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“Emergency” Update of Honda Civic to Debut in LA

Maker hopes to “hone” its image after embarrassing mistakes.

by on Nov.12, 2012

Honda will unveil a major update of the much-panned Civic compact at the upcoming LA Auto Show.

Stung by a series of embarrassing mistakes that saw even import-friendly Consumer Reports magazine turn thumbs down, Honda will unveil what insiders have dubbed an “emergency refresh” of the maker’s long-popular Civic model at the upcoming LA Auto Show.

Putting a positive spin on the launch of a mid-cycle Civic update that comes several years earlier than would normally have been planned, Honda officials insist the compact model’s styling has been “honed to make the segment’s best-selling car even better.”

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Curiously, despite getting panned by most critics after its mid-2011 debut – and being dropped from the influential Consumer Reports “Recommended” list, the Civic has remained the compact segment’s leader. But it has clearly been losing momentum, something that forced Honda to make some fast tweaks to the Civic’s styling – as well as “enhancements” meant to address criticism of the vehicle’s interior and handling.

The "emergency refresh" is expected to see significant changes inside and out.

A news advisory from Honda provides only limited information about what we’ll see on November 29th at the Los Angeles Convention Center – the release focusing primarily on exterior updates.

(LA Auto Show to feature “nearly 50″ major debuts. Click Here for more.)

The entire front end has been re-sculpted, it appears, with a new lower fascia, revised honeycomb grille, more prominent chrome accent bar and redesigned headlamps.  The hood also features paired accent lines that appear intended to enhance the perception of muscularity.  The front accent bar is carried over to the rear, where the taillamps have been tweaked — now flowing into a revised trunk — as have the bumper and diffuser.

“The 2013 Honda Civic exterior refinements infuse Civic with a more youthful, premium style. Coupling these with additional changes beneath will ensure that Civic maintains its top-ranked status,” proclaims Vicki Poponi, assistant vice president of product planning for American Honda.

The maker promises the revisions to the 2013 Civic also “will encompass a host of safety, feature, comfort, chassis and interior styling enhancements.”

Precisely what they means we’ll have to wait to find out.  But considering the heated criticism of the interior – derided for its extensive use of cheap plastic – one can only hope the emergency refresh will look at lot more upscale.

The current version of the Civic lost its "Recommended Buy" status from Consumer Reports.

The new Civic is also anticipated to deliver a more sporty ride, in keeping with the nameplate’s heritage – and especially when it comes to the traditionally sportiest versions, like the Si.

Whether the 2013 Honda Civic will pick up some of the safety features recently added to the all-new Accord is unclear. That could include the optional camera-based blind-spot detection system that displays an image in the car’s center stack video monitor.

We might have expected to wait until 2015 or so to see such a significant remake of the ninth-generation Honda Civic, but few major models have received such a harsh reception in recent years. Consumer Reports has repeatedly trashed the compact offering, as have many other critics.

Making matter worse, the Civic was just one of an assortment of recent Honda models to get thumbs down from critics. The list also includes the CR-Z, Insight and CrossTour, as well as the Acura ZD-X.

For his part, Honda’s top American executive, John Mendel, acknowledged in an interview with that the maker “underestimated the competition” when developing the 2012 Honda Civic.

Despite its problems, the Civic has remained the nation’s best-selling compact model – though some analysts caution that the numbers could be misleading.  Honda was badly hurt by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that left all the major Japanese makers struggling with inventory shortages.  Many potential buyers simply waited until production was back to normal this year, helping buoy the sales for Honda, as well as Toyota, Nissan and other Japanese makers.

Honda officials clearly hope that the updated Civic will keep momentum going even after such pent-up demand is satiated.

The carmaker is so upbeat that it has advised dealers to do everything they can to sell off the current version of the Honda Civic before the new model reaches showrooms.

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