Road Test: 2017 Honda Ridgeline

Road Test: 2017 Honda Ridgeline

The Unconventional Pickup Truck

After taking more than a two-year time out to rethink things, Honda brought its redone Ridgeline pickup truck back for the 2017 model year. I have done a 180 in regards to the Ridgeline, and now accept it as a pickup even though it is unconventional.

First introduced in late 2005, the Ridgeline, with its unibody construction and flying-buttress C-pillar and an all-wheel drive system that operated mostly in front-wheel drive, didn’t sell as well as Honda had hoped. Honda stopped production in 2014.

I have deep pickup roots and have owned several over the years, mostly Fords, including a 1939 model and a 1952 F1 in which I swaped the flathead V-8 for a Chryselr Hemi. To me, the word pickup meant body-on-frame construction, a separate cab and cargo bed, live rear axle, north-to-south mounted engine, and, for off-road versions, a part-time four-wheel drive system that runs mostly in rear-wheel drive.

That’s the reason why, in my 2006 review, I called the Ridgeline a “pretend pickup.” It didn’t have any of the attributes of my pickup definition plus, it looked totally out of place with its flying buttress C-pillars.

Times Change; Pickups Change

As times change, so has my view of pickups. While the Ridgeline still doesn’t fit my pickup description, it has the towing, hauling and off-road capabilities that fits the needs of many pickup buyers. In the end, isn’t that what being a truck is all about?

2017 Honda Ridgeline, dadge

A new upscale edition

During the Ridgeline’s hiatus, Honda discovered that 66 percent of Toyota’s Tacoma trucks sold in the large California market were two-wheel drive models, and that 63 percent of their own Pilot crossover SUVs were front-wheel drive. That led to adding a front-drive variant to the 2017 truck, which has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 19 mpg city/26 highway/22 combined–the same as the 2017 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon equipped with smaller four-cylinder engines. Subtract 1 mpg for each of the economy estimates for the all-wheel-drive Ridgeline.

There’s a list of seven trim levels, each with more features then the last. If there’s a specific option that you want, then you get all that comes with that package, whether you want them or not. The trim levels, starting with the base model to the top end, are RT, RTS, Sport, RTL, RTL-T, RTL-E, and Black Edition. Pricing starts at $26,475 for the RT front-wheel drive and works its way up to $42,870 for Black Edition all-wheel drive.

Hey, Now It Looks Like A Real Pickup

The 2017 Ridgeline remains a five-passenger, four-door crew cab style truck, but now has a true pickup silhouette with a 90 degree transition between the cab and cargo box. That should appeal to those, like me, who found the previous model design disconcerting. Gone are the buttresses between the cab and the bed which, in addition to improving the look, also improves side access to the forward area of the truck’s cargo bed.

From the rear doors forward, the new Ridgeline is mostly a Honda Pilot. The rounded front fascia with a large chrome strip and headlights are the same shape as those on the Pilot. Where it differs from the Pilot is in the lower front fascia, where the Ridgeline has more black body cladding with fog lights integrated into it. On the backside, the new model has a conservative design that could probably belong to any other midsize truck if you removed the Honda badging.

2017 Honda Ridgeline

Honda’s rethought its pickup and upped the likeability

Looking to the rear, the Ridgeline’s bed is where the magic really happens. For 2017, Honda extended the bed’s length by four inches compared to the previous generation’s five-foot length, and widened it by five and a half inches. The composite dent-resistant bed is now wide enough to accommodate 4×8 building materials, the only midsize truck that can do so.

But wait, there’s more. A dual action tailgate drops down like a conventional pickup or swings open from the side for easy access to a locking under-floor cargo well with a drain plug. It can be used to store four sets of golf clubs or filled with ice and used as a mobile cooler. The bed has LED cargo lighting, eight standard tie-down points and can be had with a 400-watt AC inverter at the upper trim levels. That can provide enough juice to power a 60-inch flatscreen TV and more. The Ridgeline’s piéce de résistance is the industry’s first truck bed audio system (in its top RTL-E and Black Edition models). With the in-bed trunk inverter, cooler and audio system, the Ridgeline is a self-contained tailgating machine.

