The Truth About Cars » Honda The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:48:14 +0000 en-US hourly 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 (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 New York 2014: Honda Announces 2015 Fit-Based HR-V CUV Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:54:55 +0000 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.

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Honda Pursues 70k Annual US Fit Sales Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:30:26 +0000 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 Fri, 11 Apr 2014 18:56:55 +0000 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


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


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 Thu, 10 Apr 2014 15:01:44 +0000 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 …


… 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.


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

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2015 Honda Fit in Yellow

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Originally published on Gas 2.

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Honda Drawing Back UK Production In Face Of Weak Growth Wed, 26 Mar 2014 13:00:25 +0000 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 Wed, 19 Mar 2014 13:00:34 +0000 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.

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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.

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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.


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 Tue, 11 Mar 2014 14:45:26 +0000 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 Tue, 04 Mar 2014 23:47:59 +0000 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.


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 ]]> 164
Honda Establishes New Acura Planning Arm For Brand Overhaul Wed, 26 Feb 2014 10:00:04 +0000 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? Thu, 20 Feb 2014 14:15:00 +0000 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?


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.


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.”


“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:


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:


  • 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


  • 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) Fri, 14 Feb 2014 14:00:43 +0000 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.


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


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


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


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


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


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 Wed, 05 Feb 2014 17:15:59 +0000 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 Thu, 30 Jan 2014 18:30:23 +0000 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 Thu, 23 Jan 2014 16:32:38 +0000 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 Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:30:57 +0000 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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Honda Ridgeline to Receive a Second Coming Wed, 11 Dec 2013 11:45:38 +0000 2014 Honda Ridgeline

Though Honda’s foray into Truck Mountain was met with slow sales, the automaker is standing behind the Ridgeline with plans for a second generation to make its ascent in two years’ time.

The new Ridgeline will be completely redeveloped from the wheels up in the United States, and is set to be assembled in Honda’s Lincoln, Ala. plant where the current generation is, until June 2014, still being screwed together. The automaker has given no word thus far on what all will go into the new truck — including whether or not it will continue to share its underpinnings with the Odyssey minivan — though they do believe that the second generation will fare better bolstered by growth in the small/medium truck sector over the next few years, due mainly to economic growth, lower gas prices, and more disposable income.

As for the outgoing generation, 16,160 units left the lot through November 2013, an increase of 29 percent over last year’s sales. Total sales since the Ridgeline’s debut in 2005 comes to 242,049 to date, with a special edition for the 2014 model year recently making the rounds in many a Honda showroom.

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A Last Exit For the Honda Insight May Soon Appear Fri, 06 Dec 2013 15:31:35 +0000 2014 Honda Insight

If you were ever interested in the second coming of the Honda Insight, now may be the time to pull the trigger on that lease, for there may not be a 2015 model in the showroom come next year.

Two signs point to a last exit for the hybrid: the lack of activity surrounding the marketing of a 2015 Insight, and the fact that the hybrid has become more and more redundant in Honda’s own lineup. Though the former could simply mean the Insight is going through a significant update that would merit such a delay, the latter speaks volumes about its bleak future.

In short, the Civic Hybrid is running circles around the Prius-shaped hybrid in the eco-friendly sales race — though the former costs nearly $25,000 to start over the Insight’s $19,000 base price — while the upcoming Fit Hybrid sedan may end up pulling potential owners towards its own offerings for the same price of admission as the Insight.

For their part, Honda can neither confirm nor deny the Insight’s last ride into the electric sunset. That said, the hybrid has already departed from Canadian showrooms, leaving the smaller CR-Z as the only analogue to the first generation and current Insight models.

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Los Angeles 2013: 2014 Honda Civic Gains CVT, Higher MPG Thu, 21 Nov 2013 14:44:29 +0000 2014 Honda Civic Coupe 04
The current Honda Civic has experienced a refresh cycle last seen in the 1950s from the Big Three, and the 2014 model year is no exception with the introduction of the CVT in response to Toyota’s action with the new Corolla.

The result? Future Civic HF owners will see an average of 35 mpg in the city and 42 along the highway, while sedans shall see 30/39 mpg and coupes 29/38; the combined cycle for the latter two variants is 33 mpg.

Want power? The Si has 205 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque to get you to where you need to be. Other goodies to be found in the range include a seven-inch touchscreen that will function through swipes, pinches and the like in the same manner as their smartphone, push-button starting, smart entry systems, and finally, Honda’s own LaneWatch safety system transplanted from the Accord.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe 06 2014 Honda Civic Coupe 05 2014 Honda Civic Coupe 04 2014 Honda Civic Coupe 03 2014 Honda Civic Coupe 02 2014 Honda Civic Coupe 01 ]]> 14
Los Angeles 2013: Honda FCEV Concept Thu, 21 Nov 2013 05:13:30 +0000 Honda FCEV 06

Honda’s successor to the FCX Clarity isn’t set to arrive on our shores until 2015, but those in LA bore witness to what its successor would look like through the eyes of the FCEV Concept.

The FCEV can ferry up to five passengers due to the totatlity of the drivetrain stored within what Honda calls “the engine room.”

As for power, hydrogen is used to create the electricity needed to drive the wheels forward. The automaker has improved this process since the FCX, managing 3 kW per liter of hydrogen consumed.

Honda expects the FCX’s successor to have a range of 300 miles, with only three minutes spent at the pump.

Honda FCEV 01 Honda FCEV 02 Honda FCEV 03 Honda FCEV 04 Honda FCEV 05 Honda FCEV 06 ]]> 8
(Not A) Capsule Review: Prelude Solaire Convertible Tue, 05 Nov 2013 15:49:36 +0000 (image courtesy Douglas Millar on Flickr)

Please welcome TTAC reader “psychoboy” as he tells a story of a rare encounter with the rarest of Honda Preludes — JB

A few months ago, I was convinced to get involved with what has turned out to be The Worst LeMons Car Of All Time, the mighty ‘Super K’ Plymouth Reliant wagon, as part of the “K-It-Forward” program. As bad of an idea as that was, it turns out that, compared to my attempt to buy a chop-top Prelude, it might have marked a bit of a high point in my automotive adventures this year.

