The Truth About Cars » Honda http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 11:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Honda http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/honda/ Japanese Government To Push FCVs Via $20k Subsidy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/japanese-government-to-push-fcvs-via-20k-subsidy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/japanese-government-to-push-fcvs-via-20k-subsidy/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872802 Toyota_FCV_featured

With Toyota ready to make big moves with its 2015 FCV, the Japanese government is ready with their own big move: $20,000 USD in incentives.

Autoblog Green reports the government will offer buyers of the hydrogen-powered sedan $20,000 in subsidies, which may bring down the reported $69,000 MSRP down to $49,000; EV subsidies in Japan max out at $8,500 per vehicle for comparison.

Meanwhile, the FCV will likely sell for $50,000 in the United States when it leaves the container ships next summer, and will be joined by Honda’s own FCV — name to be determined later — sometime in 2015.

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Japan Three, Others Meet With President Over Supplier Aid Pledge http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/japan-three-others-meet-with-president-over-supplier-aid-pledge/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/japan-three-others-meet-with-president-over-supplier-aid-pledge/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=865777 Barack Obama playing pool

A number of U.S. and multinational corporations met with President Barack Obama Friday to shine a light upon their pledge to pay their suppliers within 15 days as part of an initiative to help small businesses expand and bring on more employees.

Automotive News reports representatives for Nissan, Toyota and Honda, including Honda North America executive vice president Rick Schostek, were in attendance for the 90-minute meeting about the pledge, based upon a similar program with government contractors, whereupon the federal government promises to quickly pay its contractors if the latter does the same for the smaller suppliers that help them.

The original initiative affected 172,000 small businesses, bringing $1 billion for workforce investment since its launch in 2011. Friday’s meeting was to reaffirm the pledge, as well as to introduce the program to the public sector.

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2015 Audi A3 Sedan Sales Outpacing Supply, Stealing From Honda, Toyota http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-audi-a3-sedan-sales-outpacing-supply-stealing-from-honda-toyota/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/2015-audi-a3-sedan-sales-outpacing-supply-stealing-from-honda-toyota/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 11:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860769 Audi S3 Limousine

The 2015 Audi A3 Sedan is doing quite well for itself in the United States since its arrival back in April of this year, even if the hipster parties during the sedan’s U.S. unveiling more than likely just amused the automaker’s traditional clientele instead of attracting younger buyers as the party plan intended.

Autoblog reports Audi of America sold 2,452 A3 Sedans in June alone, with just over 25 percent of consumers under the age of 30. That particular group of young Audi drivers are new to the automaker, brand conquests over Honda and Toyota.

As for buying one right now, there may be a line ahead of you: Audi is still stocking its dealer network with the $30,795 sedan, with a wait as long as 30 days for those wanting specific features for their A3. The line may grow longer, however, when the automaker’s A3 E-tron arrives in Q2 2015, with every one of Audi’s U.S. dealerships being granted the opportunity to sell the PHEV.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 12:45:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=835945 2014-honda-odyssey-touring-elite-001

The 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite is the Nimitz-class flagship of the suburbs. Many suggest it’s the only van for enthusiasts, if there can be such a thing. It must be true, there’s even a lightning bolt zapping down the side view and all.

Is the Odyssey the way for you to buy in without selling out?

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On the suburban battlefield, the Odyssey demands respect. Honda will tell you it’s the best-selling single nameplate, though that’s likely to end soon. Combine the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country numbers and the total nearly doubles what the Odyssey shifts. Chrysler is going to consolidate its two vans into a single model, and even if the new Town & Country takes a bit of a sales haircut, there’s plenty of headroom. The Odyssey is likely to lose its single-model sales leadership.

Let’s avoid getting confused with the facts, though. Everyone loves the Odyssey. Motor Trend even went so far as to say it “doesn’t drive much different than our 2013 Honda Accord Sport.” Choose an Odyssey and you’ll even get validation from people who see automobiles as little more than white goods. It’ll wind up in a conversation that also includes front-loading high-efficiency washing machines, refrigerators with snack drawers, and radiant heat in the bathroom.

In the immortal words of Orson Welles, “fellas, you’re losing your heads.” I have driven both, and unless there’s a Tuna Boat option package, The Odyssey is not like the Accord.

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I expected more supple responses given the way the Odyssey has been talked up. Instead it’s choppy. The Odyssey does handle well, so if you want to slalom, go right ahead. For family-hauling, the Toyota Sienna does a better job being compliant without floating. There is that 3.5 liter, 248 hp V6; a lively engine once you get it revving. Power lags the competition, but only a little, and 250 lb-ft of torque is right in the fight. The six-speed automatic transmission is newly standard across all Odyssey models, and it stays out of the way. The snarl of the V6 is great and the Variable Cylinder Management drops back to four or three cylinders when all six aren’t needed. Thanks to careful tuning and active engine mounts, the VCM system is virtually undetectable.

While I’m not reminded of an Accord, the Odyssey definitely drives like a Honda. The power boost of the rack and pinion steering is too light for my tastes, but probably just right for the buyers. It’s a little numb, too. The brake pedal is solid, easy to modulate, and clamps down on big four-wheel discs. That’s good, because there’s more than 4,000 pounds to stop. The suspension that can be harsh lets you corner with confidence hard enough to rip that ice cream cone right out of little Suzy’s hand and splatter it on the side window. Body roll is well-checked.

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You just can’t beat a van for actual usefulness. Two powered sliding doors and a powered rear hatch open up a world of possibilities with ease. Load heights are low and the third row seat can be disappeared into the floor. With the seats stowed, the surface is lumpier than the the Chryslers, and you have to heave the second-row seats out to get the maximum cargo space. Because of its seating arrangement, the Odyssey has longer front seat travel. That’s important because it lets you find a comfortable driving position.

The seating design is flexible, giving you the option of three-across in the second row, or a “wide mode” with a console in between. All three rows are comfortable, though the first and second rows are where it’s at. Pop the second row seats out, stow the third row, which is easy, and 4×8 sheets of material will fit. Who needs a pickup?

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The Touring Elite is the most comfortable Odyssey there is. It had better be, because it costs luxury car money. There is no inexpensive Odyssey. The base-model Odyssey LX starts at $28,825. You can step through EX, EX-L, and Touring before you get to the Touring Elite trim level and its $44,450 MSRP. The result of that spending is basically every feature that’s optional on lesser Odyssey trims is standard for the Touring Elite.

That’s all of the things. More climate zones than your house (3), rear DVD system with remote and headphones, even a friggin’ central vacuum. The equipment list reads like a rental property, for crying out loud. Features like a cool box in the center console, power doors and hatch, parking sensors, rear-view camera, and navigation are what other moms and dads will chat you up about at soccer. They’re all fine, and they create profit for Honda. Half of the extra features are more distraction, the other half make the Odyssey easier to use. The hard ones are the controls for the infotainment, a partner in maintaining the peace when there are miles to cover with restless natives aboard.

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The electronic support for drivers looks comprehensive on paper. It’s like Honda figured two screens are obviously better than just the single displays the competition offers, and my Odyssey also included blind-spot monitoring and a forward collision warning system. It’s confusing to know where to look for which controls, and some features require the control knob while others are driven via touchscreen. When using the audio screen there’s no tactile feedback, the layout is cramped, and it’s hard to stab the right spot when traveling at speed. It’d still be a bad idea even if the screen were responsive, which it isn’t.

Using Chrysler’s UConnect will make an Odyssey driver fall to their knees, weeping. At least Honda’s attention to detail tries to redeem the Odyssey. The interior materials are good, and even pieces you’d expect to feel flimsy, like the little change cup that folds out of the left side of the dashboard, are solid. While I hated the electronics, I thought the basics of the Odyssey provide firm footing to stand up to the abuse a family will deliver.

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Minivans are do-it-all family vehicles, there’s no denying that. There’s only so much styling you can apply to a box on wheels, though the Odyssey does its best with a kink in the side view and crisply-creased surfaces. The Odyssey is most chic van to be seen disgorging your family, and the van scene has really changed since the turn of the century. Honda and Toyota have upped their van games and Chrysler has been the only domestic manufacturer willing to try and keep up.

Still, the Odyssey wouldn’t be my pick. It’s expensive. The electronics and secondary controls are infuriating. When you’re making the ultimate family-vehicle play, it’s going to take some abuse. The Odyssey may be the diamond of the field, but from the 2015 Kia Sedona, to the Chrysler vans, to even the Nissan Quest, there’s a lot of cubic zirconia options that are going to cost less, wear well, and be easier to use.

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Honda, Nissan, Mazda Recall 3 Million Over Defective Airbag Inflators http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/honda-nissan-mazda-recall-3-million-over-defective-airbag-inflators/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/honda-nissan-mazda-recall-3-million-over-defective-airbag-inflators/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 10:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850770 Honda_Civic_Si_EP3

Honda, Nissan and Mazda are recalling a total of 3 million vehicles equipped with defective airbag inflators supplied by Takata, following a similar action by Toyota.

Automotive News reports 2.03 million Hondas, 755,000 Nissans and 159,807 Mazdas globally are being recalled to replace the defective units. The effort comes just after Toyota recalled 1.62 vehicles outside Japan that were recalled earlier this month for the same issue, and 655,000 vehicles in the home market that were being recalled for the first time. As of June 23, 10 million vehicles between 2009 and 2014 have been recalled due to defects in Takata’s airbag units.

June’s action follow those by the four automakers conducted in April of this year, when Takata informed the group that a number of the defective units had escaped into the supplier channels due to poor record-keeping between 2000 and 2002 at the supplier’s plants in Washington and Mexico, where the moisture-infected units were assembled and stored. Moisture degraded the airbags’ inflators, which led to the units exploding, throwing metal shrapnel throughout the cabin.

Other manufacturers who used Takata airbags — including Ford, Chrysler and BMW — are also calling back a handful of affected models, especially those in humid climates such as Florida and Puerto Rico; CEO Shigehisa Takada claimed “the high levels of absolute humidity in those states” may also cause catastrophic failure of the inflators.

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Reader Ride Review: 2000 Honda S2000 “AP1″ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/reader-ride-review-2000-honda-s2000-ap1/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/reader-ride-review-2000-honda-s2000-ap1/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 13:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=842794 photo 2

There has been no shortage of words written about the Honda S2000 on the internet. In fact, when a RRR request came in from Ryan in the ATL for his new-to-him 2000 AP1 S2K, my first thought was, “Why? It’s been done to death.”

Okay, that’s a total lie. My first thought was “Hell yes. When and where?

You see, the S2K and I have a bit of history. There are a lot of pictures on the Internet of me driving various S2000s, and nearly all of them look something like this:
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My good friend Marc and I campaigned an S2K in SCCA National Solo for a little over four years. I had some really good results (and some really bad ones) but most importantly, I always had fun behind the wheel. The S2K, especially in its original AP1 format (available beginning in the 2000 model year through 2003), gives even the best drivers fits. In order to get a winning run out of one, the driver must constantly be at the threshold of disaster, trusting both his car and his reflexes to the nth degree. On an autocross course, that can mean a trophy-winning day just as easily as it can mean a day with all dirty runs. High risk, high reward.

