When the second-generation Ridgeline arrived on the scene for the 2017 model year, we lauded its drivability, refinement, and creature comforts, but weren’t exactly wowed by its styling. It looked ok,…
When the second-generation Ridgeline arrived on the scene for the 2017 model year, we lauded its drivability, refinement, and creature comforts, but weren’t exactly wowed by its styling. It looked ok, but lacked a certain visual ruggedness necessary for luring in truck buyers in large numbers. Honda appears to be ready to deal with that problem for 2021, thanks to renewed styling that toughens up the mid-size model’s exterior design.
Gone is the Ridgeline’s smooth, wind-cheating grille and sloping hood, replaced by a much bolder, more upright grille and broader, flatter hood with a centre power bulge. This is combined with a more rugged looking lower front fascia and redesigned front fenders, all combining for a truck that looks as capable as the Ridgeline really is.
Changes to the new Ridgeline’s flanks and rear design are much less pronounced, with the former painting the cab’s rearmost extension a stylish black instead of body colour, and the rear bumper losing any chrome embellishment.
The more visually appealing 2021 Ridgeline will go on sale across Canada tomorrow, January 15, starting at $44,355 plus freight and fees for the Ridgeline Sport with standard AWD, while other trims include the Ridgeline EX-L at $47,355, Ridgeline Touring at $51,555, and Ridgeline Black Edition at $53,055. It will start arriving in Canadian dealerships in the beginning of February.
Before you do, be aware that the new grille and other styling enhancements aren’t the only changes made to the 2021 model. The new Ridgeline also benefits from new, brighter LED low beam headlamps with reflector beam halogen high beams, while new more aggressive 18-inch wheels wrapped in new more rugged looking tires join a 20-mm wider track in giving the updated truck greater visual breadth.
The Ridgeline’s interior needed little to make it more welcoming, but nevertheless Honda fitted the centre stack with a revised infotainment touchscreen featuring a real volume knob for quick, easy audio adjustment. With a focus more on style than functionality, all 2021 Ridgeline trims get contrast stitching for the seats, while Sport trims get new fabric seat inserts, and Sport, EX-L and Touring trims add new dash, steering wheel and centre console trim accents. Everything else about the cabin remains the same, including its spacious rear passenger compartment with a flat floor and foldaway 60/40-split rear lower seat cushions.
The Ridgeline’s power unit continues into 2021 unchanged too, the 3.5-litre direct-injected V6 producing up to 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, while its standard nine-speed automatic transmission makes sure fuel economy remains the truck’s trump card, with all trims claiming 12.8 L/100km in the city, 9.9 on the highway and 11.5 combined.
As mentioned earlier, Honda’s i-VTM4 torque-vectoring all-wheel drive is standard, as is its ability to send up to 70 percent of the engine’s twist to the rear wheels when needed, while continuously apportioning up to 100 percent of that torque between left and right rear wheels depending on slip. The Ridgeline’s standard Intelligent Traction Dynamics System enhances power delivery further by attributing engine torque to the wheel with the most traction, whether overcoming wet, snowy, muddy, or sandy conditions.
Of course, optimizing traction benefits safety, as does the 2021 Ridgeline’s standard Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistive technologies including Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW), and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).
The Ridgeline also does well in U.S. collision safety ratings, with strong National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ratings, achieving a “GOOD” rating in all IIHS collision tests, and a “SUPERIOR” IIHS rating for frontal crash prevention, while it gets a 5-star Overall Vehicle Score in the European NCAP system.
When checking out the photo gallery above you’ll see the Ridgeline hauling Honda dirt bikes and towing one of the Japanese brand’s ATVs, which should be a good indication this truck can do more than merely out-handle its competition on paved roads. Like the outgoing model, the 2021 Ridgeline can manage up to 1,571 lbs (713 kg) on top of its trunk-infused bed, and gets a 5,000 lb (2,267 kg) trailer rating.
On this note, a friendly reminder to remove the spare tire from the trunk before hauling heavy loads that can’t be removed onto highway shoulder lanes, such as bark mulch or building materials, as it will be inaccessible if you get a flat (and flat tires occur more often when a truck is loaded).
Other than this inconvenience, offset by the convenience of having a lockable trunk embedded under the cargo floor in the first place, the new 2021 Honda Ridgeline looks like a winner.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Honda
What’s the best-selling SUV in Canada? It’s not the Honda CR-V, but falling short by only 506 units at the close of calendar year 2018, representing less than one percent of total sales, must have…
What’s the best-selling SUV in Canada? It’s not the Honda CR-V, but falling short by only 506 units at the close of calendar year 2018, representing less than one percent of total sales, must have been a hard pill to swallow when the Markham, Ontario-based automaker’s sales and marketing teams departed for their New Year’s Eve celebrations last year.
Honda sold 54,879 CR-Vs to Toyota’s 55,385 RAV4s through 2018, the race for top spot on the compact SUV podium having always been heated; Honda actually led every year before Toyota took over in 2015. After Q3 of 2018, Honda was once again ahead with 41,023 CR-V deliveries to 41,023 RAV4s, but weaker than expected Q4 sales must’ve only made the finally result burn all the more.
Just in case you’re wondering, rivalries like these are gladiator-level sporting bouts to automakers, and Honda versus Toyota in the compact sector is the equivalent of the Yankees vs the Red Sox, Packers vs the Bears, the Lakers vs the Celtics, Frazier vs Ali, and yes, the Bruins vs the Canadiens, or the Habs vs the Leafs for that matter, we are talking about the Canadian market after all.
Unfortunately for Honda the 12th month of 2019 won’t be a nail-biter, the deep sales chart divide between RAV4 and CR-V starting to look a lot like Civic’s lead over Corolla in the compact car segment. Toyota’s all-new fifth-generation RAV gained 19.68 percent for 61,455 deliveries over the first 11 months of the year, whereas the CR-V’s 3.99-percent growth, while impressive for a vehicle three years into its lifecycle, has only resulted in 53,218 year-to-date unit sales.
The CR-V should do even better next year thanks to an edgy 2020 refresh (although a downturn in the overall market could dictate otherwise), updating its grille and front fascia with a sportier look that includes a deeper front apron with larger lower intakes, but it’s hardly a wholesale change so any uptick won’t be dramatic.
All said few compact SUVs are as good as this 2019 CR-V Touring. I’ve recommended Honda’s entry in this class more than any challenger, including Toyota’s, although the new RAV4 is superb. Still, there’s a level of solidity to the CR-V’s build quality that few in this category can match, the lack of hollowness when the doors are slammed shut, the higher end soft-touch composites found on more interior surfaces, the satisfying near silence hardly heard when the rear seats are effortlessly laid flat via cargo wall-mounted levers no less. It’s not the best cabin in the segment, Mazda’s near premium CX-5 Signature taking that title, but with just 26,587 examples sold so far this year despite a 4.7-percent gain, the CR-V wins the game that matters most.
