Living with a car, if only for a week, exposes its most glaring faults. The tenth-generation Honda Civic doesn’t have many. It’s one of the most popular passenger cars and the nation’s top-selling compact car for the past nine years. But there had been one thing: A volume knob. Specifically, the lack of one.
For 2019, Honda has reintroduced a knob to replace the touch-sensitive control that drove many journalists—but more critically, Honda owners—a bit crazy. But Honda listens to its customers. When the 2012 Civic received an unwarm welcome, Honda rushed to make improvements for 2013. This isn’t an automaker that sits around for the next model cycle.
Members of the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) met with top executives from Honda’s public relations department in Boston to observe the 2019 Civic’s volume knob and enlarged cupholders. In attendance were Sage Marie, Honda and Acura assistant vice president from Torrance, Calif.; Steve Kinkade, Honda brand director from Detroit; Jessica Pawl, Midwest and East Coast Honda PR manager from Detroit; Chris Naughton, Midwest and East Coast Acura PR manager from New York; and Gary Robinson, senior product manager from Torrance, Calif.
Paying attention to such little details and making steady improvements has paid off in sales, said Kinkade. Since the Civic’s U.S. debut in 1973, Honda has sold more than 11 million sedans, coupes, hatchbacks, and roadsters (don’t forget the cute Del Sol roadster from the 1990s). Also for 2019 is a new Sport trim for the sedan and coupe that adds a central exhaust outlet, 18-inch alloy wheels, and more exterior styling tweaks that mimic the more powerful Si. Currently in the NEMPA fleet is a Civic Touring sedan in a gorgeous shade of Aegean Blue Metallic. It’s a looker.
Michelle Krebs, lead analyst for Autotrader, echoed Honda’s sentiment—and that of Nissan, which visited NEMPA in February—that sedans aren’t dead. While the Detroit automakers are leaving the segment, Krebs told NEMPA that their current customers are likely to shift into brands, such as Honda, that continue building stylish, high-tech four-doors. The 20-plus new crossovers and SUVs that will debut over the next few years will crowd the market so much, she said, that there won’t be room for all of them.
Count on the Honda Passport to last. In the NEMPA fleet are two Passport Elite models, both with snazzy polished black rims and leather interiors. All-new for 2019, the Passport is a return of an old name on a new chassis. Based on the Pilot, the Passport is a shorter two-row SUV with a higher ground clearance that Honda designed to be “driven hard on a trail,” said Robinson. It’s not a hardcore off-roader, but with a standard V-6, available torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, and a surprisingly smooth ride on those 20-inch wheels, the Passport is capable just about anywhere New England drivers are headed.