On the street, it can mean you’ve found yourself neatly wrapped around a tree, and the low acquisition cost of the S2K meant that younger, aggressive drivers often did. As a result, Honda made several changes to the car for the 2004 model year (AP2), including a more stable suspension, bigger wheels with wider tires, and a slightly longer stroke. The downside of this, in the eyes of many, was the lowering of the redline from just under 9K to 8K. This led to nearly endless bench racing debate on S2K forums about which model was better, a debate that was effectively squashed when Honda released the eye-violating, lightweight Club Racer edition for the 2008 model year. The CR won nearly everything it entered for the next several years, and is still the dominant car in several SCCA classes today.
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I realize that for most of you this is remedial knowledge, but ponder this for a moment: the S2000 has now been discontinued in the US for seven model years. If you’re a young man leaving college today, the S2K has never been available for you to buy as new car since you got your license. It has been gone nearly as long as it existed.

While its main competitor, the Mazda MX-5, continues its run into a highly anticipated fourth generation, the S2000 is as dead as John Cleese’s Norwegian Blue. It seems like it was born from a Honda that no longer really exists. Perhaps that is why the S2000 continues to command such exorbitant prices on the used car market. What other modern non-exotic still retains fifty percent of its original value fifteen years later?

Now, let’s meet Ryan. Ryan is a young IT professional from Atlanta. His last car was a 2014 Camaro SS that he bought when GM bought back his 2013 Camaro V6 under lemon law circumstances (heads replaced three times, followed by an entirely new motor). Unfortunately, the SS just became too expensive to own and operate in the city, so he recently set out to find another car that would satisfy his requirements of being inexpensive, small (he owned a MINI before the Zetas), fun, and big-city friendly.

Other options included the NC Miata, NB Mazdaspeed Miata, 350Z, and RX-8. Although he had an FC RX-7 in high school, he didn’t want the hassle and poor gas mileage of the Renesis. The 350Z was a bit of a tight squeeze, and the extra HP of the S2K over the Miata was just too much of a temptation to ignore.

As a result, Ryan says, “I went on a mission to find the best S2000 I could afford.” After several searches, he finally struck gold—or more appropriately, Silverstone, the gorgeous dark grey of his new ride.

“It was a one-family car. The uncle had been the original owner, and after fourteen years, he gave it to his nephew. The nephew sold it to me three months later to pay for a wedding.” Ryan had owned it for all of three weeks when he made the ill-advised decision to let me review it.

After meeting Ryan for a quick and delicious lunch at the Lazy Goat in Greenville, SC, we made our way down to the parking garage where I got my first look at Ryan’s new baby.

I couldn’t believe it. The car looked as through it had somehow been sent from 2000 to 2014 through a wormhole in the space-time continuum. 46,000 miles on the clock. Original shocks. Only one ding—a minuscule dot on the passenger door—and nary a scratch to be seen. No curbing on any of the wheels. The interior was showroom quality. My only complaint? The BF Goodrich g-Force Sport Comp 2 tires it was sporting. There are lots of great tire choices for an AP1—that isn’t one of them. “Please get a set of Star Specs or Ventu R-S 3s,” I offered kindly. “You’ll thank me later.”
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As we wound the car up around the wonderfully curvaceous roads of Greenville, the roadster came to life. The engine felt as fresh as that of any S2K I’ve ever driven, and the familiar sound of the short-stroke four cylinder rang out through the stock exhaust as I found the maximum power of the car between 7-8k on the tach.

AP1s have a few known trouble areas, and the clutch and differential are right at the top of any pre-purchase-inspection list. A telling sign of an AP1 that’s seen import racer duty is a worn second-gear synchro. No such troubles here—Ryan’s car snapped through the pattern flawlessly. I was concerned when Ryan told me that he had to replace the rear tires when he bought the car—that meant it had already burned through the original Potenzas and had now burned through a set of BFGs in the rear. However, the diff appeared to be no worse off for it. I didn’t launch his car at any point, though, and I recommended that he be gentle with it, as well.

The best gear of the AP1 is third gear. The motor was happiest here, as the worries of low-end torque disappeared and it simply sang along the road. However, the true magic of the S2K AP1 lies in the gearbox. The pedals are neatly arranged so that even your size-nine-footed author can easily heel-toe his way into a second gear downshift around the tightest of corners. Ryan mentioned that he found it difficult getting the car into first gear under any type of motion.

At the mention of this foible, I shot the car down a side street into a narrow lane with 15 MPH turns. Rev matching an S2K into the low cog takes practice—approximately four years of it, at last count, for me—but it can be done with ease once your ear becomes accustomed to the right sounds. Just getting used to the fact that 8,000 RPM is not only safe, but actually where the car is happiest, can be quite a challenge. The car did exactly what I asked it to do, rotating slightly under throttle after the downshift and correcting.

Unfortunately, my confidence to push the adhesion limits of the car was severely limited by the BFGs. The total lack of feedback from the tires made it difficult to know where the breaking point was, and I certainly wasn’t willing to find out we had passed it in another person’s car on a public road. The AP1 really needs a proper suspension and tire combination to reach its full potential as a driver. Without it, the car feels soft and unpredictable. The good news is that a set of Koni Sports, Hankooks, and a bigger front sway bar are all that’s needed to correct this issue.

And that’s the great thing about the AP1. It’s a blank canvas, but the paint by numbers sets are easy to find and readily available. All the engine tuning and suspension research has been done and done again on it, and the sticky topics are right there on the forums for you to read and duplicate. Provided you find a good early example that hasn’t been thrashed, it’s a hard deal to beat for an enthusiast. Buy a good example for $10K, put another 2-3 into it along with a good rollbar,and you’ve got a car that can run around any road course with nearly anything out there. Ryan said he hopes to get into autocrossing, and I gave him the names of some great S2K drivers in Atlanta who I know will be glad to help him get started.

Despite all the fuss made about Miatas by enthusiasts here and elsewhere, I think I’d make the same call Ryan made—the S2K simply does everything a Miata does and then some. Even at fifteen years of age, the design is a head turner. It has aged much better than other competitors that came later. For whatever reason, it appears to have been abandoned by the import racer types in favor of other cars. Their loss is your gain. Go buy one—you won’t be sorry.

Thanks to Ryan for not only supplying his car but for driving two hours to meet me. Congrats on a great buy!

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Review: 2014 Honda Civic Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/review-2014-honda-civic-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/review-2014-honda-civic-coupe/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:46:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=836401 2014-Honda-Civic-Coupe-12-of-29-550x366

Once upon a time, the Honda Civic was like McDonalds: its wide-ranging menu had something to offer for everyone, in an easily-digestible and economical format. There was even a time when the Japanese compact was offered as a sedan, coupe, and a hatchback (and for a brief spell, it even offered some British go-fast goodness!).

The Civic used to be a fantastic thing.

Unfortunately, the ninth-generation Civic was a bad hamburger. When Honda served it up in 2012, they were treated to numerous complaints about the cheap interior, inexcusable road noise, and incompetent suspension. The outcry was so loud that Honda did something they’d never done before.

“Let us reheat that for you,” they said.

I’ll make one thing clear from the get-go: I didn’t get a chance to drive the Honda Civic Coupe in ’12 or ’13. Not that I’m overly sad about it. From the multitude of reviews available, it looks like I didn’t miss much.

However, I did own one of the last sporty-ish, mildly-hot Civics sold on our shores.

My 2000 Honda Civic Coupe, in Canadian Si trim (EX to you Yanks), was certainly no sports car. Yet, with a real trunk, upon which rested a fairly sharp spoiler, and a sleek-yet-subdued body, my silver Civic at least looked the part without being pretentious or trying too hard. Its SOHC VTEC-equipped 1.6-litre D-series four-cylinder gave a somewhat exciting growl above 6,000 revs. The shifter, too, felt very mechanical, providing a certain notchiness when throwing the lever into each gate.

Most of all, I felt connected with my old coupe. It got me back and forth to work each day before doing double-duty as an evening pizza delivery car. We spent a lot of time together and shared many great memories.

Unfortunately for me, and maybe Honda as well, I crawled into the new ninth-generation coupe with some possibly misplaced nostalgia.

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My tester was a mid-level EX trimmed coupe with only a single option – the continuously variable transmission, which is new for this year and replaces Honda’s venerable 5-speed automatic transmission. The gearless transmission, along with a big, green ECON button to the left of the steering wheel, dashed all hopes of connecting with the latest Civic.

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Powered by a 1.8-litre SOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder engine, the Civic is still motivated by aspirations of driving something faster on your way to the dragstrip. The engine has been slightly improved and now produces 143 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque (up from 140 hp and 128 lb-ft the year before), but you can still do better in the compact coupe segment. The Hyundai Elantra Coupe and Kia Forte Koup, equipped with identical 2.0-litre mills, get 173 hp and 154 lb-ft. If you desire more power, you may want to look across the street.

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The new fangled continuously variable transmission may keep engine revs at the peak of the power band, but it’s far from exciting, especially with ECON mode engaged. Fuel economy was the main reason for introducing the CVT, though a real-world average of 29 MPG is far from the official mixed EPA rating of 33 MPG. The difference means you’d pay an extra $184 per year at today’s US average regular gas price of $3.67 per gallon if you drive 12,000 miles per year.

Fuel economy aside, the CVT’s paddle shifters provide some entertainment for the Gran Turismo set, and even some fairly quick ‘shifts’, but those of us familiar with clutch pedals or traditional automatic paddles will be disappointed.

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In fact, the only connection made between myself and the Civic Coupe was with the headliner and my skull each time I sat in the car. The EX model tester came equipped with a power sunroof that takes away a serious amount of headroom for a 6’1″ human being. Even with the driver’s seat height adjustment all the way to the floor, my head made frequent contact with the Civic’s ceiling. My only way out of this situation was to go into “gangsta lean” mode, which, now that I think about it, explains the driving position of so many Civic Coupe drivers.

Elsewhere inside, the two-door did provide acceptable ergonomics. Materials were, again, acceptable, but the design did nothing for me in comparison to the knockout interiors in the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla. Infotainment wise, Honda is still well behind the curve, and that applies to more than just the Civic. Even the Acura MDX, lauded in some circles, has a horribly designed headunit.

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It wasn’t all bad, however, as the Civc did provide a good balance between ride and handling. Not all cars need to be sprung like race cars (I’m looking at you Hyundai and Kia) and, gladly, none of my head-on-ceiling contact in the Civic was suspension induced. Steering was slightly vague, though not bad by any margin.

Outside, the Civic Coupe still isn’t going to win any awards for earth-shattering design. While the emergency refresh available this year is certainly an improvement over the launch model, it’s still too close to the eighth-generation model to really be considered all-new. The painted pocket 16-inch wheels are a try-hard move to catch up to the Koreans, while the the overall shape screams “I’m mildly edgy!”