Along with interior quality that’s at least second in the segment, the CR-V might come closer to actually leading in overall comfort. Of course, the way a front seat and steering column fits a given driver will vary depending on body type, but my longer legged, shorter torso frame really likes the CR-V. Its tilt and telescopic steering column reaches farther rearward than most others, and the Touring model’s 12-way powered driver’s seat provides ample adjustment for near optimal comfort and control. Yes, the CX-5 still beats the CR-V in this test, the Mazda allowing me to set my seat up comfortably while resting my wrist overtop the steering wheel rim, which wasn’t possible with the CRV, this setup recommended for best-possible control with hands placed at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions. Still, the CR-V Touring’s four-way powered lumbar support was sublime for meeting the small of my back and would likely work for yours as well, Toyota’s premium Lexus brand not even offering this on some of its models, and Mazda not doing so either.
The 12-way powered driver’s seat comes standard in CR-V Touring trim, and does with mid-range EX and EX-L trims as well. Honda divvies up the CR-V five ways for 2019, including LX-2WD and LX at the bottom end, with pricing for the front-wheel drive model starting at $27,690 and the first all-wheel drive trim from $30,490. Moving up through the line, all remaining trims coming standard with Honda’s Real Time AWD, an EX can be had for $33,990, the EX-L from $36,290, and this Touring model for $39,090 (plus freight and fees throughout the line).
Of note, along with its refresh the 2020 CR-V gets a significant $1,000 base price bump that allows the entire Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance systems to become standard on the entry-level LX-2WD model. Forward collision warning was already standard with the base 2019 model, so the new standard additions (currently found on all AWD-equipped 2019 CR-Vs) include autonomous collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning with lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow.
Together with all of the usual active and passive safety features expected the North American markets, the upgrade should help the new CR-V hold onto its IIHS Top Safety Pick status at the very least. In order to achieve the coveted IIHS Top Safety Pick “+” rating it’ll need to upgrade its standard headlamps from projector-beam halogens to HIDs or LEDs with cornering capability. Currently Honda achieves “Marginal” and “Acceptable” headlight ratings depending on trim, with LED low- and high-beam headlights only available with my tester’s top-line Touring trim (and soon Black Edition trim too), while it gets best-possible “Good” marks in every other category except for “LATCH ease of use” where it only receives an “Acceptable” rating.
By comparison, the RAV4 achieves the highest Top Safety Pick + status because one (or some) of its trims get a “Good” headlight rating, although its lesser trims only manage “Marginal” and even “Poor” rankings for their headlights, so the IIHS is say that in the real world they may not even work as well as the CR-Vs. To be fair to Toyota, this is a strange result being that the brand fits all RAV4 trims identically with its new parabola LED headlamps, only adding halogen fog lights to mid-range trims and a set of LED fogs to top-tier models, and there’s no mention of fog lamps in the IIHS data.
While chasing after safety ratings might now seem like a fool’s errand (it certainly can be with J.D. Power ratings), no one should question the benefit of adding Honda Sensing features to its base model and keeping them standard throughout the rest of the range, and speaking of the rest of the range the new 2020 model replaces this year’s EX with a new Sport trim that’s also priced $1,000 higher, while Honda ups the EX-L’s window sticker by $1,500 and adds $2,000 to this Touring trim for 2020. Lastly, Honda tops off the 2020 CR-V line with a new $42,590 Black Edition that adds some darkened chrome trim as well as black-painted alloys, plus it’s only available in Crystal Black Pearl or $300 optional Platinum White Pearl exterior paints.
Other than some minor interior modifications the 2020 CR-V should mostly be like this 2019, and while I’d normally recommend snapping up an end-of-year 2019 in order to get a better deal (and there are certainly some left), the savings aren’t as notable as with most other brands. While there’s the obvious savings right off the top, as noted by the 2019 to 2020 price increases that range from $1,000 to $2,000 depending on trim, CarCostCanada is only showing up to $1,000 in additional incentives for the 2019 model if purchased at the time of writing (December 17, 2019), compared to the same $1,000 for the 2020 model.
Also, CarCostCanada members are only saving an average of $1,869 when purchasing either model, which while hardly an insignificant amount, doesn’t make going back a model year worthwhile. Your best bet is to get your CarCostCanada membership to find out about all available manufacturer rebates and dealer invoice pricing before negotiating your best deal, and then compare the two models at a Honda retailer before buying.
Being that both 2019 and 2020 CR-V Touring (and new Black Edition) trims should be similar as far as materials quality and refinement go, I feel safe recommending both even though I haven’t even sat in the 2020 model. On that note, while I’ve already mentioned my tester’s Touring trim offered higher end composites found on more interior surfaces than most competitors, I’ve yet to say exactly how it’s nicer inside. Its dash top and front door uppers are made from soft-touch synthetic panels, the latter finished in very nice stitched leatherette.
This mirrors the surface treatment found on the instrument panel, which is one of the more attractive in its class due to the same faux leather stitched down the middle, yet bisected with a glossy piano black lacquer inlay. Additionally, this Touring model’s imitation hardwood gets a nice matte finish, plus a fairly realistic looking grain and solid feeling dense composite in behind. It’s some of the best fake wood I’ve ever seen, and while not as impressive as the aforementioned CX-5 Signature’s authentic hardwood, the imitation stuff suits Honda’s environmental stance well, even though Mazda’s wood is reclaimed.
Now that I’m talking CX-5, that model’s top Signature trim beats the CR-V Touring in a couple of ways, particularly another soft-touch door upper in back, fabric-wrapped A-pillars, and a 40/20/40-split rear seatback that even includes two-in-one release levers on the cargo area side wall. Honda was one of the first to provide auto folding seatback levers, noted earlier, but its 60/40 split-folding rear seats are nowhere near as accommodating for active lifestyle families that want to stow longer cargo, such as skis, down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable window seats (and neither is the RAV4’s rear row). When rear outboard seat heaters are added, these included in most rivals’ top trims including the CX-5’s Signature (and GT) model, the RAV4 Limited, and this CR-V Touring (plus the EX-L), you’ll also be mitigating potential petitions from wet, cold kids wanting the only heated rear window seat left (I can hear the whining now).
