2019 Honda Civic: lagging sales, still rules as top-rated compact

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The Fit, Civic and Accord, sub-compact, compact and midsize sedan siblings, collectively represent nearly everything right in the automotive industry. If value, durability, functionality, fuel economy, repair efficiency and resale value are important, there’s nothing better than the Honda trio.

Yet the threesome, all rated at or near the top of their segments, are rapidly losing new buyers. It’s not logical.

The 2019 Honda Civic is still a top-rated compact after all thse years.
The 2019 Honda Civic is still a top-rated compact after all thse years. Image © James Raia/2019

The 2019 Honda Civic defines the ideal compact. It’s now in the fourth year of its 10th generation after debuting in 1972. But between generations, Honda, like most manufacturers, makes model adjustments, subtle to substantial.

With the 2019 model (the 2020 model is also now available), the Civic’s front end has been restyled; it’s less drastic and more attractive. The Honda Sensing bundle is now also standard on all models. It includes lane departure and lane assist, forward collision mitigation and adaptive cruise standard on all trims.

The infotainment center has also been amended with a return to a previous feature, a volume knob. Previously, volume adjustment was done with touch-screen controls, potential driving distractions. Clearly labeled climate control knobs on the center console also simplify the user experience.

Variety is among the Civic’s most impressive attributes. The compact is available as a hatchback, coupe or sedan and in nine trims, depending upon body style. Several dozen configurations are possible, making the Civic attractive to even the most fastidious shoppers.

For several years, the Civic and Accord, depending upon their respective models, have been near twins. The Civic got bigger, the Accord smaller. Some buyers wondered why they shouldn’t buy a Civic and save money. The comparison isn’t completely accurate, but the Civic and Accord share many positives.

Comfortable, modern, well-designed and thrifty, the 2019 Civic Touring trim features a 1.5-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine with 174 horsepower. The front-wheel-drive Civic advances with a continuously variable transmission and it includes paddle shifters. Gas mileage averages are 30 miles per gallon in city driving, 27 miles per gallon on the freeway. The price is $27,700.

The standard safety, interior and exterior features lists are extensive, including leather trio: seats, steering wheel and shifter knob. It pushes the Civic to the edges of luxury for its segment. The LaneWatch feature is a blindspot monitor. When the right-turn signal is engaged, an image of the passenger side of the car is presented on the center screen.

Acceleration is satisfactory with the standard 0-60 miles per hour test accomplished in 6.5 seconds. Excellent maneuverability, well-balanced handling, a quiet ride and plenty of space for front and back seat occupants all add to the Civic’s appeal. There’s nothing not to like about Honda’s enduring little machine.

But why are sales tumbling? The Civic’s sales were 51,000 units lower last year than in 2017. The Fit and Accord also had substantially lower sales in 2018 from a year early.

One major culprit: Honda is competing against itself. With the industry’s ever-broadening affinity for SUVs, the HR-V, CR-V and Pilot are increasingly popular. The HR-V’s yearly sales have doubled since Honda’s smallest SUV debut in 2015. The HR-V and Pilot had their best sales years in 2018.

With Honda’s long-held status as among the manufacturers with the best resale value, it’s never felt compelled to increase its basic warranty 3 years and 36,000 miles.

Lastly, Honda has never participated in fleet sales for rental agencies. It’s a mainstay part of top-selling Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet and newer manufacturers such as Hyundai and Kia.

The result: Honda’s sales numbers look ominous. But the Fit, Civic and Accord are more than worthy selections and perennially top-rated. The numbers don’t tell the story.

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