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Overall, it seems like Honda is now fully content with resting on their laurels, bringing in repeat customers who’ll never cross shop. Considering this version of the Civic is built solely for North America, maybe Honda just doesn’t want to drop a ton of money into a vehicle with limited marketability. Hell, the Civic isn’t even sold in Japan anymore; Europe gets their own version that’s actually appealing with a nice selection of engines.

However, back on our shores, the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe is a bad hamburger, slightly warmed over.

Mark Stevenson is a freelance automotive journalist based in Nova Scotia, Canada with a certain penchant for dead brands, on both two and four wheels. He’s a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), former member of Texas Automotive Writers Association (NAMBLA), and the human pet of two dogs – Nismo and Maloo

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Review: 2014 Accord EX-L Sedan CVT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/review-2014-accord-ex-l-sedan-cvt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/review-2014-accord-ex-l-sedan-cvt/#comments Sat, 31 May 2014 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=834889 accord1

Earlier this year, the most important car purchase question in human history was answered by a Accord EX-L V6 Coupe with six-speed manual transmission. Having cleared the 6000-mile mark in said coupe and having put everything from a wheelchair to a Rainsong JM-1000 to a BMX bike in the trunk in the past four months, I’ve learned a lot about the Modern Steel two-door. At some point, I’ll sit down and write up a long-term report.

Today, however, we have an Accord of a different feather. The trim designation is the same: EX-L. The engine, transmission, and body are all from the other half of Honda’s all-too-frequently binary choice matrix, however. A 125-mile trip in a mix of local and freeway conditions gave me the chance to answer the question: What’s the Accord like in a configuration that normal people actually buy?

accord2

Our test car was loaned to me for a rather quixotic mission involving Volkswagen replacement parts. For a destination-included MSRP of $29,070 against my Coupe’s $31,415, you get a choice of eight exterior and two interior colors. This one was “Champagne Metallic” with the beige interior. With just over 8,000 miles on the clock, it made for a very appropriate comparison with my Coupe.

In exchange for parting with about twenty-three hundred fewer dollars, you get:

  • An extra set of doors and a longer wheelbase
  • Seven cubic feet more passenger space and five inches more rear legroom
  • The 2.4L, 185-horsepower EarthDreams inline four
  • A continuously variable transmission
  • No Homelink, but you do get an auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Power passenger seat
  • Deletion of the LED running lamps
  • Seventeen-inch wheels instead of eighteen-inch ones
  • A forty-pound weight savings

The four-cylinder/CVT combo is, by far, the most popular Accord, and this is the nicest way to get it in the United States.

Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the Galaxy, and it is in order that this situation should not be in any way exacerbated that the following facts will now be revealed in advance.

Honda has the CVT thing totally dialed.

Unless you’re a disaffected middle-aged man who is basically 50% Hank Moody and 50% a post-Minute by Minute Michael McDonald, the four-cylinder is more than powerful enough and it returns economy the six can’t think about touching.

In all other respects, the Accord continues its reign as America’s best mid-sized sedan, a reign that was horrifyingly interrupted by the chunky eighth-generation mistake-mobile but otherwise stretches back at least as far as 1982.

Okay. Feel better now? I certainly do. Let’s start with all the things this Accord sedan does very well, for those of you who have no experience with the 2013-up model: The beltline is lower than it is in any of the competition, sightlines are better, there is an airy, light feel to the cabin that cannot be had for love nor money anywhere else in the segment. You can argue that the Fusion, in certain trim levels, imparts a more convincing premium feel both in its interior aesthetic and the Germanic, lead-lined way it smothers external interruptions from noise to big bumps.

The Accord’s rear seat is simply enormous in precisely the same way that the Malibu’s is not. While in Las Vegas recently I saw a few of these in taxi service. You’d be lucky to get one; it’s spacious in all respects. The two-tone black-and-cream interior of our test sedan isn’t quite as convincing as the all-black interior of the V6 coupe is; if you want a top-notch light-colored cabin, you have to spend more money on the effort than Honda’s willing to do. This is where the Accord falls tangibly short compared to something like an Audi A4, but that will be small consolation to the German entry-luxury buyer who finds that the big Honda makes more friends on couples’ date nights.

All of that matters less in a market like ours where cars are owner-driven and frequently occupied by a single person. The Accord made headway in the Seventies as a dynamic proposition, a little low-cowled race car in a vast field of 204-inch personal luxury coupes. It was so good at replacing those bigger American cars that it eventually became a bigger American car. (See: “The Descolada”, Speaker For The Dead by Card, Orson Scott.) In a perfect world, the 2014 Accord would combine the thrift of the 1976 original with the effortless thrust of a 403-powered ’77 Cutlass Supreme Brougham.

Amazingly, it sort of does. Your humble author was impressed by the way Nissan used the CVT to make the Altima 2.5 acceptably quick, but trust me: compared to the CVT in this Accord, that Nissan was about as sophisticated as an episode of Friends. This one does the business. Around town, it responds to the typical half-throttle-in-a-mild-hurry by letting the engine rev immediately to 3500 or so, at which point it allows the revs to slowly creep as the ratio unwinds. The impression thus created, that of an engine accelerating mildly while the car sprints along, is exactly why people used to buy a big-block and pair it to a 2.73 axle ratio. Simply brilliant.

Once on the freeway, the four-cylinder Accord pulls a trick the six can’t touch: it drops the revs to a mildly astounding 1950 or so at eighty miles per hour, keeping the 2.4-liter on the very edge of lugging along. The result: over the course of seventy-plus fast freeway miles, the EX-L reported 36.4mpg. In the same conditions, my Coupe wobbles between 29.0 and 31.0. That’s outstanding economy that works in the real world. “Do you ever check the fuel economy?” I asked the car’s owner.

“I don’t know how,” was the response. So I pulled up the screen in question:

accord3

Consistent 30-plus, in mostly urban driving, with someone who couldn’t care less about economy behind the wheel. In those same circumstances, the V6 Coupe is lucky to return 25. (My Audi S5, just to put this in perspective, would return between twelve and fourteen miles per gallon when driven the same places in the same way.)

When it’s time to accelerate for a pass or to facilitate a merge, the Accord simply swings the ratio high again and provides near-instantaneous acceleration. It fairly leaps for the fabled 100mph mark and just as quickly drops the revs into the basement when the throttle is eased out again. How could you want any more powertrain than this, in the real world? Alas, but the four-cylinder isn’t likely to be nearly as magic without the rubber band transmission, and in any event it fails to deliver the VTEC rush of the single-overhead-cam six.

It’s common among the journalists to praise the four-cylinder variants of midsized sedans for their superior balance and scale-friendly GVWR. In Accordland, there’s barely any weight penalty for choosing the faster coupe. A few pounds on the nose is it and in daily use you wouldn’t be able to tell which engine your car had if you weren’t allowed to floor the throttle. Still, it’s easy to see why the six doesn’t account for many Accord sales. Indeed, the true question is why Honda doesn’t offer the loaded Touring model as a four-cylinder here, the way they do in Canada. It would sell, no doubt. Perhaps such a vehicle would be too murderous a sibling to the similarly priced but nontrivially less roomy Acura ILX.

On the other hand, I seem to recall that the ILX has decent stoppers, which the Accord doesn’t. The rotors in our tester are already warped, and during testing at Putnam Park in March I quickly learned to interpret the mixed messages coming back through the middle pedal of my Coupe as carefully and fearfully as Indiana Jones examining temple hieroglyphs for warnings of rolling stone boulders and whatnot. These cars are simply underbraked, perhaps even for street use. Yes, the one stop you really need will probably be fine. It’s the thousand freeway off-ramps that will drive you crazy.

The reason this Accord works when the previous car didn’t is simple: Honda returned to some of their original virtues in this generation. Weight was shed, the engines were improved, the transmissions were finessed, and the interior electronics were brought as far up to date as Honda customers could comfortably handle. About the only un-Honda thing you can point to in this car is the strut-front suspension, but having double wishbones didn’t make the previous car a good one. Not only is this a major improvement on its predecessor, it’s truly better than the seventh-generation V6 in every way that counts and many that don’t, really, but continue to satisfy.

I’d spend every dollar of the difference between this solid-citizen Accord and my immature, overpowered coupe again, but compared to the rest of the mid-size field this remains the one to have. Assuming, that is, you can resist the Fusion’s siren song — but if it helps, just lie back and think about the ten-year-residual. In a month or so, we’ll evaluate the new Sonata to see if it can knock the Accord off its perch. Don’t bet on it.

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Honda Selected To Power Upcoming Formula Lites Series http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/honda-selected-to-power-upcoming-formula-lites-series/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/honda-selected-to-power-upcoming-formula-lites-series/#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 10:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=826194 Honda K24 engine

Honda’s Honda Performance Development announced this week that it will provide the power for the upcoming Formula Lites series, an open-wheel series sanctioned by SCCA Pro Racing with the goal of developing young professional drivers on their way up the competitive ladder.

Autoblog reports the power will come in the form the K24 2.4-liter four-cylinder, which will be mated to the FIA Formula 3-spec Crawford FL15 chassis and delivering an unknown amount of power to the rear set of Pirellis all of the cars will be wearing around the track.

The Formula Lites series, designed to keep costs down while providing a reliable competition platform for those who wish to someday run at Indy or Monaco, will run at select events this year before running a full schedule in 2015

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Honda S660 To Enter Production In 2015 At Former Beat Factory http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/honda-s660-to-enter-production-in-2015-at-former-beat-factory/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/honda-s660-to-enter-production-in-2015-at-former-beat-factory/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 11:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=816737 Honda-S660-Concept-Live-Shot-05

Over two decades ago during the early years of Japan’s Lost Decade (or Lost 20 Years for those who believe the nation’s economy has yet to improve since the boom of the 1980s), Soichiro Honda’s final car before his passing — the Honda Beat kei roadster — left the Yachiyo Industry Company-owned factory at Yokkaichi to take on the likes of the Suzuki Cappuccino and Autozam AZ-1.

History could come back around, however, when the factory gears up to build the production-version of the Honda S660 in 2015.

Autoblog reports the Yokkaichi factory — which currently builds the N, Life and Vamos for Honda under-contract — had been slated for expansion a few years ago before the automaker moved the majority of its kei-car production to its own factory in Suzuka.

No word on how many of the new roadsters will be built, nor how much they will be priced; it also remains to be seen if American Honda CEO Tetsuo Iwamura can bring the S660 — or S1000, should more power be needed than the 660cc turbocharged engine mounted mid-ship can provide — to the United States sometime after Japan gets theirs.

