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…

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring Road Test

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
The highly refined Honda Ridgeline continues its struggle to find buyers, but that hardly means it doesn’t deserve success. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
The new Ridgeline’s conventional pickup box allows for a greater selection of aftermarket canopies, campers and accessories. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
The Ridgeline’s rear design went from radical to ultimately conservative. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
Key Ridgeline Touring trim elements include LED headlamps, fog lights and unique 18-inch alloy wheels. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
These rather generic taillights could be from any pickup truck challenger, but standard LEDs denote high-end Honda features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
Prepare yourself for one of the most impressive interiors in the pickup truck sector. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
Soft-touch surfaces, high-end electronic interfaces, a quiet, refined cabin, and SUV-like performance set the Ridgeline apart. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
The unique Ridgeline gauge cluster uses analogue semicircles to each side and a large TFT display at centre. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
A sporty ignition switch adds to the Ridgeline’s upscale experience. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
The Ridgeline’s centre stack is nicely designed and filled with top-tier features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
Touring trim means navigation comes standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
The Ridgeline’s automatic climate control isn’t just dual-zone, it’s a three zone system with separate controls in back. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
The Ridgeline is very roomy and wonderfully comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
The rear passenger compartment isn’t as lengthy as some competitors, but it should provide ample room for most adults. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
Flipping the 60/40-split rear seats up exposes a large, flat load floor. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
When you lay the tailgate down in the traditional manner the Ridgeline looks for all purposes like a conventional pickup truck. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
The innovative side-swinging tailgate allows for easier access to items at the back of the bed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
The unique tailgate also provides closer proximity to the Ridgeline’s most unusual feature, a rear trunk. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
The Ridgeline’s trunk is very large and sealed against moisture, dust and dirt, while a spare tire and tools are tucked under the front half of the bed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
That’s a household-style socket behind a lidded compartment, one of two cargo lights to the left, while six “exciter” speakers are fastened to the backside of all three cargo walls, allowing for all-weather audio outside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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. 

2019 Honda Ridgeline Touring
The Ridgeline’s 280-hp 3.5-litre V6 is smooth, refined and well-proven. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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…

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si Road Test

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
Honda builds upon the unparalleled success of the 10th-generation Civic by introducing a more powerful new Civic Si. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
The already attractive Civic Sedan gets plenty of styling mods to make the Si look even better. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
Sporty gloss black grille and trim, full LED headlamps, and a more aggressive lower front fascia make the Si’s performance purpose clear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
There’s nothing low-rent about these premium-level LED headlights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
The Civic Si’s frontal design is bold yet still very tasteful. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
18-inch machine-finished alloys with black-painted pockets shod by 235/40R18 performance tires suit the job at hand. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
Sizeable rear wing makes a powerful statement, yet isn’t over the top and is therefore still “suitable” for all ages. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
The deck lid wing, aggressively styled apron, and centre-mounted exhaust pipe separate the hind end of the new Si from regular Civic Sedan trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
All that’s already great about the regular Civic is made even better in the upgraded Civic Si. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
The Si builds on the already stunning Civic interior with a number of unique styling details including red stitching throughout. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
As is common with performance models, red is the dominant colour theme inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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).

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
The centre stack design looks really upscale, and its execution is excellent. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
The resolution quality, depth of contrast and colour, graphics, and features within the infotainment system are impressive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
That’s a device charging pad, standard with the Civic Si. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
The 6-speed manual is sublime, but no available automaker limits the Civic Si’s target audience. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
The Civic Si’s sport seats are some of the best in the industry. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

2018 Honda Civic Sedan Si
Excellent rear seat roominess and comfort make the Civic Si as practical to live with as it’s fun to drive. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

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.

Many concept cars deserve to be built, but few actually see the light of day. Apparently the Honda Urban EV concept, the biggest little hit of the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, has beaten the odds. The Urban…

Honda Urban EV concept is heading for production in 2019

Honda Urban EV Concept
Honda’s Urban EV Concept, which was a hit in Frankfurt and continues to light up the internet, is heading for production. (Photo: Honda)

Many concept cars deserve to be built, but few actually see the light of day. Apparently the Honda Urban EV concept, the biggest little hit of the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, has beaten the odds.

