“We’re thrilled and honored to earn both Truck and Utility of the Year from the NACTOY jury for the Ford Maverick and Bronco, especially among such a strong field of competitors,” stated Kumar Galhotra, president, Americas & International Markets Group, Ford Motor Company. “But we’re also proud because these awards are well-deserved recognition for the tremendous amount of work, focus and energy our teams have invested in designing, engineering and building exciting vehicles for our customers. This also reflects the overwhelming reception we’ve had from our Maverick and Bronco customers alike.”
To earn this highest honour, the Civic edged out the redesigned Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R, which are basically the same car in different trims (there’s no longer a regular Golf for 2022), plus the stunning new Lucid Air electric luxury sedan, a recent competitor to the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan.
“The Honda Civic has long set the standard by which other compact cars are measured and this all-new Civic raised that bar in every conceivable way,” said Michael Kistemaker, assistant vice president of Honda national sales, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “We’re especially proud for the Civic development team in Japan and our production associates at our plants in Greensburg, Indiana and Alliston, Ontario where the 2022 Civic Sedan, Hatchback and Si are built.”
Where the new Civic gets a dramatic styling update, its other changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary, which was a smart choice for a car that outsells every competitor most months, but the two new Fords are completely new additions to the domestic brand’s lineup, and necessary considering they no longer sell many cars. The Bronco goes head-to-head with the Jeep Wrangler as a serious 4×4-capable off-roader, while the Maverick is forging into an entirely new car-based compact pickup truck segment, only shared with Hyundai’s new Santa Cruz.
The Maverick beat the Santa Cruz in the final NACTOY showdown, as well as the larger Rivian R1T electric truck. It comes standard with a hybrid drivetrain, is available with a potent turbo, decent fuel economy, and features some smart cargo carrying innovations.
The Bronco didn’t have an easy fight in its SUV category either, with the all-new Genesis GV70 and pure-electric Hyundai Ioniq 5 challenging. While none of these specifically compete against each other in real life, they all excel in the sport utility sector, and only one could be the winner.
“This year’s group of semi-finalists includes some of the most interesting and innovative cars, trucks and utility vehicle candidates in recent memory,” said NACTOY President Gary Witzenburg, “and a larger number of new trucks than we’ve seen in many years. And it features more electric vehicles than we’ve ever seen, all of which our jurors will continue to test and evaluate prior to our next vote.”
More than 50 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada took part as jurors in this year’s NACTOY awards. To qualify, a vehicle needs to be completely new or significantly updated for the current model year. All finalist evaluations are based on design, driver satisfaction, innovation, performance, safety, technology, and value.
Looking for a great deal on a very good premium sedan? I can think of a number of reasons to consider the Acura ILX, but the opportunity for a heavily discounted final purchase price is definitely on top of the list.
To be clear, the ILX isn’t just a Civic with a body kit, as some like to refer to it. Way back in the early days of Acura, the ILX’ predecessor only provided a few mild styling modifications, a leather-trimmed interior, some other cabin enhancements, a slightly stiffer suspension, and Civic Si engine-tuning in its top trim in order to earn its Acura badge. Nevertheless, the long forgotten 1.6EL (1997–2000), which was based on the Japanese domestic market (JDM) Honda Domani and optionally used the same 127-horsepower engine as the Si here in Canada, plus the 1.7EL (2001–2005), which still made 127 horses despite getting a 100-cc bump in displacement, sold quite well, paving the way for the much-improved CSX (2006-2011), a model that was only sold in Canada, and actually inspired the JDM Civic’s styling (not the other way around, like so many critics have wrongly stated).
The ILX entered the import scene in 2012 as a 2013 model, and believe it or not is still based on the ninth-generation Civic that first appeared in 2011 (2022 will see an all-new 11th-gen Civic, to put that into perspective). That’s an antiquated platform architecture, to be sure, but this oldie was a goodie. It looked like it was designed from the ground up to be an Acura too, as did the interior, while performance from its optional 201-hp Si-derived powerplant was strong, albeit this engine’s sole six-speed manual transmission kept it from being as popular as the 150-hp 1.5-litre variant. A Civic-sourced hybrid drivetrain was also offered.
Acura provided a stiffer steering shaft for sharper turn-in, plus special “Amplitude Reactive” dampers to further improve handling as well as ride quality, and voila, its new compact competitor found serious traction on the sales charts, achieving a height of 3,192 Canadian deliveries in 2013, which put it fourth behind Buick’s now defunct Verano (with 5,573 units sold that year), Mini’s Cooper (3,946), and Mercedes’ discontinued B-Class (3,207).
Mercedes dominates this segment these days, its second-generation CLA-Class now joined by a new A-Class Sedan and Hatch for a total of 3,440-unit sales in 2020, while the ILX slipped from fourth to fifth in popularity due to just 774 deliveries last year. Being that the entire premium C-segment (and B-segment) includes a mere six models, that’s nothing to write home about, but then again managing to still sell anything after being around so long is a feat in itself.
To be fair, Acura has made some big changes to the ILX throughout its nine-year tenure, the most significant in 2016 when an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddles was mated to the potent 2.4-litre four-cylinder, which became the standard engine that year. It received a 10 lb-ft bump in max torque as well, the new mill putting out 180 lb-ft in total, while Acura also gave this upgraded ILX its distinctive “Jewel Eye” LED headlamps and a slightly revised “shield” grille for 2016, along with standard LED taillights. Sportier A-Spec trim was added too, the test car shown here finished off top-tier A-Spec Tech trim.
This one wears the much more visually dramatic “Diamond Pentagon” grille, however, which was added for the 2019 model. That car also received more aggressive headlights along with more sharply angled tail lamps, plus updates to most every other exterior panel, while the cabin incorporated new seats, with optional red leather upholstery in the microsuede-enhanced A-Spec. Finally, the infotainment system responded to inputs 30 percent faster than its predecessor, and Acura’s suite of advanced AcuraWatch safety features became standard. The car on these pages hasn’t changed since, which is probably why sales have steadily dropped, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of your attention.
Today’s 2.4-litre four still makes 201 horsepower, which while not as strong as some in this class, remains naturally aspirated and therefore a joy to rev well past its 7,000 rpm redline. It sounds fabulous when doing so too, while the fully-automated eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox delivers quick, smooth shifts that are ideally matched to the powerplant, its front-wheel drive layout the only negative in an otherwise wholly positive experience. Even then, the 225/40R18 Continentals hooked up well, with very little pull on the steering wheel at full throttle, even when taking off from a corner, with the overall driving feel coming across like a particularly well-finished Civic Si Sedan.
Yes, I know the 10th-generation Civic Si Sedan’s interior is much more modern than this ILX, especially when it comes to the primary gauge cluster and steering wheel controls. The former is made up of analogue dials bookending a simple two-colour multi-information display (MID), with the otherwise grey screen highlighted by some nice bright greens when using adaptive cruise control, but Acura’s dual-stack of infotainment displays was pretty high-tech when introduced, and still works well. The lower touchscreen is especially easy to operate, and while the graphics are a bit dated and display quality not quite up to today’s high-definition standards, I’m not going to rag on this system or any of Acura’s infotainment foibles right now, other than to say their unnecessary complexity isn’t as appealing to me as Honda’s excellent touchscreen systems. To that tend, the ILX offers a bit of both worlds, resulting in a system I certainly like better than some of the brand’s more recent concoctions.
Just the same, purchasing a car as well-seasoned as the ILX means you’ll need to forgo some of the industry’s latest features and design elements. I didn’t mind the aforementioned MID, as all info was crisply and clearly displayed, plus a fair bit of info was available, from audio stations, to phone and voice prompt controls, plus the aforementioned cruise control. Likewise, the analogue dials were bright and easy to read in all conditions. The steering wheel controls, while not including the outgoing Civic’s ergonomically-designed volume switch and four-way rockers on both sides for most other functions, are made from high quality composites with good fit and decent damping.
