Considering that Honda was one of the first automakers to arrive on the market with a modern-day hybrid, all the way back in 1999 with the first-generation Insight, it’s had spotty success in its quest…
Considering that Honda was one of the first automakers to arrive on the market with a modern-day hybrid, all the way back in 1999 with the first-generation Insight, it’s had spotty success in its quest to electrify the world’s highways and byways.
The original Insight actually beat the Toyota Prius to North American markets, but Honda’s unusual choice of equipping that early model with just two seats meant that it didn’t meet the needs of most buyers. Its lack of an automatic transmission during the first year didn’t help matters either, both shortcomings allowing the four-door CVT-equipped Prius that arrived here the following year to steal the hybrid show. The rest, as they say, is history.
On that note I won’t go into too much detail about Honda’s unenviable HEV past, all of which was covered in my otherwise positive Accord Hybrid review last year, but despite its hit and (mostly) miss two-decade electrification strategy we’ve all got to give the Japanese brand big points for courage.
Such steely nerve is especially true of its recent decision to once again dust off the aforementioned Insight nameplate for the upcoming 2019 model. After all, Honda’s Insight not only failed from a commercial standpoint from 1999 to 2006, but also suffered a second unceremonious death after a short-lived attempt at resurrection from 2009 through 2014. Still, the upcoming 2019 Insight looks like a winner.
The Insight prototype was introduced at Detroit’s 2018 North American International Auto Show in January, followed by simultaneous introductions of the production version in March at the 2018 New York International Auto Show and 2018 Vancouver International Auto Show, with most pundits giving it two thumbs up for styling.
“The Honda Insight shows consumers that the efficiency of a hybrid car doesn’t mean sacrificing style, refinement or performance,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, Senior Vice President of Honda Canada Inc. “The Insight is another symbol of a new era in the evolution of Honda electrified vehicles, where customers can have everything they want with no compromises.”
The Insight doesn’t stray too far away from the new 2018 Accord when it comes to styling, but it shares some design elements with the compact Civic as well, while it’s also sized much closer to Canada’s best-selling car. In fact, the new Insight shares its platform architecture with the current 10th-generation Civic, not to mention many of that car’s hard points like the entire roof section, so all of Honda’s HEV fans who are still patiently waiting for an update of the previous-generation Civic Hybrid can now rejoice—this is it.
In a press release that came out as part of its Vancouver launch, Honda called the new Insight a “premium compact sedan,” and while the term premium is normally reserved for luxury branded models like Acura’s ILX, such could just as easily be said for the current Civic in top-line Touring trim. Still, Honda promises “premium cabin appointments” such as “a soft-touch instrument panel with real stitching, ergonomically sculpted seats,” and more.
Honda also touts a number of premium-level Insight engineering enhancements such as better ride quality, a quieter cabin, and, of course, gains in efficiency.
Aiding overall lightness, the Insight’s Advance Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure gets an exclusive aluminum hood, while extra sound insulation in the engine bay, behind the front firewall, inside the fenders, and under the front and rear floor improves noise, vibration and harshness levels.
Like the Civic, the new Insight benefits from a fully-independent suspension system with Macpherson struts up front and a multi-link design in the rear, improving ride quality and control during performance driving or accidence avoidance, while the top-tier Insight Touring will benefit from liquid-sealing compliance bushings front and back to further refine the ride.
The Insight also utilizes the Civic’s variable-ratio dual-pinion electric power steering system, causing less drag on the powertrain than hydraulic designs, yet still providing direct response to input to satisfy performance fans.
Unlike the Civic, the new Insight will adapt regenerative braking to a mechanical (friction) electro-servo braking system, harnessing some of the kinetic energy that would otherwise be lost, and repurposing it to the ancillary electrical system.
The new Insight is powered by Honda’s third-generation two-motor hybrid system, consisting of a 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle internal combustion engine (ICE), an electric propulsion motor, plus a 60-cell lithium-ion battery pack, resulting in 151 net horsepower and 197 lb-ft of electric motor torque.
Honda says the Insight mostly operates like a regular series hybrid, which means that its gasoline-powered ICE connects to the generator motor to produce electricity that’s not only directly used to energize the electric propulsion motor, but also stored in the battery pack, after which such stored energy can be used as needed to assist the ICE for powering the wheels. Additionally, the Insight is capable of driving on 100-percent electric power for short distances at slow speeds.
While nothing said so far is particularly new or unique, the Insight also features steering wheel-mounted paddle shifter-style deceleration selectors that let you choose among three levels of regenerative braking performance, depending on driving conditions, while the new model also gets three selectable driving modes, including normal hybrid mode that defaults upon startup, plus “ECON” and “SPORT” modes that require the press of a console-mounted button. There’s also an available “EV” mode button that lets you to drive about 1.5 km (1 mile) at low speeds under electric-only power. This wide variety of settings allows the ability to personalize a driver’s experience to maximize efficiency or performance.
On that note, Honda promises the Insight will deliver the “best power-to-weight ratio in its class,” this partially due to its aforementioned lightweight body structure.
Interestingly, while some competitors place a transmission between the ICE/electric propulsion motor and the drive wheels in order to regulate speed, Honda’s two-motor hybrid system doesn’t require one, but instead the drive axles are powered directly from the electric propulsion motor. At higher speeds the engine and drive axles are connected by a lock-up clutch, which Honda says is most efficient during highway and freeway operation. Also notable, Honda incorporates its unique pushbutton gear selector for getting underway.
Of course, Transport Canada hasn’t provided any official fuel economy estimates yet, and neither has the U.S. EPA, but Toyota’s U.S. division is claiming mileage of “up to 55 mpg” in the city and “50 mpg or better” combined, which when converted to metric equals 4.3 L/100km city and 4.7 or better combined. As expected these are similar fuel economy numbers to official 2018 Prius ratings, so the new Insight is in good company.
Being that Honda is now a leader in advanced driver assistance systems and active safety, the new Insight will come standard with a full suite of Honda Sensing equipment, including forward collision warning, autonomous collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, and traffic sign recognition. For this reason and more, Honda expects the Insight will achieve best-possible safety ratings from the IIHS, NHTSA, and Euro NCAP.
Standard features in mind, the Canadian-spec Insight will be available in two trims dubbed Hybrid and Touring, with the former including full LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, 17-inch alloys, pushbutton ignition, a 7.0-inch TFT digital primary instrument panel, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, Honda’s exclusive LaneWatch Blind Spot Display that projects a rearward image of the blindspot onto the centre touchscreen when selecting the right-side turn signal, dual-zone automatic climate control, heatable front seats, eight-speaker audio, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, and more.
Additionally, the top-line Insight Touring will include rain-sensing wipers, perforated leather seating, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, heatable rear seats, navigation with detailed mapping, 4G LTE Wi-Fi with mobile hotspot capability and Wi-Fi-enabled over-the-air system updates, next-generation HondaLink subscription services, 10-speaker premium audio, a HomeLink garage door opener, a powered moonroof, and more.
While the new Insight appears long, lean and sleek like a four-door coupe, Honda says the rear seating area is generous with “best-in-class rear legroom of 949 mm” thanks in part to a considerable 2,700-mm (106.3-inch) wheelbase, which incidentally is identical to its Civic Sedan donor platform. Likewise its wide track should result in good side-to-side roominess, just like the Civic, making the new Insight comfortably and easy to live with.
