My, how the mighty have fallen


#1

In the September, 2011 issue of Consumer Reports, there is an updated evaluation of small sedans and hatchbacks, including the newly redesigned 2012 Honda Civic. Although previously Civics were highly-rated, and although the Civic was the magazine’s “top pick” in that category as recently as 2007, they were…shall we say…very much underwhelmed by the 2012 model, and as a result, they ranked it #11 in a field of 12 vehicles!

For some specifics on where Honda apparently fell down on the job with this new design, here are some excerpts from the article:
“…no longer scores high enough in our testing for us to recommend it…against fresh competition, it feels insubstantial…vague steering weakens its agility and robs it of its fun-to-drive feel…stopping distances are long…ride is choppy…road noise is pronounced…interior feels cheap…body lean sets in early…steering is overly light and devoid of feedback…cost-cutting is apparent throughout the interior, from the cheap headliner and ubiquitous hard plastics to the unlined trunk lid…several gaps and misalignments are obvious”

The only good things that CR had to say about the new Civic were that it had very good fuel economy (the best in the category, actually), and that crash-test results were good.

As to how the other cars in this category were ranked…
1–Hyundai Elantra GLS
2–Nissan Sentra–2.0 SL
3–Subaru Impreza–2.5i
4–Toyota Corolla LE (a car that has not seen a total redesign in…a long time!)
5–Kia Forte EX
6–Mazda 3i Touring
7–Chevy Cruze 1LT (1.4T)
8–Ford Focus SE (another new design, and CR confirms low-speed shifting problems mentioned by some folks on this board)
9–Chevy Cruze LS (1.8)
10–Mitsubishi Lancer ES
11–Honda Civic LX
12–VW Jetta SE (2.5)

Only numbers 1-6 were actually recommended for purchase.


#2

But this has NOTHING to do with reliability…just CR’s testing.


#3

This helps to refute those who claim CR is biased in favor of the Japanese brands.


#4

Now that they “Tested” them…let’s see in 5 years how their reliability data matches their testing.


#5

“But this has NOTHING to do with reliability…just CR’s testing.”

Of course, only time will tell about the long-term reliability of this new model, but, after seeing specific comparisons of this new model with its competitors, I would be VERY hesitant to buy one–hence I would not be concerned at this point about its long-term reliability.

If the thing steers, handles, and rides poorly, is noisy, and has a cheap-looking interior–Why would I even want one?


#6

This is solely an opinion and not based on data, but I personally think that both Toyota and Honda have become more “Americanized” and, combined with the fact that others such as Hyundae have made huge gains, they’ve slipped from their supremacy as the best affordable automobiles. They’re still great choices, but no longer have a firm grip on the top spots. There are now other great choices too.

Toyota is now beginning to utilize critical componentry from other manufacturers as well, which dimays me. The new Scion will use a Subie platform. A young design firm called “Five Axis”, founded by a former street racer, played a primary role in the design. I’m seeing Toyota look more to outsourceing in critical areas, It’s a change in business plan for Toyota. We’ll see in time how it works out.


#7

If the thing steers, handles, and rides poorly, is noisy, and has a cheap-looking interior–Why would I even want one?

Can’t fault that reasoning…Only time will tell.


#8

I haven’t liked Honda’s handling as well since they decided to cut costs and move away from the old double-wishbone setup. You can really tell the difference between the Integra, which had it, and it’s replacement the RSX, which did not. I use those for comparison because unlike the other newer versions of cars, the RSX did not go on as much of a weight gain binge, and so it should theoretically have handled roughly the same had they not cheaped out on the suspension.


#9

I haven’t liked the Civic since the 7th generation Civic came out in 2001. It’s was still a somewhat reliable vehicle, but it had absolutely no style.


#10

Lack of trunk covering? Really, I’d have to go look at my cars to see if they have them or not. Not to start this again, but my opinion of CR’s opinions is pretty low. They rated my G6 very very low on on the worst list, but I’ve put 40K on it already and it is one of the best little cars I’ve ever had. Well equipped, cheap, fun to drive, good mileage and outside of normal maintenance, all I’ve done is a belt. Plus 100K warranty.

Most of the brands for paint, washers, TVs, etc. don’t ever seem to be in the normal stores in the midwest anyway and I’ve really found their opinions and ratings not very helpful. I don’s subscribe anymore.


#11

A poor rating by CR could be a good thing for Honda. Don’t take this as a criticism of CR, but of human nature.

CR has a huge influence on the marketplace. Once something gets a top rating or best buy from CR, the demand for that item goes way up. The manufacturer has to increase production, maybe hire new employees, add a shift, etc. When that happens, there is drop (usually only temporary) in the quality of the product.

Some of the worst purchases I’ve ever made were items that had just been top rated or best buy rated. If you wait 6 months or so, it seems that the product returns to normal.

I’m sure that if CR tests another 2012 Civic made 6 months from now, they will have a different opinion. The same thing happened to Toyota when the Tacoma first came out. CR rated it not recommended. Toyota responded by building a much better truck.

