Posts Tagged ‘Civic’


When you visit your Acura dealer (if you can find one) to test the new Acura ILX, just don’t say any word that starts with an I and ends with an A. They are very sensitive about past history.

2013 Acura ILX 5-speed Automatic in Silver Moon

An example of the most-stolen 1994 Acura Integra. Love the headlights!

It’s been six long years since Acura offered an entry level vehicle based on the Honda Civic. The Acura Integra (damn, there’s that I-word) and its successor, the RSX, achieved almost mythical status as an entry level sports luxury coupe (and sedan) with exemplary front-drive handling characteristics. In fact, in the latest Insurance Industry statistics, the 1994 Acura Integra holds the esteemed number eight position on the most stolen list. It was that popular!

Enthusiasts are still wounded over the unceremonious demise of the Integra/RSX’s. The Acura brand found itself in crisis after a widely-panned styling gamble and mixed messages about its place in the crowded luxury car field.  Customers stayed away in droves and Acura fell off many shopping lists.

After the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and the equally crushing criticism of the ninth generation Civic, Honda was a company in crisis, battered into a corner, bruised and bleeding. The 2012 Civic, introduced shortly after the earthquake, is an all-important model for Honda. It was widely-panned for its lack of inspirational design and warmed-over technology.

The styling of the Acura ZDX never caught on and its price (base $47,015, loaded with the Technology and Advanced Package, $57,565) scared off many buyers.

The NSX was Acura’s halo car for 15 years. This beautiful 2005 model still looked fresh; but Acura simply dropped the ball on its successor. We won’t see a new NSX for another two or three years.

Acura, Honda’s luxury division, was also in trouble. Its flagship RL sedan, introduced in 2005 with a mild refresh in 2009, flopped from day one. The odd BMW X6-like and expensive ZDX SUV remains unknown to most consumers. The beloved and the sublime NSX sports car wore Acura’s halo for its 15 year run; but Acura never planned for its replacement and it disappeared from showrooms in 2005. In short, Acura, the first Japanese luxury brand introduced in the United States, has been adrift in brand wilderness for a while now.

The 2012 Acura TL is a very nice Honda Accord

The 2012 Acura MDX is very popular. It’s based on the Honda Pilot

Before the new ILX, Acura relied on two models to keep the ship afloat. The TL is a dressed-up Honda Accord stuffed with extra luxury touches and the option of a trick “super-handling” all-wheel drive system. The MDX, a traditional luxury SUV also bristling with technology and luxury features, is based on the Honda Pilot and has been a solid seller since its introduction.

Starting at just $25,900, the ILX, the smallest Acura, is an excellent upgrade to its Honda Civic cousin. The base ILX 5-Speed Automatic is outfitted with Honda’s 2.0L i-VTEC four making 150 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque – an upgrade over the Civic’s 1.8L mill. Honda’s ubiquitous 5-speed automatic transmission with Sequential SportsShift is the only transmission. I doubt it will set the performance world on fire; but it will likely be the volume leader. It was also the only model that wasn’t available to drive at the Acura ILX All Access Ride & Drive Event I attended in a parking lot across from the Staples Center.

The Acura ILX All Access Ride & Drive Event was held in a parking lot across from Staples Center. In this picture, both Hybrid and 6MT models await drivers for the cross-town drive portion of the event.

The Acura magic wand also means that the cheap, nasty, hard plastic interior panels and surfaces that offended drivers of the Civic have been banished in favor of upgraded softer and textured materials that feel and look upscale. In addition, a heavy dollop of soundproofing isolates the cabin from outside road noise.

The interior of the 2013 Acura ILX is a much more inviting place than its Honda Civic cousin. Hard plastic surfaces have been banished in favor of soft-touch and textured materials.

The 2012 Audi A3 Sportsback doesn’t come to mind when I think about the 2013 Acura ILX. Sorry, Acura.

Acura would like us to believe that the sole competitor to the new ILX is the Audi A3 Sportsback.  Really? The A3 is more expensive and its excellent German engineering coupled with superb, class-leading interior craftsmanship don’t spring to my mind when I look at the ILX – not to mention that the A3 is a wagon and the ILX is only available as a sedan.

The 2012 Buick Verano is a nice small, upscale near-luxury sedan – exactly what I equate with the 2013 Acura ILX.

To me, the closest competition in price and luxury features would be the new Buick Verano. But Acura doesn’t want its customers to associate Buick with Acura.  Buick is an “old man’s” car, right? Well, yes, sort of, but Buick is desperately trying to change that image and Acura is desperately avoiding any suggestion that it’s anything other than a sporty youth-oriented brand.