In the CR-V’s corner is a cargo floor that can be moved up or down about three inches to provide more height for taller items or meets up with the front portion of the load floor when laid flat, and those seats really do lay flat, at least much more so than the previous generation CR-V did, which had a big hump in the middle and was therefore not as accommodating as some of its peers. A retractable cargo cover sits right behind the rear seatbacks, and can be easily removed, although you’ll need to store it somewhere on the load floor or on the rear passenger’s floor, which may get in the way of your kids’ feet. The new RAV4 provides a spot to neatly store its cargo cover underneath the load floor, which I think is a very smart idea and not wholly unusual amongst SUVs. If you try to do likewise below the CR-V’s cargo floor (believe me I tried), it won’t lay flat (ditto for the CX-5, although my tester didn’t even have a cargo cover).
As for cargo capacity, the CR-V clearly wins with 1,110 litres of dedicated volume and 2,146 litres maximum with the rear seats folded, compared to 1,059 and 1,977 litres respectively for the RAV4, or 875 and 1,687 litres for the CX-5.
Speaking of space, there’s no shortage for front or rear occupants, with the driver’s position already covered at length, and the latter resulting in about 10 inches from my knees to the driver’s seat’s backside when it was set up for my long-legged five-foot-eight frame, plus more than enough room to completely stretch out my feet under the front seat’s frame. I also had more than enough headroom and side-to-side space, even with the nice thick centre armrest folded down, while the outboard rear seatbacks provide good lower back support, and the buttons for their aforementioned warmers are most conveniently placed on panels ahead of the door armrests, right next to the power window switches.
Two USB-A charging ports can be found on the backside of the front console, dual cupholders within the centre armrest, and bottle holders in the lower door panels. With soft-touch rear door uppers and 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks, or at least a centre pass-through, it’d be near perfect.
Back up front, the CR-V Touring’s nicely shaped leather-wrapped steering wheel provides a little heater button on its left side spoke to ease cold winter mornings, while both spokes’ switchgear is beautifully done, matching up nicely with the mostly digital instrument cluster the rim frames. The centre stack gets a fixed touchscreen up top, the display seamlessly set within a gloss-black surrounding surface and, other than a rotating power/volume knob replete with touch-sensitive controls. While it looks massive when the ignition is turned off, press the engine start/stop button (a proximity-sensing key fob gets you inside too) and an average-sized 7.0-inch high-resolution monitor lights up within.
Being top of the line navigation was included, and its route guidance was reliably accurate. The maps and other infotainment graphics are attractive, the colours and depth of contrast good, and the system’s overall functionality, ease of use, and response to input impressive, while the audio system includes all the usual suspects such as AM, FM, satellite radio, USB input, iPod, Bluetooth streaming, while your smartphone can be connected via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay too. On top of this, the CR-V includes HondaLink and the ability to download various apps, while the backup camera includes dynamic guidelines to help you ease your way into a parking spot, these not included in the top-line CX-5.
Another CR-V bonus is an overhead sunglasses holder with a built-in rearview conversation mirror, helpful for keeping an eye on your kids or chatting with the parents, something easy to do in an SUV that was primarily created for comfort over speed. That’s not to say the CR-V’s sole 1.5-litre, direct injection, 16-valve, DOHC, turbocharged four-cylinder engine is by any means sluggish, its 190 horsepower and 179 lb-ft of torque more than adequate for spirited performance off the line, although it’s a bit down on the RAV4’s 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft, and quite a bit off the top-line Ford Escape’s 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of torque (although the base Escape only makes 168 hp and 170 lb-ft).
Suffice to say the CR-V’s acceleration is strong enough, and its continuously variable transmission (CVT) is inherently smooth if not remotely sporty. The RAV’s eight-speed automatic provides a more connected feel, albeit like the CR-V lacks paddle shifters, while upper-crust versions of the CX-5 are sportier due to paddles, yet the Mazda’s six-speed gearbox doesn’t earn points from a marketing or fuel economy perspective. Top line trims of Ford’s new 2020 Escape will probably get the most performance kudos for mixing paddles with an eight-speed auto, plus even more power than just noted.
Of these four the CR-V is the most efficient around town and thriftiest overall when powering all wheels, its claimed rating being 8.4 L/100km city, 7.0 highway and 7.8 combined with FWD and 8.7, 7.2 and 8.0 respectively with AWD. Comparatively only the RAV4 with FWD is better, but merely on the open road with an estimated rating of 8.8 city, 6.7 highway and 7.8 combined, whereas the same SUV with AWD is rated at a respective 9.2, 7.1 and 8.3. This said Toyota offers a RAV4 Hybrid that ekes out a best-in-class 5.8 city, 6.3 highway and 6.0 combined, which even makes the CX-5’s new turbo-diesel rating seem ho-hum at 8.9 city, 7.9 highway and 8.4 combined.
Yah, that’s not very impressive for a diesel despite including AWD, as it doesn’t even match the CR-V and RAV4’s AWD ratings. The CX-5’s other fuel economy numbers are all slightly less impressive than the diesel, ranging from 8.5 to 8.8 combined city/highway with FWD trims and 9.0 to 9.8 with AWD, whereas the Escape is hardest on fuel amongst these top sellers, with combined ratings of 9.1 for the FWD model, 9.9 with AWD, and 10.2 L/100km for the much more powerful version.
While the CVT is an obvious positive for fuel economy, its noise at higher revs is a negative. Common with this type of transmission, the engine can drone when getting hard on the throttle or traveling at high speeds, a factor that’s not present with the others just mentioned, but taking off more smoothly from standstill and maintaining more moderate speeds makes it a good match to the CR-V’s turbocharged engine.
That said, when comparing overall quietness the new RAV4’s cabin comes across like a two-stroke engine in a steel drum next to the CR-V. The new Toyota is easily one of the noisiest compact SUVs I’ve driven to date, although before Honda gets its head swollen with pride they could still add some more sound deadening material to the CR-V’s front firewall in order to exorcise a few of its nattering gremlins away.
Comfortable refinement is king in this class after all, and to that end the CR-V’s ride is sublime and handling more than capable through fast-paced curves. It gets a fully independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension setup that’s as good for navigating inner city traffic as it is for cruising the highway, its only crime being a tendency to lean hard when pushed hard through tight corners at high speeds. Those wanting more performance may want to once again look at the CX-5, which delivers much more engaging maneuverability at high speeds, yet provides a similarly comfortable ride despite being shod in 19-inch alloys compared to the CR-V Touring’s 18s. To each his own, however, and to that end Honda’s faithful have spoken loud and clear.
The CR-V is a comfortable, practical family hauler, which is exactly why it sells so well. I can’t say I’d recommend it over every competitor, at least before understanding the priorities of the would-be buyer, but it does most everything more than well enough, has a reputation for dependable quality, and holds its resale value well. In fact, it took top spot amongst car-based compact crossover SUVs in the Canadian Black Book’s 2019 Best Retained Value Awards, was similarly honoured in the “Compact Utility” category of ALG’s 2019 Residual Value Awards, and as far as overall value goes, won its “Compact SUV/Crossover” class in Vincentric’s 2019 Best Value in Canada Awards. Need I say more? Probably not.