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New York 2014: Honda Announces 2015 Fit-Based HR-V CUV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-honda-announces-2015-fit-based-hr-v-cuv/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-honda-announces-2015-fit-based-hr-v-cuv/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:54:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803034 honda-hr-v-2

Automotive News reports Honda announced the Fit-based subcompact crossover will be called the HR-V, releasing the first official photos during the 2014 New York Auto Show. The crossover will enter U.S. showrooms later this year from Honda’s Celaya, Mexico plant, where the Fit is made, and will be priced just below the CR-V, currently $23,775 to start.

honda-hr-v-2 honda-hr-v 2015-honda-hr-v-suv-rear-view ]]>
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Honda Pursues 70k Annual US Fit Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/honda-pursues-70k-annual-us-fit-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/honda-pursues-70k-annual-us-fit-sales/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:30:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797498 2014-honda-jazz-2015-honda-fit-photo-gallery-medium_17

In 2008, Honda sold nearly 80,000 Fit subcompacts to the United States, and is preparing to move 70,000 annually from the lot to the driveways of America thanks to its new Celaya, Mexico plant.

Ward’s Auto reports the automaker had a difficult time hitting the milestone set in 2008 due to production constraints at home and fervent demand abroad. With the new plant, however, Honda will be able to make 200,000 Fits annually, as well as the Fit-based crossover set to begin production later this year.

As for who Honda expects will buy the 70,000+ Fits aimed for the U.S. market — aside from lifestyle bloggers — product planner Hiroaki Hamaya says the subcompact is already “capturing the highest household income and percentage of college grads.” Data from J.D. Power bears this out: Fit buyers hold an average income of $75,000 while 64 percent of them have graduated college. However, median age and percentage of buyers under 35 currently lag behind competitors such as the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic.

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2015 Honda Fit Deep Dive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/2015-honda-fit-deep-dive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/2015-honda-fit-deep-dive/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 18:56:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793874 2015 Honda Fit - Red

By now, you’ve heard what driving the new 2015 Honda Fit is like. You’ve seen what riding in a new Fit is like, too- and, maybe, you’ve figured out how they got one into a tiny bar (I haven’t). Still, we haven’t spent much time actually talking about the nuts and bolts and whys and hows of the new Honda. Until now, that is.

2015 Honda Fit is SO New, it Has a New Home


Honda factory in Celaya, Mexico

For starters, just about everything on the 2015 Honda Fit is new or modified compared to its 2014 siblings- and that includes where it’s being made. Instead of a mostly Chinese-built product, the new Fit has North American roots, being built in Celaya, Mexico. The new production facility is supposed to separate North American demand from global demand, giving dealers better selection, more freedom in ordering, and (of course) cutting costs for Honda, itself.

The new plant in Celaya will also start building a Honda Fit-based mini-SUV to slot below the CR-V later this year, bringing total North American vehicle production capacity to over 1.9 million units. That bump in capacity from Celaya means that some 98% of Hondas sold in North America will be built in North America.

 

2015 Honda Fit Body + Chassis


fit_bar_4

The new Fit is 1.6″ shorter than the outgoing 2014 model, but thanks to Honda’s “packaging magic” design, the 2015 Honda Fit has more than 3″ of additional rear seat room, and 1.4″ of additional rear seat leg room. That’s a great distinction to make, by the way, for customers who’ll be stuffing baby seats- rather than adults- into the back of the thing. The new Fit also gives the front passengers more slide-adjustment in the front seats.

So, despite the reduced length of the Fit, it’s roomier. That happy mindf*** comes courtesy of a new, contortionist fuel tank that twists and turns around the Fit’s floor frames and contorts itself around the new, shorter, rear trailing arms more closely than the outgoing Fit’s tank. It’s a trick worthy of Gumby- just pray that you’re not the tech who has to replace one, because I imagine it would be a b***h to do without some advanced robotics.

The suspension that the tank wraps around is worth mentioning, as well- it’s all new, a rigid, torsion-beam style rear suspension and conventional-ish struts up front. It feels a lot more advanced than that, however, thanks in large part to the new Honda Fit’s electric power steering and a new VSA stability program that seems to serve to keep the car neutral. Whatever the actual reason is, the new Fit handles far better than anything with a glorified solid rear axle should.

 

2015 Honda Fit Earth Dreams Drivetrain


fit-engine

Back in 1989, Honda introduced the original, 1.6 liter, 160 HP B16A and B16A1 engines in Europe and Japan. 25 (twenty-five) years later, Honda’s newest 1.5 liter, direct-injection i-VTEC engine makes “just” 130 HP. Granted, that’s a huge improvement over the last Honda Fit’s 117 HP engine- but a 29 MPG combined EPA rating for the 6 speed and 31 MPG combined rating for the CVT version doesn’t exactly scream “25 years of progress!”

Still, the 2015 Honda Fit has more power, more torque, offers better fuel economy, and puts out fewer emissions than the 2014 model- so that’s a step in the right direction.

Sadly, Honda took a step in the wrong direction in terms of transmissions. For starters, the new 6 speed manual transmission might seem like an upgrade from the old 5 speed- but the “new” 6th gear is the same as the “old” 5th gear. So, while you might find snappier performance in the more closely-spaced 1-5 ratios, you’ll still have the same high-rpm buzz you had in the old Fit at highway speeds. At the 80-85 MPH cruising speeds common on Illinois’ I-90, the Fit’s 1.5 is revving at a positively raucous 4000-ish RPM. In this tester’s opinion, it’s a horrific experience- and one that makes the CVT option a no-brainer, no matter how much you like to row your own … which brings us to our next dubious transmission choice: the CVT’s “gears”.

Honda spent an awful lot of time and money developing a CVT that was capable of keeping the new Earth Dreams at its peak power and efficiency while infinitely adapting the gearing around it (between 2 hardware-determined limits, of course). That was good- then they lost the plot completely by setting 7 pre-determined “shift points” into the Fit’s S-mode, which can be manually selected via paddles on the steering wheel. If you understand the purpose and function of a CVT at all, you’ll immediately realize how stupid this is.

Left on its own, however, the 2015 Honda Fit’s CVT is more than capable of doing its job. Stay away from the paddles, in other words, and you’ll do just fine. More than fine, in fact, since Honda’s CVT is one of the best in the biz (the best CVT setup I’ve experienced, by the way, was also in a Honda).

 

2015 Honda Fit Earth Dreams Interior + Trim


2015 Honda Fit Interior

For 2015, Honda upgraded the plastics on the Fit- offering leather for the first time, as well. Gone are the old “Base”, “Sport”, and “Navi” trim levels, which are replaced with a more Honda-like LX, EX, EXL (for “leather”), and Navi versions. The infotainment system, too, is a major upgrade from before with a large, easy-to-read screen on all models, and a clever phone/nav integration on the EX that (despite a long boot/load time) works exactly as expected. Mostly (my pre-production tester had no “backspace”, so we had to back ALL THE WAY OUT of the Nav screen and start again if we mis-typed anything).

Still, the real magic of the 2015 Honda Fit interior isn’t in the upscale materials- it’s in the seats. The Honda Fit seats can be configured in a number of ways. There’s the standard “passenger mode”, as well as 4 other modes for carrying people and things. These being “Cargo Mode” (for cargo- spluh), “Long Mode” (for carrying long items with passengers sitting in tandem), “Tall Mode” (for carrying tall items like plants and big-screen TVs), and “Refresh Mode”, which was the highlight of my initial “passenging impressions” article.

Those different modes were part of the old Fit, as well- and looked like this here …

 

Honda Fit seat modes

… but I’d never seen or heard of a Honda Fit having “modes” (refreshing or otherwise), so it’s news to me. Judging by the amount of people currently looking at pictures of my limited-edition slip-on Converse, though, it’s probably news to a lot of people- and really one of the strongest selling points for considering the 2015 Honda Fit as a second car.

 

2015 Honda Fit Pricing


Honda’s product planners explained that the new 2015 Honda Fit would cost a bit more than the outgoing Base and Sport models, with the LX starting at $15,525 and the EX-L Navi topping out at $20,800. That’s not a huge bump from last year’s $15,425-$19,790 range- and that $19,790 didn’t get you 130 HP, leather, or a 7″ screen. So, yeah- the new 2015 Honda Fit is an objectively superior machine than the 2014 it replaces, but what do you think?

Did Honda do enough to place the new Fit in the premium compact class occupied by the Mini Coopers of the world, or is its move upmarket a step in the wrong direction? Let us know what you think, in the comments. Enjoy!

 

Sources | Photos: Honda, FitFreak. Originally published on Gas 2.

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Review: 2015 Honda Fit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/review-2015-honda-fit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/review-2015-honda-fit/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 15:01:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=791401 2015-honda-fit_main

There’s really no way to lead into this, so I’ll just come out and say it: the 2015 Honda Fit is a fantastic car. Around town, at speed on Southern California’s twisty canyon roads, on the highway, stuck in traffic- there wasn’t a single situation we put our EX and EX-L testers into that it didn’t handle with aplomb. Even some light off-roading didn’t twist up the Fit’s rigid frame.

Diving into corners at twice the posted advisory speed, the made-in-Mexico 2015 Honda Fit‘s electric steering does exactly what you’d expect it to. The new, 130 HP Earth Dreams engine pulls the car out the corner effectively enough, too- especially for a long-stroke 1.5 liter. The brakes are direct, drama-free, and the ABS kicks in right when you’d want it to.

After a quick lunch, Jeff (my co-driver for the day) and I decided to make some solo runs in the “comparison cars” Honda had on-hand for the event. These included a Chevy Sonic, a Toyota Yaris, and a Nissan Versa Note- all optioned up to about $17,000.

Simply put, the 2015 Honda Fit blew them all away. The Fit was a generation newer than the non-turbo Chevy Sonic, and it showed. The interior of the Nissan Versa was almost laughably cheap in comparison to the other cars, and the car, itself, got frighteningly squirrel-y under braking. The Toyota, alone, had an interior I’d call “comparable” to the Fit- but I certainly wouldn’t call it better and, on the canyon roads surrounding our Don Quixote-looking lunch stop …

windmill_1

… the Yaris was simply no match for the Honda.

It was such a one-sided Honda blowout, in fact, that I started to get a bit snarky about the whole event. “Do you think there’s much of a science to picking the comparison cars for these things?” I asked Jeff.

If you don’t know Jeff Palmer, trust me on this: he’s smart. You can tell. When you ask him a question, for example, he thinks about it for two or three seconds, then answers in complete, well-formed sentences. “I think Honda wants to its present competitor’s cars in a situation where they won’t perform as well as their car.”

Here’s where I (tried) to get snarky. “I dunno- I think all Honda’s really proven today is that they can build a $25,000 car better than other people can build a $17,000 car.”

I’d expected to get a giggle or a laugh out of Jeff, but he just looked confused. “How do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, this Honda- what’s it cost? There’s no sticker on it, so what’s it gonna cost? 22,000? 23?”

“No, this is an EX,” explained Jeff. “It’s replacing the old Fit Sport, which was about 17. It’s not going to be more than 17, $18,000.”

