2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport Review

Wednesday August 2nd, 2017 at 11:88 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

Hypes: Gives Real Meaning to “Sport”
Gripes: Puny Horn, No Dead Pedal, Poor Rear 3/4 Vision

Sport has to be the most misused term in the automotive realm. Manufacturers of the most prosaic products have managed to append the descriptor “Sport” to vehicles eminently unworthy of the appellation. On top of that, almost every two ton SUV these days comes with a magic button on the dash labeled “Sport” to convince you that a push of said button will somehow transform an elephant into a gazelle. Just like there’s no free lunch, there’s no free “Sport.” If you want to label your product “Sport” you better be prepared to back up that claim with some hard design and engineering work.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

Honda’s newest Civic, is the product of just such hard work. It truly deserves the name Sport – a legitimate title earned through suspension excellence, engine performance, shifting precision, and overall driving feel. This is a front-wheel-drive, five door, family transport hatchback with the following features that define the concept “Sport” – 180hp engine, 6-speed manual transmission, multi-link independent rear suspension, 18″x8″ alloy rims with 235/40R18 Continental ContiProContact rubber, electric power assisted rack and pinion steering.

Honda has assembled these essential sporting ingredients into a rather spacey looking package that harks back to the company’s best Civics from the mid 1980s – the CRX and the Civic Si. Although updated in every way – especially from the safety standpoint -the 2017 Civic Sport responds to the driver with the same alacrity those early Civics did. I should know because I once owned a 1988 Civic Si.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

Recently, Honda has been unable to reproduce the lightness and responsiveness of those early Civics. This time, though, they have turned the trick in spades, and done so for a very modest buy-in price of $21,300. Unlike decidedly tinny Civics from decades back, the latest compact Honda scores an impressive 5 star rating in all 5 aspects of the Government Safety Rating analysis. Honda’s “ACE body structure” and the inclusion of dual stage front airbags, side airbags, and side curtain airbags with rollover sensor all contribute to the 5 Star rating.

But the Civic Sport scores heavily as well in accident avoidance thanks to excellent acceleration, superb braking, and responsive handling. That 1.5 liter gem of an engine lying under the “Earth Dreams” valve cover shroud makes 180hp and 177lb.-ft. of torque fed through a 6-speed manual gearbox. This manually operated shift mechanism is increasingly rare in today’s automotive spectrum. The light touch required to move from gate to gate is a joy to experience. Clutch pedal take-up, however, occurs rather high in the pedal’s arc of operation, so coordinating your shifts can sometimes be a challenge.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

The engine itself is gratifyingly responsive, providing you with a VTEC-like boost when the turbo motor climbs on the boost at 6000rpm and snaps straight to 6500rpm. Car & Driver (April, 21017)tested the Civic Sport and recorded a sterling 0-60mph run of 7.0 seconds, and a quarter mile time of 15.2 seconds @ 94mph. Incidentally, the Civic Sport won C&D’s comparison test handily versus the Mazda 3, VW Golf and Chevy Cruze.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

At one stoplight, we were accosted by a curious woman driving a Lincoln Navigator who inquired what kind of car we were driving. Seems she just loved its looks. The latest styling effort from Honda is rather polarizing. Either you love it like that lady in the Navigator, or you shake your head in dismay. But either way, once you hunkered down in the Sport’s deeply contoured buckets, grabbing its fat rimmed leather wheel, and snapping real upshifts and downshifts with one of the last available stick shifts, it doesn’t much matter what the new Civic looks like to others. Because inside that cabin, the Hatch Sport provides driving nirvana anyway you look at it.

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

2017 Honda Civic Hatch Sport

  • Engine: 1.5 liter DOHC 16 Valve, Direct Injection, Turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 180hp
  • Torque: 177lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 30 MPG City/39 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $22,135
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring Review

Monday June 19th, 2017 at 3:66 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

By David Colman

Hypes: Efficient, Practical, Well Constructed
Gripes: Gear Selector Confusion, Poor Front Quarter Sight Lines

The big news for CR-V fans this year is the 190hp turbo motor which is connected to a CVT transmission. This four cylinder engine is above all fuel efficient, producing an overall EPA rating of 29 MPG (27 MPG City/33 MPG Highway). How does Honda manage to make such a small displacement unit propel a fairly substantial vehicle (3,530 lbs.) so economically? They massage every aspect of the fuel combustion process, with double overhead camshafts operating 16 valves, and high pressure direct fuel injection metering precise amounts of gasoline into all four turbocharged cylinders. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) is one of the best on the market, with high and low ranges seamlessly administering “Real Time” thrust to all four wheels. The only downside of the turbo 4/CVT combo is the engine’s maximum output of 190hp. That number comes up a little short in the outright performance department since each horsepower is allocated 18 pounds to motivate. The latest CR-V isn’t slow once it gets rolling, but initial acceleration off the stoplight is uninspiring.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