Way back, way way back, in 1979, my family decided to trade in our nondescript late-Seventies Chevy Sedan on the newest, hottest, sports car to come from Japan: the brand new Prelude. Silver paint, Bordello red velour interior, giant moonroof, luggage rack on the trunk. This car had it all. It even beat Lexus to the market by a few decades with a concentric speedo and tach, and Chevrolet by ten years with an irreplaceable (in the sense that you couldn’t find a replacement) radio in the cluster shroud.

Under that long nose, short deck, pony-car-proportioned body, resides the McPherson-strutted backbone of the second generation Civic and an Accord-derived 1751cc CVCC inline 4 worth 72 ponies. You don’t really miss the Malaise Era, do you? Some of the magazines at the time gushed over the styling and the quality of the car, even while others denigrated its lackluster performance. In short, like other hairdressers’ cars pseudo pony cars of the era, its bite fell way short of its bark. To a family cross shopping this against the Vega, the Mustang II, or the Celica for the job of Sporty But Efficient Dad’s Car, Honda’s reputation probably sealed the deal far more often than the actual virtues of what C/D called the “Quaalude” ever did.

Ten years, one clutch, and almost 200,000 miles later, my father sold off his beloved Prelude. The call of a fully loaded ’89 Maxima GXE for himself in a deal with a ’88 300ZX 2+2 for my mother proved too great, so his Prelude and mom’s ’82 Accord hatchback were sent off to a family friend’s used car lot.

End of the Road

My mother had taught me to drive a manual in her Accord when I was 13 or so, but under her watchful eye, I never could relax enough to feel the car under my feet. A few weeks later, however, when they were off at a movie, I took the Prelude out for a spin around the block. I had the knowledge, and with only me to judge, I learned the feel. A few hours later, I learned a totally different sort of feel when a neighbor ratted me out. (I know that feel, bro — JB)

For the two and a half decades since, I’ve kept first-gen Preludes in the back of my mind as a potential fun second car. By the time I was able to easily afford a second car, most of those Preludes were gone. When I would find one, it would have rust issues, or carb issues, or rodent issues, or any other number of things wrong that just didn’t make it worth fooling with. Somewhere along the line, I learned of the existence of convertible first-gen Preludes. I think an eBay ad from Colorado around the turn of the millennium put them on my radar.

Have you ever heard of Solaire? It was a Santa Ana company that Honda commissioned to build verts out of their sporty little car in the American market. In 1981, Honda sold around 100 of the pop-tops across the country through their dealer network. These cars are as close to a “factory” convertible Prelude as it gets in the North American market. They are so rare, however, that most dealers don’t know they existed, and their non-Honda-sourced parts do not appear in any of the Honda catalogs.

(image courtesy Douglas Millar on Flickr)

Which brings me to a recent weekend. The same guy who goaded me into the K-Car is currently deployed about 9 or 10 timezones away, and he often finds himself with some spare time on his hands. When he’s not manicuring his awesome hair or writing love poems to his even more awesome wife, he’s torturing his stateside friends with Craigslist and eBay cars that fall right in our respective wheelhouses.

Some of us get a pile of early Z cars every Wednesday, while others are burdened with pre- and post- war American iron or Z31s in various states of disarray. He even drags out a few 911-derivatives and track toys to tempt himself with. Lately, he’s decided that my ’79 Prelude LeMons project needs a pretty bookend, so he throws every half-assed first gen ‘lude he finds at me. A very, very nice ’79 came along in Minnesota, but the seller turned out to be typical Craigslist flake, and he wound up selling the car to someone else for less than I was offering because he wasn’t sure how to sell a car to an out of state buyer. After that sadness, my man Mental tossed me an ’81 convertible that I’m sure he discovered on the Grassroots Motorsports forum. I looked at the Craigslist ad, determined that the car might be a real Solaire, and set about making the purchase.

I sent the seller a text message on Monday morning, asking if he had more recent pictures of the car. In the ad, the car is very dusty and has clearly been stored for quite a while. The ad also mentioned that the car has been cleaned since the pictures, and that the paint is shiny. He told me that he’d send me pics after work, so I waited. Three days later, I still didn’t have the pics, so I checked to see if the ad is still there, assuming that someone has beat me to it. The ad remained, but I got distracted by other matters and didn’t follow up.

Friday morning, a local Honda dealer called me looking for a “convertible Honda” and it put this car back in the front of my mind. The dealer was actually looking for an older S-car, so I gave him a couple general places to look, and decided to call the Prelude seller. The seller was out of state, at a sudden funeral, but his father would be able to handle the sale. I got in touch with the father and arranged to meet him at the car on Sunday.


Early Sunday morning, I loaded up BEV (my Big Effin’ Van, a long and tall ’05 Dodge Sprinter) and headed six hours south with shop friend and LeMons co-conspirator/TapeR owner Chris LowFlyin’ Mills. I hadn’t pulled a trailer through Dallas in over a decade since I stopped going to the Texas Heatwave truck show, and I was amazed at how little progress they’ve made on I-35E in the interim. I was also continually amazed at how willing other drivers are to ride along directly beside a car trailer at highway speeds in a narrowed two lane construction zone that is lined with Jersey Barriers.

I got to the Prelude’s resting place and called the seller’s father. A few minutes later he arrived and we traipsed back to the car. The car in the ad, covered in dust and dragged from a shed, is a better car than the one I am currently looking at. This car has sat, for probably two years, with the top down and an aluminum camper shell covering what’s left of the interior. We pulled back the suspiciously new-looking cloth car cover that’s draped over everything, and lifted off the S-10 sized topper. A swarm of mosquitoes and the stench of decaying duct tape assaulted us. I started picking over the bits and pieces, trying to verify if the car is truly a Solaire. The bodywork around the header and boot looked better than the average beer-fueled teenaged summer bad idea project, the rear seat bucket is a well built piece, and the end caps for the door scrapers match the brochure. On the other hand, the header pins have torn out of the fiberglass bow and have been replaced by a pair of 12mm bolts with their heads cut off, and the original hasps have morphed into something you might find at your local Tractor Supply Company. There were a handful of dodgy repairs made throughout the top frame, and the top itself was thoroughly ruined.


