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Sadly as the market waned for sporty coupes the venerable Prelude lost sales and Honda altered their focus to selling CR-V's and Pilot's. In 2001 Honda shelved the Prelude, but now it is making a comeback, well not exactly, but after sampling a new Civic Coupe I believe the spiritual successor of the Prelude has finally arrived at Honda.
You might be wondering why the new generation Civic Coupe has more Prelude DNA than any of the Civic models which have come before it? The answer comes down to several objective and subjective factors.
Objectively the new Civic Coupe hits the sweet spot on Prelude dimensions. When the Prelude debuted in 1978 it had a wheelbase of 91.3 inches and an overall length of 161 inches. Over five generations the Prelude grew to a wheelbase of 101.8 inches and an overall length of 178 inches. The new Civic Coupe rides a longer wheelbase of 106.3 inches but has nearly identical overall length at 176.9 inches. Width of the new Civic is 70.8 inches vs. the last generation Prelude at 69 inches, the new Civic matches the Prelude of yore with a curb weight range of 2750-2900 lbs vs. the 2950-3000 lbs range of the Prelude. In the engine department Honda is offering two units, a 158 HP naturally aspirated 2.0 liter 4 and a 174 HP 1.5 liter turbo mill. The five Prelude generations featured Horsepower ranging from less than 100 in gen 1 to 200 by gen 5 from a naturally aspirated 2.2 liter 4. The last generation of Prelude would hit 0-60 in about 7 seconds, the current model Civic with a CVT and the 1.5 turbo will hit 60 slightly faster.
Many cars today feature similar specs to these two coupes and so did some of the prior model year Civic's so what makes this one the heir to the Prelude name?
Subjectively the new Civic Coupe looks like it could have been benchmarked on prior Preludes. The styling of the new Civic Coupe is the first in several Civic generations to eschew cab forward design giving the new model a long hood and short rear deck and a similar low and wide stance to prior Preludes. The interior of the new Civic has done away with the last two generations weird upper and lower bin instrument panels instead presenting the driver with a clean set of gauges and easy to find and use switchgear. The steering wheel is meaty, the seating low but with expansive views.
The Prelude was often a model that was used to test new technologies for Honda, including four wheel steering and even torque vectoring (last gen SH models). The new Civic models are the first cars (RDX excluded) that Honda has sold in the US with turbocharged engines and feature a smattering of available safety technologies and new connectivity features like Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Although the Civic does not feature double wishbone suspension like the Prelude did, it does feature independent suspension with sporty tuning which provides a nice compromise between weekend warrior handling and daily commuting just like the Preludes of yore. Civic steering, although electronically assisted now, is still sporty in feel and weighting. The manual six speed available in the Civic is a slick short shifting unit, just like those in prior Preludes.
Car and Driver once called the Prelude the "best handling car for less than $30,000". This new Civic may be the best handling small sports coupe on the market today and certainly will only get sharper with the upcoming addition of the Si model.
So is the new Civic Coupe the Prelude reincarnated, I think it is, and perhaps when the 1.5 liter turbo six speed manual combo hits it will fully fill those large empty Prelude shoes! All this Civic needs now is a Prelude badge, I am sure you could find one online!