The Touring (TRG) version we tested is Honda’s top-line entry, with an all-inclusive price of $33,695. You can opt for a substantially cheaper $27,635 EX Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) version which will save you about $6,000 in outlay. But really, the Touring AWD version is well worth the extra investment if you do any long distance touring, or inclement weather driving. An eye-catching set of 7 inch x 18 inch flat-faced alloys make the CR-V look like its spinning its wheels even while standing still. Those rims are shod with Hankook Kinergy GT tires measuring 235/60 R 18. The 60 Series sidewalls of these radials impart a comfortable ride quality to the CR-V’s luxurious cabin. Their friction coefficient is also high, endowing this crossover with neutral cornering and decent grip on twisty roads.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

But you won’t be selecting a CR-V on the basis of acceleration or handling. Rather, this Honda sells itself to you with its comfort, practicality and legendary build quality. Though both the engine and transmission are constructed in the USA, the CR-V is assembled at Honda’s plant in Alliston, Ontario Canada. The Canadians do a workmanlike job of screwing the CR-V together with care and precision. We detected not one squeak or rattle from the complex structure, nor did we see a loose end here or a protruding screw head there. The interior of the CR-V looks more luxurious than you would expect from a vehicle in this price range. The heated front seats in particular are nicely done, with perforated, pleated leather offering lots of support and grip. The driver’s seat features a 2 slot memory recall, 4 step electric lumbar, and 12 modes of power adjustment.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

Although the CR-V has grown in size over the years, it still retains trim and athletic proportions, with an overall length of 179 inches and a compact wheelbase of just 109 inches. Until you flop the rear seats forward and remove the retracting luggage area screen, you don’t appreciate just how much interior space the CR-V affords you. With the seats stowed and the screen removed from its perch, you can slide a full size mountain bike over the low-threshold rear gate. The Touring’s “Hands Free Access Power Tailgate” hastens insertion and removal of such large loads. In fact, the CR-V will handle 36 cubic feet of cargo when properly configured. As a people mover, this SUV will carry 4 adults in comfort, five in a slight squeeze.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

Of course, the top line CR-V is equipped with a full bevy of “Honda Sensing” safety measures at no extra cost. These include Adaptive Cruise Control, which is quite easy to operate from the steering wheel’s right spoke, and offers a particularly useful feature called “Low Speed Follow” which will ease your worry in stop-and-go traffic. Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist and Road Departure Mitigation are all present and ready to help out in an emergency.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

Only a couple of ergonomic misses mar the CR-V’s cabin. One is the floor-mounted stick shift’s lack of an illuminated adjacent display panel to reveal the gear range you have selected. You have to avert your eyes from the stick to find the appropriate display on the instrument panel. The steering wheel’s short range of vertical adjustment limits you to a bus-like driving position. Finally, it’s difficult to see the front corners of the CR-V from the driver’s seat. That short list of misses hardly detracts from this exceptionally useful, all climate family utility wagon.

2017 Honda CR-V 1.5T AWD Touring

  • Engine: 1.5 liter inline 4, DOHC, 16 Valves, Direct Injection, Turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 190hp
  • Torque: 181lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 27 MPG City/33 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $34,595
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring Review

Tuesday April 11th, 2017 at 4:44 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

By David Colman

Hypes: Frugal, Practical, Good Regenerative Brake Feel
Gripes: Bring Back the Radio Volume Knob Please

For 2017, Honda has reintroduced the Hybrid version of the Accord, a model last sold in 2015. Notable improvements over the previous version include doubling the number of electric motors. This pair now produces 181hp and 232lb.-ft. of torque. When coupled to the Hybrid’s 2.0 liter DOHC gas motor – itself good for 143hp and 129lb.-ft. of torque – the “Earth Dreams” drive system yields a combined rating of 212hp. This marks an increase of 16hp over the discontinued 2015 Hybrid Accord. More importantly, the Hybrid now returns 48MPG in the EPA test cycle for combined city/highway operation.

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

A CVT (continuously Variable Transmission) meters power to the front wheels only. Since it has no gears, the electronically controlled (hence, eCVT) shifter provides no method for transmission modulation of engine speed. There are no paddles available, so the closest you can come to operational choice here is to select the “Sport” mode which maximizes throttle sensitivity and thus provides quicker engine response. Honda also includes a “B” setting on the eCVT which favors brake regeneration on long downhills.

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

The new Hybrid package is gratifyingly quick in Sport mode, with immediate throttle response prompting a sudden surge of torque from the electric motors. Thanks to the simple minded behavior of its eCVT, however, Honda’s latest Hybrid Accord misses the sports sedan mark. This 3,552lb. mid-size sedan records a power-to-weight ratio of 16.75lb/hp. Adequate, but hardly scintillating. Further complicating the fun-to-drive factor are the Hybrid’s modestly sized, rock hard Michelin Energy radials (225/50R17) mounted on busy looking alloy rims (7.5″x17″). These all-season Michelins would not be your first choice for carving apexes on back roads, since their tread width (225mm) is skimpy and their compound hard (tread wear rating of480).