The infotainment’s system’s upper display is controlled by rotating a big knob and pressing surrounding buttons found just below the lower centre touchscreen, this top monitor being dedicated to navigation info, smartphone connectivity, car settings, and a few other functions. The touch capacitive screen just below, on the other hand, allows comprehensive control of the audio system. Both displays are full-colour, albeit only various blue hues are used for the latter. Again, it’s dated look will only matter to those enamoured with more modern systems, because the screen is reasonably high in resolution and the interface is nicely laid out with decent enough graphics. It all works well too, while the navigation system was especially accurate. What’s more, my tester’s ELS Studio sound system pumped out tunes brilliantly, plus its satellite radio signal came in nice and clear most of the time.
The ILX’ dual-zone automatic climate control interface is pretty straightforward, with big dials to each side and buttons in between. Again, the quality of the switchgear is pretty good, with nice, tightly fitted buttons, but Acura hasn’t even included a digital display to accompany the controls, so it all looks fairly basic. Likewise, the lower console-mounted two-way rocker switches for the heatable front seats are throwbacks to simpler times, as are the classic Honda-sourced power window and mirror controls on the driver’s door, while the fuel and trunk release levers attached to the driver’s inside rocker panel next to the floor are so old school they’re cool.
A classic handbrake is another sign this is an older model, and I suppose, being that Acura now uses push-buttons and pull-tabs for gear selection on most of its vehicles these days, the conventional gear lever and its time-tested PRND layout is just one more reminder of yesterday. There’s no way to shift manually by the lever itself, but that hardly matters being that, as noted earlier, the ILX comes complete with paddles. Therefore, simply slot it into “D” to eke the most from a tank of fuel or “S” for Sport mode, and drive like a miser or, alternatively, shift to your heart’s content.
Sport mode allows for higher revs between gear changes, the engine freely spinning past 7,000 revs per minute when wrung out for all its worth, resulting in motive force that’s as wonderfully engaging and every bit as capable as when found in the old Si. Yes, I’m aware that I’m repeating myself, but I absolutely love this 2.4-litre four, so allow me some fanboy leeway. I’ll also reiterate that the dual-clutch automated manual is superbly matched to this peaky engine, allowing some playful fun when called upon, yet shifting early enough to save on fuel when in normal default mode.
On that note, claimed fuel economy is thrifty considering the available performance, at 9.9 L/100km in the city, 7.0 on the highway and 8.6 combined, incidentally beating BMW’s 228i xDrive Gran Coupe that’s only good for 8.8 L/100km combined city/highway, but take note the Bimmer comes standard with AWD, while Mercedes’ A220 4Matic Sedan is even stingier at 8.4 L/100km combined (4Matic means AWD in Mercedes-speak, incidentally), while Audi’s FWD A3 is good for a near hybrid-like 7.8 L/100km combined.
Now that we’ve slowed down, some finely crafted detailing worth noting includes a soft leather-wrapped steering wheel rim with nicely carved thumb spats and contrast-stitched baseball-style stitching around the inside, plus the same treatment applied to the shift knob and the handbrake lever’s grip. That handbrake feels incredibly well-made too, with a level of solidity not normally found with such devices, and this said, I must attest to preferring a hand-applied parking brake to an electromechanical one when driving a performance car. In fact, as good as the eight-speed auto is, the very inclusion of a handbrake made me long for the Si’s phenomenal six-speed manual, although I can understand why Acura didn’t bother bringing one to market, being that the take-rate would probably be less than 10 percent.
Driver’s position is important for any performance car, and to that end Acura has done a fine job with this ILX. The beautifully finished front seats, complete with contrast-stitched leather bolsters and insets, the latter adorned with an hourglass-shaped strip of ultra-suede down the middle, hug the backside nicely for optimal control through tight, twisting curves. The driver seat’s adjustability was excellent, with enough fore and aft movement for most body types, which when combined with ample reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column made for adequate comfort and control.
When seated behind the driver’s seat, which was set up for my long-legged, short-torso five-foot-eight frame, I still had plenty of space for my knees and feet, plus about three inches over my head. Likewise, Acura provides good side-to-side spaciousness, although I wouldn’t have been as comfortable if three were abreast in back. The usual flip-down centre armrest was wide enough for two arms resting, but the dual cupholders infused within were substandard for this class, particularly compared to the innovative drink-holding contraptions offered by the Germans. A magazine pouch on the backside of the front passenger seat sums up everything else provided for rear passenger pampering, while no centre pass-through or divided rear seatback means that skiers are forced to strap boards to a rooftop rack when more than two occupants are aboard.
At least those rear outboard seats are comfortable and covered with the same high-grade leather and suede upholstery as those up front, while the aft compartment’s door panels are finished off just as nicely as the one ahead as well. This means high-quality soft padded synthetic covers the door uppers, while a nicer stitched leatherette with even softer padding is applied to the inserts and armrests, plus this segment’s usual hard composite for the lower third of each door.
Some less significant areas of weakness include a lack of fabric wrapping for the roof pillars, which is kind of a premium brand status staple, plus the ILX only gets a simple moonroof overhead, when others in the class offer larger panoramic glass openings. Also, where the soft-touch synthetic dash top is finished all the way down to its midpoint, and the dark grey inlays are up to par, the plastic used for the lower half of the dash, including the glove box lid, as well as that on the lower centre console, is less than ideal.
Of course, this reflects in the ILX’ aforementioned pricing, and becomes an absolute nonissue when factoring in available discounts. Adding to this car’s list of accolades is Acura’s seventh out of 17 premium brand ranking (Buick, Mini and Tesla were included as premium brands) in J.D. Power’s latest 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study, in which it was only beaten by Lexus, Porsche, Buick, Cadillac, Genesis and Lincoln, none of which compete in the ILX’ entry-level B category. Hopefully, now knowing this, plus the ILX’ many additional attributes, might leave you seriously considering a car that might not have caused you much deliberation before reading this review.
Honda Canada’s Civic sales have been crashing recently, down more than 20 percent throughout Q1 of 2021 compared to the same three months last year. Reasons for the downturn are likely varied, from the health crisis to a 25-plus-percent increase in CR-V deliveries, the latter thanks to changing consumer tastes from cars to SUVs. Additionally, some of the slowdown is probably due to fewer Civics in dealership inventories, which makes sense now that we’ve learned a totally redesigned model is on the way later this year.
Honda took the wraps off its all-new 2022 Civic sedan this week, and at first glance it appears as if the design team wanted to take it back to the more conservative stylings of earlier iterations. Considering how well Honda has done with its current 10-generation model, which arrived six years ago for the 2016 model year, deviating from its ultimately angled look to a much more rounded, minimalist design may be seen as a risk, although it will certainly be a positive for less progressive buyers.
As for the new 11th-generation Civic, other than what little information the single frontal photo provides we know very little about it. Then again, if the Civic Prototype that debuted (on video game platform Twitch no less) in November is anything to go by, and both cars look very similar from the front except for lower fascia details, its rear design should include a smart set of LED infused taillights that come to a point that’s kind of reminiscent of those on the eighth-gen North American sedan at their rearmost ends, albeit much narrower. That was a particularly good-looking car for the era, while the current model’s C-shaped lenses have been amongst its most controversial styling elements.
We won’t delve into expected content, other than to say it will likely be filled with standard advanced safety kit in order to help keep its occupants safe, and score well in safety tests, while its cabin will no doubt come standard with a large centre touchscreen and offer a fully digital gauge cluster, at least as an option. More detailed information will arrive later this month, which we hope to include more photos, including at least one of its backside plus with a plethora of interior shots.
The redesigned 2019 Forte is one handsome looking compact sedan, with clean, simple, modern lines that, while new and fresh, might appeal more to a conservative buyer than something like the avant-garde…
The redesigned 2019 Forte is one handsome looking compact sedan, with clean, simple, modern lines that, while new and fresh, might appeal more to a conservative buyer than something like the avant-garde Honda Civic or Toyota’s visually complex 2020 Corolla.
Where both the Civic and Corolla succeed for being very good cars wearing extremely well respected nameplates, their styling is a bit more hit and miss. Obviously they appeal to enough peoples’ tastes to have become Canada’s best-selling and second-most popular cars (not including trucks and crossover SUVs), at least with respect to their four-door variants, but I personally believe the new Forte is easier on the eyes.