The 2017 Ridgeline edition continues with a car-like unibody construction. It shares its platform and chassis design with the new Pilot SUV, but about 50 percent of the four-wheel independent suspension components and the truck’s subframe have been beefed up, lightened or strengthened for the Ridgeline to better accommodate the conditions and demands of a pickup truck. While the unibody design renders superior ride and handling, it’s at the expense of some traditional truck capabilities. The 5,000-pound towing capacity falls shy of its more robust competitors, while its light-duty all-wheel drive system and 7.3 inches of ground clearance limit its off-road prowess. On the other hand, Ridgeline’s 1,584-pound payload is class leading.

Interior More SUV than Pickup

2017 Honda Ridgeline

The Ridgeline can do what most pickups do

Like the exterior, the inside of the new Ridgeline plays off the 2017 Honda Pilot SUV. The cabin boasts more inside room than competitors with 109 cubic feet of breathing split between its two rows. The interior is fitted with upscale materials that wouldn’t be out of place in a comfortable sedan with soft-touch materials everywhere. Its seats are large and comfortable and the dashboard and control panel layouts are attractive and ergonomic. Gone is the traditional column shifter in favor of a console-mounted unit. A new center console offers up a seemingly unending combination of useful storage spaces.

The rear seating area is large enough to comfortably accommodate three. The rear seats flip up and away making room for tall items like a bicycle or a flatscreen TV. When that rear seat is folded down, there’s still enough room beneath it to hide a golf bag or a pair of large backpacks.

All 2017 Ridgelines come well-equipped, with standard rearview camera, rear parking sensors, cruise control, a color LCD display screen in the dashboard, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, audio with at least 200 watts of power and seven speakers. Our AWD Black ED test driver was loaded with every feature available on the Ridgeline, including LED headlamps, moon roof, leather interior, heated front seats and steering wheel, eight-inch touch screen with navigation, premium 540-watt audio system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and HondaLink smartphone apps.

Pickups aren’t typically known for their high-tech features, but our Black Edition stepped up to the plate with the full suite of Honda Sensing driver aid technologies. These included adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with lane-keeping assisted steering, and a collision-mitigation auto-braking system with pedestrian detection. Rear cross-traffic alert and automatic high-beam assist headlamps added further driver-aid technologies.

A clever feature I almost missed is the tire fill assist. This feature works with the tire pressure monitoring system to provide an audible chirp and flash of the parking lights when any tire being filled reaches the correct pressure.

A Week with the Ridgeline

During our week with the 2017 Ridgeline, we soaked up 443 miles on a wide variety of roads. The mixed bag included city streets, two-lane highways, interstates and U.S. Forest Service trails. A rare snow storm iced up local roads a bit for a half day, and one stint saw 365 pounds of dirt in the cargo bed.

2017 Honda Ridgeline, engine

Borrowed, but working well

Immediately noticeable was the Ridgeline’s excellent forward visibility, which I attributed to the truck’s hood and fender design. Knowing that the driver aid technology helped to see what I couldn’t added to the feeling of safe and comfortable driving. Both the adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitor were welcomed.

The reengineered 280 horsepower 3.5-liter V-6—borrowed from the Pilot— was a smooth and generally quiet powerplant. With 262 pounds-feet of torque, acceleration was quite brisk, and the truck’s 0 to 60 mph time of a tad under seven seconds is tops in the midsize class, according to Honda. The six-speed automatic transmission delivered precise shifts, and kicked down without fuss when quick acceleration was needed.

Driving on city streets, the all-independent suspension combined with the unibody construction was more crossover SUV-like rather than a conventional pickup. Pot holes, railroad tracks and speed bumps were nothing to fear. The hop when going over a bump without a load experienced when driving a truck with a solid rear axle was nonexistent.

While in town driving is far more comfortable than the competition, where the Ridgeline really shows its stuff is on the highway. It is the closest to mimicking a car you will find. It smoothly and quietly ate up worn tracks in the road and expansion joints as if they weren’t there. It went where I pointed with few corrections on the steering wheel, and when more acceleration was needed to pass, there was never a lack of power. As we said back in the day, “This is a smooth moto’ scooter.”

