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Long-term wrapup

2015 Honda Fit EX

12/25/2015

In an age when V8 pickups are used to commute to financial-sector jobs 4 miles away, the concept of a small hatchback with a small engine and a very manual gearbox can seem downright retro. After all, it is how modern humans used to commute way back in the Reagan years. And despite everyone purchasing a Ford Explorer in the 1990s as mandated by federal law, the small commuter hatchback did not go away entirely, even as brands like Geo quietly packed up their boxes of squeaky gray plastics and left.

No, the minimalist commuter hatch is not completely dead, but just how relevant would a no-frills hatch with a small engine, cloth seats, AM/FM radio, tiny wheels and six gears be in 2015? 

It just so happens that our long-term Honda Fit is equipped with such “features,” and we set off to close out our year with the little gray subcompact by putting it in its element and just letting it do its thing: We threw it into the worst commuter situations we could dredge up, the kind of rush-hour congestion that makes TV news anchors shake their heads and say, “It’s bumper to bumper out there, folks. Now let’s check in with sports.”

Old Sports eXperience

The tiny S660 is the purist’s Honda

11/02/2015

Parked in the lobby at Honda’s Tochigi, Japan automobile R & D center is a gleaming silver 1962 S360 roadster. Impossibly small, its miniscule four-cylinder, 22 cubic-inch motor is linked to the rear wheels via dual chain drives. It was as much a four-wheeled motorcycle with automotive ambitions as was is a real grown-up car, which only adds to its outsized charm.

The S360 existed only as a prototype, but while it didn’t make it to production, it was a clear first step toward the joyful S-roadsters -- a lineage that began with the S500 and stretched all the way to the acclaimed S2000.

Honda brought us to Tochigi ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show so we could explore some of its upcoming product -- everything from the Acura NSX (much more on that here) to the strange Clarity fuel-cell sedan (more on that soon) was represented. But the one we were most excited to drive, however briefly, was the S360’s youngest descendant: The S660. 

2016 Honda HR-V review notes

Simpler is better

10/27/2015

DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: I thoroughly enjoyed my first drive in a Honda HR-V but noted at the time I was in a 2WD stick shift … a car you're about as likely to find in a dealer showroom as an unclaimed $10 bill. The EX-L we have here is far more representative of the average HR-V on the street, and it was a bit of a letdown. Where 1.8 liters and 141 hp are fun in a 'slow car fast' way with the two-wheel-drive stick, the added weight and drag of an all-wheel-drive system driven through a CVT automatic saps any inkling of fun.

Not everyone wants "fun to drive," though, and there's still a lot to like in the HR-V. Interior space remains a high point -- we packed three kids across the back row even with my 6-foot frame in front, and there were no kneeroom complaints. The cargo area isn't particularly deep, but the load floor is extremely low, so tall gear fits easily. Outward visibility is typical Honda good, and the brilliant Lanewatch system that offers a view of the right side of the car when the turn signal is activated adds a measure of safety.

2016 Honda Civic sedan first drive

10/19/2015

What is it? This Honda marks the transition from high-revving, naturally aspirated tradition to factory turbocharging. It isn’t likely to go back, so it’s pretty critical that Honda gets it right.

Instead of trying to build a car intended specifically to excel in North America, Honda went with a global platform. Benchmarks were set at the level of European luxury sedans from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. Admittedly, that's a pretty lofty goal. We didn't expect Mercedes-grade comfort and performance, but we did expect a reliable, comfortable and cost-efficient car that has a ton of utility. Basically, that's what you'd always expect from a Civic. And while long-term reliability remains unknown, for the most part, things haven't changed.

