Redesigning the second best-selling midsize sedan in America is no easy task. It’s also one that doesn’t happen very often for fear of getting it wrong. Still, even with all the bad press the new Civic received, sales have been booming. By all appearances this has not made Honda sit on their hands however when it came to the new Accord. Honda invited us to Santa Barbara to sample the all-new, smaller, 9th generation Honda Accord. This is a bold launch event with not just a new engine and transmission under the hood, but an all new hybrid technology on offer as well. If you want to know how it drives, or how much it costs, our Honda overlords have decreed our lips must be sealed until the 10th at 6AM Eastern. Set yourself a reminder then click-through the jump for part one.
Remember 1985? If you were paying attention to cars, then the then-new Civic Si and Mk2 Jetta GLI were on your radar. Which did you prefer? For the 2012 model year both cars are again new. One of them has changed surprisingly little. The other, though it retains some choice bits, has perhaps lost the plot.
Despite accounting for an incredibly small percentage of new car sales in America, the EV is all the rage in California. Rather than starting from scratch and designing an all-new car from the ground up (like Nissan), Honda chose the more economical route and electrified the second-generation Honda Fit. On the surface, the recipe sounds like a slam dunk, since the Fit is one of Honda’s most attractive and most fun to drive models now on sale. To prove to the masses that Honda has what it takes to go green, they flew me out to Pasadena to sample the all-new, all-blue Fit EV.
About one third of all cars sold in Japan are an oddity: Cars for midgets. Kei cars. Limited in size (11.2 by 4.9 ft), displacement (40 cid), and power (63hp). “Americans won’t buy them,” says our contact at Honda who meets us in the basement garage of Honda’s headquarters in Tokyo. “Americans want big.” We are here to test whether a Kei car can be pressed into duty as the epitome of big, as a chauffeured limousine.
“We,” that is Martin Koelling, East Asia correspondent of Germany’s Handelsblatt, and I. Martin already excelled as a very capable driver at our from-the-backseat test of the Lexus GS 350 F Sport. That was in the serene setting of Kagoshima. Today, we are in the 13 million metropolis of Tokyo.
I have been around many cars in my life. My favorite part is the backseat, and my favorite drive is to be driven. I quickly learned that “driver, why don’t you raise the partition” signals the most fun one can have in a car. But how much fun can you have in a Kei, a car that is normally not associated with party space, except among anchovies? Read More >
Since 1998 Honda has been quietly producing one of the cleanest vehicles in America. In 2001 the EPA called its engine “the cleanest burning internal combustion engine in the world.” No, it’s not a hybrid, it’s Honda’s Civic Natural Gas (formerly known as the Civic GX). Until now, the Civic Natural Gas has only been available for retail sale in a handful of states like California and New York. For 2012, Honda expanded sales to 37 states and lent us one for a week.
More than just a mere model, the Honda Civic is an institution. With 9 million examples sold on American shores, and nearly 20 million worldwide, calling it “Honda’s most important car” doesn’t express the importance of getting the 2012 redesign right. Michael got his hands on the EX model last May, but today we’re looking at the green poster child of the Honda line-up. Visit TTAC next week as we get gaseous with the Civic CNG.
In a very small way, my family was involved in bringing the Honda CR-V to North America. As Honda hemmed and hawed about bringing their first in-house SUV to the continent, they quietly shipped over a few right-hand drive examples in late 1995 for employees to evaluate. As a car guy with two kids, my father, who was Honda’s in-house attorney at the time, was a perfect candidate, and got the bright blue CR-V for a few days. Festooned with chrome accents, graffiti-like graphics, a JDM fender mirror and brush bars, the right-hand drive CR-V got lots of attention. The CR-V finally came to North America two years later, without all the awful acoutrements that Japanese versions had in spades.
“Hey Brendan,” runs the e-mail from our illustrious ed., Ed, “I was wondering if you wanted to take on the most challenging story I’m currently facing: making the new Honda CR-V interesting.”
“Don’t get taken in by the free bacon!”
Wait, what now? Free bacon? I’M THERE.
Honda has never paid too much attention to how other car makers do things. In the past this led to many highly successful innovations. Today…well today we have the ninth-generation Civic, recently launched as an early 2012 model.
After reading Tal Bronfer’s review of the Euro spec Honda CR-Z, I made arrangements to get a North American model for a week. The car arrived the same day that Michael Karesh’s second review of the CR-Z ran on TTAC. Instead of a third review, Ed and I discussed doing a comparison with an original CRX and seeing what CRX fans think of the CR-Z. Well, it didn’t work out that way …. Read More >
Once upon a time I wanted a Pontiac Fiero. Then the original Honda CRX awakened me to the joys of driving a small car sideways. It was what the Fiero, similarly pitched as an economical commuter, should have been. In comparison, even the second-generation CRX seemed too large, too refined, and disappointingly dull. Fast forward a quarter century, and the Honda Insight is perhaps the most disappointing car I’ve driven in recent years. So when Honda announced that it would base a new two-seater on the Insight, and call it the CR-Z, I fearfully predicted that it would look like the CRX, but drive like the Insight. And?
It’s now way past bedtime, and I’m driving the new Honda CR-Z in one of those neighborhoods you wouldn’t be making your evening stroll in. Heads turn, necks stretch, fingers point. Blacked out windows of blacked out SUVs are rolled down. Everybody on the street seems to approve Honda’s new creation, but no one knows it’s a hybrid.
It was a gloomy April afternoon when I “won” my first “race”. Hours before, I had stood among a nervous, shuffling group of men as Tommy Byrne, the mercurial, self-destructive, and inhumanly talented Competition Director of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, had explained what we would need to do to survive his “comp school”: Don’t crash the car, make sure you follow the rules, and don’t drive too slowly. Simple as that. I did not know at the time that I would finish the season with a controversial demotion down the podium of the NASA National Championship, and I certainly did not know that not all of the men around me would survive our first year racing together. I just knew that I wanted to win everything I could.
My car for that comp school was #26 in Mid-Ohio’s fleet of five-speed, four-cylinder Acura TSX A-Specs. (Correction: this was a six-speed. I never got it up to sixth. Thanks to hans007) Although I’ve raced other Hondas since, from the Pakistan Express ’89 Civic Si to the Compass 360R Mugen-motored Grand-Am ’08 Civic Coupe, that tough little sedan is burned into my mind. With this week’s announcement that Mid-Ohio has returned its fleet of 2006 TSX A-Specs to Honda, I thought I would take a moment to share my memories of the car with you. It’s depressing to consider, but in many ways that TSX was the last truly good Honda to come to these shores.
What is the purpose of the Crosstour? I asked as I waited for my test car to be readied. Pause. Finally an answer, The Crosstour is now the high-end Accord. It is designed to compete with the Toyota Venza. Ah, I get it: monkey see monkey do. What better way to give the marque a kick in the shorts than to pinch an idea from the market leader. And so they did. Almost. Partly. Sort of.