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2019 Honda HR-V Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Like a fast-moving epidemic, subcompact crossover sport utility vehicles like the 2019 Honda HR-V are infecting the consciousness of buyers everywhere.

Compared to their compact brethren like the best-selling Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, they are but a blip on the monitor so far. But they are coming on strong, as witness the increasing numbers of nameplates.

2019 Honda HR-V Sport

The HR-V arrived on the automotive scene in 2016, at a time when there were only a few other subcompact crossovers like the Jeep Renegade and Chevrolet Trax. Now there are many, including the Toyota C-HR, Nissan Kicks, Kia Niro, Mazda CX-3, Ford EcoSport, Fiat 500X, and the Hyundai Kona, voted 2019 North American Utility of the Year by an independent jury of automotive journalists.

Leading the cadre in 2018 sales was the Subaru Crosstrek, though the others are poised to strengthen as the automotive-buying public continues to abandon traditional sedans in favor of small crossovers because of their practicality, low prices and decent fuel economy.

2019 Honda HR-V Sport

The 2019 Honda HR-V embodies those virtues. In a tidy package just 14 feet 3 inches long, it houses 100 cubic feet of space for passengers with 24 cubic feet for cargo — more than that of some midsize sedans. For example, the best-selling midsize 2018 Toyota Camry, at 16 feet long, has 99 cubic feet for passengers and 15 cubic feet of trunk space.

Moreover, with its utilitarian design, the HR-V’s rear seatbacks fold to expand the cargo-carrying capacity to 59 cubic feet. Of course, that eliminates seats for three in back, which is unusually spacious for a small crossover, with generous head and knee room. However, as is usual in nearly every sedan or SUV nowadays, the HR-V’s center-rear passenger gets a hard perch while the outboard riders sit comfortably.

2019 Honda HR-V Sport

There are nine versions of the 2019 HR-V across five trim lines. All but the top-of-the-line Touring version are available with standard front-wheel drive or optional ($1,400) all-wheel drive. The Touring comes standard with all-wheel drive.

Prices range from $21,565, including the destination charge, for the base front-drive LX model to $29,585 for the Touring. Other trim levels are the Sport, EX and EX-L. Power comes from a 141 hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 127 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission available is a continuously variable automatic (CVT). All trim levels have EPA combined city/highway mileage ratings of 28 to 30 mpg.

2019 Honda HR-V Sport

Driven for this review was the $24,665 all-wheel drive Sport model, which essentially is a base LX gussied up to make it sportier and attractive. Of all the HR-V versions, it is the only one with classy 18-inch alloy wheels and lower profile tires. All of the others have 17-inch alloy wheels.

The Sport also comes with quicker steering, clever multi-adjustable cup holder, electric parking brake, cruise control, air conditioning, audio system, fog lights, sport pedals, leather-covered steering wheel and shift knob, roof rails, and gloss black outside mirrors and underbody spoilers. Basic safety equipment, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, is part of the package.

2019 Honda HR-V Sport

But the Sport does not include: collision mitigation braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, road departure mitigation, blind-spot warning or Honda’s Lane Watch, which displays a picture of the right-side blind spot on the center screen. Also missing are pushbutton start, automatic climate control and SXM radio.

The HR-V Sport’s strong suit is chasing around in urban environments. Handling in traffic is almost intuitive, and the suspension and tires deliver a decent ride on all but the roughest surfaces. Acceleration from rest is not blistering but more than adequate for stoplight sprints and freeway merging. For a quicker launch, the CVT can be shifted manually with steering-wheel paddles to mimic a seven-speed transmission.

2019 Honda HR-V Sport

The surprise is the HR-V’s long-distance cruising. With cloth seats that are unusually supportive and comfortable, especially up front, there were no aches, pains or fatigue over a hundred miles or more.

But highway cruising also elicits the HR-V’s main fault. At 55 to 70-plus mph on Florida freeways, where most of the test was conducted, the combination of wind and road noise was so loud it overpowered the audio system.

Fortunately for customers who do a lot of long-distance driving, the HR-V’s upper trim levels contain additional insulation and other sound-deadening materials. So, it makes sense to pay a bit more for a quieter ride with the EX, EX-L and Touring models.

2019 Honda HR-V Sport

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Honda HR-V Sport four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 1.8-liter four-cylinder; 141 horsepower, 127 pound-feet torque.
  • Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 100/24 cubic feet. (59)
  • Height: 5 feet 3 inches.
  • Weight: 3,096 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 26/31/28 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $24,665
  • Price as tested: $24,665.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019 Honda HR-V Sport

Photos (c) Honda

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2019 Honda Passport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

In the ongoing struggle for supremacy on the crossover sport utility battlefield, Honda re-enlists a veteran name for an all-new combatant, the 2019 Passport.