The Fit is the least expensive way to put a Honda car in your garage, but it just might be the smartest choice no matter how much you’d be willing to spend. Ok, the same Japanese brand’s HR-V subcompact…
The Fit is the least expensive way to put a Honda car in your garage, but it just might be the smartest choice no matter how much you’d be willing to spend.
Ok, the same Japanese brand’s HR-V subcompact crossover SUV incorporates the same ultimately innovative rear seating system, illusively dubbed Magic Seat, with even more cargo room, so either model might do the trick, but being that this Fit starts at just $15,590 compared to the HR-V’s $23,300 price tag, it’s the perfect choice for active lifestyle folks on more of a budget.
To be clear, my 2019 Fit tester was in second-rung LX trim, upgraded yet further with its optional continuously variable transmission (CVT), to its asking price moved up from $18,990 for the six-speed manual to $20,290, but the LX CVT with Honda Sensing not only provides the LX trim’s body-colour rear roofline spoiler, an auto-up/down driver’s window, illuminated steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, larger infotainment touchscreen incorporating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, Siri Eyes Free compatibility, text message function, Wi-Fi tethering, extra USB device connector (for a total of two), filtered air conditioning, heatable front seats, centre console with armrest and storage bin, HondaLink Assist automatic emergency response system, cargo cover and more, but also includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, an ECON mode button, and the list goes on.
The LX gets everything from the base model too, a shortlist including auto-off multi-reflector halogen headlamps, LED brake lights, heated power-adjustable side mirrors in body-coloured housings, body-colour door handles, remote entry, powered locks and windows, intermittent front and rear wipers, a tilt and telescopic steering column, 160-watt four-speaker AM/FM/MP3/WMA audio, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, etcetera.
The Fit has always been a bit polarizing visually, but what subcompact hatchback is a style leader? Maybe Kia’s Rio could be called good looking, but most entry-level buyers likely agree this third generation Fit is a lot more eye-catching than the bland original and slightly less bland second generation, or at least it was for me, while the most recent 2018 refresh that adds yet more of Honda’s edgy new design language makes it look even better.
This upgrade came with an even edgier new Sport trim that I covered last year, this model’s $19,990 price placed right in the middle of four additional trims including base DX, my tester’s LX designation, $22,290 EX, and the $24,390 top-line EX-L NAVI. If you ask me, as much as I like the glossy black alloys and additional black and red exterior trim of the Sport, plus the performance-oriented black and red interior upgrades, the LX is probably the smartest option from a purely pragmatic point of view.
It’s an “everything you need, nothing you don’t” argument as verified by the features list above, the only upgrade I’d like being proximity-sensing access and pushbutton ignition, while once inside any Fit, old or new, or better yet having lived with one for enough time to experience how brilliantly practical it is, you’ll appreciate that styling matters a lot less than choosing the right car to accomplish the things you want to do. It’s the pragmatic minivan argument shrunken down to genuinely small proportions, yet play around awhile with its Magic Seat configurations and you’ll quickly understand that size really doesn’t matter when innovative engineering is factored in.
It’s long been one of the roomiest cars in its class, and the most versatile by far. People thinking they need to go full-size for more headroom had best expand their vision, as most will be cranking the Fit’s height-adjustable driver’s seat upward in order to take advantage of all the space overhead, thus providing a near SUV-like downward view at adjacent traffic below. The same can be said for legroom, which is more plentiful than most four-door sedans, while the Fit’s cargo space superiority certainly lives up to its name.
For those not familiar with the Fit’s rear Magic Seats, at first glance they seem to provide the same 60/40 split-folding second row as every competitor, not even including a centre pass-through, or my favourite 40/20/40 rear seat divide, but upon closer inspection it’s easy to see those rear seats sitting upon folding metal legs that allow the lower cushions to be lifted up against the seatbacks like those in the rear compartments of some pickup trucks. This provides a large 139-litre (4.9 cubic-foot) area for loading in tall cargo, like potted plants or bicycles (with front wheels removed), while still leaving all 470 litres (16.6 cubic feet) of available cargo space behind the second row. Drop those cushions back in place before pushing the rear seats into the floor exposes 1,492 litres (52.7 cubic feet) of maximum gear-toting capacity. That’s a lot for this class, and even the larger compact class. Yes, even Honda’s own Civic Hatchback is short some 184 litres (6.5 cubic feet) of maximum cargo volume when compared to the Fit.
It’s good for people too, the Fit’s front seats providing wonderful comfort with excellent support, firm but not overly so. The steering column’s reach is ample for the majority of body types, making for an ideal driving position. Likewise, the rear outboard positions offer good comfort, having left my five-foot-eight long-legged, short-torso frame about five inches ahead of my knees and more than enough room to stretch out my legs when the driver’s seat was positioned for my height, plus about three and a half inches above my head and four or so next to my shoulders and hips.
Parked in that driver’s seat, a mostly digital gauge cluster gets a large three-dimensional speedometer at centre, this being the only analogue component, that’s surrounded by brilliant blues, greens and reds on a deeply contrasted black background, these highlighting various functions of the multi-information display mounted within the just-noted speedometer. The steering wheel switchgear that controls it, and other features, are excellent, and there are plenty of them.
Move over to the centre stack you’ll find one of the best infotainment displays in the segment, filled with smartly organized digital buttons leading to simply laid out function interfaces, with the audio panel augmented by a throwback analogue power/volume knob that I appreciated for its easy adjustment while driving. Just below is a compact manual HVAC panel nicely detailed with large dials featuring knurled metal-like grips.
As you might expect in this needs-driven class, the upper dash top is made from harder plastic, but Honda goes a step further than most subcompact rivals by finishing off the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger in a nicely sculpted soft-touch synthetic, while over on the other side is a handy feature not offered by any challenger, a pop-out cupholder just to the left of the steering wheel, where it’s easier to reach. It’s positioned directly in front of the corner vent, so will either heat up or cool down your drink depending whether you have the heat or air conditioning on. This can be a pleasant bonus, but take note it can also warm up a bottle of water.
Believe it or not, the aforementioned Sport model and two trims above actually get a set of paddle shifters attached to the steering wheel next to that cupholder, which says a lot about this car’s drivability. Ahead of the firewall is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine that puts out a surprisingly strong 130 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque, or 128 and 113 respectively when hooked up to its optional CVT. Those numbers lift it into rare territory for this class, with only one base competitor making more. This provides a bit of fun off the line, more so for the manual, yet still plenty of straight-line speed for the CVT as well, plus decent highway passing performance and enough on tap to power out of corners when tackling the twisties.