My first drive was the ILX 6MT featuring the entertaining drivetrain lifted directly out of the Civic Si. It features a 2.4L naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine making 201 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque married to Honda’s exemplary close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission.

The 2013 Acura ILX MT6. It uses the excellent powertrain from the 2012 Honda Civic Si. The sweet 2.4L four cylinder engine is only offered with the 6-speed manual transmission. This will severely limit sales as most people want an automatic. It will, however, satisfy some enthusiasts.

We had our safety rules for the closed course portion of the Acura ILX All Access Event. This was the starting point, from inside a tent.

Honda estimates that the 6MT model with standard Premium Package ($29,200) will account for only 5% of ILX sales. If Acura dropped the 5-speed Sequential SportsShift automatic from the TSX (which uses the same 2.4L engine) into the sporty ILX it may get more sales from drivers wanting a bit more than 150 ponies under the hood. I’m not holding my breath.

I had forgotten just how excellent the Civic Si was and I was happily reminded with the ILX 6MT. Honda’s close-ratio row-it-yourself 6-speed gearbox is polished perfection. Our ten minute on-road course took us on the surface streets around Staples Center. The clutch was so creamy, linear and easy that you could drive it on a daily basis in LA with little distress to your clutch foot. The car never bucked on gear uptakes and I didn’t stall it once.

The food in the lounge/food tent was pretty good. Overall it was a nice setup.

The slalom course included lane change, an NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) test and potholes.

The little steering wheel felt just right in my hands and the electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion power steering provided sufficient feedback and on-center accuracy. It cuts a tight turning circle too. The happy revs, variable-ratio EPS and well-sprung and dampened 4-wheel independent suspension chassis meshed effortlessly for lighthearted entertainment if not blistering speed. It even performed well in our off-street mini-slalom/NVH course.

My second drive was the ILX Hybrid that comes standard with the Premium Package. If you believe the EPA estimates, the Hybrid should get around 38 mpg, no matter where you drive. Assuming normal driving, you’re likely to get closer to 35 mpg. The extra weight on the ILX accounts for the reduction in fuel economy from the Civic Hybrid which is rated at 44 mpg.

The Hybrid’s drivetrain is identical to the drivetrain in the Civic Hybrid: A 1.5L four-cylinder 110 hp gas engine coupled with Honda’s Eco Assist system which includes a 23 hp permanent magnet electric motor sandwiched between the engine and the continuously-variable transmission. The new-generation Civic/ILX Hybrids use a 20 Kw lithium-ion battery pack.

As long as the green ball in the middle of the dash display stays green and grows, the car is happy. Any sudden moves on the accelerator are greeted with disapproval from both the shrinking, yellowing ball display and the whining CVT. It’s not going to win any races, but the people who buy this car don’t care.

2013 Acura ILX Hybrid in Silver Moon

The ILX Hybrid with the Technology Package and shipping is a whopping $35,295. The Civic Hybrid with all the goodies is about $6,500 cheaper. I’m not sure Hybrid buyers will drop the extra dough for the Acura upgrade and extra features.

The ILX Premium Package is a must-have and it’s standard on all but the base ILX. It includes perforated, heated, 8-way power leather-trimmed sports seats, a multi-view rear camera and dual-zone automatic climate control – goodies you’ll never find on Honda Civic. At 6’1”, I was able to find a comfortable seating position in the ILX – something that never happened with the Civic.

The ILX 6MT interior, with the Premium Package, shows the nice sports, power perforated leather seats. Cup holders are large and should suit American tastes.

The Technology Package is the top trim level for all ILX and encompasses all the tech-geek features we have come to expect from Acura: Acura’s excellent satellite-linked navigation with Real-Time Traffic and Weather; An Acura/ELS sound system with more speakers (10 not 7), more watts (415 not 360) and a 15 GB media storage hard drive good for storing up to 3,500 songs. Acura’s voice recognition system is better than others.

Acura steps things up in the Tech Package with a Pandora internet radio interface, USB audio cord and Bluetooth 2.0 streaming audio as well as hands-free mobile phone functions. The big new feature is the SMS text message function which reads incoming texts aloud and lets you verbally respond from a list of pre-programmed responses: “I’m running late, the 405 is a parking lot” or “Call me you idiot, I’m driving.”

The Technology Package trim level adds a terrific sound system, navigation, text-to-voice and many other goodies. Notice the red pushbutton start in the lower left corner. It’s standard on every ILX.

All this great technology and yet HomeLink, the decades-old nifty feature that allows you to control gates and garage doors with a built-in interface, is nowhere to be found. Not even as a dealer accessory. I just shake my head.