It has not been around for 17 years, having left the market after the 2002 model year. The original Passport was the result of a partnership with Isuzu, another Japanese manufacturer, which re-badged its Rodeo SUV as the Passport.

The 2019 Passport goes on sale Feb 4

The other half of the equation was that Honda re-badged its Odyssey minivan as an Isuzu Oasis.

That first Passport was an SUV of its time, built like a truck with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, a five-speed manual gearbox and a 120-hp, 2.6-liter four-cylinder engine. A 3.2-liter V6 with 175 hp and a four-speed automatic transmission was optional.

Though there still are truck-based SUVs around, crossover sales have been exploding, dominating sales of traditional sedans. In 2018, crossovers achieved a 38% share of the vehicle market compared to 31% for cars. Crossover SUVs are built like cars, with unit bodies and, usually, front-wheel drive with optional all-wheel drive.

2019 Honda Passport

Though justifiably proud of its sedans, Honda is a captive of the trend. In 2018, the company sold 624,122 crossovers — the small HR-V, compact CR-V and three-row Pilot. The number does not include its Odyssey minivan or Ridgeline pickup truck, both classified as light trucks.

In the same year, Honda sold a total of 684,815 cars, including five models: the compact Civic, midsize Accord, subcompact Fit, hybrid Insight and the Clarity, available as an electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen-fueled electric.

Honda claims supremacy in sales for its Civic and Accord. But unlike other makes, it counts only retail sales to individuals, not fleet sales to rental car and other multiple-unit buyers.

2019 Honda Passport

With the 2019 Passport, Honda’s offerings likely will soon tilt in favor of crossovers over cars, no matter how they are counted. That’s because the Passport plugs a gap in the company’s crossover lineup.

It’s a midsize, based on and slotted just below the three-row Pilot and above the compact CR-V and entry-level HR-V, which is marketed as a subcompact but is so roomy it would be considered midsize if it were a car. The U.S. government classifies cars by interior volume as subcompact, compact, midsize and large. Crossovers are classified by whatever you think.

The new Passport is nothing like its predecessor. Its wheelbase — the distance between the centers of its front and rear wheels — is the same as the larger Pilot but it is 6.2 inches shorter overall. Front and rear overhangs are tidier, giving the Passport better approach, departure and break-over angles for off-roading.

2019 Honda Passport

Of course, no crossover can rival a properly-equipped Jeep or Land Rover dedicated for off-roading. But the Passport acquitted itself well at the national introduction on unpaved roads in gorgeous but desolate areas surrounding Moab, Utah, including the spectacular Arches National Park.

As Johnny Cash’s song, “A Boy Named Sue” told it, the Passport handles competently in the “mud, the blood and the beer,” with Honda’s torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system. It can send up to 70% of the torque — or twisting force — to the rear wheels and 100% to the left or right wheels.

2019 Honda Passport

The tested Passport Elite, pushed too fast on a pockmarked unpaved road, went airborne over a sharp berm and seemed destined for a front-to-rear somersault, yet crunched smartly to a landing on all four wheels. Whew.

But the Passport is a slick piece of work on paved highways as well. In an era when 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, both naturally aspirated and turbocharged, are becoming standard in luxury as well as popular-priced vehicles, the Passport comes with a tried-and-true Honda and Acura 3.5-liter V6 engine that exhibits the relaxed confidence of a great athlete coach trotting along with a group of marathon-wannabe pre-teens.

2019 Honda Passport

The V6 delivers 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque to the front or all four wheels with a nine-speed automatic transmission controlled by the Honda/Acura console-mounted pushbutton control. The system has been faulted by some critics, but not here. It is simple and intuitive: one-finger push for “drive” and “park,” pull for “reverse.”

There are four Passport trim levels, starting with the front-drive Sport at $33,045, including the destination charge. Others are the EX-L at $37,455 and Touring at $40,325. Tack on $1,900 for all-wheel drive. The tested top-line Elite, priced at $44,725, comes standard with all-wheel drive.

Can’t get no satisfaction? Give the Passport a try.

2019 Honda Passport

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Honda Passport Elite four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 280 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 11 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 115/41 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,237 pounds.
  • Maximum towing capability: 5,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $44,725.
  • Price as tested: $44,725.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2019 Honda Passport

Photos (c) Honda

2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

For 2019, the Honda Pilot continues its imaginative indecision, which resembles either an oscillating cooling fan or Edgar Allen Poe’s pendulum.

But this midsize crossover sport utility vehicle is anything but the pits — except, of course, when it’s negotiating ditches in a purpose-built course aimed at demonstrating its fitness in off-road conditions.

The Pilot stands among the best three-row crossovers on the market, a capable, sturdy and competent vehicle for people who don’t want a minivan like the excellent Honda Odyssey but still need to haul people and stuff.