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

If you order the top line Touring Group version of the Accord, Honda equips your sedan with the following features not included on lesser models: heated rear seats, LED headlights with high beam assist, and navigation. You really aren’t left wonting for much with this maxed out Touring Accord. A complete suite of safety minders is standard. Called “Honda Sensing,” these provide collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, and lane departure/ road departure warning. Such are the building blocks of the fully autonomous vehicle which can prove useful in case of an emergency. The best feature is the Accord’s very smooth and easily controlled adaptive cruise control which works flawlessly, even in heavy traffic. It allows you to set your following distance, and obediently maintains that gap to traffic without the undue jerkiness characteristic of so many similar systems. Especially informative is a rear camera which projects adjacent right side traffic on a 7 inch display screen when you activate your right hand turn signal. By depressing a button on the signal control stalk, you can play this informative display for your entire drive.

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

The interior of the Accord is inviting despite its lack of luxury trim. The dash is finished with bands of simulated plastic driftwood that neither excites nor dismays you. The seats are reasonably comfortable, heated, and easy on your back thanks to standard lumbar electric adjustments. Their low side bolsters do little for cornering support, but facilitate ingress and egress. Construction quality is beyond reproach. Honda moved Hybrid build from Marysville, Ohio to Sayama, Japan this year, making this Accord a fully Japanese product.

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

The Hybrid’s 1.3kWh lithium-ion battery pack is substantially smaller than the one supplied to the previous model. Hence, it occupies less trunk space. This savings has increased the trunk to 13.5 cubic feet. However, you are still faced with a raised ridge covering the battery pack that necessitates a fixed partition behind the rear seats. The Hybrid loses 2.5 cubic feet of storage compared to the gas powered Accord. However, the Hybrid’s phenomenal 48 miles to the gallon compensates nicely for such minor storage space loss.

2017 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring

  • Engine: Twin Electric Motors plus 2.0 liter gasoline engine, 16 valves DOHC
  • Horsepower: 212hp
  • Torque: 232lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 49MPG City/47 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $36,790
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition Review

Friday December 30th, 2016 at 11:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

By David Colman

Hypes: Precision Handling, Lively Drivetrain, Innovative Storage
Gripes: Tailgate, Hood Prop, Glovebox Need Refinement

After a two year absence, the Ridgeline returns to the marketplace minus its most identifiable feature. The flying buttress that long defined this Honda is gone. Not many owners will rue its absence. Although the Ridgeline’s iconic profile distinguished it from all other compact pickups, the cab side buttress interfered with rear vision as well as bed access. When you’re dealing with a bed as short as this one (5’3″), impaired access is inadvisable. But the redesigned structure makes side access easy. To understand just how short this pickup’s box is, place an adult size mountain bike in the bed. While the bike fits nicely, it takes up the entire floor.

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

This Honda’s very versatile design is based on the company’s Pilot SUV, which was redesigned for 2016. Like the Pilot, the Ridgeline packs a sophisticated 3.5 liter V6, good for 280hp and 262lb.-ft. of torque. Those numbers will allow you to tow a 5,000lb. trailer – provided you keep the passenger and cargo load light in the truck. The owner’s manual gives you a specific breakdown as to how much the trailer load decreases when the passenger and cargo load increase. An integrated Class II trailer hitch and electrical receptacle are standard issue.

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

The Ridgeline we tested, which Honda calls their Black Edition, is the most fully optioned and most expensive model in the line-up. Although you can opt for a crew cab 4×2 for a base price of just $29,475, the Black Edition 4×4 will run you $44,770 including $900 for delivery. That’s an expensive proposition, because some aspects of the Black Edition Ridgeline look more like a $30,000 product than a $45,000 one. For example, when you pop the hood to service the sideways mounted V6, you are forced to dismount a spindly support rod, then insert it into a specific hole, all while juggling the hood with your free hand. The sound deadening mat under the hood looks cheap. At the back end, the heavy tailgate thuds from upright to open with a disconcerting free fall crash. Its weight makes raising it manually quite difficult. Even the glovebox door mimics the tailgate, as it flops noisily open. Other domestic pickups have long since remedied such issues.

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

In spite of these annoyances, there’s really a lot to love about the ingenious design of this crossover truck. Start with the basic design of the platform. Rather than the conventional body-on-frame design so common to compact pickups, Honda has chosen an alternate route they call “Integrated Closed-Box Frame with Unibody Construction.” In common English that translates into a one-piece body structure that provides a quieter ride, with better isolation from road imperfections. The Back Edition rides on model specific black alloy rims (8″x18″) with tall sidewall Firestone Destination all-season tires (245/60R18). The fully independent suspension of the Ridgeline works in consort with the tall Firestones to isolate you from road imperfections. Inside the cabin, outside noise is imperceptible, and even the nastiest potholes are neutered by the cushy Firestones. Yet this truck also corners with exceptional prowess. Its all-wheel-drive system metes power to all four corners with such precision that the suspension never loses traction. Substantial front and rear stabilizer bars help keep you on an even keel. Electronic, power- assisted rack and pinion steering is accurate enough to govern precise placement of this 4, 430 lb. vehicle. To Honda’s engineering credit, it drives smaller than it is.

