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October 2013 Road Rage - Staying True

Aaron Bonk
Nov 20, 2013

Last year American Honda sold exactly 317,909 Civics-almost 100,000 more than it did in 2011.

The guy on the Internet who claims Honda's lost its way has sold none.

Include the company's Accord, CR-V, and supporting lineup and math tells us that the company is doing just fine.

The guy on Facebook who insists that the CR-Z should've been matched with a K-series engine despite the infinitesimal likelihood of his ever owning one, on the other hand, isn't.

Put it all together and last year the once motorcycle company sold more cars in November than ever before, had its best year since 2008, and moved a combined 1.42-million cars between itself and its Acura brand that'll make everybody from Wall Street dwellers to fans of Soichiro happy.

The guy on the internet made $16,482 slanging blueberry scones and mocha-chinos as a part-time, assistant barista.

All of this makes the guy on the Internet unequivocally unqualified to be condemning Honda. That, and the fact that he hasn't driven a Civic since 1998. But bashing Honda is easy. Ever since Consumer Reports pulled the 2012 Civic from its list of recommended cars for the first time in 20 years the Internet and media outlets, arguably too timid to claim otherwise, have relentlessly pursued Honda's perceived faults. Telling car makers that whatever it is they're making has got to be more powerful, more nimble, lighter, and faster than what it actually is isn't hard. It turns out that making cars isn't as simple as the barista thinks it is, though. Government regulatory agencies like the EPA, NHTSA, and DOT mean that 250 naturally aspirated horsepower crammed inside of 2,200 lbs of sheet-metal all for under fifteen-grand will never happen. But none of that stops the barista and his digital ilk from insisting upon the following:

  • Honda needs an answer to the Scion FR-S: It doesn't, really, although we hope to see one. Scion built just 10,000 of its RWD sports coupes its first year-a novelty blip on the radar and only a third the number of Civics sold in a single month if we're being honest.
  • Make an affordable NSX and stop trying to make Accords cool: It's a funny thing, but most car buyers consider things like cup holder count, maintenance intervals, and trunk space when car shopping. If whatever it is they're considering also happens to look good and is reasonably fun to drive, then the choice gets even easier. The NSX is neither convenient nor practical, which makes the Accord the more obvious choice for a car company like Honda that, well, needs to make money and stuff.
  • The CR-Z should've come with a K-series. The aftermarket has proven that it fits: Actually, a K-series was originally planned for the CR-Z, which is why the aftermarket's had so much success swapping it into place. In other words, it's no accident that it fits as nicely as it does. The number of car buyers who'd actually pay the premium for such a vehicle is probably fewer than you think, though, and Honda knows this.
  • Give the Accord V6 more power: At 278 hp, the 2013 Accord's V6 engine is among the most powerful production engines Honda's ever built. What in the world are you talking about?
  • After decades of innovation, for the last five years Honda's gone backwards: You're absolutely right-at least if you consider VCM (Variable Cylinder Management), P-AWS (Precision All-Wheel Steer), and SH-AWD (Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive) going backwards.
  • If only Hondas were as interesting as they used to be: See above.
  • Too bad the new NSX is a hybrid: Never mind the fact that you won't be buying Honda's new NSX-hybrid or not-it's a pretty revolutionary powertrain, really, and is far less green than you think it is. A pair of electric motors up front will reportedly be there to provide more power as traction permits. As far as we know, the gas-burning V6 engine out back will remain operational at all times, unlike traditional hybrids.
  • They need to go back to their double-wishbone suspensions: But why? Drive the ninth-generation Accord with its first-ever MacPherson-strut front suspension and compare it to last year's double-wishbone layout before you say anything else.
  • The interior on the Fit is cheap: The Fit starts at less than $15,425. Cars that start at $15,425 are not sold with walnut-garnished dashboards and soft touch, leather-wrapped steering wheels. They just aren't.
  • Americans are buying plenty of small hatchbacks. Honda needs to make one: Two things: they aren't and Honda already does. See Fit, Insight, and CR-Z.
  • Honda's lost its way: If its way has nothing at all to do with making and selling practical, fun-to-drive cars-like it's been doing for more than 50 years-and more to do with satisfying a fringe element that thinks the Fit ought to be powered by its hind wheels via a Ridgeline engine, they might just be right.

By Aaron Bonk
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