On this note, Honda places the Insight’s lithium-ion hybrid battery pack below the rear seats, which still allows for standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks to increase its passenger/cargo flexibility, while trunk space behind those rear seats measures the same sizeable 427 litres (15.1 cubic feet) as the conventionally powered Civic Sedan.
As would make sense, the new Insight is being manufactured next to the Civic, as well as the CR-V, at American Honda’s assembly plant in Greensburg, Indiana, which will no doubt please President Donald J. Trump. Improving its chance of U.S. success yet further, its hybrid battery unit is made in the automaker’s Marysville Auto Plant in Ohio, while the ICE gets produced in Honda’s Anna, Ohio engine plant, which also builds the engine for the Ohio-made 2018 Accord Hybrid.
The new 2019 Insight will arrive at Canadian retailers this summer, at which point it will become the most affordable HEV amongst Honda’s three-strong electrified lineup that currently includes the $39,900 mid-size 2018 Clarity Plug-in Hybrid and more recently launched $33,090 2018 Accord Hybrid. Expect pricing to start below the Accord Hybrid.
Honda’s new design language has fully taken shape in the latest Accord, this popular midsize model fully redesigned from the ground up for 2018. It’s the longest, leanest, sportiest Accord yet,…
Honda’s new design language has fully taken shape in the latest Accord, this popular midsize model fully redesigned from the ground up for 2018. It’s the longest, leanest, sportiest Accord yet, and follows many of the current Civic four-door’s coupe-like styling cues, but to my eyes it’s much more pleasingly orchestrated.
This near top-tier version of the Accord’s ritziest Touring trim line has a bit more chrome than all lower grades, excepting the EX-L, which not only brightens the leading edge of the grille and hood before striking through the swept-back wrap-around headlights as done with all models, not to mention the upper portion of the side window surrounds and the slightly angular albeit mostly ovoid tailpipes in back, but also garnishes the otherwise body-colour door handles as well as the extended rocker mouldings below the doors, the latter metal brightwork sweeping upward to each corner of the rear bumper.
The headlights dazzle as well. Their trademark jewel-like vertical pattern signifies standard LEDs, albeit just for low beam use in all trims but Touring that gets full low and high beam LED clusters. Their outer edges are surrounded in LED signature driving lights, with all but base models visually supported by a narrow set of LED fog lamps integrated within the lower fascia below. Additionally, wafer thin LED turn signals get fitted to the side mirror housings of all trims above the same base LX. The LED taillights are standard, plus their dramatic yet elegant C-like shape is completely unique in an industry that oftentimes isn’t too creative. The lower portions aren’t just reflectors either, but join the upper sections by lighting up with LEDs to provide a stylish nighttime statement.
Honda has taken the Accord’s new-edge design inside as well, toning the drama down slightly albeit still delivering a stylish, high-tech experience. For instance, the standard primary gauge package includes a partially configurable 7.0-inch colour TFT display in place of the usual mechanical tachometer, and it’s so realistic I actually thought the entire cluster was analogue when first sliding behind the wheel. In fact, about 60 percent of the left-side cluster is a high-resolution multi-information display that defaults to a tachometer, but otherwise can be used for myriad functions. The right-side speedometer spins via conventional means, while the temperature and fuel indicators to each side are separate backlit gauges.
Looking back, the outgoing Accord included twin digital displays to each side of an analogue speedometer, with a small multi-info display at centre, and while this was bright and colourful, especially in the Accord Hybrid Touring model last tested, this new design provides a larger more useful digital display.
Likewise, Honda has simplified its main centre stack-mounted infotainment system too, with its previous two-screen approach now reduced to one single 8.0-inch touch capacitive display. This makes sense on so many levels, especially cost, but also from a user experience perspective as the new system is much easier to live with. It starts with a newer more advanced touchscreen featuring most peoples’ preferred tablet-style gloss finish, which improves contrast levels and depth of colour, while graphics now mimic Apple’s colourful iPhone/iPad interface, resulting in a simple layout that’s easy on the eyes.
On that note it incorporates standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, Siri Eyes Free compatibility, plus you can modulate many of the system’s applications via smartphone/tablet-style tap, pinch and/or swipe gesture controls.
Smartphones in mind, I think most will agree that CarPlay works better than Android Auto, but Android fans with the latest gear can feel good about the availability of NFC (Near Field Communication), which comes standard on all trims above base (look for the stylized “N” on the dash trim ahead of the front passenger), making connectivity easier than ever. The rest of us will need to make do with standard HandsFreeLink, which gave me and my cheap but serviceable Huawei GR5 no issue.
The standard parking monitor was clear and bright, plus offered multiple angles to choose from, while dynamic guidelines made slotting into a parking spot easier. Interestingly, Honda doesn’t include an overhead parking monitor as part of its top-line offering, but instead provides a digital version that lights up coloured warnings when getting too close to an object, this working in conjunction with audible beeps from my Touring trimmed model’s front and rear parking sensors.
Touring trim also adds satellite-linked navigation with detailed mapping, a system that’s worked brilliantly in previous Honda models and still does in the new infotainment system, while Honda’s bilingual voice recognition is more capable of understanding my miscellaneous utterings than average, or at least it was in English (my French is so bad it would’ve no doubt send us in the wrong direction).
Touring models also include a wireless charging pad within a lidded bin at the base of the centre stack, this also filled with a 2.5-amp USB charging port and a 12-volt plug, while there’s a second USB charging port in the storage bin under the centre armrest, plus in EX-L trims and above you’ll get two more USB ports on the backside of the front console for rear passengers.
Now that we’re talking Touring features, a shortlist of exclusive items not yet mentioned include ambient door handle lighting, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display that projects key info onto the windshield ahead of the driver, Blind Spot Information (BSI) with a Rear Cross Traffic Monitor, ventilated front seats, HD radio, an AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot, HondaLink Subscription Services (such as Enhanced Roadside Assistance, Auto Collision Notification, Emergency Call, a Personal Data Wipe, Remote Start, Security Alarm Alert, Stolen Vehicle Locator Service, Find My Car, Remote Lock and Unlock, Geofence Alert, Speed Alert, Destination by Voice, Personal Concierge, etc), plus more.
In addition, unique features the Touring model shares with the Accord Sport include 19-inch alloy wheels on 235/40 all-seasons (base Accords get 17-inch rims and rubber), a Sport mode (when the Sport comes with an automatic transmission that’s standard with EX-L and Touring trims), and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters (ditto).
Additional items pulled up to the Touring from lesser trims include an electromechanical parking brake, remote engine start, an ECON mode, a front wiper de-icer, an acoustic windshield, Active Noise Control (ANC), a heatable leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel (the heated part not available with the new 2018 Toyota Camry), a leather shift knob, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, an overhead sunglasses holder, a HomeLink garage door opener, a powered moonroof, heated front and rear outboard seats, a driver attention monitor, a 12-way powered driver’s seat with memory, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, perforated leather upholstery, 452-watt AM/FM/MP3/WMA/satellite audio with 10 speakers including a subwoofer, Bluetooth streaming audio, SMS text message and email reading capability, Wi-Fi tethering, the HondaLink Assist Automatic Emergency Response System, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, all the usual active and passive safety features including front knee airbags, convenient capless refueling, and the list goes on.