When I bout my truck, the Tacoma had just gotten its not recommended. The highest recommended small truck was the Ford Ranger. They didn’t have much good to say about the Nissan, said it was just a basic truck. The ford dealers all added a bunch of “dealer options” on every Ranger they had and would not dicker. I saw on that had the AC as a dealer option when it was also listed with one of the option packages. They were charging twice for the AC.

I got the Nissan for half the price and I’m glad I did.


#12

I agree with Whitey, the Civic hasn’t looked good since 2000.
I think what happened with Toyota and Honda is that they firmly wrenched the top spots from American brands and held it for so long, they got complacent. When one gets complacent, one stagnates. When one stagnates, one falls harder than if they kept trying(look how much bad publicity came from the gas pedal incidents) and falling.
I mean, Chevy and Mitsubishi beat out Honda on that list, come on.


#13

I read the CR article and CR did indicate that the new Civic would probably be reliable. CR doesn’t give a very high rating to the Toyota Versa, but did say that it would be reliable.
As a car becomes older, the reliability is important to me. Choppy ride doesn’t particularly bother me nor does a cheap feeling interior. I have purchased cars that CR didn’t rate particularly high. My 1965 Rambler Classic ranked way below other compact cars. However, it had comfortable seats and had the most room of the compacts and intermediates of the day. Those features were important to me. CR didn’t rate the 2006 Chevrolet Uplander very high. One of the criticisms was that it was narrower than other minivans. To me, that was a plus. I had to often back off a busy 4 lane street into a narrow alley and negotiate between the building and a telephone pole to get to a stage door to load musical instruments.
If you like Hondas and the Civic meets your needs, it may be fine. This is CR’s opinion based on its tests.
Often, a redesign is less satifactory than the previous model. In many ways, the 1957 Chevrolet was better than the 1958 redesign, and the 1958 Chevrolet was better than the new design of the 1959 Chevrolet. CR didn’t like the 2011 Toyota Sienna as well as they did the 2010 model. I had a choice back in March of 2010 as to whether to buy the 2010 or the 2011 Sienna. I liked some of the features of the 2011, so that is what I bought.


#14

They were equally critical of the 2010 4Runner as well. CR is a middle of the roader test mag. who acknowledges they test cars for plush comfy street use. The 4Runner is not not intended for that use, nor is the cheapened Civic. There will be diehard Civic owners who will buy them regardless, but you can bet, like other makes, they will heed CR’s criticisms and make some changes.

IMO, much of the criticism is not a statement of how much the Civic has fallen, but how much other models have improved. Read the accompanying test of the Focus and the lavish praise of it’s handling and ride. Earlier Focus models and others gave the Civic a free ride to the top. Not anymore.


#15

"IMO, much of the criticism is not a statement of how much the Civic has fallen, but how much other models have improved. "

That’s what I was thinking, but again to remain competitive they have to step it up. I think overall this is a good thing for the consumer. More choice, better choices, more competition. Bring it on.


#16

@Triedaq
It always amazes me how reviewers complain about how “cheap” an interior looks with plastic bits everywhere. I have to ask what they think is NOT cheap. I mean, it’s a mass produced vehicle that’s got cost savings built into every corner of it, of course it’s gonna have “cheap” plastic everywhere. Are they expecting a Versa or Accent to have a Rolls Royce quality interior?


#17

bscar: “I think what happened with Toyota and Honda is that they firmly wrenched the top spots from American brands and held it for so long, they got complacent. When one gets complacent, one stagnates. When one stagnates, one falls harder than if they kept trying(look how much bad publicity came from the gas pedal incidents) and falling.”

I think what happened is that European countries passed new safety standards for the front end of cars to lessen the damage done to people when a car hits a pedestrian. These standards force car makers to round out the front end of cars, and the Civic lost it’s sleek lines that came to somewhat of a point at the nose of the car (looking at its profile).

In addition, each time Honda redesigns a car, it gets bigger. It’s like the designers at Honda don’t want me to buy another Civic, or they think my needs will change so much, that they want me to be able to buy another Civic even though I want a larger. What they should realize is that if I wanted a larger car, I would rather shop for an Accord.


#18

In addition, each time Honda redesigns a car, it gets bigger. It’s like the designers at Honda don’t want me to buy another Civic, or they think my needs will change so much, that they want me to be able to buy another Civic even though I want a larger. What they should realize is that if I wanted a larger car, I would rather shop for an Accord.

This has been irritating me for decades. You put an early 90’s Accord next to a 2012 Civic, and the Accord is smaller. That’s stupid.

@bscar
Are they expecting a Versa or Accent to have a Rolls Royce quality interior?

No, but there are ways to make “cheap” plastic look “not so cheap,” like with texture and variations in trim. The old Civics were full of plastic too, but they didn’t look cheap.


#19

“This helps to refute those who claim CR is biased in favor of the Japanese brands.”

3 of the top 5 are traditional Japanese brands. The other 2 are heavily influenced by Japanese design.

And I don’t think it is so much how far Honda fell as how much the others rose.


#20

Sometimes I think CR should test school buses. I wonder what they would say about the interior. On the other hand, I once had a Ford Maverick. Its interior made a school bus seem luxurious.