The Urban EV, or whatever Honda finally calls it, will enter production in 2019, as per an announcement at the Geneva motor show earlier this month. It will be part of a new range of plug-in vehicles from the Japanese automaker, which already includes the much larger mid-size Clarity five-door hatchback, currently available in North American markets and Japan.

Honda Urban EV Concept
Any resemblance to the original first-generation ’70s-era Honda Civic hatchback was purely planned from onset. (Photo: Honda)

One look at the oddball Clarity and another at the cute-as-a-button Urban EV is all you’ll need to speculate on sales leadership, the former only capable of purveying 2,455 units across the entire U.S.A. in all of 2016 and another 2,087 in 2017, and the latter immediately becoming the star of the Frankfurt show and an internet sensation since.

The retrospective city car pulls fond memories from Honda Nation’s formative members, its general shape and unique details more than just reminiscent of the brand’s first-generation 1972–1979 Civic hatchback. While we can’t be sure the production model will replicate this Urban EV concept’s design when it debuts later this year or early next, Honda would be smart to keep it as close to a match as possible.

Honda Urban EV Concept
The Urban EV’s diminutive size should make it a serious performer, both dynamically and with respect to range. (Photo: Honda)

Unfortunately, Honda hasn’t revealed anything about the new car’s power unit, but we can expect range in the vicinity of Nissan’s new Leaf that manages 240 km on a single charge, while charging times should be similar as well (about eight hours on a 6-kW charger or 80-percent in just 40 minutes when hooked up to a fast charger).

While most North American consumers consider small cars as nothing more than inexpensive commuters, the production Urban EV will be priced closer to premium models. This is nothing new in the plug-in electric world, with the just noted Leaf starting in the mid-$30k range before topping out in the low-$40s, and Chevrolet’s smaller subcompact Bolt starting in the low-$40k range and escalating from there (less government rebates in BC, Ontario and Quebec).

Honda Urban EV Concept
Seen here in its design stage, the Urban EV has a great looking backside as well. (Photo: Honda)

Along with its puppy dog allure, Urban EV customers will likely be treated to an upscale cabin that lives up to its lofty price point. The concept includes a massive one-piece tablet-style digital gauge cluster and infotainment touchscreen combination that spans the entire dash top, smaller secondary displays integrated into each door allowing enhanced sideview monitoring, beautiful wood inlays across the dash and doors, and even unusual loveseat-style front and rear bench seats with throw pillows and wooden side tables. No doubt the production version will bring things back down to earth with regular front bucket seats and a simpler rear bench, but it’s possible something similar to the prototype’s digital displays will stay.

Honda Urban EV Concept
For such a little car, it certainly has a large display screen. (Photo: Honda)

Conceptual features we hope make the grade are exterior message boards integrated into the front grille and rear deck lid, which light up to say whatever you want to adjacent motorists or passersby, such as “hello” up front or “back off” in behind, while some sort of graphical hand gesture might be useful too.

We also like the circular LED headlight surrounds that mimic the original Civic’s incandescent headlamps, while the LEDs in the rear also look good, but we certainly wouldn’t want to clean the myriad white spokes on the alloy wheels, and would probably find the rear-hinged side doors difficult to live with too.

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
The Clarity, shown here in its fuel cell setup, is an unusual design that hasn’t sold in high numbers. (Photo: Honda)

Conceptually we like the idea of the Urban EV’s Honda Automated Network Assistant (HANA), a concierge-type service introduced early last year as part of the brand’s NeuV autonomous vehicle, that can store personal data for paying parking fees, charging credit cards at drive-thrus, and much more, while it also incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) for detecting the emotions behind a driver’s judgments after which, based on that driver’s previous choices, it can make new recommendations and potentially even take over when necessary. The Urban EV includes the Honda Power Manager concept as well, which is a smart system for home energy.

2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell
Which would you rather have, this Clarity or the Urban EV? (Photo: Honda)

By 2030 Honda plans to have two-thirds of its vehicles fully or partially powered by electricity. This would include gasoline-electric hybrids like the Accord Hybrid, plug-in hybrids such as the Clarity, battery-electric vehicles like the Oregon- and California-market Clarity Electric, and fuel cell vehicles like the California-only Clarity FCV (the latter two only available via lease). Additionally, the third-generation 2019 Honda Insight Prototype was introduced at the Detroit auto show in January, with Accord-like styling in a slightly downsized plug-in package that should prove very popular for more reasons than just its good looks—it’s also expected to be available throughout the U.S. and Canada.