I purposely left a number of items from the last list of features because I wanted to highlight some of the most impressive kit pulled up from the base model, particularly proximity access with pushbutton ignition and filtered dual-zone automatic climate control, items not normally seen so low in the trim level hierarchy.
Even better, the Accord’s standard Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance systems includes Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), auto high beams, and traffic sign recognition, plus when upgrading to the automatic transmission Adaptive Cruise Control comes along for the ride.
This is an impressive safety-first attitude from Honda Canada, and is no doubt partially responsible for its IIHS Top Safety Pick status (when upgrading to those full LED headlamps mentioned earlier) and best-possible five-star NHTSA rating, but it’s probably also why the base Accord’s price has mushroomed by $1,900 from $24,690 to $26,590 plus freight and fees, plus might also account for the redesign model’s slight drop in sales volume since taking over from the outgoing car.
Normally a fresh new model, especially one so attractive and obviously improved overall, provides an initial bump in retail activity, but not so for the 2018 Accord. To be clear, Canadian market year-over-year Accord sales grew by 4.2 percent during calendar year 2017, but it all happened in just five of the first eight months. The last four months of mostly new 2018 Accord availability saw deliveries slide by 26.1 percent, while the first four months of calendar year 2018 saw Accord sales down once again, albeit only by 8.3 percent. Of course, many factors can cause such a slowdown, from a retail price increase as mentioned, to fewer fleet sales, not to mention overall market conditions (the Canadian new car market only grew by 1.2 percent during Q1 of 2018, compared to 9.4 percent over the first three months of 2017), but either way this new Accord hasn’t provided the upward swing in sales momentum that a new model usually does.
To the Accord’s credit, neither has the new Camry that saw its 2017 sales drop by 7 percent last year, although it’s seen a slight gain of 2.5 percent so far this year, while the third-place Ford Fusion drove off the proverbial cliff with Canadian sales down by 32.5 percent through 2017, plus a further 5.8 percent over the first four months of 2018. The fourth place Chevrolet Malibu experienced similar results with a 2017 year-over-year sales downturn of 29 percent, while the fifth-place Hyundai Sonata “only” fell by 23 percent. The Nissan Altima and Kia Optima didn’t lose as much, but merely because they didn’t have as far to fall, leaving the Volkswagen Passat as the only mid-size sedan to join the Accord with positive year-over-year gains in 2017.
The new Accord certainly doesn’t suffer from a quality perspective, with the entire dash top made from high-grade soft-touch synthetic, as are the front door uppers, while rich padded leatherette gets used for the door inserts and armrests, plus premium levels of stitched leatherette padding are added to each side of the lower console, which covers enough area to protect the driver and front passenger’s knees. Additionally, the faux woodgrain and metal inlays are denser and more realistic than in previous Accords, giving the new car higher end appeal.
All of the switchgear is superb too, with the door window controls finished in a lovely metallic edging, as is the toggle for the powered mirrors and the surrounds for the memory seats. The same metal can be found throughout the rest of the cabin, whether we’re talking buttons, knobs and rockers like the those found on the auto HVAC interface and electromechanical parking brake lever, or just the trim around the rest of the centre stack and lower console, or for that matter the steering wheel which is beautifully shaped and covered in wonderfully soft stitched leather, not to mention backed by a set of satin silver finished paddle shifters. All of the steering wheel switchgear is extremely upscale too, matching many premium sector players.
Most should find the interior design appealing, if not quite as creatively designed as the aforementioned Camry. I certainly found it more comfortable than its archrival, with a driver’s seat you sit within instead of on top of, and as part of that a lower front squab that nicely cups under the hamstrings for better support, plus greater reach from the telescopic steering wheel for improved ergonomics. Still, while the old Accord fit me like a glove, my long-legged, short torso body type forced my arms to reach too far to the steering wheel. It wasn’t as dramatic a stretch as the Camry, but more steering column adjustment would be better.
On the positive, the driver’s seatback provides true four-way powered lumbar support for up and down control instead of just two-way in and out adjustment like the Toyota, not to mention the much pricier Lexus ES that isn’t as comfortable as the Accord for my body type either, while I found the side bolsters did a good job of holding me in place during hard cornering.
While an ideal opportunity to segue into driving dynamics, I can’t forget about those in back that are similarly supported by ideally shaped outboard seats featuring excellent lower back bolstering and well designed cushions under the legs. Legroom is incredibly generous too, with enough space left over to fully stretch out when the front seat was positioned for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame. I had ample side-to-side space too, plus headroom was more than ample for my height and would be for folks that are many inches taller, while a comfortable centre armrest and three-way outboard seat warmers added to my Touring model’s luxury. This said the heatable seats took a long time to warm up, both in back and up front.
As you might expect the trunk is nicely carpeted, is large at 473 litres (16.7 cubic feet), and features the usual 60/40 split for longer cargo, but I still wish Honda would incorporate a more useful 40/20/40 three-way division, or at least a centre pass-through for families who ski.
Now that I’m grumbling, I was a bit disappointed there was no panoramic sunroof either, not that they’re normally included in this class, but the Accord just looks so upscale I expected it. Other shortcomings include incandescent reading lights instead of LEDs, and a lack of padded soft-touch door uppers in the rear. Again, not many competitors provide the same level of luxury in back as up front, but it would’ve been a nice nod to near premium buyers who prefer flying under the radar when driving their luxury ride.
On more of an annoyance note, I’ve become so familiar with touch-sensitive controls from Honda that I kept pressing the “HOME” graphic on the left top portion of the infotainment display instead of the narrow button just below. The same setup is used for all of the other functions, and being that these buttons are not lit up it’s an easier mistake to make at night. I’m not sure why Honda didn’t just go with touch-capacitive switchgear to each side of the screen, being that we’re all so used to it from our smartphones and tablets. As it is, most of us only struggle with touch-sensitive slider-style volume and tuning controls, which Honda has thankfully done away with by adding nice big rotating dials, but I personally would’ve appreciated touch controls for everything else.
Those familiar with Honda’s top-line Odyssey or Pilot and therefore looking for an unorthodox set of gear selector buttons on the lower console will need to move up to top-tier Accord Sport 2.0 or Touring 2.0 trims, which not only feature a state-of-the-art 10-speed automatic transmission connecting to those buttons but also a turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-litre four-cylinder good for 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Instead, my tester featured a more conventional gear lever actuating a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which in turn found motivation from a 1.5-litre turbo-four with 192 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox comes standard and can also be had on both Sport trims, but I’ve got to imagine the take-rate on this won’t be high.
My CVT-equipped tester also had a Sport mode as noted earlier, and it really helped the smaller engine accelerate quickly. What’s more, despite the transmission being a CVT shifts were quite crisp, while it held its chosen gear between intervals and responded well to DIY paddle-shift actuation. At the same time it’s a wonderfully smooth transmission that’s ideal for this type of large mid-size sedan.
While pleasantly surprised by how well the base engine and CVT performed, the Accord’s agility around corners was expected, as the popular sedan has long been one of the segment’s best handlers. This said I like the way the new model drives on the open highway better than the outgoing car, particularly its seemingly effortless cruising capability once lifting off the throttle, its lack of kinetic drag shocking.
