The redesigned Honda Civic has been a disappointment for Honda, its dealers and customers alike. Unlike previous generations of the car, the new Civic is like a Chinese copy of a Russian counterfeit of the old model, and in the case of some variants (like the Civic Si), the difference between the previous generation and the current generation is staggering.
The last Civic Si would land on a list of our all-time favorite cars priced below $25,000. It was engaging to drive, with a chassis that could (almost) make you forget that you were behind the wheel of a front wheel drive car. Its engine begged to be revved, and its six-speed manual transmission was one of the benchmarks in the industry. More importantly, the car brought a certain joy and involvement to driving that few automobiles can.
The current Civic Si feels like a warmed-over econobox. The engine is harsh at high revs and carries rpms even after the throttle is lifted and the clutch is depressed. It’s difficult to drive the car smoothly unless you delay shifting, and it’s certainly not fun or engaging. The chassis feels sloppy, and the car is no more inviting to drive fast than a Hyundai Elantra. In short, the old car was greater than the sum of its parts, while the new car doesn’t seem to add up to the parts list.
Honda’s heard the same complaints across its Civic model range, and the automaker promised an accelerated mid-cycle refresh. Originally set for 2013 (or worse, 2014), Autoblog is citing a memo from Honda advising dealers to expect the revised Civic before the end of 2012. The Associated Press even quotes the president of Honda America, Tetsuo Iwamura, as saying the changes will “improve the Civic’s drivability,” and we certainly hope so.
To be fair, the current Civic’s redesign occurred in the midst of 2009’s global economic meltdown. In the middle of the process, Honda faced a choice to proceed with a full redesign, an expensive proposition in uncertain times, or launch the new car “as is.” They opted for the latter, and the result is the Civic in dealers today. Let’s hope that Honda’s planned revision goes far enough towards righting what is wrong with the car.