The Truth About Cars » Honda http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:58:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Honda http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Beijing 2014: Honda Concept B http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/beijing-2014-honda-concept-b/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/beijing-2014-honda-concept-b/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:37:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=807986 honda-concept-b

 

This China-only concept, which previews a new small car that Honda will build just for that market, is the kind of product that Honda enthusiasts have been clamoring for.

The Concept B looks like Honda’s take on the Hyundai Veloster. No powertrain details were announced, but perhaps Honda will be kind enough to forgo the hybrid system that they saddled the CR-Z with – and bring it to North America as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Honda factory in Celaya, Mexico

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

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

 

2015 Honda Fit Body + Chassis


fit_bar_4

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

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

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

 

2015 Honda Fit Earth Dreams Drivetrain


fit-engine

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015 Honda Fit Earth Dreams Interior + Trim


2015 Honda Fit Interior

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

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

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

 

Honda Fit seat modes

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

 

2015 Honda Fit Pricing


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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

windmill_1

… the Yaris was simply no match for the Honda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

$17,435.

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

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

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

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

 

2015 Honda Fit in Red


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

 

2015 Honda Fit in Yellow


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

 

Originally published on Gas 2.

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Hammer Time: Might As Well Go For A Soda http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/hammer-time-might-as-well-go-for-a-soda/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/hammer-time-might-as-well-go-for-a-soda/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:56:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793313 Click here to view the embedded video.

“Steve, what car should I buy?”

“Well, if I give you the real answer, you’ll roll your eyes and buy what you want anyway.”

“No really. I’m open to new ideas.”

“Okay then! Buy a 2012 Malibu. Buy a Buick Park Avenue. Buy a Dodge Raider or buy a Suzuki Equator.”

“Ummm… are you sure about that?”

“Hell no! Now go buy me a soda and buy yourself a Camry!”

A lot of enthusiasts give grief to the mainstream publications in this business. Sometimes I kinda don’t get why because to be brutally blunt, the “best car”  is usually firmly planted in the third row of most folk’s priorities when it comes to buying their next car.

For all the manufacturers desires to offer power, performance and utility together in one great vehicle, most of the general public just doesn’t care.

They usually want a brand first. Looks second. Then there’s fuel economy, safety, perceived quality… and a long, long list of excuses to get away from the less popular alternatives.

The best new car is rarely the best selling car in this business. There are Mazdas that I love which have a snowballs chance in hell of taking on the Toyotas and Chevys. Even if they do a far better job of checking off most consumer’s real world priorities, it’s a moot point and an inevitable outcome.

If Volvo came out with a breakthrough product, I seriously doubt that most shoppers of prestige brands would even remotely consider it. Never mind that there are plenty of reputable sources out there that can help dispel those myths as to which models now offer the best bang for the buck. Volvo no longer ranks in the pantheons of marketplace leaders. Case closed.

Even when mainstream publication have the gall to endorse an Oldsmobile or a Suzuki over a Camry or an Accord, the result of that neighborly advice is that people just won’t take it.

Why? People are brand loyal, and they are bias loyal.

Click here to view the embedded video.

That Ford station wagon that killed Aunt Edna’s dog 35 years ago?  Well, that just means Detroit cars are pure crap. Never mind that carsurvey, TrueDelta, and even the long-term reliability index I am co-developing have disproved a lot of those myths.

Cadillac can’t ever match a Mercedes. Mercedes isn’t as good as a Lexus. Lexus isn’t as good as a BMW. On and on through the merry go round of biases and BS until you can’t help but SAAB at the futility of recommending a great car at a steal of a price.

Kizashi! What? Exactly. It’s a great car if you play around with a stickshift version. You say you’re an enthusiast… but then when I recommend a stick version, you look at me like I’m from Mars.

The truth is that enthusiast cars don’t sell. The best cars for pure driving enjoyment, don’t sell. The Miata has been shucked in the low 10k range of annual sales for a long time now. Mustangs? An ungodly sales decline. There are some who blame these types of things on demographics or the police state. But I have a third theory.

American tastes increasingly resemble the American interstate. There is a sameness and sadness to the menu which is dictating that the best cars are psychologically unaccessible. Nobody wants to get off the straight and dull road that leads to the Camcrods, the Cor-antr-ics and the American badged truck.

Are all those models good? Well, yeah. But good seldom equals love. You want love? Go tear down a bias and rediscover why a great car is worthy buying.

Don’t forget the radar detector.