And yes, despite its front strut and rear torsion beam suspension, the latter allowing for all that cargo space mentioned before, it carves a fairly quick corner, only becoming unsettled when pushed too hard through winding, bumpy pavement. This said the Fit was really designed more for urban commuting than blasts down rural mountainside two-laners, its ride set up for comfort first and foremost, and therefore providing good compliance over rough patches of inner-city tarmac.
Commuting in mind, the Fit’s claimed 8.1 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 7.4 combined rating for the manual is very good, although the CVT is even easier on the wallet at only 7.0 city, 5.9 highway and 6.5 combined. Some rivals offer slightly better efficiency, but not together with the Fit’s performance, especially when comparing automatic transmissions.
Summing up, the Fit is one of the better subcompacts to drive while providing superb fuel economy and unparalleled practicality, all together with good comfort, plenty of leading convenience features and safety technologies, plus Honda’s good name to keep it reliable and prop up its resale value. The Fit gets a pretty dramatic facelift for 2020, so make sure to visit CarCostCanada for all the latest rebate info on 2019s, as Honda retailers will be motivated to discount them. Also, before you try to negotiate, find out about the dealer invoice price so you know exactly what the retailer is paying in order to get the best deal possible. CarCostCanada is currently showing up to $1,000 off in additional incentives, so make sure you check out all the details before visiting your local retailer, and also learn about the 2019 Fit’s additional trims, packages and individual options.
In classic Honda fashion, the update from third-generation 2016-2018 Pilot 1.0 to 2019 Pilot 2.0 is ultimately subtle, but somehow the changes made have resulted in a wholly better looking crossover SUV. …
In classic Honda fashion, the update from third-generation 2016-2018 Pilot 1.0 to 2019 Pilot 2.0 is ultimately subtle, but somehow the changes made have resulted in a wholly better looking crossover SUV.
The new Pilot’s mid-cycle makeover adds a more assertive looking truck-like grille above a stronger front bumper and fascia design, which tie in better to other models throughout Honda’s lineup. The new look is further improved by a wonderfully complex set of full LED headlamps in top-line Touring trim, sporting Honda’s signature vertical elements for a whole new level of sophistication when compared to lesser trims.
Incidentally, trims below Touring get standard low-beam-only LED headlights that feature a less distinctive projector-style design, while an attractive set of updated LED tail lamps are the same with all trims, these positioned above a new rear bumper.
Additionally, silver skid plates below both front and rear bumpers toughen up the look of most trims, while matte and glossy black versions of the same garnishes adorn base and Canadian-exclusive Black Edition versions respectively, while Honda adds a little bit of extra exterior chrome to Touring trim, including bright metal door handles, and new 20-inch machine-finished alloys with black painted pockets that result in a more upscale look from front to back. All of these small details have really added up to a handsome mid-size crossover SUV, and while it remains a large three-row family hauler that can actually fit real adults in its rearmost seats, the Pilot somehow appears light and lithe, as if it’s actually fun to drive.
Rather than just refreshing the styling and leaving at that, Honda went further by improving the auto start-stop system in top-tier Touring and Black Edition trims, so that it shuts off and restarts the engine quicker and with less fanfare, a fix that should cause more owners to leave it engaged and therefore do a better job of minimizing fuel consumption and emissions. I’m a big fan of that, and never had a problem with this feature throughout my test week.
Likewise, my top-line Pilot Touring tester’s updated nine-speed automatic transmission performed flawlessly, delivering what seemed to be smoother more effortless shifts when tooling around town or cruising along the highway, and feeling more precise when flicking through the gears on the highway. This said I never had a problem with the outgoing nine-speed when testing it in a 2017 model, but some have complained about refinement and therefore Honda made improvements that should appease such disgruntled owners.
Base LX, plus mid-range EX and EX-L Navi owners would have had no such issues due to their Pilots incorporating Honda’s time-tested six-speed autobox, while the one-size-fits-all 24-valve, SOHC 3.5-litre V6 is about as seasoned as modern-day engines get, remaining quite potent for the class at 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, and kitted out with direct-injection, i-VTEC, Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) that shuts off a bank of cylinders under light loads to improve fuel economy, plus an Active Control Engine Mount (ACM) system to help reduce noise, vibration and harshness levels, which it seems to do effectively.
Thanks in part to standard Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) AWD, supported by Honda’s Intelligent Traction Management System, the latest Pilot felt as sporty off the line as its new look lets on, while it carried that newfound nimbleness through fast-paced corners with an easy, composed nonchalance that defied its near full-size proportions, combining this agile handling with a thoroughly comfortable, compliant ride that only became unsettled when pushed beyond what’s reasonable on a particularly poorly paved section of curving roadway.
Driven at calmer speeds my Pilot Touring tester was not only ideally stable and thoroughly comfortable, but came very close to achieving its claimed Transport Canada five-cycle rating of 12.4 L/100km in the city, 9.3 on the highway and 11.0 combined, with my weeklong average being 11.7 L/100km of mostly city driving on flat roadways. Of note, six-speed models are estimated to achieve 13.0 city, 9.3 highway and 11.3 combined. Factoring in new carbon tax-infused pump prices, these numbers are quite good for such a large utility.
I didn’t have opportunity to tow a trailer during my test week, but take note there’s no difference in ability with either transmission, the Pilot’s rating set to 1,588 kilograms (3,500 lbs) in base form or 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) when fitted with its available towing package.
Hauling in mind, the Pilot provides plenty of cargo space for all your load carrying needs, with 524 litres (18.5 cubic feet) behind the third row, or 510 litres (18.0 cubic feet) with the Touring and Black Edition; 1,583 litres (55.9 cubic feet) when that 60/40-split third row is folded flat; plus a range from 3,072 to 3,092 litres (108.5 to 109.2 cubic feet) when both rear rows lowered, but take note that models with second-row captain’s chairs are missing a centre section that may need to be gapped when trying to fill it fully with gear. Some others with this problem attach a carpeted extension to the backside of one seatback that can be flipped over the open section of load floor when filling with cargo, but no such innovation was shown here.
These sliding and reclining captain’s chairs, which straddle a slightly raised floor-mounted console with cupholders and shallow bin, don’t come standard in Touring trim, but instead replace a regular bench seat that’s good enough for three adults abreast. The model tested, therefore, only provided for seven occupants, whereas the base version is one of the more capable family haulers thanks to eight available seatbelts. I’ve tried both, and the captain’s chairs are certainly more comfortable, thanks in part to fold-down armrests and seat heaters. I also appreciated the much more open and visually airy interior provided by the big panoramic sunroof included with Touring and Black Edition upgrades—all other trims but the base model include a regular powered moonroof up front.