For 2016, Civic sedans get two engine options: either a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter I4 making 158 hp or a turbocharged 1.5-liter I4 pumping out a healthy 175 hp at 5,500 rpm. The engine options are determined at the trim level, with the LX and EXs powered by the 2.0-liter, while the LX-T, EX-T and Touring editions come equipped with the 1.5-liter engine. The 2.0-liter engine with a manual transmission is able to sip fuel at the rate of 27 mpg city, 40 mpg highway for combined fuel economy of 31 mpg. The turbocharged 1.5 with the CVT does even a little better with 31 mpg city, 42 mpg highway and a combined 35 mpg.

The 2016 Honda Accord coupe and sedan.

2016 Honda Accord first drive

If it's an appliance, it's a damn good one

08/10/2015

What is it? It’s the 2016 Honda Accord: a good, sensible midsize car for good, sensible folks. In that regard, it’s a lot like the 2015 Accord, also good and sensible, and the 2014 Accord … well, you get the idea. 

Yes, there are updates for the new model year, and some trims see modest price increases (see the full guide down below), but unless you’re doing back-to-back test runs, you probably won’t notice the revised suspension damping or new steering-response logic.

Output remains the same for both engines: 185 hp and 181 lb-ft from the 2.4-liter inline-four and 278 hp and 252 lb-ft from the 3.5-liter V6. On the I4, however, a series of engineering improvements -- plus aero-boosting exterior changes -- have yielded a 1-mpg highway fuel economy improvement. So there’s that. Transmission options are carried over as well. There is a six-speed manual, which an enlightened 2 or 3 percent of buyers will select, and a CVT, which is not totally punishing to drive.

'Hey, pick me!'

2015 Honda Fit EX second-quarter update

08/07/2015

As versatile as it is affordable, the Honda Fit is everything we wanted in a straightforward jack-of-all-trades economy car. Six months into our yearlong test period, however, we found the Fit to be easy to own … and just as easy to pass by in favor of the more specialized (and more fun) cars, trucks and crossovers in our fleet.

We’d like to say our little five-door pocket knife fared better this past quarter, but we’re still struggling to rack up the miles. That’s a shame, because you do get exactly what you pay for with the Fit.

The Fit’s efficiency-boosting aerodynamic wedge shape cuts down on wind noise, but road noise still seeps into the cabin—as does the sound of the motor. The four-cylinder’s two liters don’t exactly add up to a sonorous V8 roar. But that’s one of the tradeoffs for the very respectable 28.1-mpg fuel economy we saw this quarter, achieved almost exclusively in stop-and-go city driving.

2015 Honda Civic Si review notes

Little charmer

08/05/2015

ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: A few days before I got the keys to this Si, I stumbled across a piece at Speedhunters about a guy who restored/resto-modded a sixth-gen Civic(!). Tuning was never my scene, but the story and photos really opened my eyes to what makes these older Hondas so cherished. Not only were they well engineered -- with double-wishbone suspensions and great motors -- they were also honest, affordable and just boring enough aesthetically (maybe “clean” or “no-frills” or “not-trying-too-hard” is what I’m getting at) to serve as a blank slate for the wildest of tuner fantasies.

Since then, the Civic has traded its fancy front suspension for McPherson struts, gained size and weight and lost some of the magic that somehow made it a hit with both everyday transportation pod-purchasers and rabid, Honda-worshipping fanboys. Even after the current, ninth-gen Civic was bludgeoned carefully refined into a vehicle that met the average driver’s needs in as inoffensive a manner as possible, it still sort of feels like a decent car built to a price point rather than a really good car that happens to be affordable.

2015 Honda Civic Type R five-door hatchback drive review.

2015 Honda Civic Type R Euro-spec first drive

Can you handle Honda's turbocharged halo hatch?

06/23/2015

What is it?

With apologies to the Civic Si, it’s been ages since Honda built something about which its American devotees could get truly excited -- at least where four-wheeled vehicles are concerned. Sure, Honda will sell you a street-legal MotoGP bike if you’ve got a spare $184,000 and a somewhat optimistic assessment of your riding abilities, but the S2000 went out of production years ago, and it’s been eons since we had the Integra Type R.

