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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Car salesmen call buyers like me, “squirrels.” It seems like whenever I buy a new car, I pull a handbrake 180 turn at the last moment and purchase a completely different vehicle than originally planned. Last week I was so close to buying a new Mustang GT with the Track Package that a friend at Ford was poised to set me up with an insider deal. The only problem was I seemed to have forgotten that this will not be my daily driver so why was I analyzing SYNC Packages, luggage space, resale value and the like?
I regrouped and asked myself two questions: which vehicle will have the soul of the two most fun cars I have ever owned, the 1994 Mazda RX-7 and the 1988 Honda CRX-Si? Why do I live in sunny San Diego and have never owned a convertible? The halogens went off in my head. As fate would have it, a dealer I know had just traded for the exact car I wanted. Say hello to my little yellow friend.
People assume that car companies know their competition’s every move, as if there was some sort of mission impossible crew sent in every weekend to monitor R&D progress. While some less-than-ethical information exchange goes on, on the whole, a car manufacturer like Honda finds out what the competition’s latest widget looks when we do. Need proof? Look at the [s]2011, 2012,[/s] 2013 Honda Civic. The 9th generation Civic was intended to début as a 2011, but the financial implosion caused Honda to go back and re-work their compact car as a 2012 to keep prices low. In the perpetual game of auto-leapfrog, Honda miscalculated the direction Ford, Hyundai, Kia (and perhaps even Nissan) were headed. The result was bashed by Consumer Reports and raked across the coals by most of the press. Did buyers care? Apparently not. The 2012 Civic was purchased in impressive quantities by real-people. Honda could have found solace in their sales, but instead they did something unusual: they re-re-redesigned the Civic for 2013. Say what?
Our last look at the Accord was back in September when we ran a two-parter ( part 1, part 2) after being invited to the launch event. Yes, shockingly our invite wasn’t lost in the mail. As TTAC has said in the past, there are problems with launch events. Usually you’re running around in a pre-production car that may not be “quite right” yet, you have to split your driving time with some dude from another publication (shout out to Hooniverse on that trip). Drive time is limited, and exclusively done on roads selected by the manufacturer. Sometimes you don’t get the trim level you want either. What I wanted was one step up from the base model, the mainstream EX and I wanted it on the same roads I’ve driven the other Camcord competitors. Here’s that review.
TTAC’s fascination with all things Chinese mandates that we get our hands on the first Chinese car to be sold on North American shores, lest we betray our mandate. That first example happened to come from Honda – and the Made In China Fit you see here might be the one vehicle most true to the company’s roots.
Five days ago we released the first part of the 2013 Accord review. It’s not how we normally do things, but in order to get our hands on the second best-selling mid-size sedan in America we had to agree to keep you all in suspense. If you want to know about the new Accord’s drivetrain, interior and infotainment systems, click on over to part one and then head back here when you’re done. I promise we’ll wait for you.
Redesigning the second best-selling midsize sedan in America is no easy task. It’s also one that doesn’t happen very often for fear of getting it wrong. Still, even with all the bad press the new Civic received, sales have been booming. By all appearances this has not made Honda sit on their hands however when it came to the new Accord. Honda invited us to Santa Barbara to sample the all-new, smaller, 9th generation Honda Accord. This is a bold launch event with not just a new engine and transmission under the hood, but an all new hybrid technology on offer as well. If you want to know how it drives, or how much it costs, our Honda overlords have decreed our lips must be sealed until the 10th at 6AM Eastern. Set yourself a reminder then click-through the jump for part one.
Remember 1985? If you were paying attention to cars, then the then-new Civic Si and Mk2 Jetta GLI were on your radar. Which did you prefer? For the 2012 model year both cars are again new. One of them has changed surprisingly little. The other, though it retains some choice bits, has perhaps lost the plot.
About one third of all cars sold in Japan are an oddity: Cars for midgets. Kei cars. Limited in size (11.2 by 4.9 ft), displacement (40 cid), and power (63hp). “Americans won’t buy them,” says our contact at Honda who meets us in the basement garage of Honda’s headquarters in Tokyo. “Americans want big.” We are here to test whether a Kei car can be pressed into duty as the epitome of big, as a chauffeured limousine.
“We,” that is Martin Koelling, East Asia correspondent of Germany’s Handelsblatt, and I. Martin already excelled as a very capable driver at our from-the-backseat test of the Lexus GS 350 F Sport. That was in the serene setting of Kagoshima. Today, we are in the 13 million metropolis of Tokyo.
I have been around many cars in my life. My favorite part is the backseat, and my favorite drive is to be driven. I quickly learned that “driver, why don’t you raise the partition” signals the most fun one can have in a car. But how much fun can you have in a Kei, a car that is normally not associated with party space, except among anchovies?
Despite accounting for an incredibly small percentage of new car sales in America, the EV is all the rage in California. Rather than starting from scratch and designing an all-new car from the ground up (like Nissan), Honda chose the more economical route and electrified the second-generation Honda Fit. On the surface, the recipe sounds like a slam dunk, since the Fit is one of Honda’s most attractive and most fun to drive models now on sale. To prove to the masses that Honda has what it takes to go green, they flew me out to Pasadena to sample the all-new, all-blue Fit EV.