Features in mind, top-tier $52,690 Touring trim comes well stocked, with items not yet mentioned including a more advanced set of LED high beam-infused headlamps, power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, blue ambient lighting inside, front window acoustic glass to subdue NVH levels, rain-sensing wipers, an electronic gear selector, ventilated front seats, a premium 600-watt audio system with 11 speakers including a subwoofer plus 5.1 Surround Sound, wireless device charging, Honda’s ultra-useful new CabinTalk in-car PA system (it really works well), HondaLink Subscription Services, a Wi-Fi hotspot, the “How much Farther?” app, a rear entertainment system, HDMI input jack, a 115-volt rear power outlet, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, plus more.
Additionally, features pulled up from EX-L Navi trim to the Touring model including an acoustic windshield, memory-linked side mirrors with reverse tilt, a heatable steering wheel rim, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, navigation, satellite and HD radio, front and rear parking sensors, the heated outboard second-row seats noted earlier, one-touch third-row access buttons that make getting in and out of the rearmost seating area ultra-easy, second-row sunshades, a powered tailgate and more, while items pulled up from EX trim include LED fog lights, LED turn signals within the side mirrors, roof rails, illuminated vanity mirrors, a Homelink garage door opener, a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a 10-way powered driver’s seat with memory, and the just noted power moonroof.
Lastly, I should also mention a number of standard $41,290 Pilot LX features that are also part of the Touring trim package, such as a remote engine starter, keyless proximity access, pushbutton ignition, a windshield wiper de-icer, an overhead console-mounted conversation mirror that doubles as a sunglasses holder, tri-zone automatic climate control, three-way heatable front seats, the HondaLink Assist Automatic Emergency Response System, and the list goes on (all prices are sourced from CarCostCanada, where you can also get all the latest rebate info as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
Particularly notable, all Pilot trims feature a large 7.0-inch TFT multi-information display (MID) within a mostly digital gauge cluster, the former featuring bright and clear high-resolution colour graphics, plus easy operation via steering wheel-mounted controls, while the 8.0-inch tablet-style infotainment touchscreen atop the centre stack is even more fully featured, starting with a wonderfully colourful array of tile-like graphics that appear to be inspired by the iPhone and iPad. The inclusion of standard Apple CarPlay is therefore fitting, although take note that Android Auto is also standard, plus Bluetooth smartphone connectivity with streaming audio, a superb multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, and more.
Part of that ongoing features list includes a whole host of standard Honda Sensing advanced driver assistance systems such as automatic high beams, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, and Road Departure Mitigation, which means that together with the Touring model’s cornering-capable full LED headlights the 2019 Pilot now achieves a best-possible Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the IIHS (last year’s versions didn’t achieve the “Plus” or “+” rating), while it also received a five star safety rating from the NHTSA.
While most everything I’ve said thus far has been positive, I was somewhat surprised that the Pilot only provides soft touch synthetic surfacing across its dash top, as well as a piece on the instrument panel just ahead of its front passenger that wraps overtop the centre display, and the front door uppers, plus of course the usual door inserts and armrests. This means the rear door uppers were hard plastic, which is strangely low-rent for this class, while some rivals even go so far to provide the pliable synthetic treatment to the lower dash including the glove box lid, while also wrapping the A pillars in fabric to improve refinement further.
On the positive, the driver’s seat was very comfortable, but this said its two-way powered lumbar support didn’t meet up with the small of my back, so I didn’t use it the way I would if it also adjusted for height. Speaking of seats, I should say more about the third row that actually was quite comfortable, with plenty of legroom for a five-foot-eight adult (with long legs and a shorter torso), about three to four inches available for the knees when the second row was pushed back to its rearmost position, and loads of headroom.
My last and final complaint won’t be an issue for many Pilot owners, but I found it odd that Honda expended so much energy (and money) creating the Touring (and Black Edition) model’s electronic gear selector yet didn’t replace the foot-operated parking brake with an electromechanical unit. It’s not like lifting the foot and pressing down on a parking brake is a big negative, but it certainly ties what is otherwise a modern and advanced vehicle to the past. I’m guessing Honda will replace it for the next generation Pilot, so I, like some others, will look forward to this upgrade.
And yes this is where I need to say, if a foot-operated parking brake, two-way lumbar support, and a little more hard plastic than I’d like to see is all I can find to complain about after a weeklong test, Honda is doing pretty well with the new Pilot. All in all this is easily the best Pilot I’ve ever driven, and one of the more competitive crossover SUVs in its three-row mainstream volume class. I like its new styling, appreciate the amount of effort Honda’s engineers put into refining the new model’s drivetrain and suspension, and therefore enjoyed my time behind the wheel. It’s certainly an easy SUV to live with thanks to ample passenger and cargo space, while its fuel economy didn’t put me in the poorhouse. For these reasons and more the 2019 Pilot is easy to recommend.
I said this before and I’ll say it again, the new Accord is the most attractive car in its midsize sedan class, and one of the best looking to ever be sold in this segment. Not only that, I find it…
I said this before and I’ll say it again, the new Accord is the most attractive car in its midsize sedan class, and one of the best looking to ever be sold in this segment. Not only that, I find it better looking than a lot of premium-branded sedans, and wouldn’t doubt that some who might have never purchased in this class before will now consider doing so solely because it exists.
This scenario may have played out on Canada’s sales charts last year, with the Accord being the only mid-size sedan to see growth from January 2018 through December’s end. OK, its archrival Toyota Camry barely escaped the red by growing a scant 0.1 percent over the same 12-month period, but Accord deliveries were up 2.4 percent during an era that’s seen the mid-size sedan decimated by crossover SUV popularity. This last point was evidenced by other Accord competitors seeing their market shares eroded significantly, the next best-selling Chevy Malibu’s sales down 16.3 percent, followed by the Fusion dropping 34.8 percent, the Nissan Altima lower by 21.4 percent, the Hyundai Sonata by 33.6 percent, Kia Optima by 27.5 percent, Volkswagen Passat by 29.5 percent, Mazda6 by 9.8 percent, and Subaru Legacy down by 28.1 percent. That’s an unbelievable level of mid-size sedan carnage, but the new Accord solely rose above it all.
Of course, there’s a lot more to the 10th-generation Accord than just good looks. There’s an equally attractive interior filled with premium levels of luxury and leading edge electronics, plus dependable engineering borne from decades of production and non-stop refinements. The first hybrid drivetrain was introduced as an option to the seventh-generation Accord way back in 2005, skipped a generation and then came back as an option with the ninth-gen Accord in 2013, and now it’s here again.
As with previous iterations, the latest Accord Hybrid looks much the same as the conventionally powered model, which I appreciate because it’s not trying too hard to stand out and keeps the Accord’s attractive styling intact. Truly, the only noticeable difference is a removal of tailpipe finishers, the Hybrid featuring some discrete chrome trim in their place. Chrome in mind, both no-name Hybrid and Hybrid Touring trims feature the same chrome exterior details as the regular Accord’s EX-L and above trims, Sport model excluded.
