This week’s Road Test is a very unique car from Acura. It’s made in Canada, by Canadians, for Canadians. So why should Americans be interested in this car? I’ll tell you later, but first a little background on the car.
Canadians in general, are more inclined towards smaller cars than Americans, but are moving up-market in terms of luxury-car wants and desires. To meet this demand, Acura has launched the 2006 CSX, a compact car with the look and feel of a luxury car. It shares many of its parts with the Civic – such as the platform and bi-level instrument panel, but is really a completely different car. It’s built alongside the Acura MDX, Honda Civic, and Honda Ridgeline at the plant in Alliston, Ontario.
The CSX isn’t the first Canadian-only Acura. The Acura 1.6 EL, and later the 1.7 EL arrived a decade ago and has always been a good seller in Canada. The CSX is the entry-level Acura, with a lineup that includes the TSX, RSX, TL, the RL and the MDX SUV.
There are significant differences from the Civic. Whereas the Civic sedan has a single overhead cam 140 hp, 1.8-liter engine, the CSX has a dual overhead cam 2.0-liter, derived from the Acura RSX coupe, producing 155 hp and 139 lbs-ft torque.
There is a choice of 2 transmissions: a 5-speed manual, or a 5-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifter.
To my knowledge this is the cheapest car available with the flappy-paddle gearbox. It’s not an option over and above the automatic transmission – it’s included!
I always prefer a manual to an automatic because you feel more in control of the car and you don’t feel like you’re just a passenger while driving the car. However when you put the CSX automatic into “S” and you use the flappy-paddles – that changes everything! You really get a lot more feel for the car, because you decide what gear the car is in, and the response is instant. I had a lot of fun driving with the paddle-shift and can’t see ever wanting to put it into regular automatic mode. My only complaint – and this could be a make-or-break whether I’d chose the auto over the manual – is the paddles themselves. They’re not long enough. Another 1 or 2 inches longer would have made shifting much more comfortable and easier when holding the wheel at the 9 and 3 o’clock position. I have smallish hands, so I can’t imagine it being of any use to someone with larger hands.
The instrument panel is bi-level, just the same as the Civic. It’s a very nice blue luminescent instrument and tachometer combo where the fuel gauge, digital speedometer and temperature gauges are in an upper housing out towards the bottom of the windshield, and the tachometer is in the lower level – between the steering wheel, just like traditional layouts. Having the speedometer and fuel gauges in the upper-level makes it almost a heads-up display, it’s perfectly placed – right in the driver’s sight-line. I really liked it, although there’s no hiding what speed you’re doing from your passengers – it’s right up there front and center, so beware when transporting mothers-in-law. The lower level of the instrument panel houses the aforementioned tachometer, multi-information digital display and odometer with trip meter and the warning indicators. With the push of a button on the left of the steering wheel (which is tilt and telescopic), the speed control can display miles per hour or kilometres per hour. (I told you this would apply to Americans, but there’s more to come). The steering wheel is nice and chunky in the hands and the electric steering is perfectly weighted.
There are two trim levels in the CSX, the Touring and the Premium. The Touring model has four-wheel disc brakes, automatic climate control, premium cloth upholstery, six air bags (front, side and full side curtain), and a six-speaker 270-watt audio system that features MP3/WMA compatibility. Also standard is the illuminated steering wheel that includes cruise/stereo/Navi controls. The Premium edition adds leather-trimmed interior with heated front seats, a power moon-roof and high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps along with a 350-watt audio system with 6 disc in-dash CD player. Optional on the Premium model only is the navigation system, which includes a digital audio PC card reader allowing you to store and playback digital audio files, but the CD player is a single-disc.
The standard wheel is a 16” aluminum alloy. I drove the both the 16” and the optional 17” wheels. The 17” rims and tires were on a manual transmission car, and I found that combination just a little more fun. Feedback from the steering was almost like driving a go-kart. The manual transmission was typically Honda, a buttery smooth clutch and shifter – just perfect. I’d highly recommend this combination. The manual just felt faster than the automatic.