A keyless entry and pushbutton ignition system is standard across the ILX range. The key fob is small and slim – something I wish every manufacturer would adopt. If you have a keyless system, why does the fob have to be big? A big fob may work well when lost inside a woman’s purse, but doesn’t do wonders in pants pockets.

The brushed chrome “beak” of the new ILX gives it a nice edge and I think the new sheet metal is handsome. If only the Honda Civic looked this good!

The ILX carries the latest softened version of Acura’s bold front beak/blade look. I rather like the handsome, if conservative looks and think it’s a good entry-level product for Acura. If you yearned for a Honda Civic with better styling, respectable interior plastics, a longer warranty and a host of luxury features, look no further than the ILX.  If you were looking for another Integra, check out the ILX 6MT. It’s not the “I-word” and it’s not a coupe, but it’s sure an impressive upgrade to the Civic Si sedan.

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Update: January 10, 2012: The Court has ordered both parties back to Small Claims Court for more questions from the judge on January 25, 2012  Here’s the court order:

The court has reviewed the evidence currently before it, including some late-filed papers by the
plaintiff responding to the defendants previous motions.

Before making its decision final the court is concerned about one issue that, in the court‘s
opinion, was not adequately discussed at the hearing on January 3, 2012. This is the possible
effect on the plaintiff’s various theories of relief oft he statutes oflimitations that would be
a
pplicable to her theories.

So that the parties are given an opportunity to comment on this question, among any others they
wish, the matter is removed from submission and reset for further hearing on January 25, 2012,
i
n Department 8 at 1 :30.

Of particular interest to the court is whether, considering the date of purchase of the vehicle, the
pla
intiff is within operative statutes of limitation relating to claims of relief based on Civil Code
1770 et seq., Business & Professions Code 17200 et seq., Business & Professions Code 17500 et
seq .. and common law theories of intentional and negligent misrepresentation. Of further
interest i
s the effect of Code of Civil Procedure 338( d), the discovery rule.

The court is also interested in the parties‘ views of the effect of the presuit notice requirement of
C
ivil Code 1782.

Note that while the parties may be assisted by counsel in asserting their positions, counsel cannot
appe
ar in court nor sign presentations to the court. To that extent, the plaintiffs January 4
objection to the latest document signed by Mr. Peim is sustained, such that detailed consideration
o
f it is prevented. CCP 116.530.

Clerk to give notice.

Update: January 6, 2012: No ruling yet, but one is expected soon. See the video below of Ms. Peters being interviewed after her appearance in Small Claims Court:

Original post from January 2, 2011:

On January 1, 2012, the compensatory limit in Small Claims Court in California was increased from $5,000 to $10,000.  On January 3, 2012, Heather Peters, an owner of a 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid, will face down a non-attorney representative of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. in a closely-watched case of David vs. Goliath.  She is suing for the new maximum of $10,000.

2006 Honda Civic Hybrid

Ms. Peters and tens of thousands of other owners of model year 2003-2009 Honda Civic Hybrids are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it any longer. For a few years now, five class action lawsuits against Honda have been winding their way through the courts.  The proposed settlement consolidates the cases down to two cases with subclasses:

In the first case, John True, et al. v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., plaintiffs allege that the fuel economy estimates Honda advertised for the Honda Civic Hybrid could not be achieved under normal driving conditions. Honda has not acknowledged a defect, but they do acknowledge that due to technical problems, the cars get only around 30 mpg, not the 40 city, 42 combined, 45 highway, as advertised.

In the second case, Logan and Anita Lockabey, et al. v American Honda Motor Co., Inc., in addition to complaints similar to True, plaintiffs allege that a July 2010 Software Update to the Integrated Motor Assist (“IMA”) battery system for model years 2006-2008  Civic Hybrids negatively impacted the fuel economy and performance.

The proposed Honda Civic Hybrid Class Action Settlement is pretty paltry.  You get a whopping $100 if you are a member of the True class action and and additional $100 if you are also a member of the Lockabey class and sub-class (the software update).  As a “sweetener,” you get a voucher for either $500 or $1,000 (depending on your class and sub-class) towards the purchase or lease of a new Honda or Acura vehicle.  Some plaintiffs who had to replace their hybrid battery are eligible to be reimbursed for the cost of the replacement and Honda agreed to extend some warranties for a longer period.

Ms. Peters wasn’t happy with $100 in cash and a $500 voucher, so she opted out of the class action and pursued a novel course of action by suing Honda in Small Claims Court in Torrance, CA (the city where Honda has its US headquarters).  She is suing for damages including the “hybrid premium” paid over the price of a standard Civic, increased cost of gas due to getting only 30 mpg and reduced resale value of her car.  She may win up to the court maximum of $10,000 – far more than she would have received under the proposed class action settlement.