This is true for the entire Kia lineup. Unlike both Honda and Toyota that have regularly been called out for design misses (Honda more for the bizarre and Toyota for the bland), Kia has long been making news for styling hits, with this latest Forte definitely holding its own in a crowded compact segment. Rather than making up for an awkwardly proportioned three-box layout with acres of plastic body cladding, the Forte starts off with a leaner, more sweptback profile that doesn’t need as much embellishment to look good. Certainly there’s some nice attention to detail from front to back, but the sporty upgrades on my top-line Forte EX Limited enhance this sedan’s overall design instead of overwhelming it.
Some noteworthy styling features start with a fresh version of the brand’s bisected oval trademark grille, filled with a sporty gloss-black insert above yet more glossy black detailing within an even sportier lower front fascia, this bookended by deeply sculpted corner vents incorporating horizontal LED fog lamps. A truly interesting set of available “X” accented LED headlights are positioned above, offsetting comparatively conventional taillights at the other end, albeit infused with complex LEDs within and connected in the middle by a rather nice narrow reflective centre lens.
The rear deck lid, with its subtly integrated spoiler, is nicely done, while at the base the Forte’s hind end is yet more gloss black trim on the rear bumper cap, formed into triangular bezels housing the rear fog and backup lights, which hover over a diffuser-style lower garnish incorporating a chromed exhaust finisher, while the entire package rides on a smart looking set of twinned five-spoke machine-finished 17-inch alloy wheels with black-painted pockets.
Inside, the new Forte is more upscale and European-like than its predecessor and a number of compact competitors, its design coming across as conservatively tasteful, similar to what you might find in a premium brand. Most of the dash top an instrument panel is finished in high-quality soft-touch synthetics, as are the front door uppers, the door inserts, and armrests front to rear. I’m not going to say that Kia covers more surfaces in premium-level composites than average for this class, but the brand is well respected for being one of the first to push compact models into near-premium territory with respect to refinement and features, with most others now catching up.
Features in mind, EX Limited trim includes perforated leatherette upholstery that feels a lot more realistic than most fake animal hides, the perforations necessary up front to allow forced three-way ventilation to seep out. This trim also gets rear seat heaters for the outboard positions, while three-way front seat heaters are standard, as is a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel.
Yes you heard me right. The Forte’s standard steering wheel rim is leather-wrapped and heatable. Consider for a moment that Toyota doesn’t even provide Canadians with an option for heating a Camry’s steering wheel, even in top-line trim that costs nearly $24k more than the Forte’s $17,195 base MT trim, and $13k more than this top-tier $28,065 Forte EX Limited, while not offering ventilated front seats or heatable rear cushions either (make sure to find out about all 2019 Kia Forte pricing, including trim levels, packages and options at CarCostCanada, as well as rebate info and dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands).
I don’t know about you, but after the last few winters we’ve experienced I don’t want to use my fingers for warming a steering wheel when embedded elements are readily available, and my rear passengers certainly shouldn’t be forced to freeze their butts off either. What’s more, why shouldn’t I be able to cool my derriere during July, August and the first half of September? Fortunately, Kia doesn’t cause us to ask such questions, but instead makes the first of these comforting features standard in one of their most affordable cars, and the latter two available (to be fair, the 2020 Corolla sedan offers a heatable steering wheel rim with an upgrade package, but no ventilated front seats or heated rear seats).
Back to some other 2019 Forte improvements, Kia upgraded its stylish automatic shifter with a leather-clad palm rest overtop a satin-silver metallic grip, while surrounding it all in a stitched-leatherette boot that’s encircled by the same satin-silver surfacing. The Forte uses this classy matte silver treatment for the steering wheel spokes too, as well as for a decorative strip across the instrument panel and the trim around each corner vent bezel, not to mention the inner door handles and as an embellishment for the power window and side mirror switchgear, plus even for the handbrake’s thumb release button.
Yes, a handbrake seems somewhat archaic in today’s world of electromechanical sophistication, but really it’s nothing I thought twice about during two weeks of testing. In fact, I only noticed this throwback to simpler times when taking notes on the last day. It exists for the base Forte’s six-speed manual, a transmission I wish was available in trim lines further up the car’s price range, like sister company Hyundai does with its impressive 200-horsepower Elantra Sport, a worthy Civic Si competitor that also gets suspension and styling upgrades. This said, if you don’t mind waiting another model year, last November Kia announced a new GT trim for the upcoming 2020 Forte that will provide all of the same performance updates as the Elantra Sport, but of course in Kia’s unique way. I’ll do my best to get into this car as soon as one is made available.
Unlike that Elantra, the new Forte uses one single 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, a carryover from last year that continues to dole out 147 horsepower and 132 lb-ft of torque. While a relatively competitive engine in this class, this lone mechanical offering is not only a far cry less varied than the three engines Toyota is providing for its latest Corolla sedan (one now a hybrid), or the trio of powerplants available in Honda’s Civic Sedan (one being a 205-horsepower dynamo in the just-noted Si, and a realistic fourth powertrain being the hybrid used in the new Insight that’s little more than a face-lifted Civic Hybrid), it’s also not going to attract performance-oriented buyers.
In the previous second-generation Forte sedan, Kia offered Canadians two engine choices, the outgoing option being a more advanced direct-injected version of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder just mentioned, albeit dubbed 2.0 GDI and producing a considerably more robust 164 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. Earlier, when writing my “Garage” preview of this new 2019 sedan, I mused about this more potent engine possibly becoming a late arrival along with the redesigned Forte5, but Kia now shows this renewed five-door hatchback in 2020 form (set to arrive later this year, although for the time being it remains suited up in its previous 2018 gen-2 design) in the “Upcoming Vehicles” category of their retail website, with no sign of the upgraded GDI engine’s availability, but with the same base “2.0L MPI” powerplant as used for this sedan, plus last year’s (and the still current) top-line turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder as an option, still making 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, while mated to a paddle shift-actuated seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox.
It’s understandable why Kia chose to simplify the Forte’s engine lineup when last year’s sales only came to 14,399 units (including the just-noted Forte5 hatchback), down 12.1 percent from 2017, which compares poorly to the Corolla’s 48,796 deliveries throughout 2018 (including its Corolla Hatchback—an excellent car, by the way), and the Civic’s leading 69,005-unit sum over the same 12 months (which included the Civic Sedan, Hatchback, and Coupe).
I should probably also make mention of the previously noted Hyundai Elantra’s sales too, this highly popular model (that’s new in sedan form for 2020) finding a respectable 41,784 new Canadian customers last year (currently in sedan, Sport sedan, and five-door GT trims), albeit this was a 9.4-percent drop from the year prior.
Another reason Kia may have solely gone for the less formidable powerplant comes down to the Forte’s base price and ongoing running costs, the Korean company probably assuming correctly that buyers in this price-sensitive segment wouldn’t want to pay a larger sum initially if the only engine offered was the more advanced GDI powerplant, nor more at the pump, being that the chosen MPI engine is more efficient. Looking back at 2018 Transport Canada fuel economy figures, the base MPI engine had a rating of 8.0 L/100km in the city, 6.1 on the highway and 7.1 combined, whereas the more powerful GDI was rated at 9.4 city, 6.8 highway and 8.3 combined. That’s a significant difference in a compact market segment that’s ultra-sensitive to seemingly ever-increasing pump prices.
While we’re talking fuel economy, I should also point out that Kia has made considerable headway with its MPI engine in the new 2019 model, with the new six-speed manual-equipped base trim achieving a claimed Transport Canada rating of 8.6 L/100km city, 6.4 highway and 7.6 combined, compared to last year’s numbers of 9.4, 6.8 and 8.3 respectively. Not quite as impressive yet still allowing for a noticeable improvement is this year’s all-new Hyundai/Kia-developed continuously variable transmission (CVT) when compared to last year’s six-speed automatic, with the 2019 model receiving a 7.7 L/100km city, 5.9 highway and 6.9 combined rating, and the 2018 car only capable of 8.0, 6.1 and 7.1 respectively.
