Category Archives: Honda

2000 Honda Insight Hybrid (319)

Overview:

This week were looking at the Honda Insight Hybrid gas and electric vehicle. Next week we’ll be looking at Toyota’s version, the Prius. In any case, they’ve finally begun to develop alternative fuel cars that work. And what a great transition these are to totally non-fossil fuel propulsion cars. I’ll tell you right up front that I really like this car. Engineer friend Merkel, who teaches at the College of Design in Pasadena, was very impressed as well and says this is one of the most sophisticated cars on the road today. That sophistication includes a change over between gas and electric that is totally transparent to the driver because it is totally automatic.

This past couple of weeks has been an eye opener for me that confirms where I believe the auto industry is going. It has to – just look at gas prices. Where do you think the industry is going? Let me know at www.atthewheel.com.

A slight preview of next weeks Toyota’s Prius Hybrid is that it is a 4-door five-seater commuter that eliminates one of the two drawbacks I noted for the Honda. It’s only a two-seater. The second drawback, however, applies to both of these new innovative gas and electric cars, and that is the purchase price. Both are high relative to the gas benefit.

A few years ago I tested the Saturn EV1 and thought that was an embarrassing effort from American automakers. Now we should be even more embarrassed as we ask the question, “why is it that the real electric cars must come out of Japan”? Second question is, “Have we lost our inventive and innovative flair”, or is it an American conspiracy from the “Mega-Monopoly” auto industry? Your thoughts are welcomed.

Handling & Performance:

Outstanding for the most part, but you’ll find you have to learn to drive differently. Although there is good acceleration and it’s adequate for average driving, one noticeable difference is that you have to anticipate passing situations. There is a delay in getting the battery to kick in to give you passing speed. But once you get it rolling, it really moves. I didn’t get to see what the top end is, but it was still pulling well at 102 mph.

I’m sure the gas performance has been verified, but not even the “little old lady from Pasadena”, could get 70 mpg out of this car. But then, she has a lead foot like me.

Styling:

I have mixed emotions and found that people either hate or love it. It’s evident that aerodynamics was the main objective of this design.

Fit and Finish:

Typical Japanese quality – nice job.

Conveniences:

Good. Most everything is standard where the competition leaves several features as options. For example the Metro, by comparison, makes the following features optional: ABS brakes, power door locks, FM radio and cassette, and power windows are not even available.

Cost:

A little pricey even though introduction of this high mileage vehicle couldn’t be better timed considering a doubling of gas prices in the past few months. You do the math and even with the increase in gas cost, you’ll find it takes ten years of driving to recoup the increased cost over a Chevy Metro that gets about 36-42 mpg from a gas only power plant.

And we won’t know what the real cost of this Honda is, until we know more about repair and maintenance of this new high technology power plant. I doubt a total meltdown will result, but there is no history to look back to.

Recommendation: 

Look at the high mileage commuters along with this Gas/Electric option. This would be the ultimate commuter if it were priced better. For example you’d only pay half of the cost of this Honda for the Metro, and as noted above you don’t give up all that much.

The competition:

Chevrolet Metro $9,235-10,600, Hyundai Accent $8,999-9,699, Suzuki Swift $9,099-10,099, Toyota Prius $19,995, Volkswagen Golf $14,900-17,900.

Good News: 

High mileage, smooth ride, handles well, good storage area.

Bad News: 

Pricey, only manual transmission, two seater, I couldn’t verify the gas stats and only got 50 + mpg out of my lead foot, unknown maintenance costs.

Standard Equipment:

1.0-liter 73 horsepower 3-cylinder gas engine with electric motor assist, idle stop feature, 5-speed manual transmission, front disc anti lock brakes, electric power assist steering, dual air bags, anti theft, remote keyless entry, climate control, stereo with cassette, power windows and door locks, power mirrors, rear window wiper/washer.

Gas Stats:

61 City and 70 Highway MPG.

Pricing: 

MSRP:  $20,080.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is movello@earthlink.net.

2000 Acura 3.2 CL Type S (305)

Overview:

Switching manufacturers but not countries of origin we’ll take a peek at the Honda made (assembled in the US) Acura 3.2 CL Type “S”. This 2-door coupe is one spunky auto. It is sporty, compact, and yet roomy enough for average needs. Honda cars, like most Japanese cars, have been pillars of the auto industry community.

This Acura is no exception. And they are showing a little courage introducing some new vibrant colors. My instant reaction was a little negative, I must admit, but the gold color grew on me, as it appears to have for the majority of people who made comments about the car. Remember “Candy Apple Red”? , Well this is “Candy Apple Gold”.  Ok there isn’t such a color, but you get the idea. Unfortunately the most unforgettable feature was the paint.

