October 12, 2006

Photo Gallery: 2006 Acura CSX

Specifications: 2006 Acura CSX

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Acura is the only luxury brand to still offer a sedan for less than $30,000, and it’s only sold in Canada. Detractors, however, will tell you that it’s really not a true luxury car, just a dressed-up Honda Civic with some extra bells and whistles.

Sure, the CSX is based on the Civic, which is actually a pretty good starting point, but it’s also less like a Civic than its predecessor, the Acura EL. And for not too much more than a top-line Civic it moves buyers into a more prestigious brand with more standard amenities, better performance and a better warranty.

The factory option list on the CSX is short and there are only two versions, Touring and Premium. The extra $2,700 you pay for the Premium trim adds leather upholstery, a power sunroof, HID headlights and an audio upgrade. A navigational system, with bilingual voice recognition, is also offered as an option ($2,500) on the Premium trim.

A five-speed manual transmission is standard on both versions, and a very cool five-speed automatic, which comes with paddle style shift levers on the steering wheel, is an option ($1,300).

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From a distance, our metallic blue test car could easily have been mistaken for the aggressively-styled new Honda Civic. If you look a little closer, however, there are some obvious differences. On the front it has an Acura grille and a sharper nose than a Civic. The rear taillights are also different and they have a circular illumination pattern.

Another subtle but important difference is in the side mirrors. Additional turn signals are integrated into the mirror housings. It’s an excellent safety enhancement that also adds a Euro-luxury accent.

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Its mostly black interior came with matching leather upholstery in my Premium trimmed test car. Like the Civic, the CSX has a two-tiered dash with the speedometer, engine temperature and fuel gauges positioned above the steering wheel and further away from the driver. The advantage is that these gauges are in the driver’s forward sight line and it’s easier to refocus eyes from the road ahead. The digital readout can also be switched from metric (km/h) to English (mph), which is very handy when border hopping.

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The CSX’s excellent occupant protection package is the same regardless of trim selection and includes side curtain air bags and active front head restraints. We noted that the centre rear seating position did not have lower UAS attachments for child seats. The tether anchors are also located close to the seatback which may make the installation of some child seats more difficult. The centre head restraint also has a very limited amount of adjustment (but it can be removed) and it tends to push an installed child seat forward.

The driver sits high, although you still can’t see the end of the steeply angled hood, and outward visibility is good, apart form the long front ‘A’ pillars (at windshield) which are quite chunky. The side mirrors are a decent size – which isn’t always the case in a smaller car, for some strange reason.

There are no power seat adjustments: all are manual but there is a cushion height adjustment. Aided by the tilt and telescopic steering wheel I had no problem finding a comfortable driving position and a big dead pedal for my left foot was another nice feature.

The park brake design is particularly clever, as it takes up very little space. The opposed-action wipers are unusual, but appeared to work well on the extra-large windshield. A security key lock for both the trunk lid and gas tank door releases was also noteworthy.

On the road, the CSX’s steering has a strong centering action. I liked the weighting and the smaller sized wheel. The light and agile CSX makes you feel like you’re in complete control of any situation, and is a treat to drive.

Another important distinction that separates the new CSX from a Civic is its engine. It’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder produces 155-horsepower compared to a 1.8-litre/140-hp motor in the Civic. The extra power can certainly move the CSX when you push it into high rev territory (and this engine can sing the high notes), but I was a little disappointed in the power (torque) available at low engine speeds.

A light clutch makes CSX an easy car to drive in the city and the gear shifter action is short and precise. That said, a five-speed manual has become ho-hum these days when some competitors are offering six.

A polished compact luxury sedan, there’s much to like about the classy Acura CSX – and it’s built in Canada.

Pricing 2006 Acura CSX

Base price (Touring) $25,400

Base price (Premium) $28,100

Freight $ 1,280

A/C tax $ 100

Price as tested $29,480


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