Ridiculous Rebadges: An Acura Cimarron

Welcome to Ridiculous Rebadges, a series of articles in which I go through and examine the details and circumstances surrounding some of the more infamous and some of the more esoteric vehicular rebadges throughout automotive history.

This is a Rebadge Revisited. See the article’s inspiration from DeMuro’s blog Plays With Cars here:

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The Cadillac Cimarron was a terrible car. Not only was it not much of a Cadillac, being noted as nothing more than a “Cavalier with leather”, the Cimarron née Cavalier was rather poor at being a car as well with hit-and-miss quality control, weak engines, and dreary interiors. On the other hand, for every story of a Cavalier conking out before an important job interview, there’s a tale being told of a Civic which has never failed to start in its twenty year lifetime, even on that morning when Grandma left it out with the door light on in the snow. It seems that if you’re going to build a budget price luxury car, you had better start with a pretty solid car to begin with.

That’s exactly what Acura of Canada did back in 1997. With the big three Japanese brands making big bucks off of cheating Americans by selling Maximas and Camries with more leather and fake wood, the Canadians wanted in on the action and conceived the Acura EL, a Civic with a pair of calipers glued everywhere an ‘H’ would have otherwise been found.

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Except it wasn’t. The EL had a completely different front and rear fascia from the contemporary Civic, one that more closely resembled the fifth-gen Accord, albeit much smaller.

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The reason this first EL wasn’t a complete copy of the USDM Civic was because it mimicked the Isuzu rebadge (the Gemeni) of the Honda Domani, itself a luxurious Civic sold only in Japan. There is a large possibility that it was actually the Acura EL that came first and it was the Isuzu which borrowed its appearance, but either way, that’s the reason why the front clip of the first EL was nothing like that of the sixth-generation USDM Civic.

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The interior of the EL was apparently sufficiently sumptuous to merit its several grand higher price tag (with features like amber LED lighting and a tachometer as standard), and Canadians bought them in droves–the little compact actually was Acura CA’s best seller between 1997 and 2003, making up 51% of the brand’s sales in 1997 alone.

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A successor was definitely needed to succeed this sales success. By this next generation of the EL, however, the Honda Domani no longer existed and Isuzu’s car division was as good as dead, thus there was no one from whom to borrow a new front and rear clip off of to pass the Civic off as an Acura.

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Thus, this generation looked a lot more like a Honda Civic just pointier, which is to say slightly more handsome than the generic blob that was the seventh-gen Civic.

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The mid-cycle facelift in 2004 brought new taillights, new foglights, a new steering wheel, audio system improvements, and wood grain!

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It seems that this second EL followed the Cimarron philosophy a bit too closely, though, and Acura decided to change more than just some lighting and logos the next time around.

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What they did this time was start with a USDM Civic sedan, then rework the entire front and rear to achieve a more upscale, premium look. After Acura CA had finished all of the altercations it wanted to make to the USDM Civic in order to replace their best-seller, Honda Japan saw the finished project and admired it so much that they chose to base the JDM Civic on the Canadian CSX.

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Not only did the JDM Civic and CSX share the same front and rear fascia, both were offered with the RSX’s high-revving K20Z2 2.0 I4 which was not available in the USDM Civic. A few luxury features were added as well, ranging from optional HID headlights and navigation (neither of which could be had in a standard Canadian Civic) as well as improvements similar to earlier ELs (chrome door handles, better audio, etc.) Paddle shifters could also reportedly be had with automatic CSX models, and a Type-S model was available as a luxury Civic Si variant.

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In 2009 the CSX was facelifted with Acura’s ‘Power Plenum’ grille (whatever that means), more commonly known as ‘the beak’.

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The car was phased out in 2011 and replaced with the ILX, which we Americans finally get stateside. Funny how some Candians who saw the chance to make a better Cimarron created ripples which brought Civic all the way back to Japan and back again.

Sources:

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acura_EL]

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acura_CSX]

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