While this was going on, the engine was quite frugal with gasoline. The V-6 is equipped with Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management, which allows the engine to operate on three cylinders under light load. The transition from six to three cylinders and back was totally seamless. Our reward was 27 mpg on an interstate drive of 167 miles where we spent much of the time at 75 mph.

Pickup trucks aren’t canyon carvers, but on a 23-mile two-lane back country stretch filled with tight off-camber S curves, the Black Edition Ridgeline was, for a pickup, fun to drive. Braking was secure when heading into a turn and the truck glided through with the aid of the all-wheel drive system’s torque vectoring. This electronic wonder actively sends power to the outside or inside wheels when cornering to reduce the turning radius.

2017 Honda Ridgeline, tailgate

It swings two ways

As for the AWD system, there’s a “Snow” mode that performed admirably on the ice-covered streets during our brief winter storm. There’s also a “Mud” mode that we put to good use during a few hours on several little-used Forest Service Trails. The AWD system wasn’t designed to tag along with a group of serious off-roaders in 4WD Chevy Colorados Toyota Tacomas or Nissan Frontiers. But, for the average user, the Ridgeline is capable of getting you where you want to go and back, if you use common sense.

As for fuel economy, well, I had a smile on my face when I gave the Ridgeline back to Honda. After those 443 miles, we averaged 21.7 mpg in a pickup truck with a V-6 engine and AWD.

The Pickup Truck for You?

You’ve probably guessed by now that I have done a 180 in regards to the Ridgeline, and now accept it as a pickup even though it is unconventional. However, it may not be the pickup for you.

Do you need to tow more the 5,000 pounds? Will you join friends in serious off-road trips? Is the Ridgline’s pricing out of your reach? If you answered yes to any of these questions, don’t even bother dropping by a Honda dealership. Instead, check out the midsize offerings from Chevrolet, GMC, Nissan and Toyota. If you can wait a couple years, Ford is bringing back its Ranger.

But, if you want a dependable and comfortable daily driver with truck features, it’s hard to beat the Ridgeline. It will fit the needs of many pickup customers and meet the demands of most who don’t require severe-duty capability. Yet there is no midsize pickup equal on the market when it comes to on-road manners and expanded utility in the bed.

Don’t just take my word on it, take it for a test drive and find out for yourself.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

News: Honda Surprises with 80-Mile Range for Clarity EV

News: Honda Surprises with 80-Mile Range for Clarity EV

In the Middle in Size, But Low in Range

In 2003, a small startup in Silicon Valley called Tesla Motors announced to the world that it would build an electric car with more than 200 miles of range. Five years later, they proved it could be done with the right resources and the right people (and a body produced by Lotus).

Honda Clarity EV

The Clarity EV is expected to have the same profile as its fuel cell cousin

Eight years after that, Chevrolet proved that 200 miles of electric range was possible, at haft the Tesla’s $70,000 (or higher) price tag.

Over the past 10 years, both of these manufacturers showed us that long-range battery technology is no longer relegated to science fiction and visions of the future; that both luxury and economy cars could be environmentally friendly and usable every day.

So why then, you might ask, did Honda recently announce that its new Clarity EV would have an electric range of only 80 miles; one of the lowest all-electric ranges on the market.

That figure puts the Clarity EV well behind the almost all of its competitors, and directly conflicts with the manufacturer’s reputation for innovation.

Price Big Factor

According to Honda, one major factor for the low range was price. When asked about this decision, Vice President of Environmental Business Development at American Honda Motor, Steve Center, had a very clear answer.

“A pillar of the Honda brand is affordability, and if Honda came out with some obscenely priced long-range electric car, what does that do for the brand?” Center told Automotive News. “Most of our customers would not be able to acquire it.”

Price was not the only consideration, however, and Honda is confident that its new Clarity EV will follow its current Clarity Fuel Cell in filling a market gap currently uninhabited by any other brand. Honda will also field a plug-in hybrid variant of the Clarity.