That CVT, which Kia smartly calls an Intelligent Variable Transmission (IVT) in order to separate it from the deluge of CVTs taking over this market segment, is a $2,500 option with the base LX model and comes standard with all other trims, while it does almost as good a job of putting power down to the front wheels as it does at saving fuel. That’s high praise for a CVT, by the way, this being one of the better variations on the theme I’ve had the pleasure of driving in this class, and easily up to the task required by a comfort-oriented compact sedan.
The Forte takes off quickly and smoothly enough, with both engine and transmission providing smooth, linear performance, plus not too much noise from ahead of the firewall. The powertrain works well in its Normal default mode, or for that matter its Eco, Sport and Smart “Drive Mode Select” settings, my preference being Smart mode as it automatically adjusts all of the above to maximize fuel economy, performance or any capability in between.
The Forte’s ride is smooth and comfortable too, while its handling is sharp and responsive unless pushed extremely hard through bumpy backroads. Unfortunately it utilizes a less sophisticated torsion beam rear axle than either the Civic or new Corolla, the latter finally receiving an upgrade to its underpinnings for 2020, but Kia’s suspension tuning team deserves credit for making the most of this less appealing package, as its wonderfully smooth most of the time, and its rear tires don’t get unglued until those just-noted extreme limits are met.
Keeping the Forte within its lane are the usual active safety features such as stability and traction control, while some nearly standard advanced driver assistance systems (they’re standard when upgrading to the CVT) include Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), and Driver Attention Alert (DAA).
Additionally, on top of everything already mentioned both manual- and CVT-equipped LX models include auto on/off projector headlamps, splash guards, body-colour mirror caps and door handles, heated side mirrors, air conditioning, a really nice new fixed tablet-style 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment display with tap, pinch, and swipe capability in some applications (plus immediate response to finger gestures), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a rearview camera with helpful dynamic guidelines, an AM/FM/MP3 radio, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity with audio steaming, USB audio input and charging ports, cruise control, Hill-Assist Control (HAC), 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks that expand on a sizeable 434-litre (15.3 cu-ft) trunk, and more.
If you’d rather have 16-inch machine-finished alloys instead of 15-inch steel wheels with covers you’ll need to upgrade to $20,995 EX trim, which also includes the noted LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED positioning lights, turn signals integrated within the side mirror housings, a gloss black grille with chrome accents, chrome window trim, aeroblade wipers, a chrome exhaust tip, satin chrome interior door handles, a supervision LCD/TFT primary instrument cluster, a wireless device charger, rear climate ventilation, a rear centre armrest, tire pressure monitoring, and Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA).
The move up to $22,495 EX+ trim includes all of the above while adding 17-inch machine-finished alloys, LED taillights, LED interior lighting, and a powered moonroof, whereas $25,065 EX Premium trim also features High Beam Assist (HBA) for the LED headlights, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, adaptive cruise control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, SOFINO synthetic leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, UVO Intelligence connected car services, a Smart release trunk lid that automatically opens when you’ve been standing behind it for three seconds with the key fob in your pocket or purse, Advanced Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), and more.
Lastly, my $28,065 EX Limited tester came with everything already noted as well as the ventilated front seats and heatable outboard rear seats I’ve gone on and on about, plus an upgraded multimedia infotainment interface with an accurate and easy-to-use navigation system, and finally a great sounding Harman/Kardon premium audio system.
I should also mention that the driver’s seat was especially comfortable and, while only offering two-way powered lumbar instead of four, it neatly fit the small of my back ideally and was therefore quite helpful in minimizing lower back pain. What’s more, when set up with the Forte’s standard tilt and telescopic steering column, the car provided excellent ergonomics, even for my unique longer leg and shorter torso body type. On that note I’ve often had problems properly fitting into Toyota products, including the outgoing 2019 Corolla, because it didn’t provide enough telescopic reach for me to set its driver’s seat far enough rearward for optimal comfort and control, but no such problems with the Forte.
Sitting behind the driver’s seat when it was set for my long-legged five-foot-eight height left me plenty of space to get comfortable, including more than enough room for my feet, approximately five inches ahead of my knees, another three and a half or so above my head, plus about five between the window ledge and my shoulder, and four beside my outer hip. The dual cupholder-infused folding centre armrest was ideally positioned for resting adult arms, but this is hardly unusual in this class, nor were dual rear vents fed through the backside of the front centre console, or the webbed magazine pocket behind the front passenger seat, but of course the previously noted rear outboard seat heaters, which kept my derriere comfortably warm, were much appreciated while taking notes. I also liked the tiny rear quarter windows that provided a little more light and visibility for rear passengers than some cars in this class that leave the C-pillars blocked off despite showing black glass on the outside.
So, there you have it. The latest 2019 Kia Forte isn’t perfect, but it’s the best this model has ever been, and if it weren’t for lacking some optional power and a multi-link rear suspension it might just have earned best-in-class status. This said, the Forte addresses the majority of compact sedan buyers’ requirements, such as attractiveness, spaciousness, comfort, and safety, while going way above par when it comes to standard and optional features. Those who want more performance can currently opt for the sportier 2018 Forte5 hatchback and will be able to get into a redesigned version and the new Forte GT sedan in 2020 guise. Regular Forte sedans will still lack the power of some mainstream rivals and the high-speed handling benefits of an independent rear suspension, but the value-oriented way Kia is approaching this compact class seems like a good compromise from a smaller market player, and reason enough for anyone to consider this impressive compact sedan.
How do you make the new Civic Si even better than it already is? The Si is legendary and this new 10th-generation the most exciting version yet, but despite already offering superb stock sport compact…
How do you make the new Civic Si even better than it already is? The Si is legendary and this new 10th-generation the most exciting version yet, but despite already offering superb stock sport compact performance, Honda has decided there’s room for improvement.
Enter the new Civic Si HFP. Yes, Civic Nation will already be well aware of the Honda Factory Performance moniker, because the Japanese automaker offered “HFP” branded aerodynamic body kits, performance-tuned suspension components, and larger, lighter alloy wheels for the eighth- and ninth-generation Civics, and likewise for the subcompact Fit hatchback.
With respect to the current 10th-generation Civic, a recent Honda Canada press release says the Honda Factory Performance package adds a bevy of “aesthetic and dynamic enhancements.” The former includes a new bright red front lip spoiler for “a subtle, yet fierce look,” which is “complemented by side skirts designed to improve downforce.”
The new Si HFP also gets unique 19-inch HFP matte black alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot 4S maximum-performance category rubber, these an inch larger than those on the standard Si and specified for both daily use and racetrack capability. Lastly, red and black Civic Si HFP badging gets added to the sides and rear of the car, warning regular Civic Si owners to back off.
Why? No doubt those sportier wheels and tires make enough of improvement on their own, but nevertheless, behind their matte black goodness and below all that sharp looking bodywork is an upgraded HFP sport suspension with modified active dampers that not only improves ultimate performance on road and track, but also enhances the Si HFP’s ride quality over its conventionally sprung sibling.
The Honda Factory Performance package also benefits the interior by adding a new leather-wrapped shifter with red stitching, as well as an eye-catching set of red and black HFP branded floor mats.
The rest of the Civic Si HFP is stock Si, which means the interior is wholly more impressive than any previous Si, with two of the most comfortable and supportive sport seats in the class, plus refinement levels amongst the compact segment’s most impressive, not to mention some of its best digital interfaces.
While Honda refers to the Civic Si HFP upgrades as a “Honda Factory Performance package” in its press release, it’s more accurately an entirely new trim level, as it’s delivered complete from the factory and shown on the brand’s retail website “Build” configuration tool. What’s more, this track-ready model is exclusive to Canada.
Like the regular Si, the new Si HFP is available in both Sedan and Coupe body styles, while behind its glossy black grille is the same turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine as in the standard Si, which is once again good for 205 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, while one of the industry’s best six-speed manual transmissions continues to take care of shifting duties and a limited slip differential makes sure all that power gets down to the road.