This is especially good for fuel economy, the model I tested having a highly efficient 8.2 L/100km city, 6.8 highway and 7.6 combined rating with ECON button engaged, making it the second-most miserly 2018 Accord available, the stingiest being the base LX model with the CVT that gets a claimed 7.9, 6.3 and 7.2 respectively. Of note, the LX and Sport 1.5 with the six-speed manual are rated at 8.9 city, 6.7 highway and 7.9 combined, the Sport 2.0 with the same transmission is claimed to get 10.7, 7.3 and 9.2, whereas the Sport and Touring with the 2.0 and 10-speed auto are good for 10.4, 7.4 and 9.1.
So how does it compare to the outgoing Accord? Last year’s naturally aspirated 2.4-litre four, CVT combo was good for 9.2 L/100km city, 6.9 highway and 8.2 combined when configured similarly to my 2018 tester, so they’ve made big progress, while the previous manual was only capable of 10.4, 7.4 and 9.0 respectively.
How about that Camry I’ve mentioned a number of times? The Accord’s chief rival gets 8.5, 6.1 and 7.4 when mated up to its base four-cylinder, eight-speed auto model, which kind of splits the difference between Honda’s manual and CVT model.
Despite losing market share in recent years (sales have slipped by 6.6 percent since 2015 and fallen by more than 47 percent since its Canadian high of 25,814 units in 2004), it’s been a good year for the new Accord thanks to earning the 2018 North American Car of the Year award in January, the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s 2018 Canadian Car of the Year award, one of three 2018 ALG Residual Value awards won by Honda (the other two were for the Fit and Odyssey) and more, but unfortunately trophies don’t satisfy shareholders.
To put smiles back on their faces the Accord will need to keep holding its own while the potentially even more profitable Honda Pilot crawls up and out of the less popular portion of the mid-size SUV segment, where much of the market gains are being made. I’m not going to tell Honda how to run its business, but I’m willing to guess if they were to design a Pilot to look as good as this Accord they’d go a long way toward rectifying the situation.
Yes, the 2018 Honda Accord is one fine looking mid-size sedan that deserves its recent uptick in popularity. If you appreciate the sleeker, sportier styling of a four-door coupe-like sedan and enjoy the more engaging driving dynamics brought about by being closer to the ground, not to mention the benefits of fuel economy this type of lighter weight vehicle allows, I recommend the new Accord over its peers. In my opinion the Accord is the mid-size sedan to own.
Honda’s Fit has always been a personal favourite in the subcompact class. Its hatchback design is practical, made more so by a tall roofline combined with the segment’s most flexible rear seating…
Honda’s Fit has always been a personal favourite in the subcompact class. Its hatchback design is practical, made more so by a tall roofline combined with the segment’s most flexible rear seating system, resulting in more cargo space than any rival, plus now that it’s received a refresh it’s more appealing than ever.
The 2018 Honda Fit facelift provides edgier styling, a new Sport trim line, and the availability of Honda Sensing advanced driver-assistance systems, the first factor improving the little wedge-shaped monobox design with a fresh take on the Japanese brand’s upswept horizontal grille that features more pronounced chrome and piano black slats plus a larger, more prominent “H” mark at centre. Additionally, new premium-like jeweled headlamp clusters meld more fluidly into that grille, while Honda has added a full-width splitter just below, as well as more angular corner “ducts” that get filled with sporty circular fog lamps in all trims above LX.
New combination taillights with LED brake lamps update the rear design, as does a reworked bumper, the latter feature now incorporating a full-width piano black character line as well as a splitter-inspired lower apron. Lastly, new Orange Fury paint is kept exclusively for an entirely new Sport trim level.
On that note, the 2018 Honda Fit is available in the same DX, LX, EX and EX-L Navi trims as last year’s version, now priced at $15,190, $18,590, 21,890 and $23,990 respectively, but new Sport trim starts at $19,590 and therefore slots between the LX and EX.
I don’t know about you, but the Fit Sport takes top spot as far as styling goes, as its standard aero kit adds muscle to the refreshed front, side and rear body panels resulting in a more aggressive look, plus bright orange pin-striping highlights the deeper front splitter and tri-strake rear diffuser, no matter the exterior colour chosen.
As much as I like the Fit Sport’s exclusive and standard Orange Fury paintwork, I love the contrast between the orange pin-striping and glossy black lower bodywork found with my tester’s $300 optional White Orchid Pearl, but if neither is to your liking Honda also provides $300 Crystal Black Pearl as a third available colour with this Sport trim. Of note, the colour palette isn’t as limited with the other trims, including Modern Steel Metallic (medium grey), Milano Red, and Aegean Blue Metallic.
Finishing off the Fit Sport’s exterior is a set of gloss-black painted 16-inch alloys, plus a chromed exhaust finisher and “SPORT” liftgate badge.
The Fit Sport also boasts an all-black cabin with unique orange contrast stitching, a theme that really caught my eye. Honda stitches the leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-clad manual shift knob and boot, front centre armrest, front seat bolsters, and all five headrests with the trendy orange thread, while the fabric inserts get an attractive geometric pattern highlighted with a little more orange for good measure. It’s a tasteful combination that should please sport compact performance fans stepping up to the Fit Sport model.
Sport trim comes with or without Honda’s available Honda Sensing system, a technologically advanced package that includes autonomous emergency braking, lane/road departure warning with mitigating assist, and adaptive cruise control, upping the Fit Sport’s price by $1,300, which is the same amount if added to the LX (it comes standard on EX and EX-L Navi trims). This is a really good deal when factoring in this new price also includes the optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), but at the same time take note that manually equipped cars, like my tester, don’t receive the same safety advantages.
Also notable, Fits upgraded with Honda Sensing don’t include auto high beams, which is only an issue because Toyota has been equipping its competitive Yaris with similar advanced driver-assistance systems since the 2017 model year. The Honda rival also features a pre-collision system with autonomous emergency braking capability and lane departure alert, albeit no lane/road departure mitigation or adaptive cruise control. Still, that all of this active safety is available from its $15,475 base trim level is impressive.
As is usual for mid-cycle makeovers the new 2018 Fit didn’t receive any updates under the hood, but with 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque on tap I can hardly complain. Also worth mentioning, Honda lightened up the base DX model by a significant 44 kilos (97 lbs), the changes likely trickling through Fit trim lines and therefore aiding performance of this new Sport as well. Either way, the direct-injection 16-valve, DOHC, i-VTEC-enhanced 1.5-litre four-cylinder felt plenty feisty when foot hit the throttle pedal, its quick response accompanied by a nice high-revving engine note and wonderfully smooth operation, while the standard six-speed manual was up to Honda’s usual DIY gearbox brilliance.
Option out the Sport with the CVT and along with the aforementioned Honda Sensing features it’ll also come with a nice set of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a bonus that benefits EX and EX-L Navi trims too. I’ve experienced these before and they certainly increase driver engagement during downshifts, while offering the ability to upshift earlier to save fuel.