Having determined the car is likely a real Solaire, I started looking over the rest of it. Just as the ad promised a working top that could be patched, it also promised shiny paint. Neither of those promises were kept. Solaire’s conversion was built to withstand the Honda warranty, and that necessitated a nearly complete repaint of the car to patch in the body work done at the decapitation sites. Solaire also claims to reinforce the remaining tub, though it is somewhat unclear as to what that reinforcement actually consists of. Most of the car was still painted, but the paint was checked, flaking, and crazed. The “clean interior” was as much of a false promise as the top and the paint, with several split seams and aged adhesive from duct tape jobs of years past. Hoping for the standard used car treasure trove of peeling sound deadening, rust, and mouse turds ultra rare baubles in the trunk, I tried the interior trunk release, to no avail. I pulled the key from the ignition and found that it wasn’t working in the trunk either. I guessed the latch was seized, and that means the whole top (or the top hole) has to be removed to gain access. Just for grins, I tried the key in the other locks in the car, and it didn’t work there, either.

(photo courtesy Chris ‘LowFlyin’ Mills)

I was beginning to think this was going to go O-for when I managed to get the broken hood release to function. I opened the front-hinged hood and poked about. When I spoke to the seller, he mentioned that he’d had the carb reworked, and sure enough, it was reasonably clean in the holes. I reconnected the half dozen vacuum and electrical bits that were loose and hooked a jumpbox to the battery cables. Mills turned the key, and while the lights did their standard dance, the starter was unwilling to sing its song. A few minutes of jiggles resulted in a wire being strung between the jump box and the starter trigger. To our amazement, the car fired right off. We shut it down, just as quickly, to keep from loading any more aged gasoline into it than necessary.

The starter was a reman unit, the transmission had salvage yard marks, but the pedals and shifter all seemed to be doing their jobs. This leaves me with a very rough, but running and possibly driving one-of-a-hundred car. Much worse than its ad suggests, but not a total lost cause.

If you’ve ever tried to buy a bigger ticket item off Craigslist, you’ll recognize the next few steps, assuming you were actually able to get the seller to meet you in the first place. The ad lists a negotiable price and a condition, the item falls far short of the condition listed, and the seller is hesitant to actually negotiate. I got the joy of adding a half-interested broker to the mix.

I mentioned that the ad said the price was negotiable, and the broker (the seller’s father) implied that I’d have to deal with the seller, since he’s unaware. I tried to call the seller, and ended up leaving a message. His dad suggested that he might be able to get a faster response, so I made an offer of half of asking, since the car is in such bad shape compared to the listing. Dad was also unable to get a response, but admitted that he was allowed to sell for three quarters of asking.

I chalked that up as the last falsehood I was willing to hear, and I told him that I’d be in town for a while getting fuel and if he heard from the seller before I got too far out of town, I would probably turn around. Six hours later, I was home.

I’ve wanted a first gen prelude for a weekend driver for most of my adult life. I had a very rare version of one within my grasp. My 1967 Honda LN360 has taught me that Rare Does Not Equal Valuable, so I decided it wasn’t worth it. I will admit that I remain torn. The listing is still there, however, and the asking price has even been lowered about 10%. Maybe, just maybe, if the car is still around in a couple weeks, I’ll head south again.

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New or Used? : The Unwelcomed Gift Edition Mon, 28 Oct 2013 12:00:26 +0000 mbeans
I’ve written before for “New or Used?” regarding my ’04 Scion xB 5MT that I (mistakenly) ended up trading in towards my family’s 2013 Outback 3.6R last year. Since then I’ve been driving my wife’s ’06 Accord EX-L V6, now at 105k. It’s a nice enough car to drive, but was never “my” car, if you know what I mean (and I’m sure you do).

Due to my recently starting a new job, the wife has given the go-ahead to look for something new that’s modestly priced. I became smitten with a 2013 VW GTI 6MT and was mere seconds away from signing the lease agreement. I had completed the credit application, indicated the radio stations I like, and then started examining the P&S contract, but got that funny feeling you can get and pulled the plug. I don’t know what it was. Dealer shenanigans. Fee overload. Slight indecision perhaps, as I’m only driving a grand total of 8 miles per day for my new commute. (Do I really need to change cars??) Or perhaps it was the X factor.

The X factor is my father-in-law. Due to age and health he is no longer driving. My mother-in-law recently traded his minty 1986 928S4 to their contractor for some money owed. She is offering to give me his 2006 Cayenne S with 75k miles. I’m feeling pressure from the wife to accept it. I’ve offered to take it and sell it for them, but my wife feels that there is a sentimental thing going on, and they want to see us drive it. I really would have preferred that 928.

Sure the Cayenne a nice car, but again it’s not really “me.” Although I’m 6′ 3″ I like small cars with stick shifts that I can throw around, not heavy pseudo-SUVs that get 12 MPG city/. However, am I crazy to turn down a free Cayenne?? I have concerns because (A) it’s not my kind of car, (B) the Carfax has 3 accidents on it, (C) maintenance costs are going to be crazy. Supposedly the frame is fine, but I know he had more than 3 fender-benders (he should have stopped driving years ago), and we have two small children so I would want to verify that. Also the car has been immaculately maintained. He did pretty much whatever the dealer’s service department told him to do.

Part of me thinks I should drive it for 1-2 years and then trade it towards something I want, while the other part of me would be worried about being stuck with a 10 year old SUV with a bad Carfax. And of course the third part of me (if that’s possible) is sick of driving an automatic.

I’m getting some serious pressure to act on this soon. Any advice from you, along with the best and brightest, would be greatly appreciated.

All best,

Steve Says:

Any gift that comes with strings attached is not a gift. Ever. When family members give you something that you must absolutely positively keep under the penalty of (insert snubbing method here), then what you end up with is a family tie that will bind and gag you and your family. 

I’ll give you a personal example. My MIL is a truly generous person and, one day, she decided to give me and my wife a doghouse. The only problem was that we didn’t have a dog. So about a year later, we have a garage sale. The kid down the street just got a puppy and it just so happened that they were the same folks who Freecycled a trampoline to us the year before.

So what did I do? Well of course! I gave them the doghouse!

My wife goes outside about an hour later, and invariably asks where the doghouse is. I tell her what happened and she tells me in no uncertain terms that my MIL is going to be ticked off to the nth degree.