Since 1998 Honda has been quietly producing one of the cleanest vehicles in America. In 2001 the EPA called its engine “the cleanest burning internal combustion engine in the world.” No, it’s not a hybrid, it’s Honda’s Civic Natural Gas (formerly known as the Civic GX). Until now, the Civic Natural Gas has only been available for retail sale in a handful of states like California and New York. For 2012, Honda expanded sales to 37 states and lent us one for a week.
More than just a mere model, the Honda Civic is an institution. With 9 million examples sold on American shores, and nearly 20 million worldwide, calling it “Honda’s most important car” doesn’t express the importance of getting the 2012 redesign right. Michael got his hands on the EX model last May, but today we’re looking at the green poster child of the Honda line-up. Visit TTAC next week as we get gaseous with the Civic CNG.
In a very small way, my family was involved in bringing the Honda CR-V to North America. As Honda hemmed and hawed about bringing their first in-house SUV to the continent, they quietly shipped over a few right-hand drive examples in late 1995 for employees to evaluate. As a car guy with two kids, my father, who was Honda’s in-house attorney at the time, was a perfect candidate, and got the bright blue CR-V for a few days. Festooned with chrome accents, graffiti-like graphics, a JDM fender mirror and brush bars, the right-hand drive CR-V got lots of attention. The CR-V finally came to North America two years later, without all the awful acoutrements that Japanese versions had in spades.
“Hey Brendan,” runs the e-mail from our illustrious ed., Ed, “I was wondering if you wanted to take on the most challenging story I’m currently facing: making the new Honda CR-V interesting.”
“Don’t get taken in by the free bacon!”
Wait, what now? Free bacon? I’M THERE.
For years Chrysler owned the minivan market. It helped that GM and Ford kept trying much different approaches, failing miserably each time. Then, for the 1999 model year, Honda introduced the second-generation Odyssey. Though Chrysler continues to sell nearly twice as many minivans as Honda, many of these are to fleets. Also, even at retail the Honda sells at a much higher average transaction price, indicating which minivan car buyers find the most desirable. With its redesign for 2011, does the Odyssey remain the most lustworthy minivan?
After reading Tal Bronfer’s review of the Euro spec Honda CR-Z, I made arrangements to get a North American model for a week. The car arrived the same day that Michael Karesh’s second review of the CR-Z ran on TTAC. Instead of a third review, Ed and I discussed doing a comparison with an original CRX and seeing what CRX fans think of the CR-Z. Well, it didn’t work out that way ….
Once upon a time I wanted a Pontiac Fiero. Then the original Honda CRX awakened me to the joys of driving a small car sideways. It was what the Fiero, similarly pitched as an economical commuter, should have been. In comparison, even the second-generation CRX seemed too large, too refined, and disappointingly dull. Fast forward a quarter century, and the Honda Insight is perhaps the most disappointing car I’ve driven in recent years. So when Honda announced that it would base a new two-seater on the Insight, and call it the CR-Z, I fearfully predicted that it would look like the CRX, but drive like the Insight. And?
It’s now way past bedtime, and I’m driving the new Honda CR-Z in one of those neighborhoods you wouldn’t be making your evening stroll in. Heads turn, necks stretch, fingers point. Blacked out windows of blacked out SUVs are rolled down. Everybody on the street seems to approve Honda’s new creation, but no one knows it’s a hybrid.
It was a gloomy April afternoon when I “won” my first “race”. Hours before, I had stood among a nervous, shuffling group of men as Tommy Byrne, the mercurial, self-destructive, and inhumanly talented Competition Director of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, had explained what we would need to do to survive his “comp school”: Don’t crash the car, make sure you follow the rules, and don’t drive too slowly. Simple as that. I did not know at the time that I would finish the season with a controversial demotion down the podium of the NASA National Championship, and I certainly did not know that not all of the men around me would survive our first year racing together. I just knew that I wanted to win everything I could.
My car for that comp school was #26 in Mid-Ohio’s fleet of five-speed, four-cylinder Acura TSX A-Specs. (Correction: this was a six-speed. I never got it up to sixth. Thanks to hans007) Although I’ve raced other Hondas since, from the Pakistan Express ’89 Civic Si to the Compass 360R Mugen-motored Grand-Am ’08 Civic Coupe, that tough little sedan is burned into my mind. With this week’s announcement that Mid-Ohio has returned its fleet of 2006 TSX A-Specs to Honda, I thought I would take a moment to share my memories of the car with you. It’s depressing to consider, but in many ways that TSX was the last truly good Honda to come to these shores.
What is the purpose of the Crosstour? I asked as I waited for my test car to be readied. Pause. Finally an answer, The Crosstour is now the high-end Accord. It is designed to compete with the Toyota Venza. Ah, I get it: monkey see monkey do. What better way to give the marque a kick in the shorts than to pinch an idea from the market leader. And so they did. Almost. Partly. Sort of.
There are guys at my gym that work out hard, three times a day, chiseling their chests and abs to perfection, compensating for the fact that God didn’t give them High School Musical faces. They are masterpieces of strength, structure – everything other than looks. From now on, I will secretly call them Crosstours.