Yes, fuel economy once again matters in Canada. Of course, how much it will matter will depend on where you’re reading from, but in my hometown of Vancouver it’s a very serious issue (at the time of writing the cheapest pump price was 154.9 for regular). I won’t venture into politics on this platform, but we’re probably best not to believe highly charged issues like pipelines and carbon taxes, not to mention the rising price per barrel of crude, will be diffused anytime soon, plus on top of this are national and global economies that are shaky at best, so it’s probably a good time to keep ongoing costs down by choosing a thrifty car.
To that end, Honda claims an impressive five-cycle fuel economy rating of 8.1 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.4 combined with the manual, 7.0 L/100km city, 5.9 highway and 6.5 combined with the CVT in LX trim, or alternatively 7.6, 6.5 and 7.0 combined in EX trim and above. This represents a marginal improvement when compared to last year’s claimed fuel economy.
Long-time readers will know I’ve always appreciated the Fit’s driving dynamics, but the new 2018 version is even better. First off, Honda retuned the suspension dampers, while also making its electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system a bit stiffer, and provided more rigidity to the body shell due to extra reinforcements. Along with handling this improves crash resistance, quietness and ride quality, the latter two excellent over my weeklong test.
My Sport model also had the advantage of the previously noted wheels and tires, adding an inch to DX and LX trims that come stock with 15-inch steel wheels and covers, but other than the performance gains allowed by its manual transmission, EX and EX-L Navi trims should handle just as well as they ride on 16-inch rims and rubber too, although take note the two upper trims don’t benefit from the performance gains allowed by a manual transmission.
As for refinement, the stiffer body structure was joined by revised transmission and steering system mounting hardware, plus acoustic-laminated glass and increased insulation. Without a back-to-back comparison from old to new it’s difficult to notice such improvements, but on the positive I never had issue with the old model and certainly found the new one nice and quiet.
The Fit’s improved refinement is certainly not due to any upgrades in soft premium surfacing treatments, but the pliable synthetic bolstering on the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger continues to be a more upscale touch than some competitors while the quality of hard matte plastics is good for the class, plus the fit and finish is excellent and the upgraded trim details make this Sport model feel quite special. Along with everything already mentioned there’s plenty of satin aluminum-look accenting, a tasteful supply of piano black lacquer, and most importantly those segment-leading electronic interfaces noted earlier.
The carryover gauge cluster is a well lit, colourful mostly analogue affair that’s easy to read no matter the light, its rightmost dial filled with a handy multi-information display for quick access to key details, while the centre touchscreen grows from 5.0 to 7.0 inches in LX trim and above, and comes fitted with a bright and clear backup camera featuring dynamic guidelines, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, text message functionality, Wi-Fi tethering, the HondaLink Assist automatic emergency response system, and a second USB port. Additionally, those who prefer adjusting audio settings from the radio display will appreciate a new rotating volume knob on the left side of the screen.
Other notable features pulled up to my Sport model from lesser trims include multi-reflector halogen headlights, heatable powered side mirrors, a rear rooftop spoiler, power locks with remote access, power windows, illuminated steering wheel-mounted switchgear, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering, filtered air conditioning, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity with streaming audio, four-speaker 160-watt AM/FM/MP3/WMA audio, two 12-volt power outlets, heatable front seats, the Fit’s unique 60/40-split second-row Magic Seat, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, a cargo cover, cargo area tie-down hooks, front disc and rear drum brakes with ABS, and the usual assortment of active and passive safety features, while on top of everything already mentioned Sport trim adds auto-on/off headlights, two more stereo speakers and 20 additional watts of power to the audio system, plus more.
I always appreciate the little things that make the Fit’s interior so livable, like the pop-out cupholder on the left side of the steering wheel that lets you keep your drink a bit cooler or warmer depending on the temperature of air blowing through the vent just behind. This said I would’ve appreciated being able to get the Sport trim level with some of the features found on upper trims, such as the EX model’s proximity-sensing keyless access and pushbutton ignition, Honda’s awesome LaneWatch blindspot display that projects a rearward view of the passenger’s side lane onto the centre touchscreen, and powered moonroof, or the EX-L Navi’s automatic climate control, navigation, satellite and HD radio, etc.
Still, it’s difficult to get too upset with any Fit trim level, as all come standard with the most configurable passenger/cargo setup in the subcompact class. For starters, with its rear seats laid flat a total of 1,492 litres (52.7 cubic feet) is available. Better yet, when the backrests of the Fit’s rear Magic Seats are upright it’s possible to flip their lower cushions upwards for yet more cargo capacity, especially helpful for loading in taller items like bicycles or plants, this combining for a collective 609 litres (21.5 cubic feet) of available cargo space when including the Fit’s dedicated luggage area in back, which measures 470 litres (16.6 cubic feet). What’s more, the front passenger’s seat can be folded forward to allow ultra-long cargo inside, while both front seats can be laid completely flat when their headrests are removed, providing a large safe place for impromptu camping.
No competitor comes close to the Fit for passenger and cargo flexibility, yet even if it was only as useful as its peers behind the first row it would still be one of the best in its class, so make sure you check this little Honda out before choosing one of its challengers. Also important for you to know, Honda offers the identical seating setup and many of the same features in the Fit’s platform-sharing HR-V subcompact SUV, so even if your heart is set on a sport ute you can still enjoy this smart, efficient design. It appears Honda has all subcompact bases covered.
After winning the 2017 North American Truck of the Year with the second-generation Ridgeline, which was really a Honda pickup sandwich thanks to the Civic earning Car of the Year in 2016 and new Accord…
After winning the 2017 North American Truck of the Year with the second-generation Ridgeline, which was really a Honda pickup sandwich thanks to the Civic earning Car of the Year in 2016 and new Accord making it a hat trick for 2018, it appears as if the Japanese brand can’t lose.
Impressive as such awards are, much more important wins on the sales charts are harder to come by for such a relative newcomer to the pickup truck sector. Truck buyers are more loyal than in any other category, so pushing the Ridgeline up and over the 5,000-unit threshold in Canada won’t come easy, its 4,632 deliveries in 2017 coming close to matching the model’s best-ever 2006 tally of 4,988 units, but as we all know there are no cigars handed out for almost making it.
I predicted as much when reviewing the 2017 Ridgeline Black Edition. It was selling reasonably well during this honeymoon period, but I didn’t expect it to exceed that previous calendar year high then, and I don’t expect it to do so this year either. Actually, sales numbers have been on a downward trajectory since August of last year, with the 1,734 units sold during the final five months of 2017 representing a 31.4 percent downturn from the same period in 2016, which just happened to be the first five months of availability for the new truck.
Do prospects look better for 2018? Three months into the current year, 882 total Canadian-market Ridgeline deliveries mean that year-over-year Q1 sales are down by 22.3 percent. So, if you’re ok claiming less of a negative as a positive, then the new Ridgeline is a net win.
To be fair, even the mighty Toyota Tacoma saw fewer sales in 2017 than in 2016, albeit its 12,454 deliveries were only down by 1.3 percent, whereas General Motors’ Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon twins saw a year-over-year collective gain of 13.2 percent thanks to 14,320 sales, and Nissan’s 13-year-old Frontier grew sales by 3.2 percent—really, the Frontier hasn’t been updated since 2005, the same year the original Ridgeline arrived on the market.