Touring upgrades that aren’t as noticeable include full LED headlamps that feature light emitting diodes for the high as well as the low beams, plus unique signature LED elements around the outside of the headlamp clusters, chrome-trimmed door handles, and the availability of no-cost as-tested Obsidian Blue Pearl exterior paint instead of standard Crystal Black Pearl or $300 White Orchid Pearl, the only two shades offered with the base model.
Now that we’ve got the obvious visual changes from base Hybrid to Hybrid Touring trims out of the way, the top-line model also replaces Honda’s exclusive LaneWatch blind spot display system with a Blind Spot Information (BSI) and Rear Cross Traffic Monitor system, while adding adaptive dampers to improve handling, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display (HUD), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, passenger side mirror reverse gear tilt-down, a HomeLink garage door remote, a powered moonroof, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, voice recognition, satellite and HD radio capability, HondaLink subscription services, wireless device charging, an AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot, driver’s seat memory, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, a heatable steering wheel rim, perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, and more for $40,090 plus freight and fees.
Incidentally, I sourced 2019 Honda Accord Hybrid pricing from CarCostCanada, which not only breaks everything down into trims, packages and standalone options, but also provides information about available rebates as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands.
Additionally, items pulled up to the Hybrid Touring from base $33,090 Hybrid trim include unique aerodynamically designed machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels, auto-on/off headlight control with automatic high beams, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, a remote engine starter, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display within the primary gauge cluster, dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with tablet-style tap, swipe and pinch gesture controls, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, near field communication (NFC), 452-watt audio with 10 speakers including a subwoofer, two front and two rear USB charging ports, SMS text message and email reading functionality, Wi-Fi tethering, overhead sunglasses storage, a 12-way powered driver’s seat with four-way powered lumbar support, heatable front seats, the HondaLink Assist automatic emergency response system, plus all the expected active and passive safety features including front knee airbags.
Some safety features that might not be expected include the standard Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistance systems, incorporating Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow, Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), and traffic sign recognition, this being enough to earn the regular Accord a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS when equipped with its upgraded headlights, while all Accord trims get a best-possible five stars from the NHTSA.
The long list of Accord Hybrid Touring features comes in a cabin that exudes quality and refinement, thanks to premium-level soft synthetic surfacing on most surfaces above the waste, authentic looking matte woodgrain inlays spanning the instrument panel and door panels, tastefully applied satin-silver accents throughout, supple leather upholstery on the seats, door inserts and armrests, padded and stitched leatherette trim along the sides of the lower console, the front portion protecting the inside knees of driver and front passenger from chafing, and some of the highest quality digital displays in the class.
Immediately impressive is the brightly lit primary instrument package that looks like a giant LCD panel at first glance, but in fact houses a digital display within its left two-thirds while integrating an analogue speedometer to the right. The screen on the left is filled with hybrid-specific info by default, but you can scroll through numerous other functions via steering wheel controls, resulting in a very useful multi-info display.
Likewise you can project key info onto the windshield via the HUD by using another steering wheel button, the system showing graphical information for route guidance, the adaptive cruise control system and more up high where you can see it without taking your eyes off the road.
Over on the top portion of the centre stack, Honda’s new infotainment interface has become a personal favourite amongst mainstream volume brands, thanks to high definition displays, wonderful depth of colour and contrast, plus fabulous graphics, the elegantly arranged tile system easy to figure out and plenty attractive to look at. Being a hybrid, a number of cool animated graphic sections are included, while the navigation system’s mapping was excellent and route guidance easy to input and precisely accurate, plus the backup camera was equally clear and dynamic guidelines helpful. Yes, I would’ve appreciated an overhead 360-degree bird’s-eye view, but the ability to see a variety of views thanks to its multi-angle design, no matter the trim, is a bonus that others in the class don’t offer.
The final digital display is Honda’s dual-zone automatic climate control interface, which is attractively designed in a narrow, neatly organized, horizontal row that includes an LCD centre display, three knurled metal-edged rotating knobs, and a variety of high-quality buttons for the HVAC system and heated/ventilated front seats.
I should mention that all of the Accord Hybrid Touring’s switchgear was excellent, and much of it beautifully finished with aforementioned satin-silver detailing, while the audio system knobs got the same grippy and stylish knurled metal treatment as those used for the HVAC interface. Much of the design shows an artistically flair too, particularly the recessed speaker grille behind the fixed tablet style display atop the dash, and the 3D effect used to raise the top buttons on the HVAC interface above those below.
At the very base of the centre stack is a little cubby filled with a 12-volt power outlet, a charged/connected USB port and a wireless charging pad that’s large enough for big smartphones like the Samsung Note series. Interestingly Honda has done away with the classic old auxiliary plug, replacing it with near field communication (NFC) as noted earlier, and three more USBs, the second one found within the centre storage bin under the armrest, which includes another 12-volt charger as well. The bin has a nice removable tray as well, which feels very high in quality and is rubberized so that it doesn’t rattle around like so many others in this class. This is just one of many details that let you know the Accord’s quality is above average.
The leather seats are nicely styled with perforations the three-way forced ventilation noted earlier. The driver’s was extremely comfortable, with good side support for this segment and excellent lower back support. On that note I was surprised that Honda not only includes a power-adjustable lumbar support with fore and aft control, but it’s a four-way system that also moves up and down to ideally position itself within the small of your back. That’s unusual in this class, even when compared to some premium models like the Lexus ES 350 and more directly comparative ES 300h hybrid that only include two-way powered lumbar. Likewise for the Toyota Camry and Camry Hybrid, plus a few others in this segment that don’t measure up either.
The seating position is good, probably on par with the aforementioned Camry, but I must say neither is excellent when it comes to adjustability. Their steering columns don’t offer enough reach, forcing me to power my seat too close to the pedals in order to achieve optimal comfort and control of the steering wheel. We’re all made differently, and I happen to have longer legs than torso. The compromise was a more upright seatback than I would have otherwise liked, but doing so allowed ample control and decent comfort, so this is how I drove all week.
Controlling the gear selector is a lot easier, although if you’re not familiar with Honda’s new assemblage of buttons and pull levers it’ll take some getting used to. The Accord Hybrid comes standard with the complex selector, and while it might be a bit confusing at first try I recommend giving it a little time before getting flustered. I’ve had a lot of opportunity to use this system in a variety of Honda models, the new Odyssey and Pilot immediately coming to mind, while it’s similar to the system used in new Acura models, so now I don’t swear at it when trying to find reverse in the middle of a U-turn. Other than the pull lever-type electromechanical parking brake found at its rearmost section, it consists of three pushbuttons, for park, neutral and drive, and another pull lever for reverse. I almost never use neutral, simplifying the process further, so it’s a tug on the lever for reverse and a simple press of the large centre button for drive or park, that’s it.