Civic Si HFP pricing starts at $34,390 for the Sedan and $34,790 for the Coupe, adding $5,700 on top of regular Si suggested prices, with colour choices being White Orchid Pearl and Crystal Black Pearl for the four-door and White Orchid Pearl, Crystal Black Pearl and Rallye Red for the two-door.
So what does it feel like to drive the world’s fastest front-wheel drive production car? Fabulous! There isn’t a sport compact fan that doesn’t already know about the new Honda Civic Type R’s…
So what does it feel like to drive the world’s fastest front-wheel drive production car? Fabulous!
There isn’t a sport compact fan that doesn’t already know about the new Honda Civic Type R’s many achievements, its class lap record around the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife road course the stuff of modern-day legend, a feat just recently built upon by doing the same at the equally revered Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
All of this sounds impressive, although such news is usually dampened by the reality that most race-ready sport models are hardly easy to live with. Not so with the Civic Type R, however. It’s as easy to drive around town or on the highway as a regular Civic, while it’s plenty comfortable, and accommodative of four adults plus loads of gear under its utile hatchback. Who could possibly find fault with that?
I suppose those who want a fast-paced automatic drivetrain won’t be too happy to learn the Type R can only be had with a six-speed manual. It’s a fine gearbox, which is nothing new for Honda. The Japanese brand’s Civic Si is legendary for short-throw shift quality amongst other attributes, while this Type R shifter is even capable of rev-matched control, but the Type R’s manual-only status will definitely limit sales.
Still, this is hardly a problem. Honda seems to be selling as many Civic Type Rs as it’s willing to build in its Swindon, England assembly plant. And you thought I was going to say Suzuka, but oddly enough Honda no longer builds its best-selling model in any of its Japanese factories, instead relying on its new Prachinburi, Thailand plant for Japanese Civic consumption, while its Alliston, Ontario and Greensburg, Indiana facilities are too busy building less specialized, higher volume Civics and CR-Vs for the North American markets (there’s no Civic production in Mexico). Honda builds regular Civics, plus its CR-V and Jazz (Fit) in Swindon as well, but the British factory has a long history of producing the Civic Type R too, so it only made sense to keep a good thing going.
Of course, we’ve never seen any of these older Type R models on Canadian shores, at least outside of grey market examples shipped here by individual enthusiasts. The first Type R, based on the 1997–2000 sixth-generation Civic hatch, actually hailed from Suzuka, with Swindon taking over production for the second 2001–2006 version based on the seventh-gen hatchback, which was actually available to us in the somewhat detuned Civic SiR, also built in England. Next up was the 2006–2011 model based on the eighth-gen four-door sedan, this one made in the UK as well as Suzuka, but soon after the Euro-spec 2007 FN2 hatch (also sold in Australia and Singapore) became the basis for the European Type R, and therefore Swindon was the sole producer, while the four-door Type R remained Japan-sourced until 2010 when Suzuka stopped building the Civic. Now, as already mentioned, this fourth-generation Civic Type R, based on the 10th-gen Civic, sits on the new five-door hatchback design, and due to that is one of the most intriguing performance car designs available today.
By intriguing, I don’t necessarily mean attractive. The full LED headlights are dazzling, classic circular fog lamps a nice touch, unique air intake-infused aluminum hood ultra light and really nice, loads of aero add-ons impressive, and three centre-mounted chromed exhaust pipes kind of cool, but beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder with this car.
The Type R seems to pull design inspiration from the most radical of big-winged Lamborghinis, let alone anything from the sport compact arena. I should rephrase that last point to say “production” sport compact, being that plenty of modified hot hatches get stuffed to the gills with aftermarket components capable of making this stock Type R seem subdued. Still, for a race on Sunday, drive to work on Monday capable super hatch, the Type R is no wallflower.
I hope fans of the car’s styling and the nice folks on Honda’s press relations team won’t be offended that the nickname I gave this Crystal Black Pearl painted example was “Cockroach”, as it looks more like that nasty little beetle than anything else I could think of. Its fiery little 2.0-litre turbocharged engine spits like a roach too, and no doubt it’s as bulletproof reliable as a cockroach is indestructible—anyone who’s home has been infested with these hardy little critters will know exactly what I’m talking about.
To my eyes, the Civic Type R isn’t pretty, but everything about its applied bodywork is functional, so it gets big marks for purposeful aerodynamics. I’ve seen some in my area in Championship White, and I must say it looks a lot less insect-like, while Rallye Red would probably have similar effect, but so far I haven’t seen its third colour in the wild.
While any fan worth his or her (or zir) salt will likely be able to rattle off the Type R’s specifications faster than I can, I’ll nevertheless repeat them here for the few uninitiated still thinking their Golf GTI is fast for a front driver. It isn’t (unless it’s a Clubsport S). Don’t get me wrong, as I love the GTI, but the Golf R isn’t even as quick or as nimble as this Type R. The numbers speak volumes, with the Type R’s 2.0-litre turbo good for 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, and the Golf R’s only capable of 292 and 280 respectively.
That’s an 11 horsepower and 15 lb-ft advantage to Honda, which results in 5.1 seconds to 100km/h (4.9 sec to 60 mph) compared to 5.4 (5.2), 13.5 to 160 km/h (11.5 to 100 mph) instead of 15 (13), the quarter mile eclipsed in 13.5 seconds compared to 13.7, quarter mile speeds at 174 km/h (108 mph) over 166 (103), and top speeds set at 270 km/h (168 mph) compared 250 km/h (155 mph)—note, I gathered these numbers from a variety of independent albeit credible test results and then averaged them out.
As for race track dominance (a more exact science), the Type R and Golf R managed the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7:43.08 and 8:14.00 minutes respectively (that’s a sizeable gap), Tsukuba (Japan) in 1:06.48 and 1:07.83 (closer), the Contidrom (Germany) in 1:36.70 and 1:37.38, Sachsenring (Germany) in 1:41.16 and 1:41.73, and Llandowin (Wales) in 0:46.50 and 0:49.00. To be fair, the Golf R shows up well on the track, proven on the Hockenheim Short (Germany) circuit that saw the VW out-lapping the Honda with a time of 1:14.50 to 1:15.70.
You might wonder why I chose to compare the Civic Type R to a Golf R, being that the latter car benefits from an available dual-clutch automatic and standard all-wheel drive, but the once mighty Mazdaspeed3 is no more, and I happen to like the Golf R a lot more than most other hyper-tuned sport compacts due to its sleeper styling and better than average interior.
Of note, current competitive sport compacts include the truly legendary Subaru WRX STI, and the soon to be unavailable Ford Focus RS (due to Ford North America’s anti-car “focus”), the former putting 305 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of torque down to all four wheels via a six-speed manual or sport-tuned CVT f¬or zero to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds, and the latter pushing a staggering 350 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque through all four wheels via a six-speed manual, resulting in zero to 100km/h in just 4.6 seconds. Strangely, however, the fastest Nürburgring Nordschleife time from a Focus RS is just 8:06.29, significantly slower than the Civic Type R.
I’m not about to say anything negative about any of the cars mentioned so far, or my previous favourite Mitsubishi Evo X MR, as they’re all beyond brilliant. If you’ve ever spent time at the wheel of any one of these super compacts you’ll likely nod in agreement while your mouth turns up at each end in fond memory. These are the modern-day equivalents of yesteryears muscle cars, but with levels of near otherworldly manoeuvrability such straight-line masters could never hope to attain. Every car I’ve mentioned in this review is worthy of a driving enthusiast’s appreciation, but Honda has done something very special in attaining such sensational performance from a front driver.
I’m not going to say another word about style, and won’t even harp one bit about the overzealous use of red highlights inside (it’s the automotive equivalent of a pre-teen girl discovering makeup for the first time—bright red lipstick, caked-on rouge and vamp eye-shadow), because all of that is immediately forgotten when the hyperactive turbo-four gurgles to life and the precision six-speed slots into first. The notchy gearbox is tight yet light, the clutch action easy perfection, and the lack of torque steer at full throttle shocking.