My response was, “And??? This is our house! Just tell her we exchanged it for the trampoline. If she complains then we know it wasn’t a gift ”

Is your wife an only child? Then take the car if, and only if, it is truly a gift with no strings attached. Thank your in-laws profusely for their generosity either way it turns out, and consider yourself a lucky man. Don’t complain. Not even if it isn’t ‘your’ type of car. Just be a mensch, and when this isn’t such a hot button issue, you can sell it and set up a fund to handle any health issues for your in-law’s. By that time you will also have a better perspective on the security of your new job.

If your wife has siblings, then you can’t keep this car. Don’t even try. Let them know that you hope your father-in-law will live for a long, long time. Then you can do the right thing for everyone.

Research the true market value of the vehicle. Post the vehicle for sale online.  Handle the transaction for your in-law’s. and then finally, thank them for thinking of you and your wife.

As for your desire to buy a stickshift, I’ll let the folks here sort that part of your life out.

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The Beat Resurrected: Meet the Honda S660 Thu, 24 Oct 2013 12:00:41 +0000 Honda S660 01

Honda’s rear-driven products built for two tend to be motorcycles, scooters and ATVs for the most part, but every now and again the company will unveil a roadster whose name begins with an S, and ends with the number of cubic centimeters the engine provides.

Such a car is set to return soon to the showroom floor, and will make its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show in November: The Honda S660.

The word on the street is the S660 will be powered by a 660 cc turbocharged engine placed just behind the driver and passenger, with all of its 67 ponies going to the rear wheels. Unlike some of Honda’s current and future offerings that are or will be powered by a combination of internal combustion and electric motivation, the new roadster is strictly gasoline-only.

The featherweight roadster, has its roots in the company’s EV-STER electric-only concept from the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show with regard to styling, penned by designer Ryo Sugiura. That said, don’t try to tell him his roadster is the second coming of the late Soichiro Honda’s last gift to the world, the Beat:

Some people might think this will be the remodeled version of the Beat. But it is not. This is totally brand new.

The S660 is one part of a potential three-pronged attack by Honda in the sports car segment. With it and the NSX forming the outer forks, the automaker plans to forge the center fork through the introduction a mid-engined Toyabaru hunter with a price point to match the GT86/BRZ/FRS when it makes its debut. In the meantime, the U.S. domestic market may not need to wait 25 years for the S660 to come over; Honda plans to sell the roadster in export markets with a 1000cc engine and minor changes with regards to safety regulations. S1000, anyone?

The S660 will make its production debut in Japan for the 2015 model year, in time for the automaker’s return to Formula One.


Honda S660 01 Honda S660 02 Honda S660 03 Honda S660 04 ]]> 64
First Drive Review: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid (With Video) Wed, 09 Oct 2013 10:00:55 +0000 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-007

As of October, the most fuel-efficient mid-sized sedan in America is the Honda Accord. Or so Honda says. After all, Ford has been trumpeting a matching 47 MPG combined from their Fusion. Who is right? And more importantly, can the Accord get Honda back into the hybrid game after having lost the initial hybrid battles with their maligned Integrated Motor Assist system? Honda invited us to sample the 2014 Accord Hybrid as well as a smorgasbord of competitive products to find out.


Click here to view the embedded video.


I have always been a fan of “elegant and restrained” styling which explains my love for the first generation Lexus LS. That describes the 2014 Accord to a tee. Like the regular Accord, the hybrid is devoid of sharp creases, dramatic swooshes, edgy grilles or anything controversial. This is a slightly different take than the Accord Plug-in which swaps the standard Accord bumper for a bumper with a slightly awkward gaping maw. In fact, the only thing to show that something green this way comes are some  blue grille inserts and  LED headlamps on the top-level Touring model.

This means the Accord and the Mercedes E-Class are about the only sedans left that sport a low beltline and large greenhouse. Opinions on this style decision range from boring to practical and I fall on the latter. I think the Ford Fusion is more attractive but the Hyundai Sonata’s dramatic style hasn’t aged as well as its Kia cousin’s more angular duds. The Camry failed to move my soul when it was new and it hasn’t changed much over the years. This places the Accord tying with the Optima for second place.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Despite sporting an all-new interior in 2013, you’d be hard pressed to identify what changed over the last generation Accord unless you owned one. Instead of radical design buyers will find incremental improvements and high quality plastics. The dash is still dominated by a double-bump style dashboard with the second binnacle housing a standard 8-inch infotainment display. With manufacturers moving toward slimmer dash designs the Accord’s remains tall and large. For hybrid duty Honda swiped the Plug-in’s tweaked instrument cluster with a large analogue speedometer, no tachometer, LED gauges for battery, fuel and a power meter. Everything else is displayed via a full-color circular LCD set inside the speedometer.

Front seat comfort is excellent in the accord with thickly padded ergonomically designed front seats. There isn’t much bolstering (as you would expect from a family hauler) so larger drivers and passengers shouldn’t have a problem finding a comfortable seating position. The product planners wisely fitted adjustable lumbar support and a 10-way power seats to all trims.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Speaking of trim levels, in most ways (with the exception of that driver’s seat), the Accord EX serves as the “feature content” base for the hybrid. This means you’ll find dual-zone climate control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, standard Bluetooth, a backup camera, keyless entry/go and active noise cancellation.

Thanks to a wheelbase stretch in 2013, the Accord hybrid sports 1.3 inches more legroom than the last Accord and is finally class competitive with essentially the same amount of room as the Fusion and Camry and a few inches more than the Koreans. The Accord’s upright profile means getting in and out of those rear seats is easier than the low-roofline competition and it also allows the seating position to be more upright. Honda’s sales pitch about the low beltline is that it improves visibility for kids riding in the back, I’m inclined to believe them. As with most hybrids, there’s a trunk penalty to be paid but thanks to energy dense Lithium-ion cells the Accord only drops 3 cubic feet to 12.7 and I had no problem jamming six 24-inch roller bags in the trunk.  Honda nixed the folding rear seats, a feature that the competition has managed to preserve.