Next to the parking brake there’s another set of buttons for Sport, Econ and EV modes, plus a brake hold button. I left it in Econ mode most of the time and EV mode whenever it would allow, because this is what hybrids are all about, saving fuel and minimizing emissions and cost. This said the Accord Hybrid is one of the thriftiest vehicles I’ve driven all year, only costing me $24 after a week’s worth of very thorough use, and that’s when gas was priced at an outrageous $1.55 per litre. At today’s slightly more agreeable prices it would allow even more savings, its claimed 5.0 L/100km city, 5.0 highway and 5.0 combined fuel economy rating one of the best in the non-plug-in industry.
So what’s all the mechanical and electrically charged wizardry behind its superb fuel economy? A unique two-motor hybrid powertrain joins an efficient 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine to provide the Accord Hybrid with a class leading total system output of 212 horsepower, while its electric drive motor puts 232 lb-ft of near instantaneous torque down to the front wheels.
To clarify, one of the electric motors drives the front wheels, while a smaller secondary motor serves mainly as a generator, providing electric current to the drive motor in order to supplement or replace power from the battery during lighter loads, such as cruising. The second motor also starts the engine that in-turn adds torque to the wheels, but it’s never used as the motive driving force for those wheels.
Additionally, the car’s Electric-Continuously Variable Transmission, or E-CVT, removes any need for a conventional automatic transmission, or even a traditional belt/chain-operated continuously variable transmission (CVT), both of which inherently rob performance and efficiencies from the powertrain. Instead, Honda’s E-CVT drives the front wheels directly through four fixed drive ratio gearsets, without the need to shift gears or vary a planetary ratio. This means there is no “rubber-band” effect when accelerating as experienced in regular CVTs, or in other words the engine is never forced to maintain steady high rpms until road speed gradually catches up, this process causing a much-criticized audible “droning” effect with other CVT-equipped cars. Honda claims its direct-drive technology benefits from 46 to 80 percent less friction than a conventional automatic transmission, depending on the drive mode.
What’s more, you can choose between three standard propulsion modes as well, including electric-only (providing the 6.7-kWh lithium-ion battery is charged sufficiently), gasoline-only, or blended gas and electric (hybrid).
Despite my favouritism for Econ and EV modes, Sport mode worked very well, making itself immediately known after engaging at a stoplight by bringing the engine back to life from its auto start/stop mode, and then boosting acceleration significantly at takeoff. A set of standard steering wheel paddles improves the driving experience further, although flicking the right-side shifter to upshift while accelerating does nothing perceptible, this because the paddles are primarily for downshifting during deceleration. Therefore, tugging on the left paddle when braking, or pretty much any other time, causes a gear ratio drop that really comes in handy when wanting to engine brake or recharge down a steep hill, or when setting up for a corner.
And I must say the Accord Hybrid handles brilliantly for a car in this class. Really, the only vehicle in this segment with more agility around curves is the latest Mazda6 and possibly the Ford Fusion Sport, and these by the narrowest of margins, with Accord Hybrid seeming to dance away from its closest competitors, including the Toyota Camry Hybrid XSE that I tested earlier this year, which is the sportiest version of that car.
The Accord Hybrid handles long, sweeping high-speed corners well too, while its ability to cruise smoothly on the highway is as good as this class gets. It’s underpinned by the same fully independent front strut and rear multi-link suspension as the conventionally powered Accord, while my tester was once again outfitted with the upgraded adaptive dampers for a little more at-the-limit control and enhanced ride quality. This gives it a wonderfully compliant setup where ever you’re likely to drive, whether soldiering over bumpy back alleys, fast tracking across patchwork pavement, or negotiating wide bridge expansion joints, all of which were experienced during my test week.
My only complaint were front parking sensors that continually went off in regular traffic, highlighting an image of the car’s frontal area on the touchscreen when vehicles were merely pulling up beside me in the adjacent lane. I’ve encountered this problem with a few other cars over the past couple of years, and it’s always annoying. I pressed the parking sensor button off and on again, which remedied the problem until it happened again after a couple of days, at which point I rebooted the system the same way and never had to deal with it again.
This foible and the aforementioned lack of telescopic steering reach aside, the Accord Hybrid was a dream to live with. The rear seating area, a key reason many buy into this class, is as spacious as the regular Accord and more so than many in this segment. With the driver’s seat set up for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame, which as noted was set further back than average due to my longer legs, I was left with nearly a foot from my knees to the backrest ahead, plus so much room for my feet that I was able to completely stretch out my legs and move my shoes around underneath the front seat. Really, its rear legroom comes close to many full-size sedans. Likewise, there’s plenty of headroom at about three and a half inches, plus more than enough shoulder and hip space at about four to five inches for the former and five-plus for the latter.
This said I was disappointed that Honda finished off the rear door uppers in hard plastic. They’re not alone in this respect, but others do a better job pampering rear occupants. The previously noted Mazda6, for instance, at least in its top-line Signature trim level that I tested last year, which incidentally uses genuine hardwood inlays throughout, finishes the rear door panels as nicely as those up front, making it closer to premium status than anything else in its class. In most other respects the Accord nudges up against premium levels of luxury too, including excellent rear ventilation from a centre panel on the backside of the front console that also houses two USB charge points, while the outboard seats are three-way heatable as noted earlier, and there’s a nice big armrest that flips down from the centre position at exactly the right height for adult elbow comfort, or at least it was perfect for me. Honda fits two big deep cupholders within that armrest, which should do a pretty good job of holding drinks in place.
The trunk is sizeable too at 473 litres (16.7 cubic feet), which is exactly the same dimensions as the regular Accord, plus it’s also extendable via the usual 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks. This said there are still some hybrids that don’t allow much expandable storage due to batteries fitted within the rear bulkhead, so I can’t really complain that Honda doesn’t include a centre pass-through like Volkswagen’s Passat, which would allow rear passengers to enjoy the heated window seats after a day on the slopes. On the positive, a handy styrofoam compartment resides below the trunk’s load floor, ideal for stowing a first aid kit or anything else you’d like to have close at hand. It comes loaded up with an air compressor that could potentially get you to a repair shop if needed, but I’d personally prefer a spare tire so I could make it farther if damage to the tire doesn’t allow it to hold air.
So is this the best hybrid in the mid-size class? The new Accord Hybrid would certainly get my money. It looks fabulous, delivers big inside, and provides all the luxury-level features most will want, plus it drives brilliantly and delivers superb fuel economy, while Honda’s experience building electrified powertrains should make it plenty reliable.