Shocking too is the immediate response to throttle input, the high-revving four spinning up to its 7,000 rpm redline so quickly you’ll need to have quick arm/hand reflexes to get from the 3 o’clock position on the steering wheel to the shift lever and back in time to maximize control ahead of the next shift.
The shift knob is cold aluminum, hardly the most welcoming material for a wintry Canadian morning. In fact, I recommend a set of red leather racing gloves with white H’s sewn on top for just such days (Honda Canada should include these with every Type R delivery), the Type R (when properly shod) being a superb choice for getting sideways on a slippery road or track while set to “Race” mode.
Honda includes multiple driving modes in the Type R, from default to Comfort at one end, and Sport to +R (Race) at the other, this being one of only two Civic models without an Econ mode—the other being the Si. I’m ok with that, being that it’s pretty fuel efficient for such a formidable sports car, its official Transport Canada claimed rating at 10.6 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.6 combined. Of course, compared to the 8.0 city, 6.2 highway and 7.2 combined rating from the same Civic Hatchback model with a 1.5-litre turbo and manual transmission the Type R is thirsty, but it’s a bit cheaper to use than the Golf R M6 that’s rated at 11.1, 8.1 and 9.8 respectively, the Focus RS with estimated fuel usage of 12.2, 9.0 and 10.8, or the WRX STI that guzzles down 14.1, 10.5 and 12.5. Certainly fuel economy isn’t the first priority in this class, but with regular hovering between $1.50 and $1.58 per litre in my town, and premium unleaded a helluvalot higher, the Civic Type R’s best-in-manual-class fuel economy is something to consider.
I could go on at length telling you about the Type R’s fabulous handling, just how addictive it is to repeatedly lay into the throttle, flick through the gears, stomp on the big 350/305-mm Brembos and experience the big 245/30ZR20 Continental SportContact 6 performance tires bite into tarmac, etcetera, but as noted earlier the numbers speak for themselves. What you might find more useful is my opinion on general livability.
First off, after proximity keyless access lets you inside and an ignition pushbutton gets the engine rumbling in the background, the Type R’s outrageously bolstered microfibre sport seats are amazingly comfortable, providing your backside fits in, as they wrap right around to hold you in place during hard cornering. I found them ideal, and while the six-way manual driver’s seat isn’t as adjustable as a Civic Touring’s powered setup, it’s so well designed, cupping my lower back in just the right position for optimal comfort and support, that I could drive it all day without issue.
What’s more, the black and red, flat-bottom sport steering wheel, while a bit gaudy, provides excellent telescopic reach, which allowed me to set up my driving position for perfect control of wheel and pedals, the latter finished with a nice set of grippy textured aluminum pads.
The mostly regular Civic gauges are upgraded with angry red background lighting all the time, a change from the regular Civic’s pacifying aqua blue, unless in Sport mode when they go red as well. A well-stocked 7.0-inch colour TFT centre meter display provides quick-access info from the tips of your thumbs via illuminated steering wheel controls, which is nothing new but nicely done.
Red also gets used for the centre-mounted infotainment touchscreen’s backing colour. It’s a bit much, and merely smearing everything with red doesn’t show a lot of creativity, but the primary gauge cluster and infotainment interface are superbly designed and filled with useful features like an excellent multi-angle backup camera with dynamic guidelines, Honda’s awesome LaneWatch blind spot display that projects a live image from a right-side rear-facing camera onto the monitor when flicking the right turn signal, highly accurate Garmin-based navigation with excellent mapping, HD Digital Traffic, 3D renderings of terrain and buildings, predictive local search, a lane guidance split-screen for road signs and exits, and simplified voice recognition, plus climate controls supported by a separate dual-zone auto HVAC interface just below, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and HondaLink smartphone connectivity, a great sounding 542-watt audio system with 12 speakers plus HD and satellite radio, Siri Eyes Free, SMS text message and email reading capability, two USB ports, Wi-Fi tethering, car settings, apps, and more. Also worth mentioning, a wireless charging pad sits at the base of the centre stack.
The microfibre seats are joined by equally plush microfibre door panels front and rear, these with red stitching of course, plus carbon-fibre-look inlays cross each door and the instrument panel, adding to the performance-first design. Overall Civic quality is superb no matter the trim, so expect the best when climbing inside a Type R, but I was surprised that vibration from the engine spinning at such high revs caused a buzzing sound within the left side of the dash. Still, I could hardly have cared. The Type R is really about the drive, not refinement.
On that note, I’ll quickly mention that two rear passengers will be well cared for in a comfortable albeit not so fancy set of seats, Honda having eliminating the Civic Hatchback’s usual middle position and folding armrest for a fixed centre console with two cupholders and a tray. The cupholders are fairly deep and quite useful, but depending on who’s behind the wheel I’d hold onto those drinks just the same.
As for storage, anyone familiar with the Civic Hatchback’s cavernous cargo compartment will be happy that nothing changes in its transformation to Type R, its measurements still 728 litres (25.7 cu-ft) with the seatbacks upright and 1,308 litres (46.2 cu-ft) when they’re folded flat. The 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks remain, while Honda once again fills the compartment below the floor with a styrofoam storage unit partially filled with a tire repair kit. My favourite cargo feature is the retractable cover up top, which smartly slides sideways when not needed.
Considering the incredible performance, the long list of standard features, and that it comes full equipped in standard trim (although plenty of dealer-added accessories are available), the 2018 Civic Type R’s $41,090 base price is quite reasonable (find the Type R’s pricing and the MSRPs of its competitors at CarCostCanada.com, not to mention rebate info and otherwise hard to get invoice pricing). Of note, it slightly undercuts the Golf R and base WRX STI, but when more fairly compared it’s more than $6,000 less expensive than a similarly outfitted WRX STI Sport-tech, while the Focus RS is almost $18,000 pricier. For that you can get a Civic Type R and a nicely equipped Fit for the kids, your spouse, parents, or anyone else you want to make smile.
It’s so very Honda to make sure that its track-dominating super compact is also a great value, plenty practical, comfortable and feature filled, and no doubt reliable. Civic Nation is certainly alive and well in Canada.
Considering that Honda was one of the first automakers to arrive on the market with a modern-day hybrid, all the way back in 1999 with the first-generation Insight, it’s had spotty success in its quest…
Considering that Honda was one of the first automakers to arrive on the market with a modern-day hybrid, all the way back in 1999 with the first-generation Insight, it’s had spotty success in its quest to electrify the world’s highways and byways.
The original Insight actually beat the Toyota Prius to North American markets, but Honda’s unusual choice of equipping that early model with just two seats meant that it didn’t meet the needs of most buyers. Its lack of an automatic transmission during the first year didn’t help matters either, both shortcomings allowing the four-door CVT-equipped Prius that arrived here the following year to steal the hybrid show. The rest, as they say, is history.
On that note I won’t go into too much detail about Honda’s unenviable HEV past, all of which was covered in my otherwise positive Accord Hybrid review last year, but despite its hit and (mostly) miss two-decade electrification strategy we’ve all got to give the Japanese brand big points for courage.
Such steely nerve is especially true of its recent decision to once again dust off the aforementioned Insight nameplate for the upcoming 2019 model. After all, Honda’s Insight not only failed from a commercial standpoint from 1999 to 2006, but also suffered a second unceremonious death after a short-lived attempt at resurrection from 2009 through 2014. Still, the upcoming 2019 Insight looks like a winner.
The Insight prototype was introduced at Detroit’s 2018 North American International Auto Show in January, followed by simultaneous introductions of the production version in March at the 2018 New York International Auto Show and 2018 Vancouver International Auto Show, with most pundits giving it two thumbs up for styling.
“The Honda Insight shows consumers that the efficiency of a hybrid car doesn’t mean sacrificing style, refinement or performance,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, Senior Vice President of Honda Canada Inc. “The Insight is another symbol of a new era in the evolution of Honda electrified vehicles, where customers can have everything they want with no compromises.”