2019 Honda Insight Prototype
By 2030 Honda plans to have two-thirds of its vehicles fully or partially powered by electricity, with the new Insight playing a key role. (Photo: Honda)

Markets in mind, the production Urban EV isn’t expected to be heading to North America due to its diminutive size, with Honda still believing that buyers in this part of the world prefer larger cars. A good argument could be made for the Urban EV when comparing Clarity deliveries to those of the subcompact Bolt, the little Chevy selling more cars in Canada last year (2,122 units) than the big Honda did in the entire U.S. market (see above), not to mention more than 10 times the number of Clarity examples delivered south of the 49th (23,297 units). Adding insult to injury, hybrids normally outsell full EVs by a considerable margin, while making matters worse (for Honda) the Bolt ($43,095 CAD and $37,495 USD) is much more expensive than the Clarity ($39,900 CAD and $33,400 USD). This in mind, we think a production Urban EV would sell at least 10 times better than the Clarity.

We’ll keep our fingers crossed for clearer minds at Honda Canada and American Honda to prevail, and look forward to seeing the production Urban EV when it arrives.

In case you missed it, the 2018 Fit, 2018 Accord, and 2018 Odyssey received Residual Value Awards from ALG, which means that all three are predicted to lead their segments in retained value after three…

Honda earns three 2018 ALG Residual Value awards

2018 Honda Fit Sport
The 2018 Honda Fit, showing here in its new Sport trim, has earned an ALG Residual Value Award in its subcompact class. (Photo: Honda)

In case you missed it, the 2018 Fit, 2018 Accord, and 2018 Odyssey received Residual Value Awards from ALG, which means that all three are predicted to lead their segments in retained value after three years of ownership.

Key to retaining value is class leading quality, leading-edge technologies and market acceptance, all descriptors of the three winning Hondas, with the redesigned 2018 Fit adding more style, soft-touch premium surfaces, digital interfaces and available equipment to its subcompact category, while maintaining its class-leading passenger and cargo versatility, allowing it to take top honours in ALG’s “Subcompact Car” category for four consecutive years.

2018 Honda Accord Touring 1.5T
The new 2018 Honda Accord seems to be winning everything lately, so earning ALG’s best in class Residual Value Award only makes sense. (Photo: Honda)

The 2018 Accord’s redesign has even been more comprehensive, and delivers an even more compelling argument for ownership in its mid-size sedan segment. ALG particularly noted above-average technology, safety and driving dynamics, all of which combined to earn it highest marks in ALG’s “Midsize Car” category.

Lastly, the redesigned 2018 Odyssey has addressed the minivan segment with some innovative ideas, including totally unique multi-configurable Magic Slide second-row seats, plus CabinWatch and CabinTalk technologies that take the old conversation mirror to new levels, helping it win ALG’s “Minivan” category.

2018 Honda Odyssey
The 2018 Honda Odyssey has some unique innovations that set it apart within the minivan segment. (Photo: Honda)

Annual ALG Residual Value Awards are given to vehicles based on their predicted ability to retain their original price after three years of purchase. Awards are meted out in 26 categories.

2018 Honda Odyssey
Leading-edge technology is a key ingredient to a car’s longevity in the marketplace, and the three Hondas chosen by ALG show a lot of leadership in this respect. (Photo: Honda)

“Strong residual values are the bedrock of successful brands. A vehicle’s ability to retain its value over time is an important consideration for consumers looking to purchase or lease a vehicle,” said Jim Nguyen, president of ALG. “With vehicle leasing at near-record levels and headwinds for used vehicle values on the horizon, consumers can have confidence in their choice of a Residual Value Award winner for their next vehicle.”

ALG award winners are chosen after carefully studying all the competitors in each category, including their historical performance and industry trends. Other deciding factors include model and brand quality, production levels relative to market demand, plus pricing and marketing strategies.

Earning three ALG Residual Value awards puts Honda into rare company amongst mainstream volume brands, with only Subaru and Toyota winning more. Subaru split its earnings amongst cars and crossover SUVs, whereas Toyota received all of its honours within the SUV and truck segments. Honda, on the other hand, was strongest in the car sector.

