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The Acura EL Was a Luxurious Honda Civic for Canadians

Here’s something you probably didn’t know unless you’re a massive, ridiculous, embarrassing car nerd like me: For several years, Acura sold a luxury version of the Honda Civic in Canada. It was initially called the EL for two generations, then they changed the name to CSX. Now, they also sell it in the United States, and they call it the ILX.

But while the ILX has a lot of differences from the normal Civic — powertrain changes and dramatically different styling, for instance — the CSX and the EL really didn’t. They had different wheels, a slightly different grille, some updated taillights and a nicer interior. That was it. Naturally, because they were never sold in the United States, I want one very much. See the Honda Civic models for sale near you

A little history: The EL first debuted in 1997, offered only as a sedan and featuring slight cosmetic changes compared to the Civic. It used the same engine as the Civic EX — a 127-horsepower 1.6-liter 4-cylinder with VTEC — and was badged as the 1.6 EL, as was Acura’s custom at the time. (Remember, for instance, the 3.2 TL?)

When the Civic was redesigned in 2001, so was the EL — now Acura’s most popular model in Canada thanks to its low entry price. Once again, it used the VTEC 4-cylinder from the Civic EX, though it was now a 1.7-liter unit, so the name was changed to 1.7 EL (until 2004, when Acura abandoned the engine-size thing and just called it the EL). This time, front-end styling included more obvious differences from the Civic, while the EL once again wore unique wheels — though the U.S.-model Civic later adopted them on the Civic SE.

In 2006, the EL was replaced with the Acura CSX, now based on the 2006-2010 Honda Civic. Differences from the Civic were a little more subtle — though a new front end, different taillights and updated wheels remained. And the CSX once again used the Civic EX’s VTEC engine, now making 155 hp from 2.0 liters. Fun fact: There was even a CSX Type-S, based on the U.S.-market Civic Si, which offered 197 hp and came only with a 6-speed manual transmission.

After the CSX’s run, Acura debuted the ILX, and the U.S. and Canadian Acura markets were once again in sync. But every so often, you see an EL or a CSX running around with plates from Ontario, Quebec or British Columbia, and you smile and give it a knowing nod. They will never be able to register it in the U.S. Find a Honda Civic for sale

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Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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  1. I had this car. A 1997 1.6EL Manual. It is probably the best compact car I’ve ever driven (yet). The 127hp did give the machine a lot of power for the weight at the time. I actually think it was sub-1ton. Shifting was a breeze… When I did shift. Because, you know, 2nd gear went over 100kph (65mph) in the red zone. And God was that red zone fun to get to. And as said by someone else, the choice was simple back in 1997. We wanted a Civic. But Civics back then did’nt come with anything, and if you added the packages, prices went high as fudge. So we took the Acura EL. Fully equipped, with a sunroof (Civic did not OFFER one). Probably 2-3 grands less than a Honda similarly equipped, if it would have been offered. I still miss that car.

  2. CSC was actually based on the euro/JDM civic of the time. A lot of the guys in Canada will do Honda badge swaps and “Type R” conversions of these cars.

  3. Same with the Nissan x-trail only sold in Canada for 2 years where it was and still is sold everywhere other then Canada USA

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