The Insight doesn’t stray too far away from the new 2018 Accord when it comes to styling, but it shares some design elements with the compact Civic as well, while it’s also sized much closer to Canada’s best-selling car. In fact, the new Insight shares its platform architecture with the current 10th-generation Civic, not to mention many of that car’s hard points like the entire roof section, so all of Honda’s HEV fans who are still patiently waiting for an update of the previous-generation Civic Hybrid can now rejoice—this is it.
In a press release that came out as part of its Vancouver launch, Honda called the new Insight a “premium compact sedan,” and while the term premium is normally reserved for luxury branded models like Acura’s ILX, such could just as easily be said for the current Civic in top-line Touring trim. Still, Honda promises “premium cabin appointments” such as “a soft-touch instrument panel with real stitching, ergonomically sculpted seats,” and more.
Honda also touts a number of premium-level Insight engineering enhancements such as better ride quality, a quieter cabin, and, of course, gains in efficiency.
Aiding overall lightness, the Insight’s Advance Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure gets an exclusive aluminum hood, while extra sound insulation in the engine bay, behind the front firewall, inside the fenders, and under the front and rear floor improves noise, vibration and harshness levels.
Like the Civic, the new Insight benefits from a fully-independent suspension system with Macpherson struts up front and a multi-link design in the rear, improving ride quality and control during performance driving or accidence avoidance, while the top-tier Insight Touring will benefit from liquid-sealing compliance bushings front and back to further refine the ride.
The Insight also utilizes the Civic’s variable-ratio dual-pinion electric power steering system, causing less drag on the powertrain than hydraulic designs, yet still providing direct response to input to satisfy performance fans.
Unlike the Civic, the new Insight will adapt regenerative braking to a mechanical (friction) electro-servo braking system, harnessing some of the kinetic energy that would otherwise be lost, and repurposing it to the ancillary electrical system.
The new Insight is powered by Honda’s third-generation two-motor hybrid system, consisting of a 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle internal combustion engine (ICE), an electric propulsion motor, plus a 60-cell lithium-ion battery pack, resulting in 151 net horsepower and 197 lb-ft of electric motor torque.
Honda says the Insight mostly operates like a regular series hybrid, which means that its gasoline-powered ICE connects to the generator motor to produce electricity that’s not only directly used to energize the electric propulsion motor, but also stored in the battery pack, after which such stored energy can be used as needed to assist the ICE for powering the wheels. Additionally, the Insight is capable of driving on 100-percent electric power for short distances at slow speeds.
While nothing said so far is particularly new or unique, the Insight also features steering wheel-mounted paddle shifter-style deceleration selectors that let you choose among three levels of regenerative braking performance, depending on driving conditions, while the new model also gets three selectable driving modes, including normal hybrid mode that defaults upon startup, plus “ECON” and “SPORT” modes that require the press of a console-mounted button. There’s also an available “EV” mode button that lets you to drive about 1.5 km (1 mile) at low speeds under electric-only power. This wide variety of settings allows the ability to personalize a driver’s experience to maximize efficiency or performance.
On that note, Honda promises the Insight will deliver the “best power-to-weight ratio in its class,” this partially due to its aforementioned lightweight body structure.
Interestingly, while some competitors place a transmission between the ICE/electric propulsion motor and the drive wheels in order to regulate speed, Honda’s two-motor hybrid system doesn’t require one, but instead the drive axles are powered directly from the electric propulsion motor. At higher speeds the engine and drive axles are connected by a lock-up clutch, which Honda says is most efficient during highway and freeway operation. Also notable, Honda incorporates its unique pushbutton gear selector for getting underway.
Of course, Transport Canada hasn’t provided any official fuel economy estimates yet, and neither has the U.S. EPA, but Toyota’s U.S. division is claiming mileage of “up to 55 mpg” in the city and “50 mpg or better” combined, which when converted to metric equals 4.3 L/100km city and 4.7 or better combined. As expected these are similar fuel economy numbers to official 2018 Prius ratings, so the new Insight is in good company.
Being that Honda is now a leader in advanced driver assistance systems and active safety, the new Insight will come standard with a full suite of Honda Sensing equipment, including forward collision warning, autonomous collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control with low-speed follow, and traffic sign recognition. For this reason and more, Honda expects the Insight will achieve best-possible safety ratings from the IIHS, NHTSA, and Euro NCAP.
Standard features in mind, the Canadian-spec Insight will be available in two trims dubbed Hybrid and Touring, with the former including full LED headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED fog lamps, LED taillights, 17-inch alloys, pushbutton ignition, a 7.0-inch TFT digital primary instrument panel, an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, Honda’s exclusive LaneWatch Blind Spot Display that projects a rearward image of the blindspot onto the centre touchscreen when selecting the right-side turn signal, dual-zone automatic climate control, heatable front seats, eight-speaker audio, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, and more.
Additionally, the top-line Insight Touring will include rain-sensing wipers, perforated leather seating, an eight-way powered driver’s seat, heatable rear seats, navigation with detailed mapping, 4G LTE Wi-Fi with mobile hotspot capability and Wi-Fi-enabled over-the-air system updates, next-generation HondaLink subscription services, 10-speaker premium audio, a HomeLink garage door opener, a powered moonroof, and more.
While the new Insight appears long, lean and sleek like a four-door coupe, Honda says the rear seating area is generous with “best-in-class rear legroom of 949 mm” thanks in part to a considerable 2,700-mm (106.3-inch) wheelbase, which incidentally is identical to its Civic Sedan donor platform. Likewise its wide track should result in good side-to-side roominess, just like the Civic, making the new Insight comfortably and easy to live with.
On this note, Honda places the Insight’s lithium-ion hybrid battery pack below the rear seats, which still allows for standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks to increase its passenger/cargo flexibility, while trunk space behind those rear seats measures the same sizeable 427 litres (15.1 cubic feet) as the conventionally powered Civic Sedan.
As would make sense, the new Insight is being manufactured next to the Civic, as well as the CR-V, at American Honda’s assembly plant in Greensburg, Indiana, which will no doubt please President Donald J. Trump. Improving its chance of U.S. success yet further, its hybrid battery unit is made in the automaker’s Marysville Auto Plant in Ohio, while the ICE gets produced in Honda’s Anna, Ohio engine plant, which also builds the engine for the Ohio-made 2018 Accord Hybrid.
The new 2019 Insight will arrive at Canadian retailers this summer, at which point it will become the most affordable HEV amongst Honda’s three-strong electrified lineup that currently includes the $39,900 mid-size 2018 Clarity Plug-in Hybrid and more recently launched $33,090 2018 Accord Hybrid. Expect pricing to start below the Accord Hybrid.
If you call yourself a car enthusiast yet don’t have a place in your heart for the Honda Civic Si, you simply haven’t spent enough time with one. I don’t care if your personal means allow for an…
If you call yourself a car enthusiast yet don’t have a place in your heart for the Honda Civic Si, you simply haven’t spent enough time with one.
I don’t care if your personal means allow for an Audi RS, BMW M, Jaguar SVR, Mercedes-Benz AMG, or for that matter multiples from Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren, there’s something totally unique and extraordinarily special about the Civic Si, not to mention an enviable street and track heritage that spans decades.
In North America the Si name dates all the way back to 1985 when it was first introduced as a range-topping CRX, that short-lived model now a very collectable two-seat Civic-based coupe. This said the Si that initially won many of us over came along in 1986 as a special sport-tuned variant of the third-generation Civic Hatchback. Both models incorporated a 91 horsepower, 12-valve, SOHC, 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox, which was a potent package for the era.
The Civic Si has been available for most model years ever since, growing in power and handling prowess while developing a devoted cult-like following amongst sport-compact fans. The most recent ninth-generation 2012–2015 Civic Si was available in Coupe and Sedan forms and as of 2014 boasted 205 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque from a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, also driving the front wheels albeit through a six-speed manual that many, including yours truly, consider one of the best of its type available.