2014_Accord_Hybrid_Touring_043, Picture Courtesy of Honda

Infotainment, Gadgets and Pricing

Base Accords use physical buttons to control the standard 8-inch infotainment system and sport 6 speakers with 160 watts behind them.  Honda wouldn’t comment on the expected model split of the Accord, but I suspect that most shoppers will opt for the mid-level EX-L which adds a subwoofer, 360 watt amp, and adds a touchscreen for audio system controls. The dual-screen design struck me as half-baked when I first sampled it in the regular 2013 Accord and although I have warmed up to it a bit, I think it could still use a few minutes in the oven if you opt for the navigation equipped Touring model.

Honda’s concept was to move all the audio functions to the touchscreen thereby freeing the upper screen for some other use like the trip computer or navigation screen. The trouble is the lower screen simply selects sources and provides track forward/backward buttons meaning you still have to use the upper screen to change playlists or search for tracks. That minor complaint aside, the system is very intuitive and responsive. Honda’s improved iDevice and USB integration is standard fare on all models and easily ties with the best in this segment.

2014_Accord_Hybrid_EX-L_ Picture Courtesy of Honda

Starting at $29,155, the base Accord Hybrid is the most expensive mid-sized hybrid sedan by a decent margin especially when you look at the $25,650 starting price on the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. However, the Accord Hybrid delivers a high level of standard equipment including standard Pandora smartphone app integration and Honda’s Lane Watch system. Lane watch still strikes me as a little gimmicky since the Accord has such small blind spots and the best outward visibility in the segment already. 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 is a little more expensive than cross-shops, the EX-L becomes a decent value compared to comparably equipped competitive hybrids.

Working your way up to the top-of-the-line $34,905 Touring model the Accord is no longer the most expensive in the class, that award goes to the $37,200 loaded fusion. At this price the Accord is less of a bargain compared to the competition, although you do get full LED headlamps and an adaptive cruise control system. In comparison the Camry spans from $26,140 to $32,015, the Sonata from $25,650 to $32,395, Optima from  $25,900 to $31,950 and the Fusion from $27,200 to $37,200. How about the Prius? Glad you asked. The Prius that is most comparable to the base Accord Hybrid is $26,970 and comparably equipped to the Accord Touring is $35,135.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Being the drivetrain geek that I am, what’s under the hood of the Accord hybrid is more exciting than the Corvette Stingray. Seriously. Why? Because this car doesn’t have a transmission in the traditional sense. Say what? Let’s start at the beginning. The last time Honda tried selling an Accord hybrid, they jammed a 16 HP motor between a V6 and a 5-speed automatic. The result was 25MPG combined. The 2014 hybrid system shares absolutely nothing with the old system. No parts. No design themes. Nothing.

Things start out with the same 2.0L four-cylinder engine used in the Accord plug-in. The small engine is 10% more efficient than Honda’s “normal” 2.0L engine thanks to a modified Atkinson cycle, an electric water pump, cooled exhaust gas return system, and electric valve timing with a variable cam profile. The engine produces 141 horsepower on its own at 6,200 RPM and, thanks to the fancy valvetrain, 122 lb-ft from 3,500-6,000 RPM.

The engine is connected 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.) Next we have a 166 horsepower, 226 lb-ft motor that is 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 first motor/generator. Over 44 miles per hour, the system chooses one of two modes depending on what is most efficient at the time. The system can engage a clutch pack to directly connect the two motor/generator units together allowing engine power to flow directly to the wheels via that fixed gear ratio. (Check out the diagram below.)

Front Wheel Drive Biased

Pay careful attention to that. I said fixed gear ratio. 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 improves efficiency at highway speeds, reduces weight vs a multi-speed unit and 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. The 196 combined ponies don’t start prancing until that clutch engages.

So why does Honda call it an eCVT? Because that fits on a sales sheet bullet point and the full explanation doesn’t. Also, a serial hybrid can be thought of as a CVT because there is an infinite and non-linear relationship between the engine input and the motor output in the transaxle.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Let’s start off with the most important number first: fuel economy. With a 50/45/47 EPA score (City/Highway/Combined), the Accord essentially ties with the Fusion on paper and, although Honda deliberately avoided this comparison, is only 3MPG away from the Prius-shaped elephant in the room. In the real world however the Accord was more Prius than Fusion, averaging 45-46 mpg in our highway-heavy (and lead-footed) 120 mile route and easily scoring 60-65 mpg in city driving if you drive if like there’s an egg between your foot and the pedal of choice. Those numbers are shockingly close to the standard Prius in our tests (47-48 MPG average) and well ahead of the 40.5 MPG we averaged in the Fusion, 35.6 in the Hyundai/Kia cousins and 40.5 in the Camry. Why isn’t Honda dropping the Prius gauntlet? Your guess is as good as mine.

Due to the design of the hybrid system, I had expected there to be a noticeable engagement of the clutch pack, especially under hard acceleration when the system needs to couple the engine to the drive wheels to deliver all 196 combined ponies. Thankfully, system transitions are easily the smoothest in this segment besting Ford’s buttery smooth Fusion and night and day better than the Camry or Prius. Acceleration does take a slight toll because of the system design with 60 MPH arriving in 7.9 seconds, about a half second slower than the Fusion or Camry but half a second faster than the Optima or Sonata and several hours ahead of the Prius.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

At 69 measured decibels at 50 MPH, the Accord hybrid is one of the quietest mid-sized sedans I have tested scoring just below the Fusion’s hushed cabin. This is something of a revelation for the Accord which had traditionally scored among the loudest at speed. When driving in EV mode (possible at a wide variety of highway speeds) things dropped to 68 db at 50 MPH.

When the road starts winding, the Accord Hybrid handles surprisingly well. Why surprisingly? Well, the hybrid system bumps the curb weight by almost 300 lbs to 3,550 (vs the Accord EX) and swaps in low-rolling resistance tires for better fuel economy. However, unlike the Camry and Korean competition, the Accord uses wide 225 width tires. Considering the regular Accord models use 215s, this makes the Accord’s fuel economy numbers all the more impressive. The Fusion is 150 lbs heavier and rides on either 225 or 235 (Titanium only) width tires which also explains why the hybrid Fusion Titanium gets worse mileage than the base Hybrid SE model. I wouldn’t call the Accord Hybrid the equal of the gas-only Accord EX on the road, but the difference is smaller than you might think.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Helping the Accord out on the road are “amplitude reactive dampers” or “two mode shocks” as some people call them. These fancy struts have worked their way down from the Acura line and use two different valves inside the damper to improve low and high-speed damping performance. The difference is noticeable with the Hybrid having a more compliant ride, and thanks to thicker anti-roll bars the hybrid is more stable in corners. Still, for me, the Accord gives up a hair of performance feel to the Fusion hybrid out on the road. It’s just a hair less precise, not as fast to 60 and lacks the sharp turn-in and bite you get in the Fusion Titanium with its wider and lower profile tires. However, keep in mind that Fusion Titanium takes a 1-2MPG toll on average economy in our tests dropping the Fusion from 40.5 to 38-39 MPG.