The Market Metrics

Chevrolet’s Bolt is affordable and long-range, but small. Tesla’s Model S and X are large and long-range, but costly. The Tesla Model 3 will be less costly and long-range, but also small. And the second-generation Nissan Leaf is expected to be small and inexpensive, but still modest in range (though substantially longer than the Clarity).

Honda Clarity EV

A midsize interior should distinguish the Clarity EV

With these considerations, and a target category in mind, Honda didn’t really leave itself any leeway to fit a longer range battery; which would be heavier, costlier and take the Clarity EV into a different segment. So their goal is to be a midsize, inexpensive, but short-range electric car.

Prices for the Clarity EV are expected to start at around $35,000 (before tax credits or incentives), which would indeed make it somewhat cheaper than most of its competitors. Whether or not the limited range will prove to be detrimental to the sales of the Clarity EV remains to be seen.

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News: Dedicated Hybrid Coming To Honda’s 2018 Truck Lineup

News: Dedicated Hybrid Coming To Honda’s 2018 Truck Lineup

Car Hybrid System To Migrate to Trucks

2016,Honda HR-V,AWD,mpg,fuel economy

Will Honda start small with its truck hybrid in the HR-V or…go big

Honda revealed at the Detroit auto show that it is adding a dedicated hybrid model to its light truck lineup in 2018.

The announcement was made during the introduction of Honda’s all-new Odyssey minivan by Takahiro Hachigo, the automaker’s president and CEO.

The new hybrid model will be manufactured at a plant in the U.S. as part of the Honda Electrification Initiative, which calls for the expansion of the company’s electrified vehicles.

“Half of the all-new models Honda will launch in the United States in the coming two years will be electrified vehicles,” Hachigo said. “In the long term, electrified vehicles are key to the future of carbon-free mobility.”

Honda Two-Mode Hybrid

Honda adds hybrid truck

This is the engine–where will it go?

The executive stated it would begin to use the company’s two-mode hybrid system that powers cars in its light trucks.

Currently the two-mode hybrid is employed in the Accord Hybrid, a midsize passenger sedan which uses a 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and two electric motors that produce a combined output of 212 horsepower.

The Accord’s 49 mpg city rating makes it the most fuel efficient midsize car in America without a plug.

Model Type Not Released

It was not revealed what type of truck will be introduced next year: pickup, crossover SUV or perhaps a minivan.

Honda’s current lineup includes the Ridgeline pickup, the CR-V and HR-V small crossovers, the Pilot midsize SUV and the Odyssey minivan.

Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid compact crossover has been a winner since it was introduced last year, leap frogging over the Camry Hybrid to become the second best-selling hybrid vehicle, trailing only the Toyota Prius.

General Motors was less successful with its two-mode hybrid system used in Chevrolet and GMC full-size pickup trucks and SUVs a few years back,

Honda hybrid truck

The Honda Ridgeline could be a good candidate

which hasn’t deterred Ford from announcing it will bring out a rear-drive F-150 pickup by 2020.

Honda’s announcement seems ill-timed since hybrid vehicle sales have been decreasing the past three years due to a combination of low gasoline prices and a trend of increasing sales of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

To that, Hachigo said, “Gas prices have reduced demand for hybrid vehicles in the U.S. But in the long term, electrified vehicles are key to the future of carbon-free mobility.”

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Road Test: 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid

Not Your Typical Hybrid

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid, engine

The sporty heart of the Acura RLX hybrid

The 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid sedan isn’t your typical hybrid. For one thing, it puts out 377 horsepower and 341 lb.-ft. of torque, while scoring an EPA 30 mpg Combined score. It’s all-wheel drive. And it’s loaded with luxury, safety, and entertainment features, too.

Hybrids combine a gasoline engine with an electric motor to increase fuel efficiency. The RLX has not one but three motors. Two are in back, replacing the drive shaft and rear differential; each is 27 kW. Then, there’s a third, 35 kW motor up front. A 260-volt lithium-ion battery powers them and accumulates energy generated by regenerative braking.