Honda Associates to Test Their Skills Driving Honda Light Trucks

When it was first introduced as a 2003 model, it came with all-wheel drive but essentially was a tall station wagon with a 240-hp V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. It lasted for six years as a comfortable and durable people hauler, racking up total sales of 744,474.

But the soothsayers at Honda did not rest on their laurels. Figuring that familiarity breeds boredom, they cranked up an all-new Pilot with boxy, truck-like styling and emphasized its off-road chops, which were modest to serious enthusiasts but impressed the hoi polloi.

At the national introduction, that 2009 model showed it could coolly traverse gullies, humps, steep climbs and descents, rocks, mud and other assorted obstacles. The emphasis was on its truck-like looks and rugged character, which Honda said customers wanted.

That, too, wore off in time, so when the 2016 model came along, it lost the boxy mien in favor of mainstream, more streamlined styling. It came across more like an attractive people mover than a boondocks basher. The engine was a 3.5-liter V6 with 280 hp, 262 lb-ft of torque and either a six-speed or nine-speed automatic transmission, depending on the trim level.

2019 Honda Pilot

Enter the 2019 model, which continues with the same drivetrains but marginally a more rugged, aggressive appearance, mimicking styling concepts from the latest Odyssey and Accord. Included are reworked wheels, grille, bumpers and LED headlights.

As in 2009, the emphasis again is on the Pilot’s all-terrain capabilities, abetted by Honda’s trademarked intelligent Variable Torque Management, or iVTM4, on all-wheel drive versions.

It incorporates active torque vectoring. In straight-line driving, the system distributes engine torque, or twisting force, to the wheel with the most traction. In cornering, it sends additional power to outside wheels to hustle the Pilot around curves.

The iVTM4 also enhances off-road traction. Computer controlled, it can send 70% of the torque to the rear wheels, and 100% of that power to either rear wheel if needed. Honda demonstrated that characteristic at the national introduction by sending test Pilots over man-made terrain that sent one of the rear wheels into the air.

2019 Honda Pilot Interior

Another system, which works with the iVTM4, is so-called Intelligent Traction Management. There are four driver-selectable settings labeled Normal, Snow, Mud and Sand. The Normal setting, which likely will be the default choice, adjusts for daily driving on most surfaces.

Selecting Snow assists in winter driving conditions. Among other things, it instructs the automatic transmission to start out in second gear to minimize wheel spin. Mud and Sand optimize transmission and other components for those conditions. As at the 2009 introduction, this time at a different off-road course in California, the Pilot easily negotiated the rocks, logs, moguls and other obstacles.

With all that and more, the 2019 Pilot doesn’t offer bargain prices. There are 13 versions, starting with the front-drive LX at $32,445, including the destination charge. The most expensive is the Elite, fully equipped, at $49,015.

2019 Honda Pilot

Every trim level comes with Honda Sensing, the company’s suite of safety features that includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, lane keeping assist,  and road-departure mitigation. Blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert also are available.

Except for the top-of-the-line Elite model, all versions — LX, EX, EX-L, EX-L with Navigation and Touring — come with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The Elite is all-wheel drive only. Lower trim levels come with a six-speed automatic transmission; Touring and Elite use the nine-speed automatic.

The Pilot has ample space inside for seven or eight passengers, depending on whether it is equipped with second-row captain’s chairs. Second-row seats flip forward with the touch of a button, but it still takes teenage agility to get into the third row, which has decent headroom. However, passengers sit with their knees up high.

Chronic gripers will be happy to learn that the Pilot now comes with simple volume knob for the audio system.

2019 Honda Pilot

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Honda Pilot AWD Elite four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 280 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 153/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: Est. 4,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/26/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $49,015.
  • Price as tested: $49,015.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2019 Honda Pilot

Photos (c) Honda

2019 Honda Insight: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Sometimes the 2019 Honda Insight growls like a boastful lion, but mostly it goes about its business like a stealthy cheetah, all economy of movement and efficiency.

The new Insight is the heir to the original, a small two-seat hatchback coupe which Honda brags was the first hybrid in America in 1999 and delivered 70 highway mpg. It used a hybrid system in which the gasoline engine provided the primary power, boosted by a small electric motor in the drivetrain.

In 2009, the coupe was replaced by a four-door hatchback Insight, which used the same system, regarded by many as elegant for its simplicity. But it was eclipsed by the Toyota Prius, which used a more complicated setup in which the electric motor was primary.

The 2019 Honda Insight Goes On Sale

Undeterred, and determined to pursue electrified power trains for all of its models, Honda developed hybrids for the Civic and Accord, and also produced the Clarity, which is available as a pure electric, a fuel-cell powered electric and a plug-in hybrid.