The styling of the Honda Civic, and in-turn the Acura CSX, is quite a departure for Honda. I’ve never considered Honda’s to be attractive – more dull than beauty (same thing with Toyota’s), but I really like the look of the Acura CSX (and Civic). I think the other Acura’s such as the TSX, TL and RL are gorgeous. The CSX is getting there, but not quite there yet.
Looks aside, this is an extremely likable car. I think this is the type of car that you’d really like it and buy or lease it. Then the longer you own the car, the more you’d love it. It’s that type of car.
The ride, fit and finish are superb. The seats very comfortable and perfectly placed. I’ve found Acura’s (and Honda’s) in the past to have a seat that you feel you’re falling onto the ground when you get into the car – you get a free-falling feeling till you actually sit in the seat. The seats in the CSX are much closer to a ‘normal’ height for getting in and out, yet you still get that Acura feeling of sitting nice and low when you’re driving. I found the leather seats a bit better than the cloth. From the second you get behind the wheel it’s like you’ve driven the car before – it was built just for you. Everything is comfortable. One thing I thought was odd is the placement of the heating system controls. They seemed backward to me. The temperature control is closest to the driver and the fan speed is farther away. It makes more sense to me for them to be the other way around. The leather seats have power adjustments, while the cloth has manual adjustments, but it does have a height-adjustable lever, something I think all cars should have.
The CSX is priced far below its immediate competition, yet in the same price category as non-luxury cars as the Camry, Chevy Malibu and the Mazda6. It’s blending the gap, making luxury and sport very affordable. As a direct comparison, I’ve driven the 2005 Honda Accord, and the CSX is light-years ahead of it for comfort and quality, but at the same price!
Pricing for the CSX:
The Touring five-speed manual is $25,400 (approx. $20,320 U.S.), and the five-speed automatic is $26,700 (approx. $21,360 U.S.).
The Premium’s five-speed manual is $28,100 (approx. $22,400 U.S.), and auto is $29,400 (approx. $23,520 U.S.)
The Premium Navi is $30,600 for the five-speed manual (approx. $24,480 U.S.) & the auto is $31,900 (approx. $25,520 U.S.)
The rate of exchange right now is approximately +20% in favor of the U.S. dollar. It’s an Acura/Honda, so service/maintenance is not a problem if you chose to go this route.
The five-speed automatic is listed at 25 mpg – city [9.5L/100 km] and 36 mpg – highway [6.5L/100 km]
The five-speed manual gets 25 mpg – city [9.5L/100 km] and 37 mpg – highway [6.4L/100 km]
Acura’s outstanding quality fit and finish
5 speed automatic with flappy-paddle gearbox, if you’re so inclined
Silky-smooth clutch and shifter on the manual transmission
Same price as an Accord, but far superior in every way
Flappy-paddles are too short
Would I Spend My Money On It?:
YES! Absolutely. I’ve put it on my list of next vehicles to buy.
Back Seat Driver Test: 10 out of 10!
Very comfortable, especially because there’s a completely flat floor.
In class: Audi A4; BMW 320i; Volvo S40; Saab 9-3
In price: VW Jetta; Olds Allure; Chevy Malibu and Impala; Chrysler 300 and Sebring; Ford Five Hundred; Honda Accord; Mazda6; Mitsubishi Gallant; Nissan Altima; Pontiac G6 and Grand Prix; Subaru Impreza and Legacy; Toyota Camry
Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH) 8
Cargo Area/Trunk Space 9
Special Features (Nav Sat/Heated Seats etc) 10
Ease of Entry/Exit 10
Roominess – Front 10
– Rear 9
Driving Position/Controls 8
Drool Factor 6
Fit & Finish 10
Transmission (Auto) 9
Ride & Handling 10
Bang for the $$ 8
Fuel Economy 9
Total: 134 / 150
Copyright © 2006 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Honda
Also Published at: PaddockTalk.com