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Acura CSX more about comfort than speed

The Acura CSX is a Canada-only model that's a clever reworking of the Honda Civic. But don't call it a Civic.

  • Car queue in the bad traffic road. Selective focus.

We have the Britons to thank for warm beer, slow food and badge engineering.

When the English auto industry was consolidated 60 years ago, the new British Motor Corp. began adapting common models, using nuances in trim and accessories, to appeal to customers for whom brand allegiance was paramount.

BMC churned out numerous cars that were remarkably similar, save for the Austin, Morris, Riley and Wolseley nameplates they bore.

The whole house of cards eventually collapsed, in part because BMC was more interested in brand management than quality control.

More: 2012 Honda Civic – End of the road for an automotive icon

But badge engineering continues unabated in the luxury segment, where an automaker will upgrade its mainstream model with more features, technology and styling tweaks to market it under a more expensive sign.

Enter the Acura CSX, a Canada-only model that’s a clever reworking of the Honda Civic, intended to give Acura dealers something relatively inexpensive with which to build showroom traffic.

A longer nose with larger headlamps, a full-width lower intake and a creased hood differentiated the new-for-2006 CSX from the eighth-generation Civic. A restyled trunk lid punctuated with jeweled taillamps completed the look.

Because the four-door-only CSX commanded a $7,000 premium over the Civic, even the entry model came loaded. Standard features included alloy wheels, electronic stability control, paddle shifters, heated door mirrors with turn signals, automatic climate control and a boffo audio system.

The same Star Trek bi-level instrument panel graced the cabin, but with premium trim.

The Honda, er, Acura was no penalty box inside. “The flat floor and generous glass gives a sense of space and airiness, and makes the car’s interior feel larger than it is,” wrote owner Greg Israelstam.

Too bad some money didn’t go into better soundproofing. The CSX, like the Civic, was noisy on the highway — more so than any premium sedan ought to be.

Still, critics would be wrong to characterize the CSX merely as a rebadged Civic. The big differentiator was the engine: a DOHC 2.0 L four cylinder borrowed from the base-model RSX coupe, good for 155 hp and 139 lb.-ft. of torque.

It compared favourably with the Civic’s 1.8 L four, which put out 140 hp and 128 lb.-ft. of grunt. Interestingly, the CSX four made the same 139 lb.-ft. of torque as the Civic Si’s 197-hp blender — but without the redline-tickling theatrics. Buyers chose between a five-speed manual and automatic transmission.

For 2007 a sporty Type-S model was added, using the Si’s frenetic motor bundled with a mandatory six-speed manual transmission, helical limited-slip differential and requisite sport-tuned suspension.

Leather upholstery, tire-pressure monitoring system and vehicle stability assist were made standard on all 2008 CSXs.

ON THE ROAD

The front-drive CSX is tuned more for comfort than speed. Still, it demonstrates good balance with minimal body roll when carving up a snaky road. The Type-S offers a higher performance threshold, thanks to its accoutrements, but drivers have to row the stick aplenty to summon every horsey.

Zero to 96 km/h acceleration times are hard to find, but suffice to say they would be closer to the RSX’s 7.3 second time than the 140-hp Civic’s 7.8. The Type-S requires 6.2 seconds.

The base 2.0 L four uses a little more fuel than the frugal Civic, but at least it burns regular unleaded — the only Acura to do so.

Beyond the noisy cabin at speed, some owners noted the lightweight sedan is somewhat susceptible to crosswinds on the highway.

WHAT OWNERS REPORTED

There are precious few reports online by CSX owners, but those who have posted describe a happy experience, citing the Ontario-built sedan’s refined drivetrain, luxury appointments and low operating cost.

Problems? There can be a few.

There’s a lot of discussion about the Civic’s uneven rear tire wear due to poor suspension geometry caused by faulty upper control arms. It’s hard to determine if this holds true for the CSX, but it’s worth inspecting for tire cupping.

There’s a common problem with the Type-S six-speed tranny that causes grinding and hard shifting into third gear. The stickshift may also pop out of gear. Honda has issued a technical service bulletin.

An ABS wheel speed sensor O-ring seal may allow water to penetrate the rear wheel bearing and eventually damage it. And the 2.0 L motor may exhibit problems with the timing chain skipping – not an inexpensive fix.

Beyond that, the CSX is a pretty durable buy. Its RSX engine may very well justify the price premium over the work-a-day Civic.

We would like to know about your ownership experience with these models: Kia Magentis, Dodge Nitro and Toyota FJ Cruiser. Email: toljagic@ca.inter.net.

2006-10 ACURA CSX

WHAT’S BEST: Super-refined engines, road handler, respects your gas card

WHAT’S WORST: Highway noise, low roofline, questionable bang for buck

TYPICAL GTA PRICES: 2006 – $12,500; 2009 – $20,000

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