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The blossoming for the Canadian-exclusive Acura CSX may finally come in 2012, with the expected introduction of a new model based on an all-new 2012 Honda Civic. The signs seem to point in that direction.

There is the dark cloud of uncertain gas prices, forcing people in the "borderline" luxury segments south of the border to perhaps consider more fuel efficient (and likely smaller) offerings. The last time that happened, we got a Chevrolet Cavalier-based Cadillac Cimarron. This time around, we get a Chev Cruze based Buick Verano.

That's the other sign: Because since its debut in 2005, the CSX sedan has never really had a direct competitor -- BMW's 1 Series is a coupe or convertible; the Audi A3 and Mercedes- Benz B200 are hatchbacks; and the Volvo C30 is a coupe/ hatchback.

Here in its final iteration before the anticipated changeover, the 2011 CSX is loosely based on the Si version of the Civic.

It has the same 2.0-litre VTEC 4-cylinder engine, but doesn't make the Si's 197 horsepower at the lofty 7,800 rpm (the CSX does 155 at just 6,000). Rather, it's a less high-revving variant making the same amount of torque (139 lb.-ft.) but lower in the rev range (4,500 rpm, rather than 6,100) in order to maintain the luxury segment's power traits without the sports compact high-pitched engine note.

Because of the CSX's light weight, there's plenty of spark to launch the car smartly and to help it get around slower traffic quickly and efficiently, with the appropriate changes in gears.

Power delivery to the front wheels is handled by a standard 6-speed manual or optional automatic transmission. The Si uses only the manual. The test car's 5-speed automatic handles shifts effectively and seamlessly, and is particularly welcome on workday commutes. Once the traffic lightens up and the road kinks up, paddle shifters allow the driver to work it like a manual. It's a pretty exciting combination, though the car itself doesn't have the sporting character that would make drivers long for manual control.

It also doesn't have the sportcompact ride and handling. The ride is mostly smooth and quiet (considering the car's size and roots), the handling is tight and the suspension is sort of Goldilock-ish (not too hard; not too soft). Steering could be tighter for better feel in quick lane changes, but it's fine for most everyday applications.

And that brings up a conundrum -- the size and roots of the CSX leave you expecting a sportcompact driving experience, but the car really embraces the hallmarks of luxury -- aforementioned ride and manners, comfortable and supportive leather seats, a technologically comprehensive driver's office, and relatively roomy accommodations front and rear (again, in relation to the car's compact dimensions).

The rear seat has room for 3, and if they're all small enough there's plenty of knee and foot comfort thanks to a flat floor. 2 adults, however, will find superb room and comfort back there, with an armrest. The seatback folds forward in a 60/40 split, releasing from the relatively large, flat-floored trunk.

Instrumentation is a slightly different take on the Civic 2-tiered display and there's a centre stack that features a large display screen for the navigation and sound systems, surrounded by small buttons for functions that are much better handled by the redundant buttons on the meaty steering wheel. It's all finished in bright metal trim work to further the hi-tech ambience.

It would be understandable if Honda charged a premium for this upscale take on the Civic, but CSX pricing is in keeping with that of the Civic Si sedan. It starts at $24,290 and rises to $27,090 for a fully equipped model (such as our test vehicle).

That's a great target for competitors such as the Buick Verano, especially in this economy of stable incomes and rapidly rising gasoline prices.


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Fact file:

2011 Acura CSX

Price as tested: $27,090

Options on test vehicle:

Technology pkg ($1,500) inc. navigation system with voice recognition, Bluetooth, satellite radio, HID headlights; automatic transmission ($1,300).

Freight & PDI: $1,395

Configuration: Front engine/ front-wheel drive

Engine/transmission: 2.0L 4-cyl./ 5-spd auto. with sequential shift

Power/torque: 155 hp/139 lb.-ft.

Fuel (capacity): Regular (50L)

Fuel economy ratings: 9.5

L/100km city; 6.5 L/100km hwy

Observed fuel economy: 7.8

L/100km over 564 km.

Warranties: 4 years/ 80,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain)

Competitors: Audi A3; BMW 1 Series; Buick Verano; Volvo C30.

Strengths: Economy; upscale intentions; drivability

Weaknesses: Staid steering; not exclusive enough for luxury buyers

Report card (out of 5)

Fuel economy: 3.5 -- Pretty good, but I honestly expected better from a VTEC

Value for $: 3.5 -- Pretty good for the luxury segment but average for its size

Styling: 3 -- Looks like a Civic.

Comfort: 3.5 -- Relatively roomy and comfortable.

Performance: 3.5 -- As expected from its size and segment

Overall: 3.5 -- A segment leader, but little more than average on its own merits​
 

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Meh, it is just the civic with leather. My mother-in-law has this civic and I hate driving it. In fact so does she. She has had the car since August and has 2000 miles on it, while she continues to drive her 2002 civic with over 240k miles.
 
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