That’s loyalty for you. Nissan has been building trucks since 1938, while the original Datsun Truck arrived on North American soil in 1958. Honda’s first pickup, on the other hand, debuted in its domestic Japanese market in 1963, but it was never sold here and therefore the brand wasn’t able to establish a faithful truck following until the Ridgeline.
While we can’t see into the future to find out whether the new Ridgeline will eventually build Honda Canada’s truck market share beyond 5,000 units, no one should question whether or not the current model improves on the vehicle it replaces. Truly, this second-gen Ridgeline is better than the outgoing version in most respects, especially refinement.
This said refinement probably doesn’t matter as much to mid-size truck buyers as ruggedness, sales growth by the clearly forgotten and seemingly abandoned Frontier making this issue crystal clear, which really makes a person wonder why Honda is trying to purvey intelligently thought-out sophistication over rough and tough manliness, with the latter most often touting over-the-top, in-your-face macho styling, extreme performance, off-road capability, load hauling, towing specs, etcetera.
The Ridgeline is the alternative pickup truck, totally unlike anything else on the market. It starts with unibody construction formed off the back of the Japanese brand’s Pilot SUV, and even pulls many of that model’s styling elements into the mix, for a design that takes a softer and smoother approach to Honda’s current creased and angled origami-inspired styling. This was purposeful, as Honda isn’t trying to market to those wowed by the long-time bestselling Toyota Tacoma’s new military-spec style TRD Pro 4×4, or the rejuvenated Chevy Colorado’s latest ZR2 off-road replica racing truck.
I must admit the two performance trucks appeal to the weekend warrior side of my personality, having been raised by an outdoorsy dad who oftentimes had something rugged in the garage, a favourite being our ‘70s era Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40. Yet at the same time we took 2WD pickup trucks (a ’78 620 series Datsun Truck preceding our F-150), camperized vans, and even the family’s ’61 Pontiac Strato Chief wagon and go-anywhere ’66 VW Beetle into areas that no sane motorist would dare to go (no offence dad), and came away mostly unscathed and a true believer in the power of “Come-A-Long” hand winches. In other words, just because a truck might ride lower to the ground and only offer all-wheel drive instead of part-time four-wheel drive with a bull low range doesn’t mean you’re forced to remain solely on paved roads and light-duty gravel surfaces.
Honda proved this at the press introduction of the original Ridgeline, during which we scaled some fairly steep and untoward off-road terrain (but nothing that caused a pit in the stomach like a few hair-raising Jeep, Land Rover and Hummer launch programs). Opportunity to show how easy it was to load a Honda ATV via attachable ramps was part of that past event too, plus back-to-back 5,000-pound trailering sessions against the competition. The Ridgeline was better than its rivals at such tasks, and its other innovations left a gaggle of auto scribes mostly impressed.
I didn’t take part in this current Ridgeline’s press event, but I’m guessing it’s at least as capable of roughing it now as it was then, yet as noted earlier this new iteration is substantially more refined, with a more SUV-like cabin that’s filled with soft-touch surfaces, fancier trims, top-tier electronics, and more, while it plays well to families due to the highest safety rating ever given to a pickup truck. It also has a much more utile box on its backside than its predecessor, which is even capable of accepting a regular off-the-rack canopy, while the Ridgeline maintains its innovative cargo bed trunk as well as its ultra-useful dual-purpose swing-out and drop-down tailgate.
It was a bit surprising that Honda introduced the 2019 Ridgeline so early in the year, but being that they’ve now eliminated the outgoing model’s slow selling base LX trim it makes sense. Sport trim becomes the new base for 2019, which concurrently increases the entry-level price by $3,500 to $40,790, the latter number also representing a $500 bump across all trim lines.
Of course, with Sport trim now standard the 2019 Ridgeline’s standard features list increases, with previous base items like its standard 280 horsepower V6, AWD, fully independent suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights, remote start, proximity keyless access, pushbutton ignition, tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display, heatable front seats, backup camera with dynamic guidelines, 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, SMS- and email-reading capability, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 225-watt seven-speaker stereo, adaptive cruise control, front collision warning with autonomous braking, lane departure alert with lane keeping assist, emergency responding telematics, and more now joined by a bevy of new base items.
The new base features now include fog lamps, LED daytime running lights, LED turn signals integrated within the mirror housings, a powered moonroof, a power-sliding rear window, driver and front passenger seatback pockets, an exterior temperature gauge, a Homelink garage door opener, filtered tri-zone automatic climate control, Wi-Fi, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with power lumbar support, and Honda’s innovative LaneWatch blindspot system that projects a passenger’s side rear view of the blindspot onto the infotainment display when applying the right-side turn signal.
I wish Honda included LaneWatch in upper trims too, but other than base Sport trim it’s only included in the second-run EX-L model before getting replaced by blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert in my Tester’s Touring trim and the top-line Black Edition. These top trims remain unchanged for the 2019 model year, with some of the upgrades included with my Touring tester including additional chrome exterior trim, LED headlights with auto high beams, power-folding side mirrors with memory and reverse tilt down, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, a heatable steering wheel, driver’s seat memory, leather upholstery, cooled front and heated rear seats, navigation, voice recognition, 540-watt eight-speaker Bose audio with superb sound quality, satellite and HD radio, an exclusive truck-bed audio system featuring six hidden “exciter” speakers totaling 60 watts of power (which you can play from outside your truck via Bluetooth from your smartphone or wearable), front and rear parking sensors, and more, with all of the active safety features adding up to a class-exclusive IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating.
The Black Edition is all about styling, this model following a trend that’s seen other manufacturers blacking out all the metal brightwork on their respective trucks and SUVs in order to provide a tougher, more rugged look, but I must say I like this Touring model with its tastefully applied chrome trim and subtle Lunar Silver metallic paintwork better, as it really helps the grille and body-cladding stand out more. This in mind, the Ridgeline’s styling has grown on me since introduction. I still don’t think it provides enough grit to lure in traditional truck buyers, but I could see some family folk who may not have previously considered purchasing a truck picking one up instead of an SUV, especially if they do a lot of home renovations, gardening work, need something to haul their ATV around or have a small business.
Standard safety features aside, the major Ridgeline drawing card is the interior, which is by far the nicest in the mid-size truck segment. Refinements include more soft-touch padded surfacing than any rival, including the entire dash top, extending all the way around the top portion of the centre stack and instrument cluster, plus each front door upper and all four door inserts/armrests.
Tasteful splashes of satin-silver and chrome metal trim highlight key elements, as does a bit more piano black lacquer than I’d prefer, but only because it scratches easily and collects dust even easier. Instead, I’d like to see more of the faux matte wood on the lower centre console storage bin lid, as it’s really quite attractive.
The steering wheel is leather-wrapped and quite sporty, featuring enough tilt and telescopic adjustment to ideally set up my long-legged, short-torso medium-build frame, while the leather-covered powered driver’s seat positioned me perfectly, maintained my chosen settings via two-way memory, and then kept me suitably warm thanks to three-way heaters. Honda even provides three-way coolers to help with summertime heat, although no need for these during my wintery weeklong test.