Now the Japanese manufacturer introduces the newest in the lineup: the 2019 Insight, which is about the size of the company’s compact Civic and uses Honda’s state-of-the art two-motor system with a gasoline engine.

Most notable about this system, which uses one of the electric motors to charge the battery pack and the other to work in concert with the gasoline engine, is that it does not need a conventional automatic transmission.

2019 Honda Insight

Though Honda specifications describe the transmission as an e-CVT, for electronic continuously-variable automatic transmission, it works as a direct drive from the electric motor, which delivers full torque, or twisting force, the instant the throttle is activated. Unlike earlier Insight models, the 2019 model has no manual gearbox.

The 1.5-liter gasoline engine makes 107 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque, while the electric motor delivers 129 hp and 197 lb-ft of torque. Together, the system produces 151.5 hp.

Combined with regenerative braking to help keep the battery topped up, the Insight Touring tested for this review came with a city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 51/45/48 mpg.

The Insight is a spunky machine on the road, where the only minor annoyance is the lion-like growl under hard acceleration. It sounds like  something is slipping, though it is not, as on a poorly rendered CVT. But it cruises serenely on the highway with good straight-line tracking and little intrusion of road or wind noise.

2019 Honda Insight

Though not a fully realized sport sedan, the Insight has precise steering, a supple suspension system and capable handling on curving roads. In that respect, it is not unlike its gasoline-powered garage-mate, the Civic.

The interior space is comfortable for four people, with  supportive front seats for long-distance highway cruising. Outboard back seat occupants have generous head and knee room, though the center-rear position is compromised by a large floor hump and a high, hard cushion.

With 95 cubic feet for passengers and a trunk of 15 cubic feet, the Insight sneaks into the government’s midsize class, though it is marketed as a compact. Compacts range from a total of 100 to 109 cubic feet of interior volume; midsize from 110 to 119.

2019 Honda Insight

There are three driving modes: Normal, optimized for ease of driving and comfort; Econ, for balanced efficiency and fuel economy, and Sport, for sharper throttle response and a feel of strong acceleration. Zero to 60 mph acceleration time comes up in an estimated eight seconds in any mode if you mash the pedal, respectable enough in modern traffic.

Three trim levels start with the LX at $23,725, including the destination charge; EX at $24,955, and the tested top-line Touring, $28,985. All three come with Honda Sensing, a suite of safety equipment that includes collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise with low-speed follow, lane-keeping assist and road departure mitigation.

2019 Honda Insight

Also standard across the trims are LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights; automatic headlight high beams; audio system, and heated door mirrors. The EX and Touring add Honda’s Lane Watch, which covers the right-rear blind spot and displays it on the center screen; Apple Car Play and Android Auto; SXM satellite radio; HD radio, and remote engine starting.

The tested Touring’s features included a navigation system, motorized glass sunroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, premium audio system with 10 speakers, eight-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and automatic windshield wipers.

2019 Honda Insight

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Honda Insight Touring four-door sedan.
  • Engine/motor: Gasoline 1.5-liter four-cylinder, 107 hp; electric 129 hp, 197 lb-ft torque. Total system: 151.5 hp.
  • Transmission: Electronic continuously-variable automatic (e-CVT) with front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 95/15 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3078 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 51/45/48 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $28,985.
  • Price as tested: $28,985.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019 Honda Insight

Photos (c) Honda

2018 Honda Clarity PHEV: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Honda enhances the dream of the future with its 2018 Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, latest in a triad of new electrified vehicles.

The future is electric power, alone or in conjunction with — at least for a while — fossil-fueled vehicles. With the introduction of this new Clarity, Honda has completed its initial quest.

Earlier, it introduced the hydrogen-powered Clarity, which uses the most abundant element in the universe to feed electric motors, although as of now the hydrogen must be manufactured from fossil fuels. The company also fields a pure electric Clarity.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

You could argue that there’s a fourth electrified vehicle that could be in the mix: a standard hybrid that runs on electricity and gasoline or diesel fuel. But a plug-in, left to its own devices without being plugged in, operates the same way. Moreover, the company has a hybrid version of its popular Honda Accord.

Honda’s goal is to sell around 75,000 Clarity sedans over the next four years, with electrified vehicles constituting two-thirds of its global sales by 2030. The effort is becoming widespread in the industry as other manufacturers also concentrate on electrified cars, crossovers, sport utility vehicles and trucks.

Like its siblings, the new Clarity Hybrid exhibits classy styling, though without what a few critics regard as excessive gingerbread on some Civic models. The rear-wheel cutouts give it a streamlined look and incorporate air ducts to cool the rear brakes. LED lights adorn both the front and rear.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

The powertrain consists of a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with 103 hp and 99 lb-ft of torque, mated to two electric motors. One delivers 181 hp and 212 lb-ft of torque for driving; the other generates electricity. The total system provides 212 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque.

