Ask Jack: Bundled to Death?
Serious question: What kind of experience do you need in order to write credibly about the automobile? If you were to ask some of the autojourno Boomers, they might tell you that the minimum requirement would be the career path followed by my time-and-again boss, Larry Webster: engineering degree, followed immediately by a magazine employment history that starts at “road warrior” and ends at “E-I-C of the most solvent color rag in the business”.
Some people would say that my boon companion Sam Smith did it right: college degree, time as a professional BMW mechanic, many years as a self-funded club racer in concert with his experienced and mechanically knowledgeable father. I’d like to argue for my own path: mildly successful car salesman, F&I experience with multiple captive finance firms, ground-floor experience with automotive tech and production, eighteen years of motorsports with a sack full of wins and lap records.
Ah, but these are means and not ends. They are how and not why. They detail the pathway by which expertise is acquired but they are not expertise themselves. If you read everything that Larry and Sam and I have written, you would know a major percentage of the things we know, and then you would be free to go forth and apply that knowledge to future situations. All you would need at that point would be an ability to write.
You could get by with less. LJK Setright was frequently dead wrong but I’d rather read his mistakes than labor through Csaba Csere’s researched conclusions. Gordon Baxter was not a great pilot and he was a worse driver. As a teenager, I read the work of gunwriter Jeff Cooper until I knew much of it by heart; years later, a mutual friend confessed to me that Cooper was only just competent with a .45 caliber pistol.
This is what you cannot be and still succeed, not if there is any justice in this world or the next: ignorant and proud of it, stupid yet blase about it, stilted in prose but unwilling to fix it. Which brings us to this week’s question.
Rollin' in My 2.0: Honda Debuts 2019 Civic Sport in Sedan and Coupe Form
It was possible to get into a Sport-trimmed Honda Civic before the 2019 model year, but you’d have to agree to the hatchback bodystyle first. Not everyone gazed upon that particular Civic’s styling with admiration and desire.
Not a problem. If buyers don’t want a five-door Sport, we’ll give it to ’em in coupe and sedan form, Honda figured. And so it is for 2019. However, checking the box for this slightly more aggressive treatment fails to bring aboard one of the hatchback version’s best attributes.
Toyota and Honda Have Good Reason Not to Abandon Sedans
Ford’s already brought the axe down on all but one of its car models, and General Motors looks ready to do the same. Other automakers, however, know that ditching sedans would mean abandoning key groups of customers.
For Toyota and Honda, models like the Camry and Civic resonate far more among some demographics, and leaving that segment risks losing those buyers to other brands. Not everyone wants a crossover. Among Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans, four Japanese nameplates keep popping up at the top of the most-bought list, but one domestic model poses a growing threat.
2018 Honda Pilot Elite Review - Road Trippin'
The plan was, as are all great and awful ideas alike, both simple and last-minute. A family reunion, over Memorial Day weekend, with a couple dozen family members spread from all over the East Coast, and ages spread from 5 to 93. Let’s pick a small touristy town with limited lodging choices — all while a major regional soccer tournament is happening — just for fun.
And we were hauling my mother along with the kids, which meant we needed room for five and luggage for eight. Why does one person need a 29-inch spinner, while my kids, my wife, and I fit everything needed for the long weekend in a 22-inch carry-on? Trips like this typically mean minivan, but, despite my protests, nobody seems to buy minivans anymore. So a three-row crossover is the best alternative. I figured that since Honda makes a hell of a minivan, any crossover built in the same factory has to be at least okay.
Thus the 2018 Honda Pilot Elite became our steed for a long weekend road trip. Did it make me forget my beloved van?
Another Model Loses Its Manual Transmission
There’s probably no shortage of eyeball rolling over this headline, as manual transmissions wouldn’t be fading out of the marketplace if buyers actually desired one.
Once upon a time, a stick-shift guaranteed better fuel economy, but those days are pretty much gone. It was also a great way to reduce the entry price of a particular model, but automakers’ thirst for larger margins and fewer configurations means what few base, stick-shift models roll off the line are often hidden from consumer view in the real world. This only serves to sink popularity even further.
The ongoing trend has apparently reached the Honda HR-V, which undergoes a mild refresh for the 2019 model year. As part of this update, say goodbye to the six-speed manual in Honda’s smallest ‘ute.
Rare Rides: A 1987 Honda Civic Wagovan 4WD, the Everybody Wagon
This isn’t the first time we’ve presented a utility-minded multipurpose hatchback in the Rare Rides series. Rather, it’s very nearly the culmination of the major players in the segment. In addition to today’s ride, we’ve had the Colt Vista, and Nissan’s Prairie (now owned by an enthusiast collector), as well as a pristine and pricey Tercel 4WD Wagon.
After today, we’re missing just two: an Eagle Summit/Mitsubishi Expo, and the last-of-breed Nissan Axxess. Onward, to Wagovan.
Honda's Largest and Smallest Crossovers Go Under the Knife for 2019
Despite early reviews featured on this site, ones that surely didn’t please Honda PR, the Honda HR-V subcompact crossover is a hit, has always been a hit, and that’s really all that matters to the automaker. American buyers quite enjoy the HR-V, so Honda felt the little ute deserved a mild makeover for the 2019 model year. It isn’t the only Honda-branded crossover to enter 2019 with a new face, however.
The three-row Pilot, always an upright, strong-selling foil to Toyota’s Highlander, sees its own refresh for 2019.
Is the New Honda Insight the Perfect Honda Hybrid Two Decades Too Late?
