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June 2014 Road Rage - Parallels

Aaron Bonk
May 27, 2014

Honda confirmed in late February that it would be discontinuing its second-generation Insight following the 2014 model year.

In other breaking news, Honda made a second-generation Insight.

That you know practically nothing about Honda's redesigned, gasoline-electric hybrid isn't entirely your fault. It's a model even few greenies care about—as demonstrated by the five-door hatchback's underwhelming sales—much less those interested in going fast. The news also positions the fate of the CR-Z precariously—a model that's sold even fewer units than the company's now-doomed eco car and has already been discontinued in Europe. To be fair, spokesmen at American Honda assure that the CR-Z's North American fate isn't necessarily intertwined with the Insight's, but the announcement, if nothing else, commands pause for at least some speculation.

Like whether or not Honda's more environmentally responsible mission it's taken on since abandoning cars like the RSX has been worth it, especially at the expense of models its enthusiast base, who, incidentally, spent a whole lot of money on Civics and Integras from the late 1980s to early 2000s, care about. Forget for a moment about your Internet petition that nobody at Honda will ever look at demanding that the company offer future Civic Type R models to U.S. consumers and face the almost-certain reality that we just may have already witnessed—from a tuning standpoint at least—the best Honda's got to offer.

I'm often asked what I think the high-performance Honda landscape might look like in the future and whether or not 2030's 40-somethings will apply their disposable income toward, for example, the ninth-generation Civic Si with the same sort of fervor that past generations of Honda fans have with the company's pre-2002 versions. I believe they won't. Honda's CRX Si, for one, was considered a very special car when introduced for the 1985 model year. Immediately subsequent Civic and Integra models were, too, mostly because of their widespread parts interchangeability with one another and almost childishly simple mechanics.

But none of that means that there's anything particularly wrong with cars like the '12-and-newer Civic Si—or the Insight for that matter, a car that's wrongly been compared to Toyota's Prius for far too long (a 1.3L B-segment hybrid is entirely different than a 1.8L C-segment one). There's just nothing particularly right about either of them that'll make pre-owned versions command 2012's dollar value two decades from now. Which is exactly what's happening within the marketplace right now with un-ravaged Civic, CRX, and Integra specimens of Honda's golden era. No longer should you be shocked to happen across a relatively well-kept and moderately molested early '90s Si commanding its original sticker price. There's no better barometer for what Honda enthusiasts truly pine for than watching a '91 hatchback exchange hands for about the same price as a family supply of Ford Escorts.

One need only look to alternate enthusiast communities to help explain all of this, like the VW Beetle crowd, for instance. Such followings have stood time's test despite the fact that the Volkswagen Group's hardly produced anything at all that'll appease a '53 split-window Bug fan in the last half century. To be sure, the Beetle following isn't at all interested in whether or not a cloak will be pulled from a revised Tiguan at 2015's International Auto Show, and they're under no delusions that the company's modern-day Beetle has anything at all to do with their classic, mid-century Bug. Like the Beetle fan, I appreciate Honda's gilded age of Civics and Integras for the capable machines that they were. But, perhaps, unlike the Beetle fan, I also appreciate Honda's current lineup for the moderately fun-to-drive, reliable, and economical cars that they've become. I'm just not sure the performance community does.

I've openly defended the ninth-generation Civic (and the Insight) while much of the media has blasted it but, make no mistake, it's a Civic that certainly won't go down in the same pages of the history books that, say, the '92-95 Civic has. If we're being honest, devout Honda followers of the performance persuasion would arguably agree and, although online petitions may say otherwise, likely don't care a whole lot about what the 10th-generation Civic might hold. Yes, self-justified whining about delivering a turbo Type R to America will continue but, even if the top-shelf Civic does make its way into the hands of U.S. consumers, it'll end there and, let's face it, they'll go right back to Craigslist, pursuing used CRX Sis and Integra GS-Rs.

By Aaron Bonk
405 Articles

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