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

The V6 engine contributes greatly to the Ridgeline’s vibrant performance. When you toe into the throttle, power flow is gratifyingly immediate. 0-60mph test runs clock the Ridgeline at under 7 seconds, which is very quick for such an AWD truck. The 6-speed automatic transmission contributes smooth, immediate shifts, though it lacks manual paddle activated override. The V6 boasts cylinder deactivation technology, which allow this package to post an overall MPG rating of 21. When you combine this sweet drivetrain with all of the Ridgeline’s other features (hidden 7.3 cubic foot trunk in the floor of the pickup bed, folding, stowable rear seats, fully bevy of standard safety alerts), the Black Edition Ridgeline starts looking like something of a bargain surprise, even at $45,000.

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

2017 Honda Ridgeline AWD Black Edition

  • Engine: 3.5 liter V6, 24 valve i-VTEC, Direct Injection, Variable Cylinder Management
  • Horsepower: 280hp
  • Torque: 262lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 18MPG City/25MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $44,770
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring Review

Monday December 19th, 2016 at 11:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring

By David Colman

Hypes: Voluptuous Architecture and Blatant Color
Gripes: CVT Buzzkill, Dash Complexity

Thirty years ago, when I bought my own Honda Civic Si, I did so because Honda had made it the poster child for the economy car as sports car. That first generation Si was light, quick on its rims, and a joy to drive. Visually, the latest 2016 Civic Touring looks even racier than the lively hatchback I owned back in 1987. Unfortunately, the racy looks of the latest two-door Civic are deceptive.

2016 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring

The 1.5 liter turbo coupe simply doesn’t cut it as a driver’s car. It’s not that the 174hp engine isn’t powerful enough to fulfill acceleration needs. Nor are the 215/50R17 Firestone FT140 tires, mounted on standard 17″ x 7″ alloy rims, incapable of generating decent cornering speed. Rather, the Civic Touring is victimized by its Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which detracts from the driving experience in multiple ways. First, it’s always noisy, emitting a constant drone that will wear out your eardrums. Secondly, its infinitely variable belt and pulley system causes the CVT to hunt constantly, as it seeks to provide you with the right ratio. It rarely succeeds in doing so. Finally, Honda does not provide paddle shifters. Nor is there a manual gate for your direct oversight of the CVT. The so-called “Sport” setting on the floor-mounted stick does little but amplify noise.

2016 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring

This is really a shame, because the Civic Touring is quite the handsome package. It’s especially good looking in Energy Green, an outrageous shade of metallic lime that will help every CHP cruiser identify you instantly when you exceed the speed limit. Despite its streamlined roof, this little coupe boasts an exceptionally spacious and comfortable rear seat area, complete with foot pedal operated front seat slide to allow easy disembarkation for aft passengers. And the Touring is full of such useful features. For example, if you want to keep track of adjacent traffic, push a button on the end of the turn signal stalk and you will be greeted with a video display showing your immediate road neighbors. A camera located in the right hand rear view mirror projects this real time traffic image on the 7 inch dashboard display screen. This display automatically pops up every time you signal a right hand turn. The innovation is a Honda exclusive, one that really helps keep you informed of traffic patterns.

2016 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring

I wish I could generate similar enthusiasm for the rest of the dash layout, but such is not the case. The control center of this Civic looks like it was designed by video gamers enamored of cell phone pull-down menus. For example, in order to accomplish the simplest objectives, such as increasing or decreasing fan speed, you need to press a dash button which then brings up a video screen showing a plus/minus axis. You are then required to scan this pictograph, locate your finger in the correct spot for actuation, and hope that the screen isn’t too dirty to decipher the command imparted by your trembling fingertip. On top of all that, you are required to accomplish this mission while travelling at 70mph. How is all this in any way different from texting while driving, which happens to be illegal in most states?

2016 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring

Luckily, Honda does quite a bit better with their suite of safety attributes called the “Honda Sensing Package.” This group, which is standard fare on the Touring model, includes Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) which uses radar and camera info to determine and modify your pre-set speed. The Sensing Package also provides sensors that will avoid accidental forward contact by bringing the car to a halt (Collision Mitigation Braking System). We chose not to test CMBS. However, we did experience Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), which exerts haptic feedback if you allow the Civic to drift away from its intended path of travel. The steering wheel gently tugs you back into what RDM has determined should be your true trajectory. The suite of aids also includes Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS). I chose to deactivate these crutches because most of the time, they proved more annoying than beneficial.

2016 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring

The Civic Touring is a curious brew of knockout looks and punchy motor tempered by the vagaries of a gearless transmission, and the unnecessary complications of an arcade game dashboard. But true believers in the Honda way will be happy to note that the old Civic Si’s irrepressible mojo will be returning to the model line with the addition of a Civic Type R hatchback arriving in 2017.