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.


Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and gas at a launch event.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.2 Seconds

0-60: 7.9 Seconds

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69 db

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 45.9 MPG over 129 miles.


2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-005 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-006 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-007 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-002 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Trunk ]]> 82
Used Car Review: 2008 Honda S2000 Thu, 15 Aug 2013 13:00:48 +0000 S2000 on PM TTAC


If you accept the idea that a car can have two personalities, then you can be cheered by the fact that your Honda S2000 will always have a garage mate. Cruise conservatively and you may as well be driving a Miata, albeit the world’s roughest riding and loudest MX-5.  Find a twisty back road and wind the overachieving 4-banger to 6,000 rpm when the Flux Capacitor kicks in and you are hanging onto a snarling, world-class sports car.

We are reviewing the bone-stock 2008 S2000 that I bought in June, now with 28,500 miles on its clock. Mine is an “AP2″ model, essentially the second generation version which was sold between 2004 and 2009. It differs from the original 2000 to 2003 “AP1″ model due to its larger engine with its redline lowered to “only” 8,000 rpm, more low-end torque and suspension tweaks making the car less tail-happy. (Hondas claims over 2,000 improvements were made in the AP2. Why does every car company use that same number when they upgrade a model?)  Traction control was also added in 2006.

Every other review of the lightweight 237 horsepower two-seater can be summed up in one sentence: “The S2000 has the greatest gearbox ever, boasts precise handling and an ultra-high revving VTEC motor, has a cramped interior and a terrible ride, is Honda-reliable, and ‘I want one NOW!’” Suffice it to say that you are already aware of all that. Let’s talk about some things you don’t know about owning the little Honda.

Do Not Fear The Clutch Delay Valve

I test drove my S2000 during a rare Arizona rainstorm on urban streets, mainly to find out if my long legs would fit which they did thanks to the car’s generous 44.3 inches of legroom. I thus did not really wring out my roadster. On the 400 mile trip home the next day, I noticed when shifting at full throttle at revs in the VTEC range above 6,000 rpm, the clutch would not fully engage for a couple of seconds. I was disturbed to say the least – was my new yellow car a lemon with a slipping clutch?

A quick trip to S2Ki, the all-knowing S2000 owner’s forum, revealed numerous posts about this problem. It turns out that many AP1 owners were a little too enthusiastic in their speed shifting and were shredding their Torsen differentials and gearboxes at an alarming rate. (Honda deemed those cases “owner abuse” and thus maintained the car’s impeccable quality ratings.) In response, Honda added a clutch delay valve (CDV) in the upgraded AP2 model in 2004. As I am not a mechanical engineer, allow me to explain its function by quoting from this great article:

So what does the CDV do exactly? In short, it regulates the flow of clutch fluid in one direction through the slave cylinder, so you can disengage the clutch quickly but it will always re-engage at an engineered pace – quick enough not to be noticed or cause significant clutch slip, slow enough to prevent shock damage to parts of the drivetrain like the differential. The effect the CDV has on everyday driving is minimal but noticeable, and can be described as putting a piece of velvet between a hammer and nail. It softens the feel of the blow while still allowing enough power to get the job done

As an owner, the remedy to no-slip shifting is to either remove the device or slow down your shift and clutch action by a nano-second. I have done the latter and now nail 95% of my shifts. Let’s just say I was relieved to learn about the clutch delay valve.

Funniest Owner’s Manual Line

Alas, the manual appears to have been written by an American thus there are no humorous “lost in translation” moments. However, check out this directive that may be difficult for S2000 owners to follow: “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Transport Canada recommend that children aged 12 and under be properly restrained in a back seat.”

Stuck In Neutral Cornering

Since this is not an American Honda press car does that mean I treat it gentler than the average auto writer would? You bet it does. Case in point were my first runs on the local mountain roads. I have never gone faster in any other car on these highways and with absolutely no drama: no body roll, no oversteer or understeer, the car flat goes where you point it – at least at that speed I was traveling.

I obviously have not reached the car’s handling limits, but looping it going up Palomar Mountain with its blind curves and two-wheel knee-draggers passing over the double-yellow line would not be a good idea. I plan to hit a track day or autocross where I will take the S2000 to the edge. This is easily the best cornering car I have ever owned and I want to learn its capabilities in a safe environment.

I don’t think the S2000 “understeers at the limit” but I plan to write that in the next installment just to annoy our Editor pro tempore as he hates that hackneyed auto writer line even more than he hates the S2000. (By the way, San Diego has the best Shrimp pro tempore anywhere.)

 I Now Understand Cordless Radar Detectors

I have no issue with most of the car’s odd ergonomics that others have pointed out. (For example: why do you have to turn the key AND push the start button?) I was however not pleased that the lighter/power outlet was by my right elbow, thus my radar detector’s cord was dangling over the gear shift lever on the 400 mile drive home from the dealer. My solution was to buy a cordless Passport Solo X3, which has proven to be as much of a ticket-avoider as my corded Passport 8500 X50. The battery life is good plus it will be easier to pack so I can use it in rental cars.


This is my last yellow Honda, a 1989 Prelude Si. The DPS officer said he could see me coming a mile away.

My last yellow Honda was a 1989 Prelude Si. The DPS officer said he could see me coming a mile away.


Despite The Color, I Am Still Invisible

This will come as no surprise to S2000, Miata and Bugeye Sprite owners: when you drive a small convertible, other motorists will look right at you and then pull right out in front of you, my blinding Rio Yellow Pearl patina not withstanding. I was once almost punted into the ice plant by a Lexus LX 570. I have always driven with the attitude that every other motorist was blind, but being an S2000 owner means my driving senses are now set at DEFCON 1.