After taking home the award for Best Large Car in the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s annual Car and Truck of the Year program in January, beating the refreshed Mazda6 and thoroughly redesigned…

Accord and Pacifica win 2018 Canadian Car and Utility of the Year awards

2018 Honda Accord Touring 1.5T
The 2018 Honda Accord has triumphed over a long list of worthy challengers to win AJAC’s Canadian Car of the Year. (Photo: Honda)

After taking home the award for Best Large Car in the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s annual Car and Truck of the Year program in January, beating the refreshed Mazda6 and thoroughly redesigned Toyota Camry in the process, the Accord has now been named 2018 Canadian Car of the Year.

Likewise, after besting the entirely new Honda Odyssey and Kia Sedona minivans the all-new 2018 Chrysler Pacifica has earned Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.

“We’re thrilled to declare the Honda Accord to be the Canadian Car of the Year for 2018, and the Chrysler Pacifica to be the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year,” said AJAC President Mark Richardson. “They’ve both been decided through the most vigorous system of testing possible by AJAC’s automotive professionals. They’re both deserving of being considered the very best vehicles you can buy in 2018.”

2018 Chrysler Pacifica
Bill Levasseur, FCA Canada’s VP of Sales and Marketing, accepts the AJAC Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year award for the new Chrysler Pacifica. (Photo: FCA)

The latter award might be the more important of the two, being that trucks, SUVs and vans now make up the majority of new vehicle sales in Canada. Of note, the Canadian-made Pacifica not only beat out its “Best Minivan” category competitors to earn the coveted award, but also scored higher than other category winners.

These include the Mazda CX-5, which beat the new Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue for “Best Small Utility Vehicle,” as well as the Mazda CX-9 that overcame the challenge of Chevrolet’s Traverse and Toyota’s Highlander for “Best Large Utility Vehicle,” plus the Range Rover Velar that earned “Best Small Premium Utility Vehicle” over the Porsche Macan and Volvo XC60, the Acura MDX that earned “Best Large Premium Utility Vehicle” over the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90, and finally the Ram 1500 that won “Best Pickup Truck” over the new Honda Ridgeline and refreshed Toyota Tacoma.

2018 Chrysler Pacifica
Chrysler Pacifica’s luxurious interior pushes the minivan sector way upmarket. (Photo: Chrysler)

“There’s an extra air of significance when one of our homegrown products wins a domestic award,” said Reid Bigland, President and CEO, FCA Canada. “Chrysler Pacifica’s recognition as 2018’s Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year reinforces its position as the most awarded minivan of the last two years, and provides important third-party validation for the exclusive suite of versatility, style, safety and technology that it brings to Canadians.”

2018 Honda Accord Touring 1.5T
Stylish Accord strengthens Honda’s position as a leader in profitable mid-size sedan market. (Photo: Honda)

The redesigned Accord also had its share of challengers, including the Volkswagen e-Golf that achieved “Best City Car” over the Hyundai Ioniq Electric and Nissan Micra, Mazda3 that earned “Best Small Car” over the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid/Electric Plus, Jaguar XE that took “Best Small Premium Car” honours over the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Infiniti Q60, Volvo S90/V90 that overcame the Genesis G80 and Lexus LC to win the “Best Large Premium Car” title, Volkswagen Golf R that won “Best Sports/Performance Car” over the Honda Civic Si and Honda Civic Type R, Jaguar F-Type that achieved “Best Premium Sports/Performance Car” over the Porsche 718 and Porsche 911, and finally the Mercedes-Benz SL that won “Best Convertible” over the Mazda MX-5 and Porsche 718 Boxster.

2018 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T
New Accord moves entire mainstream mid-size market upward when it comes to refinement and technology. (Photo: Honda)

“We’re honoured and humbled to receive this recognition from a group of respected automotive journalists in Canada,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Honda Canada. “We’re both proud and thankful for all of our associates who supported the production and development of this vehicle and for our passionate customers who have supported the Accord for the past forty years.”

To qualify for entry a vehicle must be entirely new or significantly updated, and the winners were not only up against the challengers noted, but other offerings that didn’t make the “finalists” cut in December.