No way. There was no way that the 2015 Honda Fit EX (with an excellent 6-speed manual, I should add) we were driving was the same price as the cars we’d just driven. I refused to believe it, and the exchange that followed saw us pull over, open the trunk, and dig furiously through our notes to see just how far upmarket Honda had dragged its little hatchback.

$17,435.

The 2015 Honda Fit EX with a 6-speed manual transmission will sell for $17,435- and, if you’re shopping new subcompacts under $20K, you’d be a fool to spend your $17K on anything else. Really.

Properly chastened, I flipped and flopped the 2015 Honda Fit’s Magic Seats into Refresh Mode, kicked up my feet, and asked Jeff to drive me back to the hotel bar. When you’re a professional blogger (well- paid, anyway), and you can’t find any way to be snarky or s***ty about something, it’s time to pack it in for the day.

The new for 2015 Honda Fit should be arriving at dealerships soon, with 30+ MPG fuel economy and your choice of 6-speed manual or CVT. If I had to come up with a complaint, it would be that the 6 speed’s top gear is too short for American highways, and the engine buzzed at more than 3500 RPM at a 77 MPH cruise. If you drive 68, the buzz is gone- so, yeah. Small price to pay for the privilege of rowing your own, you know?

You can see how the new 2015 Honda Fit looks in red and yellow, below, and let us know what you think about the new Fit in the comments.

 

2015 Honda Fit in Red


red-fit_3 red-fit_2 red-fit_4 red-fit_1

 

2015 Honda Fit in Yellow


yellow-fit_2 yellow-fit_1 yellow-fit_3 yellow-fit_4

 

Originally published on Gas 2.

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Honda Drawing Back UK Production In Face Of Weak Growth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/honda-drawing-back-uk-production-in-face-of-weak-growth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/honda-drawing-back-uk-production-in-face-of-weak-growth/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 13:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=781425 2014 Honda Civic Hatchback

With a forecast of low sales growth in Europe expected to remain in place for the next few years, Honda has decided to scale back production at its plant in Swindon, England.

Reuters reports the plant will go from three shifts to two, resulting in a 10 percent layoff in the workforce. Honda will build about 120,000 vehicles annually, down from 140,000 in 2013. Swindon has the capacity to build 250,000 cars per year, but at projected levels, the plant will be severely underutilized.

Though Honda Motors Europe senior vice president Ian Howells said his company had not seen the growth it expected in 2013 in the European market, figures for January showed overall sales climbing 5.2 percent on the strength of demand from Italy, Portugal and Greece. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s sales climbed 10.8 percent in 2013 to 2.26 million vehicles.

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Un Mois d’Accord http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/un-mois-daccord/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/un-mois-daccord/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=775505 accord1

It’s been thirty days and 2,420 miles since I took delivery of my 2014 Accord EX-L V6 in Modern Steel. The big Honda had big shoes to fill; although it was, strictly speaking, a replacement for my dearly-departed, bent-like-a-pretzel 2009 Town Car, I knew from the moment I sat in it that I’d really be comparing it against my notorious sold-for-big-bucks-to-San-Francisco 2009 Audi S5 4.2. It makes sense: two FWD-platform coupes with six-speed manual transmissions, leather interiors, somewhere in the vicinity of three hundred horsepower, and some concessions both to practicality and emotion.

But before I could compare it to an Audi, I had to face a former co-worker of mine at Honda who drove to my house specifically to remind me that I had sworn that I would never, ever purchase anything built by the company’s North American operations.

IMG_4398 (Medium)

Naturally, he drove his brand-new six-speed manual Civic EX Coupe over to deliver said reminder. How we laughed. When we’d left Marysville for good, on the same day a few years ago, he and I had both made that vow, only to independently break it within three days of each other.

IMG_4395 (Medium)

Just one of those coincidences, I suppose. Or perhaps it’s a recognition of the fact that Honda appears to be coming back into its stride, one painful model revision at a time. The last Accord and Civic were not brilliant automobiles and that, combined with the company’s disturbing focus on its plus-size minivans and SUVs, appeared to indicate that Honda wanted nothing more than to be another Toyota, cranking out the most volume of reliable but charmless “product” possible. But now the crisis has passed and we’re back on track. Maybe.

In the first month of Accord ownership, I’ve averaged eighty miles per diem and I have had a few days where I put more than four hundred miles on the G-Shock-style center instrument display. Any minute now I’ll have to have it serviced for the first time, which means dealing with a Honda service department. Ugh. Can’t wait. Fearless prediction: for at least three hours of the near future, I’ll wish I’d bought a TSX instead.

It’s ironic, because in loaded-up six-cylinder form, the Accord has all the qualities you’d wish for in a modern Acura CL. To start with, it’s eerily quiet, presumably because of the Active Noise Cancellation and a wind-tunnel refinement of the previous-gen body shape. Most of the materials you see and touch are at least up to Acura spec, even if they don’t come close to my old Audi’s mix of deep-brown leather, real carbon fiber, cold-to-the-touch aluminum, and laser-fitted detailing. Seriously. If you want to know what the difference is between a $31,450 Honda coupe and a $61,900 Audi coupe, it’s readily apparent once you open the door and take a seat.

Once on the move, you’ll discover a similar gap in dynamics — but this time, it’s not all in the S5′s favor. The unique variant of the J35 engine fitted to manual Accords has been caught spinning dynos to the tune of 260 horsepower or more, leading to speculation that this might be the first underrated engine in the company’s history. Couple that with a curb weight decidedly south of the Audi’s and the net result is a coupe that sprints for the open holes in traffic with urgency befitting an S5 — or a 335i, come to think of it. Naturally, the steering wheel will fight you every step of the way. It’s a fast car, relatively speaking, and I’m not sure my 993 or Boxster S would drop it by much from a roll. Once the salt’s off the road, we’ll find out for sure.

The Coupe is also delightfully light on its feet. It simply refuses to display the sort of leaden inertia that the “small” German coupes have now. Only the Mercedes C250 has the same kind of delicacy on the move, and that’s at the cost of having a four-cylinder mill in the nose. Lateral grip and transition behavior are both good, even on broken pavement. I’ll run it around a racetrack in the near future. There’s no chance it will be a road course superstar — too much weight on the nose, not enough brake — but it should be at least as competent as most of the entry-luxury cars.

Long-time TTAC readers will recall that it was the seven-speaker stereo that pushed me over the EX-L edge, and I remain satisfied with that decision. It’s not a patch on the optional sound system in the S5, but it offers very competent Bluetooth integration and it is at least competent in daily usage. The touchscreen in the center console is convenient, although here again Audi’s MMI system is just a better, more thoroughly realized mousetrap.

So far I haven’t regretted leaving the two rear doors back at the Honda dealership. There’s enough room for the battleship-sized Britax Pinnacle child seat in the back, there’s enough room for a wheelchair and crutches in the trunk, and in a pinch you can put four grownups and a kid in the thing for short distances. It won’t carry my bass amp and SWR 4×12″ cabinet the way the Town Car did, but the rear seats fold and that makes it easier to do things like run a couple of boxed-up archtop guitars to the UPS Store.

A couple hundred miles spent behind a V6 Mustang on the way to Louisville two weeks ago made me consider long and hard whether I wouldn’t have been happier with one of those. After some thought, I decided that the Accord’s practicality advantages made it a much better idea for me. If I didn’t have two Porsches in the garage, I’d be tempted to put a GT500 in one of the slots for days when I’d rather chirp the back wheels in third than the fronts in second. Since I do have the Porkers, however, and although the V6 Mustang in Performance trim is a better dynamic proposition and considerably more handsome to boot, I’ll take the larger trunk, bigger rear seat, and considerable improvement in outward visibility that the Accord offers.

IMG_4399 (Medium)

One area where the Honda simply blows my old Audi away is, of course, efficiency. Long mixed-use trips result in average consumption figures between 28 and 31mpg, with long freeway trips often showing 32. Around town, most trips are self-reported by the computer at around 23-26mpg, figures that seem to match up with my frequency of refueling. The S5, by contrast, rarely broke the twenty mark and would sometimes dip below ten for trips in the city. I never minded at the time; it was the price I willingly paid for the majestic swell of the direct-injected V-8′s powerband and the sound it made getting up to speed. This “EarthDreams” six can’t compete on an emotional level, but it’s about ninety percent of the performance and character for half the money.

That describes the Accord pretty well overall; most of what you’d expect from a prestige coupe, at half-price. My brief experience with the BMW 435i didn’t show me anything that would lead me to choose it over the Honda, and the current S5 has submitted to a cylinder-gelding that is not adequately reimbursed by the addition of a supercharger. (Save your angry posts about quarter-mile times; I know the 3.0 “T” is as good or better on paper, but in the metal it’s a depressing step down.) Think of this Ohio-built Honda as an ORIS watch: it possesses the bulk of the competitors’ virtues and it doesn’t command anything like the same price.

There are a few areas where the $20,000 Accord LX shines through the $31,450 EX-L veneer, however. There’s no automatic day-night rearview mirror, which seems like a deliberate way to toss a few bucks towards the dealers in the aftermarket. The passenger seat has no true mechanical memory and therefore has to be readjusted whenever you let someone in or out of the back seat. There’s room for bigger brakes and given the ease with which the Coupe speeds to 130+ the minute the road opens up, those bigger brakes should be make available. The decklid has no carpeted handle, the quick-shedding floormats are possibly the worst ones ever fitted to a motor vehicle, and there are no options for the rear seat passenger to adjust the temperature or volume of the air blowing her way.

Still, this is a tangible step above the rest of the mid-priced competition, from the old Chrysler 200 to the class-leading Camry. Only the Fusion really gives it a run for the money in terms of interior and exterior give-a-damn, and I defy you to find me a stick-shift V-6 Fusion anywhere. No, this is as good as it gets around thirty grand. After a month and a few thousand miles, I am more steadfast in that conviction than I was at the beginning of the adventure. d’Accord? D’accord.

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A free TTAC shirt to the first US-located reader to identify the location for the solo photos. Offer not valid for my Facebook friends — JB

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Japanese Automakers Find New Export Base, Opportunity In Mexico http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/japanese-automakers-find-new-export-base-opportunity-in-mexico/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/japanese-automakers-find-new-export-base-opportunity-in-mexico/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 14:45:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=769626 Mazda3s Loading Onto Three-Tiered Train Car

Within four months of each other, Honda, Mazda and Nissan have opened new factories in Mexico, taking advantage of the opportunities within the nation’s automotive industry to grow a new export base into the United States, Latin America and Europe while also gaining ground in the rapidly expanding local market, all in direct challenge to the Detroit Three and other automakers on both sides of the border.

Automotive News reports Mexico will become the No. 1 exporting nation to the U.S. by 2015 at the earliest in large part due to the 605,000 units per year added by the three Japanese automakers. Meanwhile, Toyota will begin production in 2015 at Mazda’s newly opened Salamanca plant prior to deciding whether or not to build a new factory of their own. Nissan’s premium brand, Infiniti, may also set-up shop in Mexico.

