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CARZ4GIRLZ: Good, Better & Best – Comparing the Honda Civic, Toyota Camry & Acura TSX Sedans



By Ilyse Gordon & Friends
The Auto Channel
Louisville Bureau

I'll give you three popular sedans in the history of car creation: The Honda Civic, the Toyota Camry, and the Acura TSX. Reliable cars made by makers with high marks – and cars that score well with teens and twenty-somethings. So exactly how does one decide which sedan is better? Or in this case, which one is good, which one is better, and which is the best?

Whether buying new or used, the 4-door sedans mentioned are reasonable buys – what we want to do is look closer at what you get overall for your money when measuring slight price or fuel drops, or even increases.

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The Good – Toyota Camry. Stick this vehicle along side the Civic and you'll have to agree the Camry has a more mature or slick fit and finish, both interior and exterior wise. With a price tag starting around $19,250 for a 2009 model, that's great. But it's what you don't know about the Camry that might hurt you. Properly equipped with technology packages, power everything and a sunroof; your figure can reach $28,120. Because it has a larger 3.5-liter V6 engine than, say, the Civic's smaller 4-cylinder, it sucks up more gas for an average of 21-mpg driving. Stepping up to the hybrid version to solve that issue rockets the starting price tag to at least $26,250 – now imagine what the interior extras will do to that number along with maintenance costs on what is a more expensive engine system to fix. While you certainly won't be disappointed in one of America's best-selling sedans, you might not feel your money gave you anything particularly dazzling or terribly cost efficient – reasons why the Camry represents our 'Good' category.

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The Better – Honda Civic Hybrid. Let's take the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid. For $25,020 brand spanking new, you get a car that delivers an estimated 42-mpg (tested here at getting 37-mpg overall.) Still, those numbers are unheard of! You'll save thousands in fuel costs and you won't have a monthly car payment that buries you.

Sounds like the Civic should be the Best, right? But lets discuss exactly what you get: a smaller 1.3-liter 4-cylinder engine; steering wheel audio controls; XM radio; power windows and locks; remote entry to trunk; and safety features that should come standard on all cars, like Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD). I also have to say offering a voice-recognizing navigation system as a standard feature is pretty cool and unexpected. But maybe it's better to report in terms of what you don't get (and might miss) on the Civic at this price: 8-way power seating; leather-trimmed seats; dual-zone climate control; heated seats; and a sunroof.

By Consumer Reports standards, owners seem to be just slightly happier with the Civic than the Camry. Fuel costs and the overall price tag are amazing, but the vehicle itself isn't necessarily first-class in its interior or exterior offerings for the cost. Cheaper doesn't mean nicer in this case. Therefore Civic needs to be our 'Better' choice.

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The Best – Acura TSX. Why is it always the most expensive item that attracts us (sigh)? Yes, it's true the 2009 Acura TSX has a price tag of $32,820 – putting the cost well over $7,000 than what we'd pay for with the 1.3-liter 4-cylander Civic that gets 37-mpg driving tested; and almost $5,000 more than a pimped out Camry reaching 21-mpg driving. You have to look at what you're getting with the Acura and what you're NOT getting with the others.

Our Acura in question comes fully loaded at that price, with the standard features mentioned on the Civic AND a voice-activated navigation system, rearview camera, 10-speaker audio system, driver recognition memory system, 8-way power driver seat with lumbar (4-way for passenger), heated front seats, Bluetooth hands-free calling, power moonroof, and leather trim throughout. With a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, its not as big as the Camry, but performance with acceleration and handling rates just as high – only getting an average of 25-mpg driving (a 4-plus gallon gain on the Camry). With gasoline price as high as $4 a gallon, the money you are saving each year adds up over the life of the car.

In terms of design, the Acura blows the doors off the Civic and Camry. Upon first glance it looks more like a BMW. That's because the TSX is a step up than your average sedan and has worked itself into the luxury sector: The TSX is compared to the likes of Audi A4 2.0T, BMW 328i, Infiniti G37, Lexus IS 250, and Mercedes-Benz C300. Okay girls … don't tell ME you’re not brand-conscious or looking for a piece of the good life!

Overall, it's an extremely tight race and one hard to call with such a great collection of sedan competitors. You might not agree on the final order – nor the criteria of tilting choices toward the nicer things in life – but sometimes the most expensive car doesn't necessarily equate to the best offer. Being cheaper doesn't mean the best – in this case anyway! As always, search here on The Auto Channel for the sedan pf your dreams!

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