P.S. :  Feel free to share your thoughts below on great cars that have missed that elusive mark of mainstream acceptance over the years. I am going to be spending most of today getting a bonded title for a 21 year old Cadillac limousine. I will need intensive comic relief thanks to the interminable tortures that come with taking care of that type of title issue at the DMV. So please, feel free to share your stories and insights. I can always be reached directly at steve.lang@thetruthaboutcars.com .

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Piston Slap: Crystal Ballin’ With Yo Tranny! (Part II) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-crystal-ballin-with-yo-tranny-part-ii/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-crystal-ballin-with-yo-tranny-part-ii/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 12:24:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=789569 Anything is Possible... (photo courtesy: http://theinspirationroom.com)

Aaron writes:

Hey Sajeev,

Huge fan of TTAC and the piston slap articles. My problem is that I noticed my car(2007 honda civic)would shudder, under light throttle and low rpms especially when going up a slight slope. This usually happens at 30km/hr or 40km/hr. I took it to the honda dealer(4 months ago) and he said the torque converter(tc) needs to be replaced(300 for tc plus 900 for labour and stuff).

My university got a bit busy and I took some time to think about it. The problem might be slightly worse now so I recently went back to the dealer to get more details about the cost and now they are saying the price of the tc has increased to 800 plus another 800 for labour. The guy suggested maybe just changing the transmission fluid(because it is starting to get dark) and driving the car until it fails and getting a new transmission for $3000 because the transmission will probably go out soon anyway.

I’m not sure what to do now. I’m considering going to a transmission shop and see if they can change the tc, but I’m worried about going to a random mechanic. I know a small time mechanic whom I go to for small stuff but I’m not sure if his shop is capable of swapping the tc(is it that complicated?). I have also looked online and found other people saying that if the torque converter is failing, the transmission is probably going to go soon. Some other people have said that if the torque converter fails, it could take out the rest of the transmission which might have been working fine otherwise. I then found another group of people saying that I should just drive the car without changing the transmission fluid because even changing the fluid could cause the transmission to fail sooner.

I just want to know which of these are actually true and what should my next course of action be. If the torque converter can be changed for a reasonable price and my transmission keeps working, I would like to do that. Or maybe I should see if I can get the entire transmission rebuilt or replaced.

Thank you,
Aaron

P.S: Not sure if this matters, but the car once overheated severely (about 3 years ago) and about half the engine had to be replaced under warranty. The engine has been running smoothly since then and the only other problem is that recently(2 months ago) my engine starter and battery had to be replaced. The battery connectors also look pretty bad so I’m going to replace that soon. Hmmm maybe I should just sell my car.

Sajeev answers:

Oh great, another mystery box transaxle/crystal ballin’ yo tranny problem: one day the B&B will string me up for these blind guesses.

That said, on a more serious note, how many miles are on the Civic?

Aaron responds:

Hey Sajeev,

Thanks for the quick reply. It has 156,000 km(96,000 miles). Admittedly, the car has been driven pretty hard. I just did a quick stall speed test(mashing the brake and hitting the throttle) and the revs went up to 2,500rpm in both drive and reverse. That seems pretty normal. I drove around trying to recreate the problem(Light throttle and flat roads or slight inclines).

It happens at:

  • 15 or 20km/h (9 or 12mph)
  • 30ish km/h (18mph)
  • 40ish km/h (25mph)
  • And at 55ish km/h (34.18mph), the shuddering is only minor at this speed

There is also a sound when this happens, it sounds like metal spinning against metal in a liquid. However, this sound can only be heard if the shuddering is not too violent. If it is violent, it just sounds like the car kind of wants to stall. I checked the transmission fluid and it looks pretty brown and has a slight burning smell. If the car is accelerating faster( atleast above 2000rpm), it feels like there is no problem. Also no problem when slowing down.
Thank you,
Aaron

Sajeev concludes:

Great assessment!  At this age (under 100k miles) odds are new and correct fluid will solve it: flush the old fluid out of the converter and also drop the pan to change the filter. Which might be asking a lot for many shops, but I’d want all the old ATF out of the system. So will this cure the problem?  Will thoroughly removing varnished ATF cause even more problems than a shudder?

Maybe on both counts.  Or maybe one and not the other.  See how much fun this is for me?

My best guess: do as the dealer said, change the fluid. If it fails, get a rebuilt transaxle from a Honda savvy shop.  Because opening up a transaxle for anything and not doing a rebuild is likely a waste of time, labor and money.