In turn, the Japanese will see benefits from the move, from mitigating losses from a weaker yen in exports from home and greater profit due to cheap labor, to no tariffs on exports to the U.S. due to the North American Free Trade Agreement and improved product availability resulting from shorter distances between markets.

Speaking of free-trade agreements, Japanese automakers will also have access to some 44 countries and up to 40 million sales annually as a result of Mexico’s many agreements, allowing them to take on competitors in Latin America and Europe.

Finally, the Japanese have taken market share away from the Detroit Three in Mexico’s own automotive market, holding a collective 42 percent over Detroit’s 35 percent in 2013, when just four years earlier Detroit dominated with 57 percent of the market over Japan’s 23 percent.

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Generation Why: Forced Introduction http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-honda-civic-type-r/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-honda-civic-type-r/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 23:47:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=763705 Civic-Type-R-Concept-04

Back in September, I wrote a piece lamenting the death of Honda’s high-perofrmance hallmark, the twin-cam VTEC 4-cylinder engine. It was just the sort of article many of you are fed up with: a lengthy piece filled with flowery prose and Honda fanboy-ism sprinkled with a condescending explanation of the auto industry’s inner workings. Miraculously, it was fairly well-received. But I’ve had a change of heart.

November and December let me get behind the wheel of two fairly different cars: the Acura ILX 2.4 and the Ford Fiesta ST. Despite the bad rap it gets in the media, I was fairly excited to drive it. The Honda Civic Si sedan gets a lot of guff for being quantitatively underwhelming compared to the current crop of sport compacts, but it’s what I call a “Goldilocks” car: it just feels right, similar to how the Acura TSX does. How bad could a Civic Si be with a better interior and more grown-up looks?

ILX vs Verano 4

It turned out to be a bit of a letdown. The ILX is definitely a softer car than the Civic Si and lacks the composure and solidity of the Euro-Accord based TSX. The K24 motor was also less charming than I remembered it to be. The new, emissions-friendly, long-stroke VTEC motors work well in a CR-V or an Accord Sport, but don’t deliver the kind of excitement one would expect in a modern-day Integra GS-R sedan.FiestaSTExterior12-main_rdax_646x396 (1)

The Fiesta ST, on the other hand, was a revelation, one of the most thrilling drives I’ve had in a long time. Nothing else on the market brings such a hypomanic intensity and sheer driving thrills in an accessible and practical package except for, well, an older Civic or Integra with a VTEC swap and a dialed in chassis. In a larger car like an Escape or Fusion, the 1.6L Ecoboost feels overburdened, and delivers fairly poor fuel economy. In the Fiesta ST, it delivered a combined 26 mpg even though the throttle spent a lot of time getting hot and heavy with the floor mat. Whatever Ford’s powertrain group has done to squeeze some more power out of the tiny turbo mill has not only paid dividends on the spec sheet, but virtually eliminated turbo lag.

FiestaSTEngine1

Driving the Fiesta ST made me a lot more optimistic about where the next generation of affordable performance car is going – especially with respect to the death of naturally aspirated engines in these types of applications. In all likelihood, Honda’s messaging will spin the new Civic Type-R (gallery below, since it was introduced in concept form today at Geneva) and the NSX’s turbo engines as congruent with the newest Formula 1 regulations, and as a link to Honda’s return to Grand Prix racing. Knowing what I know about The Big H, the adoption of forced induction was not so much voluntary, but an inevitable concession to emissions and fuel economy requirements around the world. But I’m no longer worried. Bring on the turbo VTEC era.

Civic-Type-R-Concept-03 Civic-Type-R-Concept-08 Civic-Type-R-Concept-12 Civic-Type-R-Concept-13 Civic-Type-R-Concept-15 Civic-Type-R-Concept-16 Civic-Type-R-Concept-18 ]]>
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Honda Establishes New Acura Planning Arm For Brand Overhaul http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/honda-establishes-new-acura-planning-arm-for-brand-overhaul/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/honda-establishes-new-acura-planning-arm-for-brand-overhaul/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 10:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754849 2015-Acura-TLX-Concept-First-Look-Video-Main-Art

A 10 percent drop in sales experienced by Acura in 2013 has led parent company Honda to form a new business planning and development group with the long-term goal of overhauling the brand’s identity.

Bloomberg reports Honda R&D Americas president Erik Berkman will be appointed as division manager of the new Acura Business Planning Office, whose top priority near-term will be to solve the issues leading to a combined 10 percent drop in sales of Acura’s sedan lineup. The drop not only overshadowed the luxury brand’s successes with the RDX and MDX SUVs, but prevented Honda from hitting their record sales goal in 2013.

Though Honda remains mum on how exactly the new division will operate, the automaker is readying the TLX — which will replace both the TL and TSX in June — to aid in boosting sales for 2014, as well as improving upon the entry-level ILX (reportedly, a more powerful engine is in the works), and unleashing the second-generation NSX from its home in Ohio come 2015.

Long-term, the brand may be overhauled to help establish its identity in the luxury market, as AutoPacific industry analyst Ed Kim explains:

Acura for many, many years has been a brand without an identity. They are good, solid, dependable, somewhat premium cars that don’t communicate any clear message about what they are. The best luxury brands stand for something.

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What Do You Call Two Dudes In An Accord Coupe? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/what-do-you-call-two-dudes-in-an-accord-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/what-do-you-call-two-dudes-in-an-accord-coupe/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 14:15:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=749193 accord1

So, where were we? Ah, yes. I was soliciting the opinion of the B&B on my next car. Sharper-eyed connoisseurs of the family-sedan segment will note that my son and I are standing in front of something that, strictly speaking, was not any of the listed choices.

What happened?

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Yesterday was the forty-third day since I totaled the not-quite-invincible Town Car in an accident that fractured nine of my favorite bones and gave my front-seat passenger a chance to purchase a $17,800 helicopter ride to a hospital in downtown Columbus. I’d like to spin some sort of tale about taking time to spiritually heal and/or learning to face the world of driving again, but the fact is that my insurance company didn’t pay off my loan on the TC until this past Monday. At least they gave me a fair price for it and sent the check via FedEx once they managed to process the thing.

In the month since I’d asked our readers to help me make a choice, I’d given the matter an almost irrationally large amount of consideration before coming down firmly on the side of the Accord Sport with six-speed manual transmission. A quick re-read of the post two weeks ago changed my mind when I saw the experience “carrya1911″ had with his Accord Sport. It all sounded good, except for the comments about the stereo. That sent me to a variety of Honda owner forums, where I saw that the stereo from the EX was superior. For a relatively low bump in price, the EX had a sunroof and keyless entry to boot. Sure, the wheels would be smaller, but that was something about which I genuinely did not care.

That shifted my focus to an Accord EX six-speed sedan, retailing for $25,670 after destination fee. Allow me to take a moment to bitch about the “destination fee”. The Honda Accord is built fewer than thirty miles from my freaking house. If I paid to have an Accord towed from the end of the production line to my front door, it would cost about a hundred bucks. Nothing I can do about it, however.

accord3

A quick check of AutoTrader showed a few Accord EX stick-shifts in my preferred non-color, “Modern Steel”, within fifty miles. Did I mention that Honda, in its near-infinite corporate arrogance, doesn’t offer manual-transmission sedans in actual colors like blue, red, brown, green, yellow — or, indeed, anything but black and “steel”? I mean, why would they do something like that? There’s no chance that the kind of person who would drive a STICK-SHIFT SEDAN in the YEAR 2014 would be the kind of free spirit who would want any kind of ACTUAL COLOR. Oh, no. Clearly the only reason Honda sells manual-transmission vehicles to anyone is because they are slightly cheaper, right?

Well, if I didn’t like it, I could buy a Fusion. Except. I’d have to order a manual Fusion and wait eight weeks. My insurance company was willing to make an additional payment to me of nearly $1300 to cover my sales tax on the new vehicle, as long as I did it within thirty-three days. This seemed a little uncharitable, giving me less time to buy a new car than it took them to print a check, but they make the rules. So were I to buy a Fusion six-speed, which already costs more than an Accord EX when equipped the same way, I’d also take a haircut on my insurance benefits. Back to AutoTrader to check out the Hondas, then.

It was about that time that the devil on my shoulder started to complain about the Accord EX sedan. “It doesn’t have heated seats,” the devil said.

“I don’t care about heated seats,” I responded.

“It’s not about you. And what about the fact that the stereo still isn’t great?” (Warning: Link NSFW for language)

“If I wanted a great stereo in an Accord, I would buy a TSX.”

“Except you can’t get a great stereo in a stick-shift TSX. But you can get a decent one in the Accord EX-L.”

“Which doesn’t come with a stick.”

“Yes it does, if you buy the V6 Coupe.”

“Too expensive, and plus the car seat won’t fit.”

“Why don’t you sell a guitar or two to cover the difference and then check to see if the car seat will fit? Plus, you get the V-6, which runs a flat 14.0, just like your Boxster S when you candy-ass the launch.”

“Ah, um, it would be irresponsible of me to have four two-door cars.”

“Says who?”

“Says, um… people.”

JUST LOOK AT THE EX-L V6 YOU COWARD! RUN!

“When you yell at me, devil, you sound like Sinistar.”

After a week of thinking about the issue, I was convinced that I deserved the full-boat Accord coupe, retailing for $31,450. I sold my Chinery Blue Heritage Super Eagle guitar to cover most of the price difference. A quick drive-by check of the local dealer showed that there was more than enough room for my child seat of choice, the Britax Pinnacle 90. Now all I had to do was wait for the money.

When it arrived, I contacted two local dealers, both of which had an EX-L V6 in stock. My first call was to Roush Honda, which is one of two employee-owned Honda dealers in the United States. The Internet sales manager, Patrick Hannahs, made me an aggressive offer on their Crystal Black coupe. It was, frankly, a staggering deal and I was tempted to just drive over and pick it up. I also liked the speed and professionalism Patrick put into the negotiation process; as a former car salesman and someone who’s bought about twenty new cars, I’ve seen it done wrong more often than I’ve seen it done right.

The problem was the color. Crystal Black is a known scratch magnet, and this Accord wouldn’t be joining my pampered Porsches in the garage; it would be an everyday car for me and my son. I wanted Modern Steel. Roush was willing to order me one, but the same problem that kept me from the Fusion also applied here. Time to look elsewhere.

“Elsewhere” turned out to be Honda Marysville, a few miles away from the Marysville Assembly Plant where the Accord is built and where I once did contract labor as a senior sysadmin before leaving the company in disgust and holding a giant party called “Huck Fonda” in a tip of the hat to the often moronic decisions made by the information-technology management. Frankly, it was difficult for me to even consider buying a new Honda based on how much contempt I have for a few of the higher-ups there, but I reassured myself that the balance of payments between Honda America Manufacturing (HAM) and myself had been firmly on my side since the middle of 2006 or so.