2016 Honda Civic 1.5T Touring

  • Engine: 1.5 liter inline 4, Direct Injection DOHC, 16 Valves, Turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 174hp
  • Torque: 162lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 31MPG City/41MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $26,960
  • Star Rating: 7 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Honda HR-V 5DR AWD EX-L Review

Tuesday January 12th, 2016 at 9:11 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Honda HR-V 5DR AWD EX-L

By David Colman

Hypes: Brilliant Interior Packaging
Gripes: Underpowered

Honda introduced the 2016 HR-V only 4 months into the 2015 model year. Thus, the earliest releases are nearing 8 months old before their proper 2016 model year clock even begins to count down. This is a great way to stave off the unavoidable depreciation that bedevils new cars the instant they drive off the dealer’s lot.

The HR-V is in many ways – especially size and price – what the CR-V once was before it got fat and expensive. HR-V is a crossover sports utility body appended to a stretched Honda Fit chassis. At 169 inches in length, it’s 9 inches longer than the sub-compact Fit. It’s also 4 inches longer in wheelbase, which allows three adults to fit into the back seat with more leg room than greets them in the Fit.

2016 Honda HR-V 5DR AWD EX-L

By comparison to the HR-V, the current CR-V seems huge, with its 10 extra inches of length and 500 extra pounds of curb weight. At 3,045 pounds, the HR-V itself is fully 400 pounds heavier than the Fit sedan upon which it is based. To compensate for that, Honda upgraded the HR-V’s inline 4 from the Fit’s 130hp and 1.5 liters to 141hp and 1.8 liters. It’s not enough of a boost, however, to prevent the HR-V from being one of the slowest accelerating new rigs on the road. The problem stems from the fact that its power-to-weight ratio stands at a lethargic 21.6 pounds for each horse to move. By contrast, the Fit figure is 20.1 lb/hp, and the 185hp CR-V tops them all at 19.0 lb/hp.

2016 Honda HR-V 5DR AWD EX-L

The fact that Honda equips the HR-V with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) exacerbates the problem. Unlike a gearbox with fixed ratios, the CVT takes longer to spool the engine up, with more noise accompanying each demand for more power. While this is not the vehicle of choice for freeway merges or two lane passes, it offers other attributes that almost make you forget about its power shortfall. Compared to the Fit, the HR-V carries almost twice the amount of cargo: 32 cubic feet vs. 17 for the Fit. Even better, Honda has configured the interior so the 60/40 split second row “Magic Seats” fold virtually flat, allowing maximum utilization of all that generous interior space.

The HR-V is a lot of fun to drive on a two-lane back road. In that sense, it emulates the Fit, with sensitive and accurate electric power assisted rack and pinion steering. The EX-L’s standard issue 7.5 inch x 17 inch five spoke alloy rims not only look rugged, but plant a solid footprint on the pavement, with all season Michelin rubber measuring 215/55R17 at each corner. The HR-V is stiffly sprung, so it’s quick to change direction at the flick of your wrist. It’s easy to set up a nice rhythm with this petite sports utility when you’re flinging it through a succession of curves. The drawback to this suspension calibration is a choppy ride over imperfect pavement. As a passenger trying to read a newspaper, I found it all but impossible to follow a line of print as my head constantly bobbed.

2016 Honda HR-V 5DR AWD EX-L

The HR-V is loaded with comfort and communication features not generally found in a vehicle with a base price of $25,840. For example, standard Smart Entry makes life much easier when your hands are full of grocery bags. The door locking/unlocking sequence is custom programmable. The communication system includes Bluetooth Audio, Hands Free operation, and Next Generation HondaLink with smart phone applications. XM Satellite and HD Radio are standard, with HD traffic reports available in select markets. The EX-L HR-V comes with standard navigation which plays through a 7 inch central display screen. This screen also carries a camera feed while backing up and a second feed from the Lane Watch camera mounted in the right side rear view mirror. Unfortunately, the display screen receives commands only through taps on its graphic user interface since Honda has seen fit to eliminate control knobs. Thus it takes way too much concentration to do something as simple as turn the radio volume up or down.

2016 Honda HR-V 5DR AWD EX-L

If you are in the market for an affordable, space efficient mini SUV, with exceptional gas economy and lots of built-in smart phone features, the newest member of the Honda family may offer just the right combination of sensible features at an irresistible price.

2016 Honda HR-V 5DR AWD EX-L

  • Engine: 1.8 liter inline 4, SOHC, 16 valve
  • Horsepower: 141hp
  • Torque: N/A
  • Fuel Consumption: 27 MPG City/32 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $26,720
  • Star Rating: 7 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Honda Odyssey SE Review

Friday January 8th, 2016 at 2:11 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Honda Odyssey SE

By David Colman

Hypes: Excellent Power and Handling
Gripes: Door Lock/Unlock Procedure Cumbersome

Looking at it, you’d never guess this big salami of a minivan will handle any road course in America with surprising competence. When Honda first introduced the Odyssey ten years ago, I had the opportunity to drive it on the very challenging road course at Barber Motorsports Park, near the Honda plant in Lincoln, Alabama where it is built. Although most journalists that day were intimidated by the sheer size and bulk of the Odyssey, it quickly became apparent to me that this minivan would be more than happy to cut a fast lap time without any drama at all. The fully independent suspension of the Odyssey is responsible for its precision behavior: MacPherson struts front and double wishbones rear. In the years since introduction, the Odyssey has retained its basic balance and controlled ride quality, If anything, its handling has improved with the addition of Michelin’s latest MXV4 Primacy tires (235/65/R17) which stick well when pressed, but also afford a plush ride thanks to their tall sidewalls.