Attractive. Well received. A winner on paper. Technologically advanced. Badged with a logo that keeps producing record sales numbers.
One would assume that this is all that’s needed for the Honda Insight to be a raging marketplace success, at least in 1999.
1999 this is most certainly not, which highlights one glaring problem: the 2019 Insight is an attractive, well-received, impressive-on-paper, technologically-advanced Honda sedan.
Sedan. Sedan? Yes, sedan.
End-of-term Report: 37,000 Miles and Three Years in a 2015 Honda Odyssey EX
We weren’t the typical minivan buyers. Yet with only one child (at the time), and desirous of full-size pickups, and frequent travellers of off-road paths not designed for an especially low-slung vehicle, we acquired a new 2015 Honda Odyssey EX in June 2015.
Three years and 37,000 miles later, after mountains of dog hair and many pounds of cracker crumbs and sand from a couple dozen beaches proved the merit of the OEM floor mats, our Odyssey’s odyssey is complete.
Do minivans still make sense in 2018? Do Odysseys hold up to the rigors of a young family’s life? And was it worth paying a premium for America’s favorite (retail) van?
2019 Honda Insight First Drive - Comfort and Value Meet Fuel Efficiency
A few months ago, I wrote about the Honda Clarity PHEV, saying it’s a fine but unremarkable fuel-saver sedan and commuter car.
Prepare for déjà vu.
You see, Honda has brought forth another Insight hybrid for 2019. And my take on this Civic-related sedan is much like that of the Clarity – well-built, great for commuters, and remarkably unremarkable.
I say “Civic-related” because the Insight does share bones with the Civic, but there are key differences, especially with its skin. Yet Honda also sets it up as the “mature” compact sedan in its lineup. More on that later.
Seismic Activity Hampering Japanese Auto Production
A strong earthquake shook western Japan on Monday morning. The 6.1-magnitude quake destroyed property, left tens of thousands without power, stranded commuters, and disrupted Osaka’s industrial sector. Honda, Mitsubishi Motors, and Toyota’s Daihatsu unit all have production facilities in the area and were forced to shut down temporarily.
While Daihatsu remained confident its facilities could be reopened later in the day, Honda’s Suzuka factory in the Mie prefecture is one of the oldest plants on its roster. Despite being modernized over the years, it might not have been able to withstand the vibrations as well as newer facilities. The company said it would remain shuttered as employees perform safety and spot checks.
Your Future Honda EV Might Have a General Motors Battery
Not if you’re planning on leasing a Clarity Electric, of course, though future iterations of Honda’s greenest model could use what General Motors is pushing. Which is: a far more energy dense battery.
On Thursday, the two automakers announced a partnership to develop smaller, longer-ranged batteries for use in electric vehicles, primarily those sold in North America. Once the two achieve a breakthrough, GM will become Honda’s supplier.
Long-term Update: 2014 Accord EX-L V6 6MT at 60,000 Miles (and 2013 Accord EX-L V6 6MT, Too!)
I didn’t fear failure when I was young. I feared being just like everybody else, another face in the crowd. In a word, I feared being average. It seemed like a fate worse than death. Well, look at me now, living in suburbia, just another middle-aged white guy with a lawn and a 401(k) and a nagging worry that each and every racing physical I take will reveal that I do, in fact, have inoperable Stage IV cancer of the colon. “You have 42 pounds of undigested meat in there,” the doctor will sigh, “just like Elvis.”
The universe depends on my average-ness. I work three jobs and I pay a truly astounding amount of taxes to at least five separate governmental entities. I haven’t taken a non-working vacation since 2006. There is not a single assistance program anywhere for which I qualify. About a decade ago I decided to go back to school in the evenings and get my doctorate in literature. “As a 35-year-old white man,” the dean told me, “you wouldn’t be eligible for any of our assistantships.”
“Not a problem,” I replied, “I’ll pay cash. How much does the degree cost?”
“Well…” he huffed. “There’s no actual cash price per se because everybody is on assistance, which is only fair given today’s bigoted climate.”
“So I can’t pay to go to school, because nobody pays and you don’t know how much I would have to pay, because there’s no cash price for presumed bigots who are not on assistance because they’re ineligible for assistance.”
“I’m not sure that’s a fair way to phrase it.” Each and every day I have a better idea of what motivated the character of “D-FENS” in Falling Down. He, too, was an average fellow.
As fate would have it, I have a perfectly average car, and a perfectly average payment. Two of them, actually, although I only have a payment on one of them. Let’s see how they are doing.
Ace of Base: 2019 Honda Fit LX
Regular readers of this Ace of Base series (all three of you) know a sure-fire way into my penny-pinching heart is for a manufacturer to offer a bright palette of no-charge colors on the cheapest trim of a particular model.
Helios Yellow? Aegean Blue? Milano Red? The fabulously-named Orange Fury shown here? Honda will slather them all (well, one per car) on its base Fit, the LX. Let’s dive in.
Honda Thinks a Small, Cheap EV Is Just the Right Fit
You’d be forgiven for not remembering the Honda Fit EV. Hardly a Bolt or Leaf, the short-ranged electric was available for lease in California for a very brief time; some 1,100 examples arrived on U.S. shores between July of 2012 and October of 2014.
Right now, the only way to get into an electric vehicle bearing the Honda badge is to move to California or Oregon and take out a pretty decent lease on a Clarity EV. That could soon change, as Honda plans to build a successor to that early electric. Yes, it will still use the Fit as its muse.