There is no question this Acura was designed for that sports car feel. Even the seats hug you so you can zip around and not slip and slide in the seat. That reminds me of cars built before the 1960’s. Remember the old bench seats with plastic seat covers? Those were the days before seat belts were required equipment on passenger cars. If you took a left hand turn  too hard, you’d slide across the seat toward the passenger side, unless you could hold on to the “Brodie Knob”. Bringing back any memories out there? Those were also romantic days and that little maneuver was great on a date, but with the guys it wasn’t cool.

The CL’s navigation system features an easy-to-read 6-inch touch-screen, a readout of local attractions, and a DVD mapping database that provides coverage of the entire continental U.S. on one DVD. Do you need it? Probably not and it should be an option.

Handling & Performance:

Neat. I really warmed up to this car quickly. Just the right size for me and I love the “G” force in the corners so it was fun to drive. Speaking of “G’s” I need to get into the new NSX.

Styling:

Nice. I suspect this will be a good seller for Acura.

Fit and Finish:

Good.

Conveniences:

Great, and commensurate with the price, but this is one time I’d have preferred making some of the stuff optional. Who needs it all. Virtually everything is “Standard Equipment”. Enough already!

Cost:

A little more than I think it should be. I’d have to see the numbers but they should take some of the gadgets out and make it more affordable.

Recommendation:

Price wise it is a good deal with all the features if you want them, but it doesn’t have the personality of most of the others noted here. It doesn’t have that “beefy” feel of the Mercedes, BMW or even the Volvo for that matter.

The competition: (arguably)

Audi TT $31,200-38,900 BMW 3 Series $26,990-34,990, Lexus SC 300/400 $43,805-56,305, Mercedes Benz CLK $41,600-55-600, Saab 9-3 $26,100-44,995, Volvo C70 $34,000-45,500.

Good News:

Fun to drive, powerful, lots of neat electronics and conveniences, decent gas mileage – potential.

Bad News:

Pricey if you’re not into all that fluff.

Standard Equipment:

3.2 liter 260 horsepower V6 engine, 5-speed auto trans, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, power steering, dual affront and side air bags, traction control / VSA, theft system, keyless entry, Satellite Navigation system, leather, 8-way power driver and 4-way passenger seat with power walk-in feature, driver memory system, power mirrors, Bose stereo with cassette and 6-disc in dash CD changer, climate control, power Moonroof with tilt.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 29 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $32,330.

2000 Honda Accord 4-door EX-VL (280)

Overview:

Well, ok I must admit I haven’t driven a Honda in years. This Accord 4-door sedan with a respectable V6 is nothing like the “Honda-Car” image of the early days when they came on the scene and beat the crap out of the competition. In those days, however, you could put them (Civic) in the trunk of your big tank-like American car. Kinda like a spare can of gas with wheels. Come to think of it, they are still competing strongly in the market.

They’ve come a long way babe and I rather liked the latest version of the Honda-Car. Its rather “Plain Jane”, but at the same time they have a lot of creature comforts. The fit and finish is very good, so typical of Japanese made cars. The wood grain trim is simulated, but not bad quality. Today, however, the huge array of competitive cars are also very good in these areas. I’ve driven all either on and/or off the track. Beating out the competition isn’t an easy task in today’s world where there is more to choose from than any consumer really needs. Ever get the idea that there must be a ton of money to be made in the auto industry? Why else would there be so many car makers? They are so prolific and pop new models out like Hershey’s Kisses and with the same generic design.

How sweet it is some may say, but what ever happened to the good old days with great creative styling where cars really differed. You could tell one car from the other with ease. Now they all look the same, right! Remember the Hudson Hornet, the Studebaker, the Edsel? Ok, none of these are still around so I guess generic is better. But I think people still want difference or there wouldn’t be so much interest in the reborn VW Beatle and the new Audi TT.

I remember when grandma took the Santa Fe train from Massachusetts to Pasadena. She wouldn’t get on an airplane. At the turn of the century she’d come to Massachusetts on a boat via Ellis Island like so many new Americans. But California? That was a foreign land to her. Most of my family was still in New England and we were the rebels who left the clan to go to the wild west. Naturally she had to tell us how terrible California was and that not only did they have sin city Hollywood here, you couldn’t tell whether the cars were coming or going. She was referring to the newer Studebaker on the roads back in the early 1950’s.  Obviously she hadn’t seen one before and attributed them to the California lifestyle. Well, granny, I’ll give you that one, the Studebaker did appear to have two front ends, but Hollywood wasn’t any more a sin city than Las Vegas was. Ok, Granny you got me on both counts. She never came back.