Because electric motors deliver their maximum torque instantly when they are switched on, and the Clarity’s primary power is electric, there is no need for a conventional automatic transmission. It uses a fixed single-speed transmission.

Fully charged, the Clarity can be driven up to 47 miles on electricity alone. The range actually seems longer because the gasoline engine occasionally kicks on, saving battery power. The EPA rates city/highway/combined gasoline-only fuel economy at 44/40/42 mpg. Combined, the system is rated at the equivalent of 110 mpg.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Built into the Clarity is a 6.6 kilowatt, 32-amp charger, which enables a full charge in 2.5 hours using a 240-volt outlet. If you simply plug it into a standard 120-volt household outlet, full charging takes 12 hours.

One of the advantages of a plug-in hybrid is that you don’t necessarily have to plug it in. The batteries never fully discharge but reach a low point where they don’t power the electric motor and the Clarity runs on its gasoline engine. You can recover some electric power with careful regenerative deceleration and braking.

All three Clarity models provide a surge of acceleration off the line — an observed zero-to-60 mph time of about seven seconds. The electric and hydrogen models feel a bit quicker than the hybrid because its gasoline engine gets involved.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

A pushbutton gets things going. Console-mounted buttons select Drive, Park and Neutral, and you pull up on one for Reverse. The selection system is becoming standard in Honda and Acura vehicles.

Cruising strictly on electric power is serene, with the only sounds intruding into the cabin coming from tires on the pavement. When the gasoline engine kicks on to boost the power, it engages so quietly and seamlessly that you barely know it’s there.

There are two versions of the Clarity PHEV, which stands for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. The standard model, priced at $34,290, comes with Honda Sensing, a suite of safety technologies that includes collision and road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow and lane-keeping assist.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Other equipment includes dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, Bluetooth connectivity, an eight-inch touch screen with a rear-view camera and Honda’s Lane Watch system, which shows a panoramic view of the right-side blind spot when the right turn signal is switched on.

Also available is the $37,490 Clarity PHEV Touring model, which adds a navigation system, leather-trimmed upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power front seats with memory and a fuzzy ultra-suede dashboard trim.

Clarity competitors include the Toyota Prius Prime, Chevrolet Volt and Ford Fusion PHEV.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Honda Clarity Touring PHEV plug-in hybrid four-door sedan.
  • Engine and Motor: 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline, 103 hp, 99 lb-ft torque; electric motor, 181 hp, 212 lb-ft torque. Combined system hp, 212.
  • Transmission: Fixed single speed.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 102/16 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,059 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 44/40/42 mpg (gasoline only). System: 110 mpg equivalent.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $37,490.
  • Price as tested: $37,490.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Photos (c) Honda.

 

2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Like the proverbial cup that runneth over, the 2018 Honda Accord oozes newness in practically every molecule of its mechanical being. The company touts it as “the most radical redesign of the Accord ever.” That covers a lot of territory, given its 42 years on the American scene, during which Accord has sold 13 million hatchbacks, coupes, sedans and station wagons — 11 million of them manufactured in the USA.

All but the four-door sedan are now gone, so Honda is counting on this new Accord to hold up against the midsize competition, particularly its perennial nemesis, the Toyota Camry, which also has an all-new, driver-oriented entry for 2018.

Both have been nominated for the North American Car of the Year award from an independent jury of 60 automotive journalists from all over the country, including this reviewer.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

The Camry has been the best-selling midsize car for 15 years, though Honda argues that the Accord does better in direct sales to consumers, without depending on fleet sales.

Whatever, it’s certain to be a dogfight, even facing the fact that both cars have been lagging against the smothering onslaught of crossover sport utility vehicles.

To catalog all of the Accord’s new features would overwhelm the space allotted to a review like this. It includes a host of improvements, including a lower center of gravity, lighter weight, stiffer structure, suspension and steering enhancements, streamlined wind-cheating bodywork, improved visibility, more comfortable and supportive seats, quieter interior, bigger passenger space and trunk, and excellent interior design and ergonomics that includes radio knobs instead of Honda’s recent infatuation with touch screens.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

The Accord drives like a big car, which it is. It is marketed as a midsize but its interior volume, depending on the trim, hovers fractionally on both sides of the government’s large-car designation of a minimum of 120 cubic feet of interior room. On the tested Touring, that was divided into 103 for passengers and 17 cubic feet in the trunk.

Any car is only as good as its powerplants. For the first time, the Accord has gone all-turbo with its engines: a 192-hp, 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 192 lb-ft of torque and a 252-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 273 lb-ft of torque.