It’s usually best to prolong that moment with anything…including a fluid change. Even if the fluid change actually shortens the tranny’s lifespan. So much fun!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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QOTD: Honda Insight Failed Because Of Marketing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-honda-insight-failed-because-of-marketing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-honda-insight-failed-because-of-marketing/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 21:47:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=789305 2010_Honda_Insight_LX_--_10-03-2009

Did the second-generation Honda Insight fail in the marketplace because of a lack of marketing resources? If you said “yes”, then you may want to look at a gig at American Honda.

Speaking to Ward’s Auto Honda’s Jeff Conrad, the Insight, which was generally regarded as a far cry from the class-leading Toyota Prius, failed not because of its rather coarse hybrid system or its Prius-aping styling, but from the lack of marketing resources. Said Conrad

“We had an initial launch, we spent a few dollars, but then we wanted to grow volume in other places, and that’s where the marketing dollars went.”

Far from the 90,000 units Honda aimed for annually, the Insight sold just under 21,000 units in 2010, its best year ever.  Meanwhile, Prius is to hybrid as Hoover is to vacuum cleaner.

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Honda Vezel Becomes HR-V In USA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/honda-vezel-becomes-hr-v-in-usa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/honda-vezel-becomes-hr-v-in-usa/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 04:36:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=788618 2015-Honda-Vezel-Main-Art3
Automotive News is reporting that Honda is reviving an old, but unused moniker for their new small crossover.

Honda fansite Temple of VTEC originally reported that Honda will ditch the “Vezel” name for North America, instead dubbing their new B-segment CUV the “HR-V”. This finding seems to be confirmed by AN, which found trademark filings for the moniker.

Like the Vezel, the original HR-V was positioned below the CR-V, though it never was exported to North America. For a Honda, its design was fairly progressive, though it was likely too small and too slow to succeed in the size-obsessed North American market in the early 2000′s.

This time, things are different. Crossovers, not SUVs, are the hot new thing, displacing sales of more traditional B, C and D segments. Honda will produce the HR-V at its new Mexican plant, which is set up to build both the Fit and the HR-V. And with the B-segment crossover space heating up, the HR-V is a well timed move for Honda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ILX vs Verano 4

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

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

FiestaSTEngine1

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

Civic-Type-R-Concept-03 Civic-Type-R-Concept-08 Civic-Type-R-Concept-12 Civic-Type-R-Concept-13 Civic-Type-R-Concept-15 Civic-Type-R-Concept-16 Civic-Type-R-Concept-18 ]]>
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In Defense Of: The Honda CR-V http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/in-defense-of-the-honda-cr-v/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/in-defense-of-the-honda-cr-v/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 15:17:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=760329 2012-Honda-CR-V_04-550x366

I’ve spent a fair amount of time driving and writing about crossovers. It’s not exactly the way I wanted things to work out, but we can’t all be Chris Harris. Having spent the last few months behind the wheel of the segment’s big players, I’ve come to a conclusion that seems to be a frequent theme of my automotive recommendations: what I’d pick for myself is not what I’d recommend to anyone else.

Having just had seat time with an Ecoboost-powered Escape and a Mazda CX-5, I am pretty sure that if I ever needed some kind of two-box vehicle, those would be at the top of my list. Both the Escape and the CX-5 are the only entrants that could be called “fun to drive” with a straight face. The Ecoboost powered versions of the Escape have plenty of power and decent chassis dynamics, while the Mazda trades some of that grunt for a much better chassis, and an overall car-like feeling. The Escape gets pretty awful fuel economy, while both are hobbled by frustrating infotainment systems – the Mazda’s looks like something from the 32-bit era of video gaming, while the Escape’s options range from “unusable” to “distracted driving hazard waiting to happen”.

I could find a way to cope with their respective quirks, but that’s because I value some kind of driver engagement, no matter what kind of car it is. The CX-5 would make a great daily driver for someone like me. But I am not most people. Most people don’t care about how a crossover drives. If they’re asking for advice on any car, it likely means that they need the simplest, most trouble-free experience possible. If they’re asking for advice on a crossover, it’s probably somebody in Daniel Latini’s shoes, who has a young family, and is looking for something that makes their life easier.

This is where the Honda CR-V comes in. I’ve driven the CR-V plenty of times. It’s about as exciting to drive as eating Bran Flakes. The interior looks like a more contemporary version of 1990′s Honda fare (lots of hard plastic, plenty of buttons). It’s a little noisy and a little down on power, like most Hondas tend to be. But it’s one of the most brilliantly packaged CUVs ever created.