Honda fanboys could be forgiven for feeling a bit neglected, but there is hope: The automaker has promised to bring the Civic Type R, which our fellow gearheads in Europe and Japan have been enjoying for years, to the United States.

This 2015 Honda Civic Type R five-door, however, is not that U.S.-bound vehicle. 

The 2015 Honda Civic Type R.

2015 Honda Civic Type R

Massive photo gallery of Honda's monster hot hatch

06/17/2015

That the 2015 Honda Civic Type R packs 306 hp is impressive, but precisely how the automaker squeezes that much power out of a 2.0-liter is worth noting: turbocharging. Yes, Honda’s going turbo, and it’s giving the world a first taste of its newfound appreciation for forced induction in the form of this aero-bedecked front wheel-drive hot hatch.

As far as technological debuts go, we can’t think of a better way to do things -- but then, we’re fans of big rear wings and grippy, well-bolstered seats, so we may be biased. Better yet, the Type R is manual-only; a short-throw six-speed is the only option drivers will have when it comes to changing gears.

This Type R is based on the current European Civic five-door. Simply put, we'll never see this car go on sale in the United States. But Honda has promised us a Type R based on the upcoming all-new 2016 Civic, and the Euro-spec hot hatch we sampled at the Slovakiaring outside Bratislava gives us the best indication yet of what the future of Honda performance holds technologically -- and philosophically.

The 2016 Honda Pilot loses the model's traditional boxiness but gains a whole lot of refinement.

2016 Honda Pilot

First drive of Honda's latest SUV

05/20/2015

What is it?

Even as Honda prepares to unleash the 2016 HR-V -- a vehicle it calls a “gateway drug” to Honda ownership -- into a roaring compact crossover market, it hasn’t turned its back on larger offerings. The stalwart CR-V received a facelift for the 2015 model year and the automaker has redesigned its three-row SUV from the ground up for good measure.

The resulting 2016 Honda Pilot is an eminently practical, tech-laden SUV aimed directly at, to paraphrase a Honda rep, the 1.1 million Americans who need a people-hauler but can’t bear being seen in a minivan. Or at least a healthy chunk of them. 

As it enters its third generation, the Honda Pilot has shed its boxy, truck-like looks and picked up a set of 20-inch rims -- a first for Honda -- plus LEDs by the bucketful, a suite of optional safety tech including a collision mitigation system and rear cross-traffic alert, a sleek infotainment system and a whole lot of USB charging points scattered throughout the cabin. It seats seven passengers when equipped with second-row captain’s chairs or eight if you opt for second-row benches.

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The image the company sent to future owners who have made deposits is a lightly photoshopped sketch that Britain's Autocar magazine published in March of this year.

TVR makes progress on new Cosworth V8, teases owners with Autocar's sketch

12/29/2015

TVR, the boutique British automaker run aground in 2006 after purchase by a Russian oligarch, is back with plenty of deposits on an undisclosed coupe and a teaser image photoshopped from an Autocar magazine sketch. The fledgeling car company is at work on a new coupe powered by a Cosworth V8 with an expected output of 450 to 500 hp, though it won't be until 2018 that customers will be able to take delivery of the cars. The factory has to be built first, even though the first year's allocation is already sold out.

TVR Chairman Les Edgar gave the future owners of the new coupe a progress report, stating that the company is running at least one engineering mule that has been operating on roads, and that they've recently fired up one of the Cosworth V8s.

Watch F1 cars rip up a mountain in Japan

12/29/2015

Two ex-Formula One cars plus one mountain road equals an epic video shot in Japan by Motor Head Magazine.

It's not too often you see open-wheel cars on public roads -- the Stallone vehicle "Driven" notwithstanding -- but something about it makes the cars look even better than when they're on the racetrack. After the F1 cars have a go, they're followed by some drifters who are nearly as impressive.

The camerawork is also great, so check out more of Motor Head's stuff here.

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