driver has a comparison with the Pilot, it came in last (3rd) to Explorer and Durango. Clumsy handling and a rough, noisy ride did it in.

Since the late 1990’s we have been responsible for the purchase of 19 new Hondas, the purchase of 2 used Hondas and all power equipment at our former home of 10 acres had to be built by Honda. They never let us down! My first new Honda in 1996 was purchased directly after I sold my latest Corvette and since then it’s been Honda’s all the way. I’m currently driving a 2006 Civic Hybrid that drives like a BMW and gets 48-50 mpg. I was axiously awaiting the newest editions of the Civic line-up and was sadly disappointed in all aspects of the car. I recently took mine in for its servicing and tried out the 2012 Civic Coupe. It was slow at take off and when I compared my trunk lid to the 2012, I could see what Consumer Reports was talking about. The materials within are much cheaper and harder to the touch. It’s very disappointing to see that Honda doing exactly what the big 3 did and letting the competition eat away their huge market share. Hyundai and Kia are nipping on the heals of Honda and Toyota and just based on their styling and positive reviews, they have my attention for the first time ever… You better wake up Honda!

“I’m currently driving a 2006 Civic Hybrid that drives like a BMW …”

Really? I seriously doubt that. Please elaborate.

The last three miles of my daily commute home is full of twists, turns and sharp curves. All the while along that stretch the little '06 hybrid takes them on at up to 50-55 mph and nicely hugs the road with precise handling. Even riders have expressed how snugly it handles through it all with little to no roll.

I have driven Honda Civic Hybrids from my institution’s fleet on round trips of 400-600 miles to conferences. There was not enough legroom for me to be comfortable. However, the Civic Hybrid did seem to handle well. I don’t know how it compares with a BMW because I have never driven the BMW. I can’t afford to buy one for myself and I was not successful in suggesting to my institution that BMWs be purchased as fleet cars.
Our big shots, however, drive BMWs because when they go to register their cars, this is the only make they can spell.

Initial testing has also proven to NOT be very accurate as far as durability goes. Time will tell.

Whether the 2012 Civic’s interior fit and finsih is as good as past Civic’s, consumers do see Honda’s interior execution with the Civic as better than most other Hondas. According to independent comparison tests conducted with compact sedan owners, Civic’s interior appearance rated 3rd highest of 11 sedans tested, behind Elantra and Cruze. The Accord did not do as well, rating 6th among 13 midsize sedans with midsize sedan owners. Pilot rated 14th among 18 midsize SUV/Crossovers, and CRV tied for last among 15 compact SUV/Crossovers. The results are on handsoncomparisons.com

@MinkeinNH:
Exactly. Toyota and Honda have both enjoyed their success in America for a couple decades, but they’re running dangerously close to the edge that GM and Chrysler went over not too long ago. I imagine Hyundai/Kia will be the next top seller(s) by the end of this decade.

I saw a new Sonata hybrid this past weekend, completely different style from the normal sedan. It looked really mean, and not something you’d expect a hybrid to look like.

@jimster

What BMW did you drive for comparison? I drive a Honda Accord V6. It handles very well and has excellent power. I don’t have illusions of it being competition for a BMW in handling. It’s great that you like your car. But don’t oversell it.

I’m seriously thinking I want a Kia Forte when I do buy a newer car. I rented one last summer & thought the car was nicer looking than any Honda on the market, the car had zip & got really decent gas mileage. And it’s not a real expensive car either, so I might actually be able to afford one (next year). As far as looks go, I think Kia’s and Hyandais look better than any Honda on the market. Looks are subjective though, so maybe that’s my own bias, but the Civics really look like ho-hum cars; even the newer ones. Just kind of blah.

Both Kia and Hyundai are giving Toyota/Honda fits.

Both Kia and Hyundai are giving Toyota/Honda fits.

GOOD…the more competition the better.