Rather than lift objects up and into the cargo compartment, the floor sits at about knee height, eliminating the much of the strenuous motion required to put strollers and suitcases into the cargo area. For anyone who has to load and unload something like a stroller or suitcases, it’s a wonderfully thoughtful touch. If more room is required, a pull-tab located on the rear seatback will let the rear bench fold with just one pull. No fiddling with headrests and levers – it’s easily accessible from the cargo compartment and takes two seconds. The cherry on top for the CR-V’s triad of useful gadgets is a backup camera, which was integrated with the navigation unit on our EX-L test car. The backup camera has three modes; a standard view, a wide-angle lens and a 90 degree downward view, akin to a periscope, that gives the driver a better view of protruding objects (pillars, poles and the like) that can cause expensive bumper damage with only light contact.

Instead of going for the Ford or Mazda route with fancy tech or engaging dynamics, Honda chose to focus on little incremental improvements, things that will sell the car on the showroom floor during the dealer’s sales pitch. It seems to be working. The CR-V was the best-selling crossover last year, with over 300,000 units moving off showroom floors. I don’t expect that lead to evaporate any time soon. As long as people like Daniel come knocking for advice, my recommendation will stay the same.

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Honda Insight Gets The Axe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/honda-insight-gets-the-axe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/honda-insight-gets-the-axe/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 15:13:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=755089 2010_Honda_Insight_LX_--_10-03-2009

Sales of the slow-selling Honda Insight will end, with Bloomberg reporting that production will end this month. Despite being released before the Toyota Prius, the Insight has lagged far behind it in sales.

 

While the Prius is the best-selling hybrid of all time, the second generation Insight has been heavily criticized for delivering an inferior driving experience and using a less sophisticated hybrid system. Sales of the Honda Civic Hybrid have far outstripped the Insight, with inventories ballooning to 237 days worth of supply, according to data from Automotive News. The equally slow-selling CR-Z could conceivably meet a similar fate in the not too distant future. Here’s hoping that the Fit Hybrid takes up the slack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Piston Slap: In Praise of the 2005 Honda CR-V http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/piston-slap-in-praise-of-the-2005-honda-cr-v/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/piston-slap-in-praise-of-the-2005-honda-cr-v/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 16:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=752977 Chris writes:

Dear Sajeev,

Back in 2005 I purchased a new Honda CR-V. It recently rolled over 200,000 miles. It has never given me any trouble or needed anything but normally scheduled service and the usual wear items (tires, brakes, battery). It has survived the New England winters rust free. Most importantly, it’s paid for.

Is there anything proactive I should do to keep it on the road, maybe even for another 100K? I don’t mind investing now if it will save me major repairs later. As trouble-free as it’s been I can’t see replacing it (nor am I in a position to right now), but given the mileage I feel like I should be waiting for that other shoe to drop!

Sajeev answers:

Wow…recanting Monday’s Piston Slap kinda sounds like a good idea now. The CR-V laughs at our Rust Belt Woes!

Probably the best things you can do (outside of regular servicing) is keeping your ride as pretty (wax/detail at the minimum) and as nice to drive (new shocks/springs) as possible.

The former is obvious: you want a vehicle with decent curb appeal, otherwise you’re driving a mere winter beater year ’round.  Even if that doesn’t bother you, why let it get worse when you don’t have to? Pride in your Ride…Son!

The latter can keep the suspension at its ideal geometry, preventing excess wear as its bones get older.  And new shocks make sure those old bones don’t cycle up/down unnecessarily, in theory.  Plus, it’ll ride and handle like new again. Which is the textbook definition of an “added perk.”  So what else is left that you may never notice until it’s too late?

  • Replace all rubber hoses at your next coolant flush. (even the ones to the heater!)
  • Replace engine serpentine belt.
  • Inspect all vacuum lines for cracks/brittleness/gooey-ness.
  • Upgrade your speakers (with the cheaper side of the aftermarket) so you can hear what you’ve missed, or shall miss.
  • Replace headlight bulbs, odds are the filaments are far from their original efficiency.
  • Lubricate weatherstripping with silicone spray lubricant, slick up door hinges/latches with something the factory recommends.
  • Shampoo carpets.