The bright, colourful, highly legible instrument cluster features two semi-circles, the left side for a tachometer and one on the right for temperature and fuel meters, with a large digital speedometer at the top-centre and a much larger colour multi-information display just below. The centre stack-mounted infotainment touchscreen is almost as artistically crafted as the updated version in the Civic, Accord, CR-V, and HRV, and includes a large display that’s also bright and colourful, with extremely deep and rich contrast making its default blue hue particularly nice. It’s an easy system to sort out, other than not having quick access knobs for audio volume and tuning. Instead, Honda uses digital sliding controls that can be a bit challenging to fiddle with while keeping eyes safely on the road ahead. I quickly overcame this shortcoming by using the steering wheel audio volume and tuning controller more than I usually do, which is probably the safest method anyway.
The Ridgeline’s now standard tri-zone auto climate control interface is also easy to use, while all of the switchgear feels substantive and fits together nicely, similar to the rest of the buttons, knobs and toggles throughout the cabin. The HVAC panel sits right next to the ignition button, which is initially black yet glows red while the engine is running, this a bit of Honda tradition pulled up from the brand’s legendary performance models.
Special touches in mind, Honda also adds LED-reading lights to the overhead console, plus a handy felt-lined sunglasses holder that does double-duty as a conversation mirror.
I don’t think anyone will have trouble fitting inside the Ridgeline’s cab, as the front seats are generously sized and their controls allow for a lot of adjustability. The rear seat provides slightly less room than I expected for knees and legs, but when the front seat was set for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame I nevertheless had about four inches remaining ahead of my knees and more than enough room for moving my feet around, plus I had around four inches remaining above my head and plenty of space from side-to-side. A very wide armrest folds down from the middle, fitted with dual cupholders and a tiny little tray, plus a larger cupholder and another bin are housed within each door panel. Even better, the aforementioned rear seat heaters offer three temperature settings, while a separate HVAC interface allows rear adjustment of the third climate zone. This is fairly high-end equipment for a mid-size pickup truck, but like I said earlier, the Ridgeline is finished to a much nicer level than most rivals.
The 60/40-split rear seat squabs flip upward and out of the way when wanting to store cargo in a dry, secure space, although while this “Magic Seat” style feature is unique in the Fit’s subcompact hatchback class and the HR-V’s subcompact SUV segment, it’s nothing new amongst pickup trucks. An almost completely flat floor below is beneficial, however, providing plenty of level space to stack boxes, suitcases, or anything else you’d like to keep out of the elements.
The tailgate design is even more innovative, as it not only folds down in the conventional manner, but it swings out sideways too. Honda has set it up to do so from the passenger side, which is the safest way to load when parallel parked as it’s closest to the curb, while this process also provides easier access to the Ridgeline’s lockable trunk. By now I’m sure you’ve heard all about this unique feature, but I still find it special, even after all these years. It’s very wide, deep, and sealed well to repel water and dirt, plus it tucks the spare tire and jack just below the front half of the cargo floor. I recommend pulling this gear out if you plan on hauling a full load of bark mulch, gravel, or anything else you might not want to be forced to shovel out before changing a flat on the side of the highway, but other than the rare mishap of a blown tire it should serve you well.
Other thoughtful details include a two-prong 120-volt household-style power outlet on the cargo wall, while I also appreciated the two lights Honda housed within both sidewalls. The bed comes standard with grippy surfacing to aid stability when wet, while stepping up to it was less of a stretch with the door open thanks to a centre step on the rear bumper. Still, I would have appreciated some retractable corners steps for when the tailgate is lowered, or something along the lines of GM’s bumper-integrated CornerSteps.
Unusual for a pickup truck, the Ridgeline was so much fun to drive I actually noticed its lack of a sport mode and paddle shifters. It’s quick off the line, the 280 horsepower V6 producing 242 lb-ft of torque that feels like even more due to Honda’s Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD system, the latter aiding handling too, especially in inclement weather. And yes, the Ridgeline feels a lot more like an SUV in the corners than a truck, plus it’s a lot easier to drive around town. Its ride is better too, especially over bumps or potholes at high speeds, this situation sometimes unsettling trucks with solid rear axles, potentially causing them to lose control. The Ridgeline, on the other hand, always felt in total control.
Its six-speed automatic transmission might seem a bit low on gears compared to the GM trucks’ eight-speed unit, but it matches the Toyota’s gearbox and one-ups Nissan’s antiquated five-speed, while delivering reasonably quick and always smooth shifts, adding to Honda’s ultimately refined pickup truck experience.
In the end, the Ridgeline is the ideal choice for those needing the functionality of a pickup truck yet still wanting the drivability, comfort and refinement of an SUV, not to mention best-in-class safety and best claimed V6 fuel economy of 12.8 L/100km city, 9.5 highway and 11.3 combined.
Truly, the Ridgeline is a best-of-both-worlds conveyance, and thanks to plenty of smart innovations it will continue to appeal to a smaller albeit more sophisticated light truck market.
If you call yourself a car enthusiast yet don’t have a place in your heart for the Honda Civic Si, you simply haven’t spent enough time with one. I don’t care if your personal means allow for an…
If you call yourself a car enthusiast yet don’t have a place in your heart for the Honda Civic Si, you simply haven’t spent enough time with one.
I don’t care if your personal means allow for an Audi RS, BMW M, Jaguar SVR, Mercedes-Benz AMG, or for that matter multiples from Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren, there’s something totally unique and extraordinarily special about the Civic Si, not to mention an enviable street and track heritage that spans decades.
In North America the Si name dates all the way back to 1985 when it was first introduced as a range-topping CRX, that short-lived model now a very collectable two-seat Civic-based coupe. This said the Si that initially won many of us over came along in 1986 as a special sport-tuned variant of the third-generation Civic Hatchback. Both models incorporated a 91 horsepower, 12-valve, SOHC, 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox, which was a potent package for the era.
The Civic Si has been available for most model years ever since, growing in power and handling prowess while developing a devoted cult-like following amongst sport-compact fans. The most recent ninth-generation 2012–2015 Civic Si was available in Coupe and Sedan forms and as of 2014 boasted 205 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque from a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, also driving the front wheels albeit through a six-speed manual that many, including yours truly, consider one of the best of its type available.
Six forward speeds and an identical 205 horsepower rating remained when the completely redesigned 2017 Civic Si went on sale on May 19th of the same year, but its peak power arrives 1,300 rpm lower in the rev range at 5,700 rpm instead of 7,000, whereas maximum torque was increased by 18 lb-ft to 192, and starts 2,300 rpm earlier at 2,100 rpm compared to 4,400 in the old model, plus it’s sustained over 70 percent of the engine’s rev range. This makes it a much more tractable car at low revs, which is how most of us drive when going about our daily duties, while the new engine is also a much more capable performer when powering out of slow corners or tackling tight, circuitous auto cross or race courses, where most Si owners dream to be on weekends.
One single word is fully responsible for the boost in performance: Turbo. At just 1.5 litres, the engine is 900 cubic centimetres smaller than the outgoing 2.4-litre four-cylinder, but a turbocharger and direct injection, along with dual variable cam timing, allow for the performance improvements despite much better claimed fuel economy of 8.4 L/100km in the city, 6.2 on the highway and 7.4 combined, compared to 10.8 city, 7.6 highway and 9.4 combined with the old 2015 model.