2006 Honda Civic Hybrid engine bay

This is a closely-watched case, needless to say.  If she wins, it could open the floodgates to individual small claims lawsuits against not just Honda but any company with class action litigation.   If a company had to defend itself against thousands of smaller suits – in all 50 states and hundreds of county jurisdictions – it could be very costly both in terms of total settlement dollars and human resources.

On the consumer side, a win may force corporations to increase class action settlements with plaintiffs. Perhaps if all the money wasn’t going to the trial attorneys (in the Honda class action, it’s estimated to be $8,474,000), less people would be pissed off enough to take alternative actions.   For example, if Honda had offered the people $1,000 cash plus a $4,000 voucher towards the purchase of a new Honda (and Honda would be required to take the technically-challenged Civic Hybrid in trade), Ms. Peters may not have opted for her more creative option.

In California, neither party is permitted to send an attorney – either in-house or outside council – to represent them in a small claims action.  The plaintiff, Ms. Peters, happens to be a former corporate defense attorney and is permitted to present her own case.  She probably has an edge over the average Civic Hybrid owner, but if she wins, other owners could use her tactics and adapt the evidence she will present to their specific set of facts and circumstances.

2006 Honda Civic Hybrid interior

Ms. Peters is encouraging other Civic Hybrid owners not to settle with Honda.  In a December 27, 2011 LA Times article, The Times estimated that 200,000 Civic Hybrids had been sold during the class action period. And due to resales, the number of people who could be eligible for compensation could be as high as 500,000.  Separately litigating possibly hundreds of thousands of small claims cases is a PR and financial nightmare Honda doesn’t want, but may get.

Even if Ms. Peters doesn’t win her case against Honda, other people who suffered damages could still try the same tactic in their local jurisdiction.  One judicial decision at the small claims level doesn’t necessarily mean the same results will happen in other jurisdictions – win or lose.  I predict this strategy will be used more frequently — much to the dismay of large companies and trial attorneys.

Here’s the press release from DontSettleWithHonda.org:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEDecember 28, 2011 CONTACT: Heather Peters Info@DontSettleWithHonda.org

Viral Small Claims Case Could Sink 5 Class Action Settlements

and Cost Honda $2 Billion

Los Angeles, CA – Honda is on the brink of settling five class action lawsuits alleging false advertising of 50 MPG for its Civic Hybrids for pennies on the dollar, but one small claims case gone viral could change all of that and leave Honda facing liability of $2 billion instead and defending itself in thousands of small claims courts across the nation.

A front page article in the Los Angeles Times used the term “a small-claims flash mob” to describe the filing of a single small claims case against Honda in Torrance, California together with the launch of www.dontsettlewithhonda.org and its associated Twitter and YouTube sites that teach 200,000 other disgruntled Civic Hybrid owners nationwide how to “just say no” to a $100-$200 proposed class action settlement (where lawyers get $8.474 million) and take Honda to small claims court instead, where at least in California, lawyers are not allowed.

Heather Peters will have her day in small claims court on January 3rd and could win up to $10,000 (the new 2012 California small claims limit) in damages including the “hybrid premium” she paid over the sticker price, her increased costs of gas due to getting just 30 MPG and the reduced resale value of her car. It may be the biggest little small claims case that Honda will ever face evidenced by the fact that the Associated Press is sending the same reporter who covered the trials of Conrad Murray, O.J. Simpson and Rodney King. Ms. Peters, a former corporate defense attorney, says:

“Class actions are great for little cases, but not for cases like this where Honda’s false advertising is costing already cash-strapped families more every day at the gas pump. It’s time for Honda to go one on one with its customers where they can’t hide behind high priced lawyers. I want people to know that small claims court is not so scary, it’s a lot like Judge Judy.”

It remains to be seen if the San Diego judge presiding over the five class action lawsuits against Honda for false advertising will approve the proposed settlement on March 16, 2012. A prior proposed settlement was rejected by the court when the Attorney Generals from twenty six states, including California, objected to it as unfair to consumers, and they may object again. Civic Hybrid owners have until February 11th to opt-out, or they can remain in the class and still object to the settlement.

Honda has attempted four different legal maneuvers to postpone the trial of Ms. Peters’ small claims case until after the deadline had passed for Hybrid owners to opt-out of the class action, but the small claims judge said “no” all four times and the trial will proceed as originally scheduled on January 3rd at 1:30 p.m. in Torrance Small Claims Court, Dept. 8, at 825 Maple Ave., Torrance, California. For more info about media access to the courtroom visit http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/courtnews/ui/main.aspx

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