2016 Honda Odyssey SE

Driving the Odyssey is more akin to piloting a yacht than driving a car. You sit tall on the bridge with a wide ranging view of surroundings. Honda has thoughtfully provided wind- wing style triangular windows behind the exterior rear view mirrors. These little panes of glass go a long way to improving peripheral vision from the driver’s seat. Also simplifying your evaluation of adjacent traffic is a marvelous standard feature called LaneWatch, which uses a camera embedded in the right side mirror to display side traffic when you signal a lane change or right turn. You can elect to display this view all the time by depressing a button on the tip of the turn signal stalk.

2016 Honda Odyssey SE

With 248hp, the Odyssey’s 3.5 liter V6 drives through a proper 6-speed automatic transmission (no CVT here). This efficient source of power is more than adequate to propel the 4,530lb. van when you need to match speed with faster traffic in freeway merges. The V6 is quite highly tuned, with double overhead cams, 24 valves, and variable cylinder management that reduces output by cancelling cylinders when cruising. As a result, the Odyssey manages 28 MPG on the freeway. It will also tow a 3,500lb. trailer. This economy is quite surprising in view of the its generous proportions: 202 inch overall length, 118 inch wheelbase. These dimensions are comparable to Chevy’s Suburban or GMC’s Yukon. And with its 61.5 cubic feet of cargo room, this Honda puts to shame those jumbo SUVs, with their 47.5 cubic feet of volume.

Our test Odyssey represents a substantial value at its base price of $34,425. The bottom line swells by an extra $1,050 to cover installation of a DVD rear entertainment system with a 9 inch display screen. This unit is normally a $2,000 value, but if you elect to buy the SE Odyssey, Honda will cut you a $950 price break. The interior of the van is lso teeming with yacht-like indulgences. The driver gets a 10-way power seat, the front passenger a 4-way power throne. Standard is 3 zone climate control, with a thermostat like device mounted on the B pillar that looks like the one you set in your house. To accommodate passengers in each of three rows, Odyssey gives you 41 inches of legroom up front, 32 inches in row two and 29 inches in row three. This is a true 7 passenger bus. Both rear sliding doors are handle actuated to open and shut automatically. These work great as long as you have first gone to the trouble of hitting the unlock button on either the keyfob or the front door armrests. Otherwise you can tug all you want and the doors won’t open, which proves rather annoying. Also missing from the specification sheet is automatic actuation for the rear cargo door, and heated front seats. The Odyssey is otherwise so fully equipped that both features are conspicuous by their absence. If Honda can include heated seats standard on their $21,000 Fit, they should certainly provide them on this $34,000 van.

2016 Honda Odyssey SE

If you need to transport a team, or seek a heavy cargo mover, you will be pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of this Honda. While Honda never uses the word “sport” in any description of the Odyssey, its fine handling nevertheless merits your attention. You don’t have to sacrifice precision steering, or tenacious cornering grip to achieve purposeful packaging of people, pets and parcels.

2016 Honda Odyssey SE

2016 Honda Odyssey SE

  • Engine: 3.5 Liter V6, DOHC, 24 Valves, i-VTEC, Variable Cylinder Management
  • Horsepower: 248hp
  • Torque: N/A
  • Fuel Consumption: 19 MPG City/28 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $34,255
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2016 Honda Fit EX-L NAVI Review

Thursday January 7th, 2016 at 1:11 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2016 Honda Fit EX-L NAVI

By David Colman

Hypes: Fuel Efficient but Fun
Gripes: Knob less Radio, Droning CVT

When Honda redrafted the Fit for 2015, they increased its dimensions and improved its appearance without losing its subcompact dexterity. The 2016 version continues the refinement with a new CVT transmission fitted with paddle shifters. The infinitely variable ratio transmission extracts maximum performance from the Fit’s 130hp, 1.5 liter inline 4 cylinder engine. While you won’t be confusing this Honda’s straight line acceleration with that of a sports sedan, neither will you be ashamed of the speed it generates when merging onto a freeway. In fact, the diminutive four under the hood, which Honda proudly displays without a hide-all modesty shield, is quite a strong performer in this lightweight (2,625 lb.) package. With double overhead camshafts controlling variable valve timing (i-VTEC), and with direct injection of fuel maximizing combustion economy, the “Earth Dreams Technology” motor makes 32 MPG in city driving, and 38 MPG on the highway for a combined EPA estimate of 35 MPG.

2016 Honda Fit EX-L NAVI

In fact, the Fit power plant is so efficient and powerful for its size that the Sports Car Club of America chose it as the specification engine for its Formula Fit series of open wheel race cars. This very competitive class had gone by the name Formula Ford for over 30 years until the affordable Fit hit the market. While the EX-L doesn’t quite handle like a Formula Fit, it’s still quick to change direction, and proves nimble on back roads. Credit 185/55R16 Firestone FR740 tires, and electrically power assisted rack and pinion steering for its well bred behavior.

