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First Drive: 2017 Honda Ridgeline

Honda strikes an impressive balance between car and truck.

by on May.09, 2016

Honda aims for a sweet spot in the midsize pickup market with the reborn, 2017 Ridgeline.

For a part of the market long written off for dead, there’s been a lot of action in the midsize pickup segment lately, and that’s great news for consumers who aren’t ready or willing to make the jump to a full-size truck.

We’ve seen General Motors return to market with two midsize models, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, while Toyota recently upgraded the Tacoma. Now comes Honda, returning to market after a two year absence with an all-new version of the midsize Ridgeline.

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The original Honda Ridgeline generated plenty of buzz, opting for a car-like unibody platform rather than the traditional body-on-frame design. Despite initially solid reviews and strong sales following its 2005 debut, demand for the Ridgeline soon fell into a black hole leading the Japanese maker to pull it off the market in 2014. Now, Honda officials insist, they have “listened, learned and responded,” with a new truck that addresses the original Ridgeline’s weaknesses.

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First Drive: 2016 Honda Civic Sedan

Pushing beyond mainstream.

by on Oct.19, 2015

Longer, lower, roomier. Honda's 2016 Civic.

Honda delivered one of the year’s biggest surprises when it pulled the wraps off an all-new version of the compact Civic at the New York Auto Show last April. The Honda Civic has been a perennial best-seller, but it was nonetheless a major surprise to see the Japanese maker unveil an all-new version barely four years after the current model made its debut.

If anything, Honda seems intent on proving that Civic’s ongoing success is more than a fluke. The outgoing, gen-nine model took some initial heat for its lackluster styling and less than inspiring on-road dynamics, forcing the maker to rush an “emergency refresh to market barely a year later to maintain Civic’s momentum.

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The NY debut revealed a striking design loaded with new features meant to push the 2016 Honda Civic up against the boundaries of what might normally be considered “mainstream.” But to find out how it actually felt behind the wheel, we set off for Los Angele a few weeks ago to get a first drive of the new sedan.

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First Drive: 2016 Honda Pilot

A minivan by any other name…

by on May.20, 2015

The 2016 Honda Pilot can push up above $40,000 in high-trim models.

What’s in a name, Shakespeare famously asked. He was, of course, referring to a rose. But we might ask the same about the word, minivan. Once one of the most popular body styles on U.S. roads, sales have slumped sharply in recent years as style-conscious buyers have migrated to SUVs and crossovers.

Honda, however, has come up with an interesting solution. Give buyers a minivan and just call it something else. Officially, the 2016 Honda Pilot is a utility vehicle. But for all intents and purposes, it’s a minivan minus the sliding doors.

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First introduced in 2003 and redesigned six years later, the third-generation Honda Pilot is more than just an update. It adopts a much more stylish exterior, an even more lavish interior, and plenty of new safety and creature comfort technologies. What stays the same is Pilot’s focus on providing the sort of comfort, functionality and flexibility that, in years past, would have drawn buyers to conventional minivans, including Honda’s own Odyssey model.

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First Drive: 2016 Honda HR-V

Honda delivers some big things in its small CUV package.

by on Apr.30, 2015

The 2016 Honda HR-V shares the basic architecture first introduced on the Fit hatchback.

Small, smaller, smallest. Like a growing number of its competitors, Honda has been both refreshing and fleshing out its utility vehicle line-up. And even as it prepares to launch an updated version of its biggest model, the Pilot, it’s entering an all-new segment with the pint-sized 2016 Honda HR-V.

What was once a modest niche is rapidly becoming one of the market’s hottest segments with new offerings such as the Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X joining earlier entries like the Nissan Juke and Kia Soul. Honda, however, has big plans for the smallest of its utility vehicles, hoping to dominate the market much as it has with bigger offerings like the Pilot and mid-range CR-V.

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Sharing the same Mexican assembly line as the familiar Honda Fit, the 2016 HR-V also shares the same underlying platform as that latest-generation minicar. That’s good news for those who believe that good things come in small packages, yielding a flexible and roomy interior that will surprise those who expected a cramped interior with little space for either passengers or cargo.

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First Drive: 2013 Honda Fit EV

Honda plugs-in with first battery car in two decades.

by on Jul.02, 2012

The 2013 Honda Fit EV is now rated as the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the U.S.

Driving the 2013 Honda Fit EV even a couple of hundred meters easily disproves the mindless chatter, heard in some quarters, about electric vehicles being nothing more than gloried golf carts.

In fact, the light, nimble Fit EV, which is a pure battery-electric vehicle with no gasoline motor tucked away onboard for support, is a blast to drive. It’s well-balanced, handles nicely and incorporates new technology that neutralizes the relatively harsh and unnatural brake feel common in hybrids and EVs equipped with regenerative braking.

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In addition, the Fit EV, which also has an independent rears suspension as well as the new brake set, outperformed the Nissan Leaf, its nearest competitor, on a small handling course that Honda set up during a first drive of its battery subcompact. The Fit EV also is equipped with three different driving modes, sport, normal and Eco, which can be reached by pushing the appropriate button.

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