Last year, neither Accord engine featured turbocharging. One was a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and the upgrade was a 3.5-liter V6 engine. Not long ago, Honda avoided turbo engines, but since has embraced them for their computer-manipulated power and fuel economy.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

Tested for this review was the fully-equipped Accord Touring with the 2.0-liter engine and either a 10-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode or a six-speed manual gearbox. There’s also a 2.0 Sport version with the same transmission choices. The manual likely will give the Accord an edge among enthusiasts who like to shift for themselves.

The stick shift also is available on the 1.5-liter Sport model, which also offers a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). With that combination, the Accord gets a city/highway/combined fuel economy rating from the EPA of 30/38/33 mpg.

Not surprisingly, the powerful tested Touring model came with a lower rating of 23/34/29. But this is package will appeal to customers who enjoy a shot of adrenaline when they accelerate from a stoplight or cruise at high speeds on deserted freeways.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

The Accord handles superbly on twisting or straight roads. It is anvil steady and library quiet, although the turbo 2.0-liter engine announces itself rudely under rapid acceleration. There’s generous space for four with well-bolstered seats up front, though the center-rear seat is compromised by a hard cushion and a floor hump.

The Touring features Honda’s new gear selector. It uses pushbuttons for all functions except Reverse, which is a pull-up button. There also are selectable drive modes, one of which enhances fuel economy. But the preference here is for the Sport setting, which unleashes a stampede of the horses under the hood.

At $36,675, the 2.0 Touring sits at the top of the line, not a minor achievement given the fact that it is close to the current average transaction price for a new car in the U.S. Yet it is equipped as well as some luxury cars, including adaptive shock absorbers, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, navigation, memory driver’s seat, head-up display, LED headlights, wireless smart phone charging, ventilated front seats and heated back seats, and the new Honda Link driver assist system that includes Wi-Fi and remote engine starting.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring four-door sedan.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 252 hp, 273 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 103/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,428 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/34/29 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $36,675.
  • Price as tested: $36,675.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T

Photos (c) Honda.

2018 Honda Odyssey Elite: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The 2018 Honda Odyssey elevates the family minivan to a lofty level of efficiency and comfort.

Minivans are the most useful vehicles you can find for mom, pop, and the kids. More than any conveyance, they accommodate people and their stuff in customized ways while delivering entertainment and car-like performance.

Though dwindling popularity has reduced choices to only a few — the Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Sedona and the waning Dodge Grand Caravan — they endure and likely will grow somewhat, even faced with the juggernaut of crossover sport utility vehicles.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Because all have a similar configuration, minivan competitiveness distills to features both practical and desirable, as well as finer points like serenity, security and comfort. Thus, the Pacifica, for example, touts its Stow ‘n’ Go second-row seats, which fold into the floor for extra cargo space.

The 2018 Odyssey doesn’t have that. But it arguably offers something better. It is an eight-passenger vehicle with a “Magic Slide” second row that accommodates three. A small seat in the middle can hold a rear-facing child seat and moves fore-and-aft so parents up front can check on the infant.

Outboard are two captain’s chairs that also move back and forth, and flip forward for access to the third row. But remove the center seat and the outboard seats can be effortlessly moved sideways as well, kept separate or pushed together on the right, left or in the middle for even easier access to the third row.

2018 Honda Odyssey

To keep tabs on the sprouts in back, the Odyssey incorporates “CabinWatch,” an overhead camera that focuses on the second and third rows and displays the view on the multi-purpose center screen up front. “CabinTalk,” allows the parents to interrupt whatever the children are watching and listening to, much like an airline pilot stopping the entertainment for announcements. “CabinControl,” enables control of onboard apps from a smart phone.

There’s an overhead screen that serves both the second and third rows, along with wireless headphones for the second row and jacks in the third row for wired headphones.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Other minivans incorporate dual rear seat screens so passengers can independently watch different programs or movies. Honda opted for the single screen to promote more family togetherness — which individual buyers may or may not like.

The Odyssey has an array of peace-of-mind features, including the Honda Sensing safety array with automatic braking for collision mitigation. Also: 4G-LTE WiFi Hotspot, SXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, content streaming to the rear entertainment system from Smart TV or wireless Android devices, walk-away automatic door locking, power hands-free tailgate, motorized side doors and sunroof, wireless smart phone charging and Honda’s pioneering onboard vacuum cleaner.

Obviously, not all of this stuff is fitted to every Odyssey. Just as obviously, Honda put its best package forward, the Odyssey Elite, at the national press introduction on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was fully optioned with a suggested delivered price of a whopping $47,610, which is encroaching on luxury-car territory.