One of the compelling beauties of this car is its utter lack of tack-on amenities. The base price lists at $21,065. Aside from a pre-delivery inspection from your dealer ($820), this Honda is Fit to go, without extras, for $21,885. By selecting the EX-L trim level, you eliminate the need for any pricey additions to the basic sticker price. You say you want navigation? The Fit EX-L comes standard with a 7 inch screen displaying Honda’s satellite-linked navigation program with voice recognition. The same screen does double duty as an audio touch pad for the included AM/FM/CD/MP3, 6 speaker infotainment center. However, Honda designers have succumbed to the fad for touch pad control in lieu of knob control. Touch pads work fine at your desk, but very poorly when multi-tasking while driving. The simple act of raising the volume on your Fit’s radio could easily distract you from driving. To circumvent the problem, Honda has fitted the steering wheel with an audio volume control, but your first inclination will always be to address the faceplate of the unit for manipulation.

2016 Honda Fit EX-L NAVI

For such a small vehicle, the Fit is remarkably efficient and adaptive. Four full size doors facilitate use of the back seat for both passengers and parcels. The fifth door, which pops up with just a slight assist from your hand, opens the rear cargo area for 17 cubic feet of carrying capacity. With the rear seats folded flat, this interior space jumps to double that number with the simple flick of a lever controlling seat back position. As an added benefit, the second row seats stow two ways: with backs flat or bottom cushions upraised. Another nicety is the fact that the rear seat backs can be adjusted for angle. Up front, both seats benefit from standard 3 position heating controls. These are invaluable on cold fall mornings. Also easing inclement weather driving is a standard rear window wiper which quickly clears the heated rear window pane. The Fit’s climate conditioning system is exemplary. Despite the fact that the windshield is huge and relatively flat, the demisting operation takes but seconds, even on the wettest of days.

2016 Honda Fit EX-L NAVI

Thanks to its low belt line and abundance of glass, vision from the driver’s seat is exceptional. Assisting in this regard is Honda’s innovative LaneWatch camera which is embedded in the passenger side mirror. This device activates each time you signal a right hand lane change, transmitting a real time image of following traffic on the passenger side of the Fit. Once you have completed your lane change, the picture disappears. However, you can activate the screen image full time by depressing a button on the end of the turn signal stalk. This allows you to watch the world go by in reverse and proves fascinating and helpful at analyzing traffic patterns. Plus it’s a lot of fun. The only item marring a perfect rear view record is the back seat’s center shoulder harness, which dangles like an unlaced shoe from the roof of the vehicle.

Honda has continuously upgraded the Fit since its introduction. The 2016 model has matured into one of the best and most useful subcompacts you can buy for bargain money.

2016 Honda Fit EX-L NAVI

2016 Honda Fit EX-L NAVI

  • Engine: 1.5 liter DOHC 16-Valve inline 4 with i-VTEC, and Direct Injection
  • Horsepower: 130hp
  • Torque: N/A
  • Fuel Consumption: 32 MPG City/38 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $21,885
  • Star Rating: 8 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2015 Honda Fit EX-L

Friday March 27th, 2015 at 1:33 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Honda Fit EX-L

By David Colman

Hypes: Revamped Styling and Interior Packaging
Gripes: CVT

This Honda will fit into your plans if you need an affordable and dependable sedan with enough interior room to belie its modest exterior dimensions. Honda has repackaged the Fit for 2015, extending space inside while retaining sub-compact length (160″), height (60″) and width (67″). Because wheelbase (99″) has grown by an inch, there’s more legroom for rear seat passengers. The rear seats are also notable for the fact that their bases are open, allowing you to store parcels or shopping bags beneath them. The Fit’s aft cargo area benefits from hatchback access, and its flat floor extends into the passenger compartment when you drop the rear seats flat. Doing so maximizes use of the Fit’s generous 24 cubic feet of storage space.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L

Inside the cockpit, you’ll immediately notice that Honda has upped the Fit’s finish, with leather trimmed seats and a leather wrapped steering wheel. That steering wheel also offers easy to use cruise controls on the right spoke, and equally intuitive radio selection and volume buttons on the left spoke. In the case of volume control, the spoke-mounted unit is particularly welcome since the alternative is a display-screen mounted virtual slide adjuster that’s both hard to find and slow to react to your input.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L

The Fit has molted for 2015, losing its chubby face and cute baby curves in favor of a more mature and assertive bullet-nosed look. The difference is especially noticeable from the front, where a wraparound intake-cum-headlight fascia replaces the previous model’s doe-eyed innocence with a snarkier squint. Sharply chiseled beltline and rocker panel air channels now impart movement missing in the bland styling of its predecessor. The 2,450 pound Fit is so light it requires minimal foot ware: 185/55R16 Bridgestone Turanza EL470 tires mounted on standard 16 x 6 inch alloys do the job at each corner. But even the tiny Fit dwarfs this minimalist wheel/tire combination. Cornering hard will convince you that an upgrade in tire size or wheel width would improve adhesion under duress.