I rather liked everything about the 2000 Accord EX and since it’s winter the heated seats were nice. The stereo put out great sound and it even had a CD player. The rear seat was roomy for a small compact/ mid-size car and in addition to a good size trunk you could put the rear seat back down for added trunk pass through capability. Like most Japanese cars the ride is quite, smooth and comfortable, has a solid feel and handles well. Power is more than adequate and I had fun driving it. It’s no wonder this has been such a popular car for so many years.

Recommendation:

Since individual appeal is so important you’ll have to test drive a lot of cars. There are so many to choose from in this market segment, and they are all quite good. I can honestly say I can’t even give a biased recommendation. To me they’re like women, I love ‘em all.

The competition:

Acura CL $23,100-26,150, Chevrolet Impala $18,705-22,365, Dodge Intrepid $20,390-24,435, Ford Taurus $17,695-20,895, Mazda 626 $18,245-22,445, Mitsubishi Galant $17,357-23,757, Nissan Altima $15,140-20,390, Nissan Maxima $21,049-26,249, Oldsmobile Intrigue $22,090-25,720, Pontiac Grand Prix $19,815-24,310, Subaru Legacy $19,195-24,295, Toyota Camry $17,418-26,098, Volkswagen Passat $21,200-27,655.

Good News:

Good fit and finish, smooth ride, nice handling, plenty of power, fun to drive, top selling car for 30 years.

Bad News:

Plain Jane styling, V6 puts it high in the competitive price range.

Standard Equipment:

3.0L 200-hp V6 engine, 4-Speed Automatic, anti lock braking system, child proof rear doors, theft deterrent system, security system with keyless entry and remote trunk, leather seating, simulated wood trim, stereo with 6 speakers, auto air conditioning, cruise control, power doors, windows and door mirrors, 8-way power driver seat with lumbar support, fold down rear seat with trunk pass through, alloy wheels, power moonroof with tilt.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 28 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP Retail Price Range $15,350 – $24,550

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is movello@earthlink.net .

1999 Honda Odyssey EX (227)

Overview: 
I like the styling on this Honda Odyssey so went in with a positive attitude and it only got better from there. Honda is one of the last major manufacturers in the American auto market to offer a minivan. They introduced the original Odyssey in 1995 and it is still based on the Accord platform. They claim it has a larger interior volume than the popular Chrysler line because the floor is one and a half inches lower. I can’t verify that claim but the difference has to be small. It’s an all-new design for 1999 and boasts the largest engine in its class as well. I like to see innovation so I liked how the third seat uniquely folds completely into the floor.

I have to admit, I have a bit of a bias when it comes to family vehicles like this Odyssey, and I think family is first for most of us. I remember in the ‘old’ days when our kids were small, we had a Chevrolet station wagon. It served us well, but I am reminded that “timing is everything”, and if only they had minivans back then. They are so easy to get in and out of, and for the little kids that is especially handy. And because of the automatic “dual” sliding doors that are standard, it makes life even easier for mom and dad. Yes, by the way, they did have vans in the ‘good old days’, but they weren’t the same. And if you did opt for a van, to close the single sliding door on the driver’s side, you’d have to slam it shut. Remember how you’d open the door all the way so you’d have lots of momentum. After a few tries, a few missing fingers and lots of noise like a roller coaster you were ready to go. Wait dad, I have to go to the bathroom. I’m not going through that again Mike’y, hold it ‘till we get to camp!

Well, you can buy this new Odyssey in two trims: LX for mom and EX for dad. Both come without bathroom’s Mike’y. I tested the EX and found it to be nearly a sister car to Sienna from Toyota. But it is truly impossible to put any one above the other. Those listed here are all worthy competitors. I like the dual power sliding doors that are standard on the Odyssey EX, but you pay for what you get. There ain’t no free lunch. And although I usually have a favorite, in this case the race is too close to call a winner. But I suspect I’d lean toward the Toyota Sienna, Olds Silhouette or this Honda Odyssey. Test-drive them all if you’re in the market for a minivan and call me to compare notes. Happy hunting.