2018 Honda Odyssey

However, there are a total of five other trim levels, starting with the base LX at $30,930, including the destination charge, so customers can pick and choose to fit budgets. Others are the EX at $34,800, EX-L (with leather upholstery and other upgrades) at $38,300, EX with navigation and rear entertainment, $40,300, and Touring at $45,450.

All Odysseys come equipped with Honda’s 280-hp V6 engine, which delivers 262 lb-ft of torque and features cylinder deactivation for highway cruising, a stop-start system and an Econ mode for improved fuel economy. The EPA rates the city/highway/combined fuel consumption at 19/28/22 mpg.

LX and EX models get the power to the front wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Touring and Elite models have an all-new 10-speed automatic with a manual-shift mode controlled by paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

2018 Honda Odyssey

As before, the Odyssey continues as an effortless performer with car-like handling, improved ride and fatigue-free long-distance cruising. For 2018, the experience is enhanced by a muted inside environment thanks to a host of sound-deadening materials. The main annoying sounds on a trip likely will come from the kids arguing.

Though it’s not exclusive to the Odyssey, one of the apps mimics airline screens that announce the distance and time traveled as well as what’s remaining. If the boys and girls in the Odyssey shout the traditional “Are we there yet?” just point them to the screen.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite eight-passenger minivan.
  • Engine:5-liter V6, 280 hp, 262 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 160/37 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,593 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/28/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,610.
  • Price as tested: $47,610.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Photos (c) Honda.

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Blend the futuristic and familiar, and you get the concept of the 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell sedan, forging an expanded direction for the storied Japanese automaker.

This all-new five-passenger four-door runs on compressed hydrogen, producing electricity from a fuel cell to drive a 174-horsepower electric motor that delivers 221 pound-feet of torque. Overall, the Clarity performs like a fully realized electric car except that it does not need charging.

You refuel with hydrogen, which is why the Clarity will initially be available only in California, which has a small but widespread network of 66 hydrogen refueling stations. With its two tanks filled with a bit more than 12 pounds of hydrogen, the Clarity can travel 366 miles, delivering EPA city/highway/combined equivalent fuel economy of 69/67/68 mpg.

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

That’s deceptive from a cost standpoint. Hydrogen, one of the most abundant fuels in the universe, still must be manufactured, largely from natural gas. A full fill-up of hydrogen at one of the California stations came to nearly $90. That works out to about 25 cents per mile to yield 366 miles of range.

Figuring gasoline at $3 a gallon, a roughly equivalent 15-gallon fill-up comes to $45. At 25 miles to the gallon — not unreasonable in these times — you’d get a range of 375 miles, or about 12 cents a mile.

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

But that’s not the point. This is a vision for the future. The clincher for the Clarity Fuel Cell—everywhere but especially in environmentally challenged areas like California—is that it does not pollute. The only emission is water vapor that is drinkable water when cooled. And the cost of hydrogen eventually will drop substantially.

There is nothing bizarre about the Clarity Fuel Cell. It is a fastback design with modern, sculpted styling and built in ducts that create air curtains around the wheels to reduce wind drag and improve fuel economy.

Inside, with the exception of a power gauge that replaces a tachometer, all the instruments, controls and a center touch screen will be familiar to most drivers. A pushbutton gets things started. You touch console-mounted buttons for Drive, Park and Neutral, and pull up on one for Reverse, as on other Honda and Acura vehicles.

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

If you switch off the power and inadvertently leave Drive engaged, the Clarity will automatically shift into Park; it will not roll away. With so many and sometimes confusing new shifters appearing everywhere, those that allow vehicles to roll away in Drive are receiving increasing scrutiny as safety hazards.

As with any electric motor, the Clarity’s delivers full torque, or twisting force, the instant you step on the throttle. The Clarity is quick off the line with an observed 0-60 mph acceleration time of around seven seconds. It is quiet; the only sounds intruding into the passenger pod come from the tires on the pavement.

Honda has been tinkering with Clarity fuel cell vehicles for a decade, starting with the concept FCX. Though no longer experimental, it has limited appeal because of the paucity of hydrogen fueling stations. California’s is a small but viable network. Buyers elsewhere will have to wait until their localities develop more than a few stations here and there.

But the Clarity is no longer an exotic vehicle limited to motorists willing to experiment. Though it still will play to a limited audience in the beginning, do not fear. You’ll still be able to get a Clarity.

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

The Fuel Cell model is one of a triad of new Clarity sedans that Honda will deliver this year. The others are a pure electric model with about 80 miles of range before recharging, along with a gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid that will be sold nationwide.

However, only those select few in California will be paid for the experience. The Fuel Cell models will only be leased, not sold, so Honda can keep tabs on them and see how they perform at the end of the lease period.

The lease costs $369 a month for 36 months, or $13,284. Though there will be a 20,000 mile a year limit on driving, Honda will provide $15,000 worth of hydrogen fuel, along with 21 days of luxury car rental when and if the Clarity needs service. In addition, California will provide a $5,000 rebate to owners.