I made the deal on the phone and drove out with my check to sign the papers. My salesperson, Jeff Hawk, was a brilliant, funny guy with a technical background in the auto business and he pushed my companion’s wheelchair around while I told a bunch of stupid stories about export-model Accords and whatnot. I experienced no surprises, no upselling, no pressure, and no drama at Honda Marysville. I’d recommend them with the same fervor that I would recommend Roush.

Last night I brought the Accord home, loaded the Britax into the center rear seat, and went to pick up my son from school. “Find my new car,” I told him, but in a school parking lot completely full of SUVs he knew which one would be mine. Then we drove home and he agreed to pose for a few photos, on the condition that a) he be allowed to show off his Nerf Rapidstrike CS-18 in the photos, and b) he be allowed to make a “T-Rex face” where the Rapidstrike was not close to hand. So here he is in the Britax Pinnacle 90, showing how easily it fits in the back of the Coupe:

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Yes, the scratch under his eye is because he got into a fight at school a few hours earlier. I don’t know where he gets his contentious demeanor.

Let’s review John’s list of requirements, and mine, together and see how closely I conformed to my original mission statement:

John:

  • The car be a Porsche — no, sadly. But it will be on the road when the last Panamera is junked.
  • And also a race car — no, again, although if any Honda is “race-y” this is it
  • And faster than police cars — The Accord Coupe beats all the police-spec cars tested by the Michigan State Police in the annual evaluations, so YES
  • And that it play loud music — The stereo is surprisingly good, so YES

Jack:

  • Four doors — NO, oops.
  • Brand-new — YES
  • As reliable as possible — I’d say so.
  • Above-Town-Car fuel mileage (defined as >23mpg in mixed use) — Yes
  • Manual transmission if possible — Yes
  • Not a penny above $30,000 — My price was $28,117 against invoice of $28,800 and MSRP of $31,450. With my insurance sales tax kickback, my total cost was $29,189. So YES.

I’d say most of the goals were met. Thanks to the B&B for setting me on the right path here — you voted “Accord” most often in the comments. My little grey coupe might not be an Audi S5 or a Mercedes CL55 or a used Ferrari, but right now, I think it’s exactly what these two dudes need.

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Review: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 14:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=707986 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-001

Now and then you run into a car that just “fits”. It’s like finding a perfect shoe, or a comfy smoking jacket. Until now I have been keeping my secret love on the down-low for several reasons. First off, I’ve always thought having a “favorite car” tends to color one’s judgment when comparing cars, so I try to avoid such statements. Secondly, my dalliance with my automotive flame was fleeting. As most of us know, one-night-stands rarely hold up to the scrutiny of a long-term relationship. And lastly, coming out as a hybrid-lover has been difficult. When folks ask me “what was the best car you drove in 2013?” and my answer is “the 2014 Accord Hybrid,” they stare at me like I have three eyeballs.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The Accord is the mid-size sedan least likely to offend. While some call the tall greenhouse and upright proportions boring, I found them to be elegant and restrained. Indeed the Accord’s side profile reminds me a great deal of former Lexus products, a similarity that was shared by passengers during the week. Several passers by even confused the Accord with a Lexus ES. This is good news for Honda but bad news for Lexus.

Up front the Accord Hybrid wears blue-tinted versions of the regular Accord’s grille and headlamps instead of the Plug-In Accord’s enormous maw. Our Limited trim model was equipped with LED headlamps but lesser trims have to get by with halogen bulbs. Out back the restrained styling continues with hidden exhaust tips, clean lines and plenty of LEDs in the tail lamps. While there are plenty of mid-size sedans out there, the hybrid market is limited to the Accord, Camry, Fusion, Optima and Sonata. In that lineup, I find the Fusion the best looking with the Accord in a solid second place and the refreshed Optima taking third.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-002

Interior

Like the gas-only Accord, the hybrid sports a double-bump style dashboard. The first “bump” houses the same tweaked instrument cluster as the Accord plug-in with a large analog speedometer, no tachometer, LED gauges for battery/fuel and a power meter. Inside the speedo is a circular full-color LCD used for the trip computer, secondary nav instructions (if so equipped) and other vehicle information. Housed in the second “bump” is a standard 8-inch infotainment display.

Front seat comfort has long been a Honda strong suit and the Accord is no different with thickly padded and ergonomically designed thrones. The seats are lightly (and widely) bolstered so larger drivers and passengers shouldn’t have a problem finding a comfortable seating position. Because the EX trim of the gas Accord serves as the “feature donor car” for the Hybrid, all models get adjustable lumbar support, 10-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, standard Bluetooth, a backup camera, keyless entry/go and active noise cancellation.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Instrument Cluster-001

Thanks to the tall green house and complete lack of “four-door-coupé” styling cues, the Accord’s rear seats are the best in the segment. On paper there’s nothing extraordinary about the rear cabin dimension. The truth is in the sitting. The Accord’s rear seats are more comfortable than a Camry and roomier than an Optima or Sonata. The seat back angle is also the most upright of the bunch allowing easier entry and exit when compared to the reclined Fusion. That reclined rear seat is how the Fusion manages to match the Accord when it comes to inches of head room, but the Accord’s rear compartment is far more accommodating.

As with most hybrids, there’s a trunk penalty to be paid. Thanks to energy dense Lithium-ion cells, the Accord only drops 3 cubic feet to 12.7 cubic feet, and I had no problem jamming six 24-inch roller bags in the trunk. The Li-ion cells mean the gas-only Accord’s smallish trunk translates in to a roomy storage area compared to the other hybrids. Sadly everyone else has managed to preserve some sort of cargo pass-through to the trunk while Honda decided to kill it. Honda wouldn’t say what the reason was, but judging by the battery position there was still room for a cargo slot capable of handling a surf board. Call that an opportunity lost.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Infotainment-002

Infotainment

Base models use physical buttons to control the standard 8-inch LCD in the dash, while up-level Accords get the two-screen layout you see above. Bluetooth, SMS voice messaging, Pandora smartphone integration and USB/iDevice control are all standard on base models as is a 6-speaker, 160-watt sound system. The 8-inch LCD handles all infotainment interactions in this base system from playlist browsing to phone dialing. Honda integrates their active noise cancellation technology into the head unit, so keep that in mind if you plan to swap into an after-market unit.

I suspect that most shoppers will opt for the mid-level “EX-L” which adds a subwoofer, 360 watt amp, and a 6-inch touchscreen for audio system controls. For reasons I don’t understand, the touchscreen is surrounded by “sparkly” plastic that looks like someone tossed in some glitter in the last moments of the plastics process. In an otherwise expertly executed cabin this “easter egg” seems out-of-place. This dual-screen setup struck me as half-baked when I first sampled it, and although I think it could still use a few minutes in the oven, I have warmed up to it. Voice commands are easy to use, the system’s layout is intuitive and responsiveness to commands is excellent. However, I still don’t understand why you use the touchscreen for changing tracks and sources, but you have to use the knob and upper screen for changing playlists. I also think it’s a pity that navigation isn’t sold as a stand alone option as you have to pony up $34,905 for the Touring trim to get it.

Front Wheel Drive Biased

Drivetrain

In many ways the Accord Hybrid shares more design themes with the Fisker Karma than a Toyota Prius. Up till now, mainstream hybrids used one of two systems, either an electro/mechanical power split device designed around a planetary gearset like the Ford, Toyota and GM Voltec hybrids, or they sandwich an electric motor between the engine and transmission (Honda, Kia/Hyundai, Mercedes, VW and everyone else). Honda went back to the drawing board and designed a true serial hybrid – as long as you stay under 44 mph. Things start out on the drawing above with a 2.0L, 141 horsepower engine mated directly to a motor/generator that is capable of generating approximately 141 horsepower (Honda won’t release details on certain drivetrain internals so that’s an educated guess). Honda says this is the most thermodynamically efficient four-cylinder engine in production, a title I have no reason to doubt. Next we have a 166 horsepower, 226 lb-ft motor connected to the front wheels via a fixed gear ratio. Under 44 miles per hour, this is all you need to know about the system. The 166 horsepower motor powers the car alone, drawing power from either a 1.3 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, or the engine via the generator and the power control circuitry. Over 44 miles per hour, the system chooses one of two modes depending on which is most efficient at the time. The system can engage a clutch pack to directly connect the motor and generator units together allowing engine power to flow directly to the wheels via that fixed gear ratio, or it can keep operating in serial mode.

When the Accord Hybrid engages the clutch to allow the engine to power the wheels directly (mechanically), power is flowing via a single fixed ratio gear set. The fixed gear ratio is somewhere around a typical 6th gear in terms of gear ratio. This improves efficiency at highway speeds because there is always some loss in power conversion from the generator to the motor. The single ratio is the reason the system must use in serial hybrid mode below 44 mph. There is another side effect at play here as well: below 44 MPH, the system’s maximum power output is 166 horsepower and rises to 196 when the clutch is engaged.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-005

Pricing

Starting at $29,155, the Accord Hybrid is nearly $4,000 more than the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. However, the Accord delivers a high level of standard equipment dropping the real margin to around $1,900. Instead of stand alone options, Honda offers just three trim levels. The next step is the $31,905 EX-L model which adds leather seats, a leather steering wheel, upgraded audio system with two LCD screens, memory driver’s seat, power passenger seat, moonroof, a camera based collision warning system and lane departure warning. While the base model fares poorly in direct cross-shops, the EX-L is a decent value, coming in essentially the same price as a comparably equipped Sonata, Fusion or Optima.

Work your way up to the top-of-the-line $34,905 Touring and you get full LED headlamps, navigation, XM Radio, an adaptive cruise control system and a snazzier backup cam. Although that’s more than a top trim Camry ($32,015), Sonata ($32,395) or Optima ($31,950), the Honda packs more features and when you adjust for the features missing in the competition the difference drops to a few hundred dollars. Meanwhile the Fusion wins the award for the most expensive in this segment at $37,200 with only a few features not found on the Accord.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-004

Drive

The Accord Hybrid’s impressive 50/45/47 MPG EPA rating (City/Highway/Combined) is even more impressive when you look at some of Honda’s design choices. First off all hybrid trims get tires one size wider (225/50R17 vs 215/55R17) than the gas-only Accord to compensate for the 230 lb weight increase. Secondly Honda chose to trickle-down Acura’s two-mode damper technology into the Accord. These two choices define how the car feels out on the road with the Accord barely nudging the Fusion out of first place when it comes to overall on-road performance. The Fusion Hybrid Titanium provides better overall grip, but the Accord has better poise and the two-mode dampers operate as advertised yielding to highway imperfections but maintaining a crisp feel on winding back roads. The take away from this is that the hybrid version of the Accord provides the best balance of grip and poise in the Accord lineup while all other manufacturers make you pay a handling penalty (albeit slight in the Ford) for the improved mileage numbers. Meanwhile the Sonata, Optima and Camry designers swapped in 205 width tires for reduced rolling resistance resulting in those hybrid models handling more like value-priced base entries.