Big and Loaded

The RLX is Acura’s largest sedan, its flagship. It’s imposing on the road, and wears today’s styling while remaining somewhat anonymous and subtle at the same time. The Jewel Eye LED headlamps are a slim row of ice cubes—an Acura exclusive.

The RLX is a full-size car inside per the EPA’s measuring tape, and it feels like it, too. The padded, undulating interior design flows from door to dash to door, enveloping you in fine Milano leather and handsome wood trim.

Dual Screens

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid,interior

The Acura dash is loaded with tech

You can view your audio, climate, and hybrid settings on a high-mounted eight-inch screen. There’s a second seven-inch touch screen below it to make selections. Essential information such as speed is projected onto the windshield in a head-up display. There are the traditional gauges too.

Like most hybrids, the RLX shows you a diagram of where the energy is coming from and where it’s going, so you can monitor your driving efficiency. With two screens, you can be watching that while you make selections from the wide range of audio choices.

My Crystal Black Pearl tester was a top-level car with The Tech and the Advance Packages, so it was packed with various features and upgrades. It even had a 14-speaker Krell audio system. Krell is supposed to be one of the world’s finest—but I’ve never heard of it or seen it in a vehicle before.

Unlike many Japanese-brand sedans, which are built in the United States, this car is a product of Japan. That probably doesn’t make any difference today.

The Hybrid Difference

Part of the goal of a hybrid is to achieve better fuel economy and environmental performance than a regular car. Let’s check the numbers. The 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid earns EPA fuel

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid

Sporty on the road , but thrifty too

economy numbers of 28 City, 32 Highway, and 30 Combined. I averaged less—24.5 miles per gallon—and I’m not sure why. The green scores (also from the EPA) are a matching 7 for Smog and Greenhouse Gas.

The non-hybrid RLX is EPA rated at 20 City, 31 Highway, and 24 Combined and has a 6 for Smog and a 5 for Greenhouse Gas. So only the Sport Hybrid earns the coveted EPA Certified SmartWay designation. The Sport Hybrid saves you $350 a year in fuel costs, while emitting 297 grams of CO2 per mile versus 378 for the regular car. So—it makes a big difference.

For efficiency and quietness, the RLX Sport Hybrid uses Idle Stop (Honda’s name for its start-stop system) technology, which turns off the engine when you’re stopped. It also features a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Having more gears means a better match for different driving conditions, and dual-clutch means it switches instantly to a preselected gear. You control the transmission not with a lever, but with a slim row of differentiated buttons, freeing up room on the center console.

A Connected Car

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid,logo

The Acura flagship

The 2016 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid gets Acura’s next-generation AcuraLink cloud-based connected car system. It gives you all the media, security and convenience features you could ask for, from Aha streaming to AcuraLink real-time traffic reports.

You’d expect a flagship car to be loaded to the gunwales with safety features, and it is. You get collision avoidance and some assisted driving capability. For example, there’s the lane departure warning system to inform you and the Lane Keeping Assist System to gently nudge you back across the line if you’re momentarily distracted. You also get blind spot Information, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning. It all works together, so if you’re distracted by the entertainment features, the car will help keep you on the road.

A Luxury Car Price

2016 Acura RLX Hybrid, Jewel Eye headlights

Jewel Eyes looking out for you

The RLX Sport Hybrid with the Advance Package will set you back $66,870, including the $920 delivery fee. The Sport Hybrid with only the Tech package looks about the same, but lacks the Krell

audio, remote engine start, heated steering wheel and rear seats, auto-dimming side mirrors, power rear sunshade, and other Advance package goodies. It retails for $60,870. The standard RLX, minus the hybrid features, starts at $55,370.

The RLX is Acura’s fighter in the mid-luxury sales battle. Facing European, Japanese, Korean, and American competitors, it’s trying to carve out a niche for itself. It just may be the most efficient—for its size.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2016 Honda Civic Touring

Road Test: 2016 Honda Civic Touring

Everything Done Well—and Some Things Done Very Well

2016 Honda Civic Coupe,performance

Where it thrives–out on the road

In the battle to sell cars, Honda has never taken the path of the lowest price. Instead, it has traveled a higher road and earned the reputation of quality, reliability and high-tech innovation. The latest 2016 Honda Civic Coupe is no exception.