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell four-door sedan.
  • Power Source: AC permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor; 174 hp, 221 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Single-speed with sport mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 1 inch.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 102/12 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,134 pounds.
  • Fuel: Compressed hydrogen with fuel cell; 103 KW power output. Capacity:46 kilograms (12.037 pounds).
  • EPA city/highway/combined equivalent fuel consumption: 69/67/68 mpg.
  • Range: 366 miles.
  • Price: Lease only, 36 months; $369 per month with $15,000 fuel allowance and 20,000-mile annual limit.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell

Photos (c) Honda

2017 Honda Civic Sport Hatchback: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

If any vehicle can eliminate the longstanding prejudice against hatchbacks, it’s the 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback.

The company has such confidence its latest iteration of the Honda Civic that it doesn’t shy away from simply calling it a hatchback. For many years until just recently, hatchbacks — as well as station wagons — have been anathema to U.S. buyers.

That’s changing, mainly because of the growing popularity of small and midsize crossover sport utility vehicles. Many of the smaller ones are little more than tall hatchbacks with front- or all-wheel drive. Entry-level crossovers now constitute the biggest vehicle segment in the U.S.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring

That’s not the case, yet, with hatchbacks. But they do appear to be finding increasing acceptance among buyers — to the point where Chevrolet, for example, designed its new electric car, the Bolt, as a four-door hatchback. It also has added a well appointed four-door hatchback to its compact Cruze lineup. Honda takes a different approach. It started last year with the 10th generation Civic, first as a four-door sedan followed by a two-door coupe. The Civic won the Car of the Year honor from the independent panel of automotive journalists who are members of the North American Car of the Year organization.

Now Honda follows with the four-door Hatchback; performance models are coming later. The Hatchback spans the spectrum from the basic LX, which starts at $20,535 with a six-speed manual gearbox to the plush EX-L Navi, at $26,635.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring

The latter includes, among other features, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), navigation, motorized glass sunroof, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, satellite radio, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors and Honda’s Lane Watch camera that covers the right-side blind spot. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also are part of the standard equipment.

But the real hoot for fans comes with two enthusiast-oriented versions: Sport and Sport Touring. The latter, fully equipped at $29,135, unfortunately comes only with the CVT.

The hot number is the Sport, reviewed here, which sells for just $22,135 with the six-speed manual gearbox. It gets the juices flowing with sporting performance and handling. You can order it with the CVT for an additional $800 but unless you’re dead set against shifting for yourself, don’t bother. The stick shift is the way to travel.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring

It is the most powerful in the Hatchback lineup, with 180 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque from a new 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is so precisely programmed that the dreaded so-called turbo lag is eliminated.

City/highway/combined fuel consumption works out to 30/39/33 mpg. Premium fuel is recommended for maximum performance but regular is OK.

The Sport also features handling enhancements that include stabilizer bars, front and rear fluid-filled suspension bushings, multi-link rear suspension system and a tight steering ratio that results in just 2.1 turns of the steering wheel from hard left to hard right.

That and a stiff chassis delivers a car that stays firmly planted in a straight line or around curves, yet delivers a comfortable ride. The Sport’s supportive front seats are covered in a high-quality cloth that grips the torso.

The Sport’s clutch action and shift linkage are among the best anywhere. Clutch engagement is smooth and progressive, and the greasy shifter follows the driver’s inputs without glitches.

All of the streamlined new Hatchbacks resemble sedans. But they feature a shorter rear overhang, sculptured exterior design and stylish 18-inch alloy wheels that fill the wheel openings and are positioned near the corners of the car.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring

Under the hatch is an innovative cargo cover that moves sideways rather than fore and aft, eliminating the need for a crossbar. Cargo volume is 23 cubic feet behind the rear seatbacks. Fold the seatbacks and the space expands to 46 cubic feet. Total interior volume, including 97 cubic feet for passengers, is120 cubic feet, which classifies the Hatchback as a large car, though it is marketed as a compact.

That makes for a roomy interior. The outboard back seats offer plenty of head and knee room for people more than six feet tall, and even the center-rear position, which is a punishing perch in most cars, provides decent head and knee room, although the passenger sits on a rigid cushion and must splay his feet on both sides of a four-inch floor hump.

The Civic Sport is conceived and built for driving entertainment, which it delivers with a shot of excitement and a dose of practicality.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Honda Civic Sport four-door hatchback.
  • Engine:1.5-liter four cylinder, 180 hp, 177 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 97/23 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,864 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 30/39/33 mpg. Premium fuel recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $22,135.
  • Price as tested: $22,135.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

Photos (c) Honda.

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