Join The Cult

When you acquire an S2000 there are two rules you must follow: 1. Wave to other S2000 drivers. The Return Wave Factor has been near 100% so far. 2. Join the S2Ki Forum.

This S2000 owner’s board has 124,000 members, contains literally millions of posts and has more pop-ups than “Wac-A-Mole.” I particularly like the Get-Off-My-Lawn Vintage Owner’s section. The forum taught me that I need to install seat locks to prevent my $4000-a-pair leather seats from being stolen and winding up in a purple fart-can Civic or Integra. I was pleased to learn that my car is 1 of only 122 Rio Yellow Pearl 2008 S2000s produced for the US.

Obsession Confession: do you own a scale model replica of your car?

Obsession Confession: do you own a scale model replica of your car?


Posthumous Press

The S2000 has been out of production for four years but the accolades keep pouring in. It appears that auto journos have realized that a sports car so extreme and single-minded might never be duplicated again. A few weeks ago our friends at Japlopnik named it a “Future Classic.” Earlier this year msn autos named the s2000 a Used Car Steal and the website Everyday Drivers compared an 80,000-mile S2000 against a new Scion FR-S and a Mazda RX-8 and the Honda came out on top. The capper was that the S2000 was recently named One Of The 100 Most Attractive Cars Of All Time by those official experts on auto styling, Popular Mechanics.

Buying An S2000

The great pub is probably why S2000 prices are stable-to-rising. Auction giant Manheim projects that the car’s wholesale value will be unchanged one year from now.

There are 519 S2000s for sale today on, with an average asking price of $18,038. (It goes without saying that if you want a trashed or over-modded s2000, shop at craigslist.) If you desire a rare 2009 model (654 produced for the US, 0 on autotrader today) or a 2008/2009 Club Racer edition (699 produced for the US, 2 on autotrader today), you will pay upwards of $30,000, not too bad a return on investment for the sellers considering the original MSRPs were between $34,000 and $36,000. (I paid $24,600 for my babied 2008.)

There are a surprising number of the screaming 9000 rpm-redline 2000 to 2003 AP1 models available with under 20,000 miles, indicating some owners treated them like exotics but you will pay around $20,000 for them. I think finding an unmodified 2004 or 2005 AP2 with 50,000 to 70,000 miles and all the books and records in the mid-to-high teens price range is a good way to go.

There are plenty of nice S2000s for sale but you will likely have to travel to find what you want. There are no consistent mechanical problems reported with the S2000, no surprise due to Honda’s reputation for reliability.

Yellow S2000s Courtesy

In Conclusion…

It has been 15 years since my last Honda and it was a nice bonus to discover that my S2000 has the same perfect body gaps and lack of rattles like my previous Hondas. I keep forgetting I that bought a used car because it literally drives like a new one.

In the end, the S2000 is the finest and most fun sports car I have ever owned. It bests my beloved 1994 Mazda RX-7, if only for the fact that I started having my mail forwarded to my Mazda dealer as I was spending so much time there. I sold the RX-7 after a year but I will be keeping the S2000 for a long time unless, by some miracle, a car company comes along with something better in this price range. The S2000 may have multiple personalities but it stands alone.


Buy it for the transmission alone

A race car for the road

Honda durability

Nit Pics

Digital gauges

Weak sound system

Every ricer wants to race you

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In Japanese Bondage: The Honda Freed Hybrid and the Mazda MPV Wed, 14 Aug 2013 16:21:20 +0000 2011_Honda_Freed_Spike_Hybrid_002_6105

Yesterday, I took a look at the Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear and the Toyota Hi-Ace, the “size queens” of the Japanese market. Today, I decided to look at the odd men out, so to speak, those mini-vans that hit the sweet spot in the market and offer seven seats in a small or mid-sized package. Sticking with that earlier theme, both of these are only available outside of the United States so, sorry, you can’t get them here. But it’s fun to see how other people live so let’s take a look.

As my young family has grown in size and number over the past few years, my in-laws have been absolutely wonderful. When we lived in Japan we saw one another frequently and even today, thought we are half a world away, my wife and her parents Skype at least once a week and we are blessed with their presence in our home usually two or three times per year. Last summer we decided to bless their home with our presence and the whole Kreutzer clan picked up and headed across the Pacific. In preparation for our arrival, my in-laws ran out and purchased a new seven seater and wisely, with an eye towards the fact that most of those seats would be empty most of the time, they went small and they went hybrid.


The Honda Freed is a “compact seven seater” with sliding side doors that is similar in size and function to the Mazda 5 we get stateside. In person it bears a striking resemblance to the most recent incarnation of the Honda Fit, with a steeply sloping nose, a long curving windshield, and a rectangular back half that ends so abruptly it looks like it was cut with a knife. As a Star Trek nerd, the little Freed reminds me very much of one of the small shuttles used in The Next Generation from the outside and on the inside, if it is not overly spacious, it is at least futuristic.


The Freed offers three rows of seating with each of the back two rows slightly elevated in a way that makes the vehicle’s cabin appear to have stadium seating. The third row is even with the rear wheels and my guess is that this arrangement was necessary to fit atop them, but the effect is generally nice and gives the rear passengers a chance to look over the front seats and catch a glimpse out the windshield. I understand that there are second row captain’s chairs available, if they can be called that, but my in-law’s car was outfitted with a three person bench seat. The back row is cramped and only offers space for two. Because the rear seat is so far aft, there is no additional cargo space and no place for a fold-flat seats. To allow space for cargo, the rear seat is split in two allowing each side can be folded and then swing up into a position where they block the rear quarter windows. Personally, I don’t like this arrangement.

I don’t spend a lot of time in Hondas these days so stop me if you already familiar with the two level dash the Freed mounts. It is an odd looking piece at first, but it fits in well with the car’s overall styling. The top of the dash incorporates the instrument bezel and a place for the car’s navigation system while beneath its rounded leading edge a second almost flat shelf comes out and provides space for the climate controls and the gear shift. It is, I think, a little odd but quite refreshing given that the alternative would have simply been a flat panel with a glove box.

hondaFreedhybrid dash

Although I had the opportunity to ride in the Freed on the expressway, where it seemed to do just fine, I did not get to take the wheel until we were safe at home in Kyoto and then my trips were mostly confined to the local area. Around town it was a competent little car that handled the city streets well and accelerated without any kind of drama whenever I hit the gas. All in all, not bad.