The competition:

Chevrolet Venture $20,745 – $23,045, Chrysler Town & Country $27,385 – $36,140, Dodge Caravan $18,005 – $31,510, Ford Windstar $18,375 – $30,415, Mercury Villager $22,415 – $25,015, Nissan Quest $22,159 – $26,299, Oldsmobile Silhouette $24,410 – $31,000, Plymouth Voyager $18,005 – $22,875, Pontiac Montana $21,270 – $23,875, Toyota Sienna $21,428 – $26,494.

Good News: 

Comfort, power, convenience, great styling.

Bad News: 

Pitted against the SUV market, it lacks the benefit of 4-wheel drive if you feel you need that. 75% will say no, not needed.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 210 horsepower V-6 engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, dual airbags, anti-lock brake system, child-safety locks and traction control (EX only), front and rear air conditioning, power windows and door locks, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, rear window defroster, and an AM/FM stereo with cassette. The EX model that I tested adds automatic climate control, an upgraded stereo with CD player, power dual sliding doors, a power driver’s seat and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 26 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $23,000 – $25,800

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

1998 Honda Passport 4 Door 4WD EXL (187)

Overview: 
This week I used my Passport to truck about between Old Pasadena and the high desert where this 4-wheel drive RV is as much at home as it is going to the theatre in Beverly Hills. No bull, and that’s the nice thing about the most well rounded automobile on the road today. Lexus puts out the LX450 luxury RV and I found myself comparing this new, longer and wider Passport with the LX450. It has simulated wood grain trim that adds further to give it a plush car-like interior. The popularity of RV’s is testimony to the fact that practicality still occupies the foremost spot in consumer’s minds.

Recently I commented that the Honda Prelude was losing market share big time, and what picked up the slack in sales for Honda was its Passport and CR-V models. We vote with our dollars and with the long lasting recession for us in California it is clear that people have opted to spend their money wisely. Is it possible family values are returning and we look to a car that provides for everyone’s needs? Well, if RV sales figures are a good indicator, the answer is yes.

This is one of my favorites in the line-up of RV’s that we have to chose from, because it’s a Honda. As you may know I tend to favor American cars because they are a great value right now. But I also appreciate the quality edge you get from products from Honda. There is a definite crossover from other products from Honda. I was thoroughly enchanted with the Acura NSX but also marveled at the great engineering this Honda division car displayed. Paul Durant, one of the hottest race car drivers today shared my enthusiasm in a conversation we had this past week about the NSX.

Good news: 

Ease of use button operated, shift on the fly, 4-wheel drive. Assembled in US with 55% of parts from the US and Canada. RV’s set high for great road visibility.

Bad news: 

If there is any, it has to be the sway you feel on cornering, which is typical of most RV’s because they set high off the ground.

The competition: 

Chevrolet Blazer $21,663 – $25,176, Chevrolet Tahoe $23,585 – $31,985, Ford Expedition $28,225 – $34,690, GMC Jimmy $21,786 – $25,855, Isuzu Trooper $26,550, Jeep Grand Cherokee $25,945 – $38,275, Land Rover Discovery $35,000 – $38,000 Mercedes-Benz M-Class $33,950, Toyota 4Runner $20,558 – $34,618.

Standard Equipment:

3.2 liter 6-cylinder 205 horsepower engine, 4-speed automatic trans, 4-wheel drive, power steering, 4-wheel anti-lock power disc brakes, child proof door locks, dual airbags, remote keyless entry, air, leather trim and wheel cover, stereo with cassette and CD, cruise control power door locks and windows, adjustable steering, power moonroof, roof rack, power mirrors, fog lights and more.

Gas Stats:

EPA numbers are 16 City and 20 Highway MPG.

Pricing: 

1998 Honda Prelude SH (186)

Overview:

Let’s take a look at the Honda Prelude this week. It comes in a base and SH models. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the ride, but it just isn’t my cup of tea. I think they are great for young singles or newly married couples who want to combine the sports car feel with space for little passengers. Honda cars have always had a good reputation in the construction and reliable categories. So you may want to hold on to it for the kids, which is what my wife and I did, and it worked out great. It gave us an excuse to go out and buy a new car. By the time you give it to your 16 year old you’ll need a car that’s easier to get in and out of and you may need some added space to put your walker anyway.

I was amazed at how many Honda’s are on the road, but then you tend to notice every car on the road like the one you’re driving. Everywhere I looked there was another Honda. And Honda owners are like a cult. They are staunchly loyal and continue to grow in number. The Prelude was introduced in 1979 and contributed to overall company sales with nearly 80,000 units in 1986. Ten years later they dropped to less than one sixth, or about 12,000 units. Buyers have simply gravitated to sedans and sport-utility vehicles as indicated by the growth in sales of the Passport Sport Utility, Odyssey (van) and the Accord which was the number one choice of American consumers, with impressive sales of over 382,000 unit in ’96. Honda experienced record U.S. sales of 803,707 units in 1997 in spite of the decline in Prelude sales. Wow, that’s very impressive, and it represents an all-time record for the company.