After driving Ford’s latest hybrids, I was skeptical of Honda’s fuel economy claims. The last 47MPG Ford we tested ran between 39.5 and 41 MPG over 560 gingerly-driven miles. Keeping in mind that my commute is hilly and highway heavy I had expected the Accord’s numbers to suffer in relation as the Accord’s highway figure is 2 MPG lower than the Ford. I was wrong. I actually averaged better economy during my week with the Accord than I did at the launch event set in the Texas flat-lands (47.8 vs 45.9.) I attribute some of the difference to final tweaking of the software by Honda and some of the difference to California’s milder climate. The numbers struck me as so good I spent three days driving, filling, driving, filling only to discover the fuel economy was spot on. It is at this point I am surprised that Honda chose not to offer some sort of “eco” trim with skinny low rolling resistance tires, grille shutters and a weight loss regime for more even impressive numbers.

Honda’s new hybrid system switches between modes more smoothly than the Sonata and Optima and on-par with the Toyota and Ford systems. The smooth transitions are a good thing since the Accord spends far more time switching between EV and gasoline operating modes on level highways between 55 and 65 MPH. The system will charge the battery up, turn off the engine and run EV until the battery drops to a point that it needs to be recharged. This is different from the others that generally run engine only once you’re on the highway. Honda swiped the Accord’s brake design from their hydrogen Clarity sedan and it is easily the best I have ever driven. Stops are linear without the “grabby” feel you get in Toyota hybrid models if you transition rapidly from mild to moderate braking. Downhill driving in the Accord is also a vast improvement. Most hybrids transition to engine or 100% friction braking when the battery is full but Honda has a trick up their sleeve. Because of the Accord’s design Honda is able to continue using the traction motor to provide braking assistance. Once the battery is full, the software shuttles this energy over to the generator unit and consumes it by spinning the engine. This results in the most consistent braking feel of any hybrid so far.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-010

The Accord Hybrid drives like an EV below 44 MPH, much like a charged Chevy Volt and in sharp contrast to the Ford and Toyota hybrids. This is of course because the Accord’s electric motor is the only thing that can motivate the car below this speed. Because of the nature of this drivetrain, there there is definite non-linear relationship between the engine and the wheels. Press the throttle down and the engine catches up in a while, climb a hill and the engine will vary between a wail and a dull roar. While I’m sure that will bother some folks, I don’t mind the noises cars with CVTs make and this Accord is no different. Likely due to come software tweaks since I first drove it, 0-60 times dropped a few tenths to 7.0 seconds flat putting the Accord near the top of the pack in acceleration.

The Touring model Honda lent me featured all of Honda’s latest safety gadgets from the Lane Watch system that displays your right-side blind spot on the car’s 8-inch LCD. I honestly found Lane Watch to be a little gimmicky, even after having experienced it several times before. In a car with limited visibility it might be more useful, but the Accord’s large greenhouse and low beltline give it the best visibility in the segment. Touring trim also gets you a full speed-range radar adaptive cruise control with pre-collision warning. Honda’s radar cruise control isn’t the worst on the market but neither is it the best. The system brakes sharply, reacts slowly to traffic speeding up ahead of you and when you set a speed the car dips 5-6 MPH before accelerating back up to the speed you were driving when you hit the button.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-008

With all the numbers tallied the Accord Hybrid is an easy winner. It is more expensive than the competition but that delta shrinks when you account for feature content. The delta becomes immaterial however when you look at our average fuel economy numbers of 47.8 MPG in the Accord and 30 to mid-30s in all of the competition (including that 47 MPG Fusion.) Honda’s hybrid has the best road manners in the pack, the most composed ride, a comfy back seat and a quiet cabin. On my tally list, the Accord’s driving dynamics, fuel economy, performance and comfort more than outweigh my complaints about the cruise control and dual-screen infotainment system.

Being on the down-low, my former last word on the Accord was “The Accord may not be the best looking hybrid on sale, (for me that’s still the Ford Fusion) but the Accord’s simple lines and unexpectedly high fuel economy make the Honda a solid option. Being the gadget hound I am, I think I would still buy the Fusion, but only in the more expensive Titanium trim. If you’re not looking that high up the food chain, the Accord Hybrid is quite simply the best fuel sipping mid-size anything. Prius included.” But now I’ve decided it’s time to come clean. I’d take the Hybrid Accord period. No exceptions, no hair splitting.

 

Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 7.0 Seconds

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69 db

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 47.8 MPG over 835 miles.

 

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Europe’s Role In Honda’s R&D Gains Greater Influence http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/europes-role-in-hondas-rd-gains-greater-influence/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/europes-role-in-hondas-rd-gains-greater-influence/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 17:15:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=734169 honda-civic-tourer-1

With the debut of the European developed and British-built Honda Civic Tourer in the middle of this month, a new era of greater influence from the contintent over the automaker’s R&D unit has begun.

Adrian Killham, the tourer’s project leader at Honda’s R&D facility in Swindon — the first non-Japanese engineer to hold the title — believes developing cars for Europe in Europe is crucial for success in the continent, from driving dynamics to luggage space, and even the type of carpeting now used throughout the automaker’s global lineup.

The European influence will also come into play when the new Civic is introduced in 2017. In the meantime, Honda aims to raise the profile of the Civic Tourer by entering it into the 2014 British Touring Car Championship season, the first estate to trade paint with the likes of BMW and Kia since Volvo’s turbocharged 850 R in the 1990s.

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Nissan Outsold By Honda In Home, U.S. Markets http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nissan-outsold-by-honda-in-home-u-s-markets/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nissan-outsold-by-honda-in-home-u-s-markets/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 18:30:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=727946 Nissan-Sport-Sedan-Concept-01

Though Nissan remains Japan’s second-biggest automaker with a wide gap ahead of Honda, the latter continues to outsell the former in the United States and at home, much to Nissan’s dismay

According Automotive News, Nissan’s global sales for 2013 increased 3 percent to 5.1 million units, while Honda’s rapid 12 percent growth in sales only managed 4.3 million units in the same period. Further, Nissan sold 86 percent of its 5.1 million vehicles — 4.4 million, to be exact — outside Japan, Honda doing as well by selling 3.5 million of its 4.3 million overseas. Overall, Nissan beat Honda in Europe, Mexico, China and most of Asia, yet lost to Honda in Japan and the U.S.

At home, the reason is due to Honda’s popular line of kei cars (all made in house), and all having undergone a total revamping as of late. Meanwhile, Nissan has partnered with Mitsubishi to make kei cars after years of farming out the practice to the former’s rivals. Though things appear to be looking up for Nissan, they will be looking up at Honda for a good while: Honda sold just over 400,000 kei cars in 2013 to Nissan’s 186,000, while also growing 27 percent in kei car sales against the latter’s 21 percent.

Across the Pacific, Nissan is gaining on Honda’s other home turf, selling 1.2 million units for a 9 percent increase in sales against their rival’s 7 percent increase and 1.5 million units in 2013. Market share in the U.S. held at 9.8 percent for Honda while Nissan took a tenth of a percentage for an even 8 percent in the same period.

Though Honda has done well for itself since becoming the first Japanese auto manufacturer to build a factory in the United States back in 1982 for the Honda Accord — such as exporting more cars around the world from the U.S. than from Japan in 2013 for the first time ever — Nissan aims to turn up the heat through the tandem of new production coming from Mexico, and aggressive tactics devised by Nissan North America’s new chairman Jose Munoz, who is under standing orders to boost his employer’s share of the U.S. market to 10 percent.

Either way, both Honda and Nissan still have a ways to go to take on Toyota; the No. 1 Japanese and global automaker moved 9.98 million units worldwide in 2013.

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Honda, Nissan, Toyota Set Production Record Against Weakening Yen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/honda-nissan-toyota-set-production-record-against-weakening-yen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/honda-nissan-toyota-set-production-record-against-weakening-yen/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 16:32:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=706538 Toyota Baja California Assembly Line

As the yen weakened against the dollar for a second consecutive year, Honda, Nissan and Toyota all set production records in their North American plants in 2013, according to Automotive News.

Outputs for the trio last year include 1.86 million units for Toyota, 1.78 million for Honda, and 1.47 million for Nissan, though gains on the production line didn’t match sales in the United States. However, exports took up the slack in U.S. showrooms, with more units sent to growing markets such as South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Latin America.

As far as individual models are concerned, Honda built 466,695 Accords at their Marysville, Ohio plant in 2013, around 20,000 more than the number of Camrys Toyota workers at the automaker’s Georgetown, Ky. plant.

The Japanese Three expanded their presence in North America as insulation against a falling yen, which fell 17.6 percent against the dollar in 2013 after falling 11 percent in 2012, as well as protection from overseas production disruptions that could affect North American output. In fact, Honda will soon open a plant in Celaya, Mexico to build the Fit, with the long-awaited 2015 NSX to be assembled in an experimental plant in Marysville.

Regarding Hyundai and Kia, the two South Korean automakers set a few records of their own in North America, including 399,495 Sonatas and Elantras leaving Hyundai’s Montgomery, Ala. plant, and 105,647 Santa Fes rolling out of the Kia line in West Point, Ga.

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Turbos, Diesels Rule Top 10 Engine List in 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/turbos-diesels-rule-top-10-engine-list-in-2014/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:30:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=678850 Audi 3.0 TFSI Engine

‘Tis the season for year-end Top 10 lists celebrating and lamenting all things in the world of life, and the automotive industry is no exception. Ward’s Automotive has announced its list of the 10 best engines for 2014, and it’s a turbodiesel-intercooled festival of power this year.

The winners on the 20th anniversary of this list are as follows:

  • 3.0L TFSI Supercharged DOHC V6 (Audi S5)
  • 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I6 (BMW 535d)
  • 3.0L Turbodiesel DOHC V6 (Ram 1500 EcoDiesel)
  • 83 kW Electric Motor (Fiat 500e)
  • 1.0L EcoBoost DOHC I3 (Ford Fiesta)
  • 2.0L Turbodiesel DOHC I4 (Chevrolet Cruze Diesel)
  • 6.2L OHV V8 (Chevrolet Corvette Stingray)
  • 3.5L SOHC V6 (Honda Accord)
  • 2.7L DOHC H6 boxer (Porsche Cayman)
  • 1.8L Turbocharged DOHC I4 (Volkswagen Jetta)

Of note, Ford’s three-pot EcoBoost marks the first time an automaker won a spot on the list with only three cylinders, while Fiat scores a first-time win with its 83 kW electric motor found in the 500e. On the other end, only two engines from last year’s list returned — Audi’s 3.0-liter TFSI and Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 — while six of the 10 are oil-burners, a first for Ward’s.

General Motors scored two wins this year for the first time since 2008 with the Cruze’s 2-liter turbodiesel I4 and the new Corvette Stingray’s 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8. Among trucks, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the sole winner, based on the strength of its 3-liter turbodiesel stump-puller.

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