But not all of the hybrid systems were so seamless. In order to save gas, at lengthy stoplights the engine would shut itself off if I held my foot on the brake too long and, of course, when the engine turned off so did the air conditioning. That’s a problem on a hot summer day so I began to use the hand brake to hold my position in order to keep the engine running and the air conditioning pumping. Not horrible, but annoying. The other “eco” effect I noticed was how the car acted while coasting. It seemed to me that whenever I took my foot off the gas they car would begin to slow more rapidly than a normal, non-hybrid car might and it the overall effect was that the car seemed as though it was especially heavy for some reason. That said, the effect was predictable and never caused any issues while driving even if I never quite acclimated to it entirely.

I generally liked the Freed well enough but I think there are a lot of other cars on the market I would probably go to before I actually purchased one. With four adults and three children in the cabin, the little car was quite cramped and with all the seats in action there was virtually no space for any kind of luggage. Even without the grandparents, the car was still crowded with my wife and me up front, two kids in the middle and another in the third row. To facilitate a trip to the grocery store we would have to fold up one of the rearmost seats, and I really hate the way they fold up where they block a window and create a possible problem should they somehow, say in the event of a side impact, come loose and fall onto any body parts that might end up in that space in an accident.


I like the idea of a smaller mini-van, but I think we need to acknowledge that larger families need larger size vehicles. In my in-law’s case, the Freed makes a great deal of sense as it offers good economy in a small, easy to drive package while having the extra seats for those times my wife and kids decide to head home for the summer. For daily use, however, about the smallest I would be willing to buy for my own family is another van we can’t get here in the States, the new Mazda MPV.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to start this part of the article by stating right up front that I owned a 2002 JDM Mazda MPV with the 2.3 liter 4 cylinder for the entire three years we lived in Okinawa. Prior to purchasing it, my wife and I spent some time in the then brand new 2006 MPV and I was quite taken by it. It was that experience that sent me to my local Mazda dealer to seek out a used version and it was my inner cheapskate that caused me to end up purchasing a slightly used 2002 for a fraction of the price the redesign was fetching. Regardless of the fact that the design was already “day old bread,” I loved that van and sold it to family when I left just so I could see it when we go home.

2002 mpv

It’s funny how the mind works, because when I was in Japan my MPV seemed like a reasonably large, reasonably well powered vehicle. Back in the United States, however, I soon saw just how small the MPV actually is when compared to other vans and the especially so when compared to the even more giant SUVs that prowl this side of the Pacific. Even so, the earlier generation of MPVs did well in the United States, but I will note that to help satiate the American’s desire for more of everything the smaller 4 cylinder was not available here and only V6 MPVs were sold on our shores.


The 2006 MPV I drove, and yes I know that Mazda still sold MPVs in the USA in 2006 and so I want to stress here that the US got the old version while the Japanese stopped selling that design domestically in 2005, was a handsome, long nosed, low profile vehicle that appeared more like a tall station wagon than a typical mini-van. They came in two flavors, both 2.3 liter four cylinders, one turbo charged, the other not and had any number of features that were typical at the time but, as one commenter who lives in Hong Kong rather astutely pointed out when I mentioned the JDM MPV in some remarks a week or two ago, lack a lot of the more modern electronic and interconnectivity features found in many of the newest vans. Our Canadian enthusiasts, who waxed rhapsodic about the previous model’s four wheel drive capability, will be thrilled to know that the current redesign also features both front and four wheel drive versions.

As those of you who have them in your cars probably know, the Mazda 2.3 liter is a smooth running little engine that does pretty well on the road. The extra weight of the MPV and a load full of passengers does affect the engine, however, and there are times when I found myself working the engine harder than I would normally like. In general, it was serviceable on the highway but I would have enjoyed trying the turbo. Around town, as with virtually all Japanese minivans, the engine was more than sufficient.


Inside, the MPV was a good combination of “get the job done” practicality and pure class. I liked that the gear selector was not on the dash next to the wheel but was located below it on a small protruding console on the lower part of the dash. Above that, the climate controls were prominent and intuitive and, topping the center stack and tucked neatly between a pair of vents, was the navigation/audio screen. In front of the driver, in a blatant display of Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom philosophy, back lit analog gauges included a large, easy to read tachometer alongside a matching speedometer. There are several seating options available and they run from the totally practical cloth covered three row bench to the highest-end full leather recliners you can get. There is no doubt in my mind that the MPV’s primary mission is to move people in comfort and style and that utility, which is still present thanks to a fold-flat rear seat and the well in the floor that swallowing that seat necessitates, comes in a close second.

mpv seats

On the road, the current MPV is not as easy to drive as many of the larger, taller JDM vans currently on the market. Because it is has a longer nose, the driver sits well behind the front wheels and the overall driving dynamic is quite car-like. Also, thanks to a lower greenhouse, the windows too are slightly smaller than the enormous ones available on more typical high-end JDM people movers like the Elgrand and the Alphard and that makes it slightly more difficult to see out of. Handling and the ride is good and the driving experience is reminiscent of a large, full size luxury car. I like it.

The MPV is all about compromise and, unlike many compromises I have been forced to make during my life, the trade-offs made in its design do not end up giving away all the good in favor of all the bad. The design offers seven seats and sliding doors with the handling dynamics of a large car. It gives up overall height, which is bad because it limits the driver’s view but also good because it eliminates the sail area that sends most mini-vans skittering across the freeway on gusty days. It sits the driver further back in the cabin than most vans, which I think makes it more difficult to drive in tight situations but gives an added sense of comfort and control. I think the MPV would do wonderfully on the American market and I would purchase one in a heartbeat.

It’s a shame we don’t get either of these wonderful people movers stateside. They both strike a perfect balance by being big on the inside and small on the outside and, in doing so, are exactly what a mini-van is supposed to be. To wrap up, both of these mighty minis are decent vehicles that would probably draw people into showrooms in the United States, but only one, the Mazda MPV, would make my short list of mini-vans. If only they were sold here. If only…


Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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