Six forward speeds and an identical 205 horsepower rating remained when the completely redesigned 2017 Civic Si went on sale on May 19th of the same year, but its peak power arrives 1,300 rpm lower in the rev range at 5,700 rpm instead of 7,000, whereas maximum torque was increased by 18 lb-ft to 192, and starts 2,300 rpm earlier at 2,100 rpm compared to 4,400 in the old model, plus it’s sustained over 70 percent of the engine’s rev range. This makes it a much more tractable car at low revs, which is how most of us drive when going about our daily duties, while the new engine is also a much more capable performer when powering out of slow corners or tackling tight, circuitous auto cross or race courses, where most Si owners dream to be on weekends.
One single word is fully responsible for the boost in performance: Turbo. At just 1.5 litres, the engine is 900 cubic centimetres smaller than the outgoing 2.4-litre four-cylinder, but a turbocharger and direct injection, along with dual variable cam timing, allow for the performance improvements despite much better claimed fuel economy of 8.4 L/100km in the city, 6.2 on the highway and 7.4 combined, compared to 10.8 city, 7.6 highway and 9.4 combined with the old 2015 model.
In order to achieve such efficiency figures you’ll need to set the new Civic Si’s dynamic driving mode to Normal, while this will also allow for a more relaxed, comfortable driving style. Sport mode, on the other hand, extracts all the performance from the powertrain and suspension by enhancing throttle response, sharpening the steering, and stiffening the shocks.
It really makes a big difference, the 2018 four-door sedan tested being the most capable Si I’ve ever driven through the corners. Full disclosure, it wasn’t the most capable Civic I’ve had the pleasure of piloting, that model being a Type R that I’ll be reviewing soon, but as far as Si models go, the latest iteration is a revelation. It comes down to a lighter yet stiffer body shell and a wider track, the Sedan Si having shed eight kilos (17.6 lbs) resulting in 1,341 kilograms (2,956 lbs) of total curb weight.
Honda also upgraded the electric power steering to a dual-pinion adaptive system with variable ratios, while two-mode adaptive dampers make the most of the fully independent sport-tuned suspension. A helical limited-slip differential improves power delivery too, while larger 12.3-inch front brake rotors (up 0.5 inches) made sure that stopping performance matched go-fast momentum, all aided by wider 235/40R18 rubber.
Along with the adaptive dampers, the new Civic Si’s suspension received stiffer spring rates, stabilizer bars that are 30- and 60-percent more rigid front to rear, solid front and rear compliance bushings, plus much stiffer front upper control arms pulled from the Type R, while the wheel track mentioned earlier was increased by 34 millimetres up front and 33 mm in the rear to 1,538 and 1,554 mm respectively, which makes for better transitional stability and enhanced cornering capability.
Jump from the previous Sedan Si into the new one and it’s be a night and day experience. Don’t get me wrong, as I would enjoy any time offered with any generation of Si, as all have proved brilliant fun on road and track. I’ve enjoyed many such opportunities in earlier examples on some of North America’s best racecourses, and all were winners in their own rights, while the final 2.4-litre four, an engine I recently enjoyed once again while testing an Acura ILX, will go down as one of the best I-4s of all time. Still, the new turbocharged mill delivers even greater performance while being easier to live with day in and day out, and such daily livability is really what the Si, especially in sedan form, is all about.
Let’s not forget the Civic Sedan Si is based on the best-selling car in Canada, a model that found a phenomenal 69,030 buyers last year for a gain of 6.9 percent over the year prior. To put this into competitive perspective, Honda delivered 37.1 percent more Civics than Toyota sold Corollas, while the percentage gap grew to 49.7 percent when factoring in falling Hyundai Elantra sales. What about the fourth-place Mazda3? It’s not even in the same league, with the Civic outselling it by 147.7 percent in calendar year 2017. Basically, Canadians prefer the new 10th-generation Civic over all competitors by a long shot, which makes it the ideal “donor platform” for a performance model.
The Civic Sedan and its identically sized Civic Sedan Si counterpart being reviewed here provide a roomy cabin that’s capable of fitting up to five adults in comfort. What’s more, the interior delivers a surprising level of premium-like quality and refinement when it comes to design, materials used, fit and finish execution, electronic interfaces, and features. You’ve heard me and many others rave on and on about the new Civic already, so I won’t bore you with every detail, but suffice to say the Si gets the same level of high quality finishings as the Civic Touring, plus most of its features along with a few of its own.
Let’s begin with a rundown of the exterior, which adds a more aggressive look up front, starting with the trademark Honda “wing” grille finished in glossy black instead of chrome. This envelops a set of full high and low beam LED headlamps at each corner, the latter hovering above massive black bezeled lower air intakes with mesh inserts, which flank a gloss black mesh lower air intake at centre and a black lip spoiler below that, the frontal view plenty menacing yet not overly dramatic (I’m talking to you, Type R).
To each side, muscular front fenders bend overtop new 18-inch machine-finished Y-split five-spoke alloys with black painted pockets, these wrapped with low-profile Goodyear Eagle Sport all-season tires, while moving rearward shows a big wing attached to the trailing edge of the Si Sedan’s rear deck lid, featuring an LED centre-mounted brake light tucked underneath, and just below that an exclusive lower rear bumper cap boasting sporty faux ducting like the one up front, albeit this time a polygonal chrome exhaust pipe gets positioned in the middle. Of the three Civic body types the sedan is my favourite, and I must admit this sentiment carries over to the Si as well.
The Civic Si has long included some of the best seats in the sport compact class, and the new 10th-generation’s chairs are at least as impressive as in year’s prior. As usual, deep sculpting and aggressive side bolstering are part of the package, as is sporty red stitching and embroidered “Si” logos on the upper seatbacks, while the leather-wrapped sport steering wheel, shift knob and boot get the same red thread highlights as well, as do the cloth door inserts. Finally, carbon-look instrument panel inlays and aluminum sport pedals complete the interior upgrades.
Along with all the performance-oriented styling, the new Si includes all of the same superb electronic interfaces that make less sporting Civics stand out in their compact segments, the new model’s TFT gauge cluster and its audio system illumination enhanced with a unique red colour scheme to set it apart from mere mortal Civics.
Better yet, the Si’s standard 7.0-inch colour infotainment system includes a throttle and brake app that displays a graphic percentage format, turbocharger boost in pounds per square inches (psi), a race track lap timer, race inspired shift lights, and a graphical G-meter that shows acceleration, braking and cornering forces, all designed to make weekends at the track more fun.
The 2018 Civic Si Sedan starts at just $28,690 plus freight and dealer fees, while on top of everything already mentioned it features standard proximity keyless entry, pushbutton ignition, white ambient LED lighting, an electromechanical parking brake with auto brake hold, illuminated steering wheel-mounted cruise, audio, phone and Driver Information Interface (DII) controls, dual-zone auto climate control, the previously noted 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, navigation, voice activation, Bluetooth phone with streaming audio, wireless device charging, 452-watt 10-speaker premium audio with satellite and HD radio, heatable front and rear seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, hill start assist, a convenient capless fuel filler, and much more, not to mention a strong enough body structure and amply stocked suite of standard safety features to score 5 stars overall from the NHTSA.
Speaking of safety, keep in mind the Civic Si doesn’t include any of the advanced driver assistance systems available as part of the Honda Sensing upgrade on other Civic models, such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and road departure mitigation, which are available on the regular Civic, as these require an automatic transmission and the Si is only available with the previously noted six-speed manual. Still, along with the segment’s usual active and passive safety features the Si includes Honda’s amazing LaneWatch blindspot display system, which projects a rearward view of the otherwise out of sight passenger’s side on the centre display when engaging the right turn signal.
Still, climb into a Civic Si and the last thing you’ll be thinking about is playing it safe. Certainly you’ll want to keep it within the lines, but the Si was designed for pushing the envelope, and thanks to ideal driver ergonomics, a wonderfully formed leather-wrapped steering wheel, the idyllic shifter now noted ad nauseum, its torque-rich yet still high-revving new powerplant, and brilliantly balanced suspension, this little sport sedan just begs to get into mischief. Yet push it for all you’re worth and the Si delivers with exhilarating acceleration, sensational handling, and shockingly capable braking performance, a continual reminder that it’s plenty more skilled than most ever give it credit for.
You can spend a lot more to do a lot less from a premium brand, or you can step up to the humble yet legendary Civic Si.