The all-new Civic Coupe followed the sedan onto dealer lots, but a Civic Coupe is nothing new—Honda has sold nearly two million of them so far. In its quest to build a better-than-the-previous model, which lacked a spark of race-bred intensity, they produced a very long list of significant changes for this 10th-generation edition. In the face of growing competition, the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe does everything well, and some things very well.

Starting off, there’s some exciting news under the hood for a change—two new four-cylinder engines, one with a first time in the U.S. turbocharger. Constructed on an all-new platform, the 2016 Civic, both coupe and sedan, boasts new edgy styling, a quieter, larger interior that wouldn’t look out of place in an Acura, and a host of other improvements.

But wait, there’s more. As more Americans realize the sensibility of a hatchback, there’s now a Civic five-door hatch, and for the tuner crowd Honda is finally bringing the sinister Type R hatchback to our shores with some 300 horsepower early next year.

The Coupe Lineup

For 2016, there are five trim levels for the Honda Coupe: LX, LX-P, EX-T, EX (that’s a lot of Xs) and the top line Touring model, our test driver. The base LX with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission starts at $19,050, plus a $835 destination charge. At the top end, the Touring sticker price with the turbocharged engine and continuously-variable transmission (CVT) starts at $26,125.

Regardless of trim or engines, all 2016 Honda Coupes join Clean Fleet Report’s 40 mpg Club. Turbocharged models with the CVT score the highest EPA ratings with 42 miles-per-gallon on the highway, 31 mpg city and 35 mpg combined. Civics with the 2.0-liter four with a CVT have an estimated 41 mpg on the highway, 31 mpg city and 35 mpg combined.

A Look Under The Hood

2016 Honda Civic Coupe,engine

Power and efficiency under the hood

Powering the LX and LX-P Civic Coupe is an all-new 2.0-liter dual overhead cam (DOHC) four-cylinder engine. It produces 158 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 138 pounds-feet of torque at 4,200 rpm, making it the most powerful base engine offered in the Civic’s history.

Want a little more zest from the coupe? Also new is a 1.5-liter turbocharged four. It also is a DOHC engine with Honda’s dual variable cam timing that churns out 174 horsepower at 6,000 rpm with a peak torque of 162 pounds feet from 1,700 to 5,500 rpm. With these two new engines it marks the first time in Civic’s 43-year history that no single-cam engine is available.

If you like to shift gears, the base LX with the 2.0-liter engine is the only model that offers a six-speed manual transmission. All other models are standard with a new CVT, a transmission design that Honda introduced in 1996 on the Civic HX model. There’s a Sport mode that delays upshifting for more available power and provides greater engine braking. The CVT provides the optimum gear ratio for the driving conditions, and doesn’t have that disconnected “rubber-band” feel like some CVTs do.

It Looks Like A Civic, But…

If you’ve grown accustomed to Honda’s usual glacially slow rate of change, take a second look at the photos. Yes, it still looks like a Civic, but Honda transformed the Civic Coupe and gave it a character of its own. To call this 10th generation Civic a compact econobox would be like calling BMW’s M3 a compact-size European sedan.

The Coupe’s wheelbase is longer by more than an inch compared to the sedan, yet overall length drops by more than five-inches, all of it coming off the backside. The two-door has a sportier design than the sedan, with taught, tidy proportions. The hood features sharply defined character lines, drawing the eye forward and down to the Civic’s aggressive new face, highlighted by a chrome-plated Honda “wing” that runs the full width of the front. Honda accompanies that bold stroke with abbreviated front and rear overhangs and bulging wheel arches that cling to the wheels.

Inside, the odd double deck dashboard is gone and designers used that real estate for a wide and uniform looking dash like the sedan, yet with a little more flair. Instrument gauges are now more traditional in their setup, but no less far-reaching, with plenty of digital readouts. Steering wheel controls work well, which is a good thing because on our Touring there were few other buttons or knobs, just a screen with touch sensitive areas for controlling most everything. High quality, soft-to-the-touch materials are everywhere—the instrument panel, front door inserts and sash and door and the large thickly padded center armrest. As expected from Honda, build quality is simply superb.