The 1.5 liter engine now produces 130hp, 13 more than the previous Fit. This engine benefits from all the latest technology tweaks such as direct very high pressure fuel injection, and i-VTEC variable valve timing actuation of its twin overhead camshafts to produce both acceptable horsepower and torque (114 lb.-ft.) along with outstanding gas economy (35 MPG overall).

2015 Honda Fit EX-L

Our test Fit was equipped with a no-extra-cost automatic transmission, a CVT unit with a Sport Mode and paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The CVT’s stick is mounted on the floor console, between the front seats. Next to it is a gear indicator panel that fails to illuminate when you have made a selection. For confirmation of that information, you need to refocus on the left quadrant of the instrument binnacle for a digital gear display. This poor correlation between stick and display is annoying.

Most of your driving time will pass without giving much thought to the CVT. Only when accelerating hard will you become aware of its tendency to spool the engine high into the rpm range for maximum thrust. This tendency results in lots of noise without much in the way of acceleration. Do yourself a big favor and order your Fit with Honda’s excellent 6-speed manual gearbox, which instantly converts this grocery getter into a sports sedan.
Then you will have a finely crafted, fun to drive, lightweight package that is economical to buy as well as to operate.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L

2015 Honda Fit EX-L

  • Engine: 1.5 liter inline 4, DOHC, i-VTECH, 16 valves, direct injection
  • Horsepower: 130hp
  • Torque: 117lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 32 MPG City/38 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $21,590
  • Star Rating: 7 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2013 Honda Civic Si

Thursday October 24th, 2013 at 12:1010 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Scalpel Sharp Sports Sedan
Gripes: Confusing Bi-Level Dash

The Si is a remarkably adept sports sedan beset by a few niggling ergonomic problems. Its good points, however, far outweigh its shortcomings. The Si, first introduced to the Civic model lineup in 1987, has long been Honda’s street fighter, relying on peaky horsepower and splendid handling to embarrass cars costing more than twice the Si’s $28,000 sticker price. Under that abbreviated hood, you’ll find a ferociously competent 2.4 liter inline 4, with variable valve timing (i-VTEC) contributing exceptional top end power. At a screaming 7,500rpm, the Si makes 201hp and 170lb.-ft. of torque. When you zing the engine to redline, a warning light indicates i-VTEC actuation, followed by a quartet of yellow and red bulbs which illuminate sequentially as redline is reached. This is the kind of light display NHRA Pro Stock drivers use to win quarter mile drag races. The effect is mesmerizing, informative, and emblematic of the Si’s serious driving orientation.

There are 6 well-spaced cogs in the manual transmission to keep this mini dynamo on full boil. If you enjoy shifting manually, you’ll have a blast operating the Si’s crackerjack unit. Adding to the joy is the diminutive alloy golf ball that tops the stubby stick. It makes you feel like a surgeon in an operating room. Throws from gate to gate are so precise, and clutch actuation so linear and predictable, that the Si will instantly make a better driver out of you.

Chucking it around turns is another delicious pleasure. Fist, you benefit from the well padded high backed sports seats that keep your butt fastened to the chassis. Next, you’ll appreciate Honda’s taken the trouble to supply the Si’s 6.5″ x 17″ alloy rims with the latest high performance rubber from Michelin: 215/45R18 Pilot Sport 3 tires at each corner. The suspension system of the Si is decidedly stiff, with chunky swaybars and taut springs affording track ready ride firmness and mid corner stability. Few cars at any price provide the instant feedback and unalloyed joy of pushing the Si to the limit.

With such a great package on offer, it’s disappointing to encounter a handful of faults Honda should have corrected long ago. For example, access to the rear seats on this 2 door is decidedly poor. That problem would be tolerable if you could easily slide the front seatbacks forward, then restore them to their prior backrest rake setting. But no, every time you flip the seatback forward to toss something in the back, you must readjust your backrest manually to your preferred setting. This procedure was irritating 26 years ago, when I bought my first Civic Si, and Honda hasn’t done a thing to ameliorate the problem in a quarter century. Also on the quibble list is the absence of an exterior trunk release, which inconveniently forces you to use either the key fob remote button or the under dash release switch to gain access. The final problem concerns the in-dash navigation/entertainment screen which is virtually illegible in daylight because it inexplicably superimposes red letters on a gray background. The navigation’s bit-mapped video display looks more like Pac Man than HDTV.

But are these minor snafus serious enough to deter you from buying this Honda? Not in the least. With the possible exception of the Mazda MX5, there is nothing remotely comparable in sports motoring to the Civic Si for this kind of money. And the Mazda will barely carry two and their toothbrushes, while the Civic is a spacious, practical, everyday conveyance. If you cherish the art of driving, you owe it to yourself to take this Honda for a ripping test drive.

2013 Honda Civic Si

  • Engine: 2.4 liter inline 4, DOHC and VTEC
  • Horsepower: 201hp
  • Torque: 170lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 22 MPG City/31 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $27,805
  • Star Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Stars

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