I’ve probably left plenty on the table for the Best and Brightest…so off we go!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Honda Accord Is America’s Best-Selling Car – With Retail Customers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/honda-accord-is-americas-best-selling-car-with-retail-customers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/honda-accord-is-americas-best-selling-car-with-retail-customers/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 21:17:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=751513 550x366x2013-Honda-Accord-EX-005-550x366.jpg.pagespeed.ic.DmlRlcKdR_

Although the Honda Accord finished second to the Toyota Camry in the official sales rankings, Honda is touting the Accord’s dominance in retail sales, which accounted for 98 percent of overall Accord sales. By contrast, Bloomberg reports that Toyota’s retail mix for the Camry was 84 percent, with 342,007 Camrys ending up in the hands of retail customers. The Accord sold 360,089 units at retail.

Retail sales are more profitable for auto makers, and contribute to better resale value, but many OEMs rely on fleet sales to move inventory. Many mainstream auto makers conduct significant fleet sales programs for government and daily rental fleets, with Honda being a notable exception. While Honda has dabbled in fleet sales before (the much-maligned 2012 Civic being one example) the company still had no central fleet office.

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

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

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

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

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

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-002

Interior

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

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

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Instrument Cluster-001

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

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

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Infotainment-002

Infotainment

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

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

Front Wheel Drive Biased

Drivetrain

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

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

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-005

Pricing

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

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

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-004

Drive

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

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

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

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-010

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

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

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-008

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

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

 

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 7.0 Seconds

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69 db

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 47.8 MPG over 835 miles.

 

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Upstart Tesla Makes the Top 5 in Consumer Reports’ Brand Perception Survey http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/upstart-tesla-makes-the-top-5-in-consumer-reports-brand-perception-survey/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/upstart-tesla-makes-the-top-5-in-consumer-reports-brand-perception-survey/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 09:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=734649 tesla-model-s-logo

Toyota is an old family firm. Ford is 111 years old. Chevrolet celebrated its centennial not long ago. Mercedes-Benz traces its lineage back to the 19th century. Though not 100 years old like those companies, Honda has been around for more than a half century. In Consumer Reports’ latest brand perception survey, Tesla Motors, a relative neophyte car company barely a decade old, has elbowed its way past Mercedes-Benz for a spot in the top 5 automobile brands assigned points for quality, safety, value, design and technology. The results are based on a poll of 1,578 vehicle owners. CR had earlier named the Tesla Model S electric car as among the very best it has ever tested.

Tesla jumped to 5th in the survey, up from 11th last year and follows Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chevrolet in that order.

“Consumers are influenced by word of mouth, marketing and hands-on experience,” Jeff Bartlett, Consumer Reports deputy automotive editor, said in a statement. “Perception can be a trailing indicator, reflecting years of good or bad performance in a category, and it can also be influenced by headlines in the media.”

In addition to giving the Model S the highest score ever given in their testing , the magazine said in November that the Model S also placed first in its owner satisfaction poll.

While Mercedes-Benz fell to 7th place in the survey, Toyota not only stayed in first place, it widened its lead over second place, which this year is occupied by Ford, as Honda fell to third place. Subaru jumped from 13th to 6th, while Hyundai and Dodge fell out of the top 10. Jaguar, Land Rover and Maserati had the lowest brand rankings.

Full report here (PDF).

Consumer Reports Auto Brand Perception results
Brand Weighted Total Score
Toyota 145.4
Ford 120.4
Honda 108.6
Chevrolet 105.2
Tesla 88
Subaru 86.6
Mercedes-Benz 82.5
Volvo 80.4
Cadillac 77.8
BMW 73.4
Buick 59.3
GMC 56.4
Audi 54
Nissan 53.6
Smart 52.9
Dodge 52.9
Lexus 51.9
Volkswagen 49.8
Hyundai 40.9
Kia 39.7
Lamborghini 37.4
Chrysler 33.9
Bentley 33
Lincoln 31.4
Ferrari 31.3
Mazda 28.3
Acura 28.1
Porsche 24.8
Fiat 24.4
Jeep 23.4
Infiniti 22
Mitsubishi 20.8
Mini 20.6
Ram 17.2
Scion 16.8
Rolls-Royce 11.2
Jaguar 9.2
Maserati 8.5
Land Rover 3.9
Source: Consumer Reports National Research Center

 

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2014 Honda Civic Hybrid On Sale Across U.S., CNG Civic to be Offered in 37 States http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/2014-honda-civic-hybrid-on-sale-across-u-s-cng-civic-to-be-offered-in-37-states/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/2014-honda-civic-hybrid-on-sale-across-u-s-cng-civic-to-be-offered-in-37-states/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 18:30:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=733393 2014-Honda-Civic-Natural-Gas

Honda has announced that the hybrid gas-electric version of the 2014 Civic is now available across the United States and that later this month the compressed natural gas powered Civic will join the lineup in 37 states. The hybrid is rated by the EPA at 44/47/45 city/highway/combined miles per gallon while the CNG Civic is rated at 31 mpg across the board. Prices start at $24,635 for the hybrid and $26,640 for the CNG model.