Front seats—already good—have gotten better and more comfortable, and the heated leather eight-way adjustable driver’s seat made it simple to find a good driving position. There is ample room for the driver and front seat passenger, and the Coupe actually feels like a small midsize car, which technically it is.

A Back Seat Surprise—Room

2016 Honda Civic Coupe,interior, back seat

Room for adults in back

It is a two-door, so our two six-foot tall grandsons grumbled a bit when making their way into the back seat. These are big, wide-shouldered guys, but once seated, they both said they were comfortable. With temperatures dipping into the low 30s, they particularly liked that the back seat also was heated.

The Civic Coupe may appear to be a hatchback, but it has a traditional trunk with a cargo space of 11.9 cubic-feet, up slightly from the outgoing car.

Our Civic Coupe came standard with premium leather seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front AND rear seats, lightning-fast Bluetooth phone link, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a 10-speaker sound system with subwoofer.

Think about it. Not long ago, all of those features would have been found exclusively on expensive luxury cars. Now they’re on a spacious Civic Touring, priced out the door at $26,960, including handling charges. That price also gets you voice-recognition, remote starting and a seven-inch. electrostatic touchscreen that is loaded with entertainment options, navigation, additional climate controls and vehicle information.

Adding to the Civic Coupe Touring’s value proposition is the standard Honda Sensing, a suite of driver-assists that include forward-collision alert and automatic braking to mitigate frontal collisions; lane-departure warning and self-correcting steering to prevent unintended lane and road departures and adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead.

Behind The Steering Wheel

2016 Honda Civic Coupe,interior

A screen alone; your buttons on on the steering wheel

One of the Civic’s biggest drawing cards has been its ride. This is the most comfortable and confident Civic we’ve driven and a refreshing improvement over the outgoing car, which lost some steam and enjoyment in Honda’s drive to reduce complexity and cost. Noise levels dropped from intrusive to inconspicuous, and acceleration has been elevated from everyday adequate to invigorating.

The turbo-assisted four lagged a bit under hard acceleration, though the Sport mode tightened things, but not so much that you can’t leave it engaged, which I frequently did.  Honda finally figured out the continuously variable transmission. This one acts like a standard transmission, save for the times when I hammered it while merging onto the freeway or passing. Even then, it was fairly quiet.

The 2016 Coupe reintroduces the Civic’s proverbial agility and its front end grips the asphalt stubbornly. The little two-door tracked true at speed, abetted by terrific steering feel and a tight turning circle. It handled most chores with aplomb. Bumps were taken in stride, with good absorbency and little float or wallow. In a world where compact cars are often just driving appliances, the Civic Coupe is actually a lot of fun to drive: it’s peppy, agile and responsive, and I found myself looking for places to go. To whip up my enthusiasm even more, brakes were very efficient with good pedal modulation.

During the week with the Civic Touring, I used both the Eco and Sport modes depending on traffic conditions, terrain and—oh gee, it’s time to have some fun. When I returned the car to Honda the odometer read 200.3 miles and fuel economy registered 37.1 mpg—a couple mpgs above the EPA’s combined rating.

In The Marketplace

Two-door coupes are not high on the list of car shoppers as evidenced by the list of competitive vehicles. In the compact class there is now only one, the Kia Forte coupe — or Koupe, as Kia calls it. It’s a sporty little number that also has a turbocharged engine, a 1.6-liter four that produces 201 horsepower and is offered with a six-speed manual shifter, something that the Civic Coupe will offer at a later date. The Forte’s steering and handling are nicely balanced and the car is sporty enough to challenge the Civic Coupe. The starting price of $19,890 is line with the Honda, but fuel economy of 28 mpg combined is dismal compared Civic’s 35 mpg.

Uncommonly talented, the 2016 Honda Civic Coupe is atop the charts for all-around practically and offers a healthy dose of driving fun. A proven record of reliability, durability and high resale value make this compact two-door one you should test drive if, you are like me, smitten by a coupe’s looks.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.