Don’t you think the government should set an immigration quota on Honda cars? No, I don’t either, especially since about 90% are produced in North America. Ain’t the free enterprise system great? People vote for things with their dollars and thus provide the best testimony for any product we buy. That doesn’t apply to everything, of course, and just because everybody’s rug rat had to have a Cabbage Patch doll didn’t mean you should have run right out to buy one. Fad’s come and go, but making an investment as large as a car shows that people tend to get smarter in direct proportion to the cost. And it makes good sense to follow the sales volume of cars. You expect the doll to find its way to the bottom of the pile in a short time, but you’ll want your car to stand the test of time. Personally I like to have a lot of company when it comes to buying car number one because then I can justify buying a Ferrari or Poor-sha as car number two.

My father-in-law was pretty conservative and bought a little Honda Civic years ago. It was cute, got great gas mileage and reminded me of the bumper cars at the old Long Beach Pike. My VW at the time wasn’t much bigger. When in Poland recently I was reminded of that old Civic Pop had, because the Fiat 650 looks a lot like the Civic and every other car on their roads is a Fiat.

Good news: 

Honda has a good reputation. There are a lot of them on the road. Front seating is roomy and comfortable. 195 horsepower – powerful. A bunch of standard stuff and a kick to drive.

Bad news: 

Small back seat. Diminishing sales so I predict they will be discontinued soon.

The competition:

Acura Integra $21,600, Chevrolet Camaro $27,450, Dodge Avenger $17,460, Eagle Talon $20,715, Ford Mustang $28,430, Mitsubishi Eclipse $26,660, Nissan 240SX $24,449, Toyota Celica $26,058

Standard Equipment:

2.2 liter 195 horsepower inline 4-cylinder VTEC engine, 5-speed manual transmission, power rack & pinion steering, dual air bags, power windows, mirrors and door locks, cruise control, air conditioning, power moonroof with tilt feature, adjustable steering column, 6-speaker stereo system with CD player, rear spoiler, traction control and alloy wheels.

Gas Stats:

EPA numbers are 23 City and 27 Highway MPG.

Pricing: 

MSRP is $25,800.

1998 Honda CR-V

Overview: 
If reaction to the CR-V in America is as good as its introduction in Japan it will do great. It Honda’s newest sport utility they say is virtually the same size as a Honda Passport and is14 inches longer than a Toyota RAV4. It is all-wheel-drive with 4-wheel double wishbone independent suspension. It’s not intended for rugged off-roading but a picnic it can handle and even has a table that folds out of the cargo area! It is definitely a young peoples vehicle and is priced pretty well.

The CR-V comes in three trims: LX 2WD, LX 4WD and EX 4WD. I’ve driven most of the competition listed below, and the CR-V stands up very well in comparison to all of them. It would appear the Toyota RAV-4 is the closest, but even it doesn’t offer as much standard features as the CR-V. At first blush I didn’t agree that the Montero and Jeep are in the same class, because the CR-V has more of the look and feel of a wanna-be SUV and the stature of the other two fit the full size SUV profile. The CR-V seems to fit somewhere between the Tracker and a Blazer, for example.

Good news:

Good price for a lot of features, Honda reliability, and good mileage for a UV.

Bad news: 

It’s not really an off-road vehicle. It will be a SUV when it grows up.

The competition: 

Chevrolet Tracker $13,655 – $15,605, Jeep Cherokee $15,540 – $24,480, Kia Sportage $14,895 – $18,495, Mitsubishi Montero Sport $18,030 – $32,250, Subaru Forester $18,695 – $22,195, Suzuki Sidekick $13,099 – $19,399, Toyota RAV4 $15,388 – $17,658.

Standard Equipment:

2.0-liter DOHC in-line 4-cylinder engine that produces 126 horsepower, 4-speed automatic trans, dual airbags, full-time 4WD, child safety locks (anti-lock brake system – ABS on the EX). Standard features on the LX include air conditioning, power door locks and windows, cruise control, AM/FM stereo, and the removable cargo floor that becomes a picnic table. The EX adds remote keyless entry, a CD player, alloy wheels and body-color door handles and mirrors.

Gas Stats:

22 City and 25 Highway MPG.

Pricing: 

MSRP is $20,400