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1.7 EL: A TOUCH OF ELEGANCE

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The Acura EL made an exclusive debut on the Canadian market in 1996 and was an instant hit in Quebec. Acura's base model accounts for over 45% of the total sales of that Honda owned division. One can't look at the EL without keeping his mind off the Honda Civic. As a matter of fact, both cars share about 80% of the components: platform, suspension and mechanics. Such a move is simply based on the fact that production costs have to be minimized on grounds that Canada is considered as a small market place. The grill was thus reviewed in order to give the car that Acura type triangular nose and the rear lamp cluster was modified, and that was it.

Acura took advantage of the Civic's entire remodeling to revamp its EL car. By the same token and in order to have one standing apart from the other, Acura created a more luxurious environment in the EL and significantly extended the list of standard equipments which includes a CD, cruise control, air conditioning and ABS. As a result, both the $21,500 standard transmission and the $22,500 automatic provide affordable luxury. An upgraded Premium version, priced from $23,500 to $24,500, depending on tranny, is available and features leather seats.

On the road, one notices little difference compared to the former version. The 127 horsepower VTEC four banger is still the powerplant, but the displacement goes from 1,6 to 1,7 L. Torque was beefed up, but very lightly so that there is just a tiny difference, nothing to write home about, as one might say. The greatest improvement has to be the soundproofing to which a particular attention was devoted with the result that the EL is quieter all through the rev range. Like the Civic cousin, the EL is roomier, thanks to its forward cab design that leaves more space to the passengers. The design of the rear suspension has allowed more legroom and a flat floor for added comfort. Its road handling is sound. It must also be specified that the new chassis increased torsion stiffness by 47%.