In order to achieve such efficiency figures you’ll need to set the new Civic Si’s dynamic driving mode to Normal, while this will also allow for a more relaxed, comfortable driving style. Sport mode, on the other hand, extracts all the performance from the powertrain and suspension by enhancing throttle response, sharpening the steering, and stiffening the shocks.
It really makes a big difference, the 2018 four-door sedan tested being the most capable Si I’ve ever driven through the corners. Full disclosure, it wasn’t the most capable Civic I’ve had the pleasure of piloting, that model being a Type R that I’ll be reviewing soon, but as far as Si models go, the latest iteration is a revelation. It comes down to a lighter yet stiffer body shell and a wider track, the Sedan Si having shed eight kilos (17.6 lbs) resulting in 1,341 kilograms (2,956 lbs) of total curb weight.
Honda also upgraded the electric power steering to a dual-pinion adaptive system with variable ratios, while two-mode adaptive dampers make the most of the fully independent sport-tuned suspension. A helical limited-slip differential improves power delivery too, while larger 12.3-inch front brake rotors (up 0.5 inches) made sure that stopping performance matched go-fast momentum, all aided by wider 235/40R18 rubber.
Along with the adaptive dampers, the new Civic Si’s suspension received stiffer spring rates, stabilizer bars that are 30- and 60-percent more rigid front to rear, solid front and rear compliance bushings, plus much stiffer front upper control arms pulled from the Type R, while the wheel track mentioned earlier was increased by 34 millimetres up front and 33 mm in the rear to 1,538 and 1,554 mm respectively, which makes for better transitional stability and enhanced cornering capability.
Jump from the previous Sedan Si into the new one and it’s be a night and day experience. Don’t get me wrong, as I would enjoy any time offered with any generation of Si, as all have proved brilliant fun on road and track. I’ve enjoyed many such opportunities in earlier examples on some of North America’s best racecourses, and all were winners in their own rights, while the final 2.4-litre four, an engine I recently enjoyed once again while testing an Acura ILX, will go down as one of the best I-4s of all time. Still, the new turbocharged mill delivers even greater performance while being easier to live with day in and day out, and such daily livability is really what the Si, especially in sedan form, is all about.
Let’s not forget the Civic Sedan Si is based on the best-selling car in Canada, a model that found a phenomenal 69,030 buyers last year for a gain of 6.9 percent over the year prior. To put this into competitive perspective, Honda delivered 37.1 percent more Civics than Toyota sold Corollas, while the percentage gap grew to 49.7 percent when factoring in falling Hyundai Elantra sales. What about the fourth-place Mazda3? It’s not even in the same league, with the Civic outselling it by 147.7 percent in calendar year 2017. Basically, Canadians prefer the new 10th-generation Civic over all competitors by a long shot, which makes it the ideal “donor platform” for a performance model.
The Civic Sedan and its identically sized Civic Sedan Si counterpart being reviewed here provide a roomy cabin that’s capable of fitting up to five adults in comfort. What’s more, the interior delivers a surprising level of premium-like quality and refinement when it comes to design, materials used, fit and finish execution, electronic interfaces, and features. You’ve heard me and many others rave on and on about the new Civic already, so I won’t bore you with every detail, but suffice to say the Si gets the same level of high quality finishings as the Civic Touring, plus most of its features along with a few of its own.
Let’s begin with a rundown of the exterior, which adds a more aggressive look up front, starting with the trademark Honda “wing” grille finished in glossy black instead of chrome. This envelops a set of full high and low beam LED headlamps at each corner, the latter hovering above massive black bezeled lower air intakes with mesh inserts, which flank a gloss black mesh lower air intake at centre and a black lip spoiler below that, the frontal view plenty menacing yet not overly dramatic (I’m talking to you, Type R).
To each side, muscular front fenders bend overtop new 18-inch machine-finished Y-split five-spoke alloys with black painted pockets, these wrapped with low-profile Goodyear Eagle Sport all-season tires, while moving rearward shows a big wing attached to the trailing edge of the Si Sedan’s rear deck lid, featuring an LED centre-mounted brake light tucked underneath, and just below that an exclusive lower rear bumper cap boasting sporty faux ducting like the one up front, albeit this time a polygonal chrome exhaust pipe gets positioned in the middle. Of the three Civic body types the sedan is my favourite, and I must admit this sentiment carries over to the Si as well.
The Civic Si has long included some of the best seats in the sport compact class, and the new 10th-generation’s chairs are at least as impressive as in year’s prior. As usual, deep sculpting and aggressive side bolstering are part of the package, as is sporty red stitching and embroidered “Si” logos on the upper seatbacks, while the leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, shift knob and boot get the same red thread highlights as well, as do the cloth door inserts. Finally, carbon-look instrument panel inlays and aluminum sport pedals complete the interior upgrades.
Along with all the performance-oriented styling, the new Si includes all of the same superb electronic interfaces that make less sporting Civics stand out in their compact segments, the new model’s TFT gauge cluster and its audio system illumination enhanced with a unique red colour scheme to set it apart from mere mortal Civics.
Better yet, the Si’s standard 7.0-inch colour infotainment system includes a throttle and brake app that displays a graphic percentage format, turbocharger boost in pounds per square inches (psi), a race track lap timer, race inspired shift lights, and a graphical G-meter that shows acceleration, braking and cornering forces, all designed to make weekends at the track more fun.
The 2018 Civic Si Sedan starts at just $28,690 plus freight and dealer fees, while on top of everything already mentioned it features standard proximity keyless entry, pushbutton ignition, white ambient LED lighting, an electromechanical parking brake with auto brake hold, illuminated steering wheel-mounted cruise, audio, phone and Driver Information Interface (DII) controls, dual-zone auto climate control, the previously noted 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, navigation, voice activation, Bluetooth phone with streaming audio, wireless device charging, 452-watt 10-speaker premium audio with satellite and HD radio, heatable front and rear seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, hill start assist, a convenient capless fuel filler, and much more, not to mention a strong enough body structure and amply stocked suite of standard safety features to score 5 stars overall from the NHTSA.
Speaking of safety, keep in mind the Civic Si doesn’t include any of the advanced driver assistance systems available as part of the Honda Sensing upgrade on other Civic models, such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and road departure mitigation, which are available on the regular Civic, as these require an automatic transmission and the Si is only available with the previously noted six-speed manual. Still, along with the segment’s usual active and passive safety features the Si includes Honda’s amazing LaneWatch blindspot display system, which projects a rearward view of the otherwise out of sight passenger’s side on the centre display when engaging the right turn signal.
Still, climb into a Civic Si and the last thing you’ll be thinking about is playing it safe. Certainly you’ll want to keep it within the lines, but the Si was designed for pushing the envelope, and thanks to ideal driver ergonomics, a wonderfully formed leather-wrapped steering wheel, the idyllic shifter now noted ad nauseum, its torque-rich yet still high-revving new powerplant, and brilliantly balanced suspension, this little sport sedan just begs to get into mischief. Yet push it for all you’re worth and the Si delivers with exhilarating acceleration, sensational handling, and shockingly capable braking performance, a continual reminder that it’s plenty more skilled than most ever give it credit for.
You can spend a lot more to do a lot less from a premium brand, or you can step up to the humble yet legendary Civic Si.