Honda to make over Civic earlier than planned

Nissans recalled

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ROMULUS, Mich. — Honda is scrambling to revamp its Civic just eight months after a new version hit showrooms, and critics say it’s an admission that the compact car fell short in quality and handling.

Honda will redo its compact Civic by late 2012, even though a new version just hit the market at the end of the summer. The Civic has fallen from grace with critics.  HONDA MOTOR CO./ASSOCIATED PRESS
HONDA MOTOR CO./ASSOCIATED PRESS
Honda will redo its compact Civic by late 2012, even though a new version just hit the market at the end of the summer. The Civic has fallen from grace with critics.

The redo, to come by the end of next year, is unprecedented because new models aren’t usually overhauled for at least three years. Honda says it’s trying to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive small-car market.

The new Civic arrived at dealerships April 20 and was panned by critics. Consumer Reports magazine said it was less agile than its predecessor, and its interior quality was worse. The magazine refused to give the Civic its coveted “Recommended Buy” rating, saying that the braking distances were long and it suffered from a choppy ride.

The old Civic, which came out in 2005, was known for its sporty driving, high-quality interiors, lack of noise and excellent braking, says David Champion, senior director of auto testing for Consumer Reports.

“The new one seems to have fallen apart in those areas,” says Champion, who thinks that Honda cut costs with the 2012 version.

Honda has told dealers a reworked Civic will arrive before the end of 2012.

American Honda Presi­dent Tetsuo Iwamura said Tuesday the Civic is still the leader in compacts. Honda will improve its drivability, but Iwamura stopped short of saying what the company will do to the rest of the car.

In the past two years, the usual compact-car race between Honda and Toyota has become a free-for-all that includes high-quality entries from Chevrolet, Ford and Hyundai. Those cars threaten Civic, a perennial top seller.

The Civic has battled with the Toyota Corolla as the top-selling compact in the U.S., but this year both were thrown off kilter by the March earthquake and tsunami that disrupted parts production in Japan. Honda production only recently returned to normal, and Mendel doesn’t expect dealers to be fully restocked until March.

Nissans recalled

DETROIT — Nissan Motor Co. is recalling nearly 34,000 Sentra compact cars because of a battery cable problem that could cause them to stall.

The glitch affects 2010-11 Sentras equipped with MR-20 engines. Nissan will replace the positive battery cables and covers free of charge.

Nissan also is recalling more than 28,000 of its 2011 Juke small crossover SUVs. A turbocharger boost sensor bracket can break free from an air inlet tube because of a defective weld. The vehicles can stall while idling, raising the risk of a crash. The recall is expected to start Jan. 9.

Owners can call Nissan at (800) 647-7261.

Saab warranties

DETROIT — General Motors says it will honor warranties of Saab cars that were sold in the U.S. and Canada while the Swedish automaker was part of GM.

Cash-strapped Saab filed for bankruptcy Monday. The company has suspended warranty coverage for all vehicles in North America.

GM said Tuesday it will cover the warranties if Saab doesn’t.

GM says Saab owners should still contact their dealers for warranty work.

GM sold Saab to Dutch luxury sports car maker Spyker Cars in 2010.


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