The natural gas powered Civic comes with a $3,000 fuel credit that can be used at Clean Energy refueling stations. Clean Energy is the largest network of CNG stations in the U.S. If you live in an area not served by Clean Energy, your Civic CNG will come with a $2,000 prepaid debit card that you can use at other CNG stations.

The Civic CNG will not be sold in Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Honda Exported More Vehicles From U.S. Than It Imported Here in 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/honda-exported-more-vehicles-from-u-s-than-it-imported-here-in-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/honda-exported-more-vehicles-from-u-s-than-it-imported-here-in-2013/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 16:11:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=726890 Honda_Produces_1_Millionth_ExportThe year 2013 was a record year for exports of U.S. made cars and light trucks and for the first time in its history, in 2013 Honda Motor Co. exported more vehicles from its American assembly plants than it imported into the United States from Japan. According to Automotive NewsHonda exported 108,705 Honda and Acura vehicles that were made in the U.S. while it imported 88,537 units from Japan and other countries.

In a statement, Tetsuo Iwamura, president and CEO of Honda North America said, “Achieving net-exporter status is a natural result of our commitment and investment in the U.S. and North America.” Honda’s North American production went up 5% in 2013, to 1.78 million vehicles, a calendar year record. Honda’s exports from the United States are sold in over 50 countries, with Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United Arab Emirates being the best export markets for U.S. built Hondas.]

Honda’s U.S. facilities assembled 1.3 million vehicles in 2013, an increase of 7% over the previous year. Honda’s Marysville, Ohio assembly plant was th3e first attempt by a Japanese automobile manufacturer to build cars or truck in the United States. Today, almost 95% of Honda and Accord branded vehicles sold in the U.S. are assembled in North America. Next month the company will begin assembly at its 8th North American assembly plant in Celaya, Mexico, raising total capacity on the continent to 1.92 million cars and light trucks.

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Piston Slap: Overhyped Hybrid Analysis Paralysis? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/725066/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/725066/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 16:02:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=725066 Click here to view the embedded video.

Mishie writes:

Hi -

I love your blog. Its been an invaluable resource in my efforts to purchase a car. I have a pretty long daily commute and I’m a bit of a greenie so I’m really interested in purchasing a hybrid. I’ve looked at a number of models including the new Honda Accord hybrid but I’ve hesitated in buying the model I really wanted – the Prius – because of reports of acceleration and braking issues. Do those issues still persist?

I’m also pretty partial to the Lexus RX450 but since its a Toyota, I’m guessing its plagued with the same issues. I’ve looked at the Ford Fusion (not entirely sold on its reliability), the Honda Accord (too new and no room for a spare tire), and the Hyundai Sonata (read about their braking issues also). Is there a reliable hybrid out there? I have very little aptitude for mechanics so feel free to respond as if I’m ten. LOL!

Thanks,
Mishie

Sajeev answers:

Don’t worry, there are no stupid questions…provided they aren’t addressed to Sanjeev. But I digress…

That said, drop everything and go buy a Prius now!  Are you letting recalls and the media frenzy around unintended acceleration stopping you?  If on the remote chance this happens, put the vehicle in neutral and regain your sanity.  Because unintended acceleration can happen to anyone.  Try to kill the panic as fast as possible, and get the car under control with a flick of the shift lever. Okay?

And what of the Prius braking problems?  Done.  Over.  They certainly replaced a bad part/design and “bled” the brake lines to make sure everything works correctly. For decades now, braking systems incorporate safeguards (like multichannel brake fluid distribution) to keep this from being a life threatening problem. And they don’t call it an emergency brake for no reason!

Stop worrying about problems commonplace in the car biz, or continue to worry and take the bus. Put another way: there are NO BAD CARS. Even the Smart Car isn’t necessarily bad. And while Land Rovers are unreliable wallet killers and Corollas are perfect to the point of boredom, the differences between a “good” car and a “bad” car are nearasdamnit to statistically insignificant.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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