A Steady Ship: Honda’s Broad Reach

My much older sister Marianne is 84 and you’d need a cannon to get her out of her Honda. But I’m a “younger” generation than Marianne, so this past weekend I was zipping around town in the Honda Civic Hatchback and was pleasantly surprised when a 10-year old with a buzzed haircut dyed red, begged me for a ride in the new Civic.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring

 

This tells me Honda has quite a broad demographic reach. Honda spends about $1 billion on advertising, far less than GM, Ford, FCA and Toyota, according to the statistics portal, statista.com. Yet, it is ranked among the most valuable brands according to Forbes both in dollar value and in consumer perception. How does Honda keep its popularity?

 

A clue resides in the Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring. It’s a $28,000-plus vehicle with plenty of desired features, including heated seats that are comfortable on a long ride, LED lights, sports pedals, navigation and connectivity, loads of room for tall relatives and hauling your stuff, and wild styling that drew so much attention I was a little cowed. Will we be ready for the Civic Type R, a track-ready beast? A six-speed manual and 2.0-liter direct-injected and turbocharged i-VTEC engine with 306 horsepower — yep, I’ll drive that.

Civic Hatchback Sport Touring

 

We’ve all heard rumors about the impending decline and death of sedans, but Honda seems to be doing just fine. Its Civic and Accord were the two best-selling retail cars in the industry in 2016, and continues as such this year. Much of the sales leadership is with younger buyers; I don’t need to tell you how important the next generation is.

 

In that context — the future — the Honda Clarity is a cutting-edge line of vehicles that includes a fuel cell, a coming BEV or battery electric vehicle, and a plug-in hybrid. The Clarity Fuel Cell has an EPA-rated 366-mile driving range and can be refueled in three to five minutes (provided you can find a hydrogen filling station). Fuel cell vehicles have been in development for years, confounded by the cost of producing hydrogen, but some are now being driven in California, including the Clarity and the Toyota Mirai. Currently there are only 35 hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S., 32 of which are in California.

 

A company spokesperson told me in an email, “Honda has a strong vision for reducing CO2 emissions and reducing the use of fossil fuels and other energy resources. Honda is targeting a 50-percent reduction in its total company CO2 emissions by 2050 (compared to 2000 levels), as well as striving to make two-thirds of global vehicle sales to be of electrified vehicles by 2030. Honda remains committed to developing products that advance fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

2017 Honda Clarity Electric

 

In the last 18 months, Honda has renewed or completely revised its entire product line. One of the improvements is the available turbo in the current Civic and Honda CR-V — a pretty good reason to consider Honda. My test car was equipped with a 180-horsepower 1.5-liter, direct-injected and turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Its responsiveness put me in a most positive frame of mind, as did the fuel economy of 30 mpg city/36 highway/32 combined. The next-generation vehicles will also start offering a 10-speed automatic transmission, which is available first on the all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey.

 

Honda Sensing, a suite of safety features, is considered among the best. It includes most of today’s advanced safety features, such as lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and collision mitigating braking system, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and road departure mitigation. Honda LaneWatch, a camera shot of the passenger-side road on the center navigation screen when the right-turn signal is engaged or the LaneWatch button is pressed was something new to me. The display can show cars from one or two lanes to the right and cars up to 50 yards behind the vehicle. It can seem minimally distracting at first as you do have to glance down, but I got used to it very quickly.

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring

So Honda, it seems, is doing what it has always done. Staying the course. Honda has always been an engineering company. It isn’t as showy as other marques. It makes durable engines, has a design statement all its own, packs its vehicles with standard features, and caters to customers’ real needs.

— Kate McLeod, Motor Matters

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2017

Manufacturer Photo: The 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback combines striking, Euro-inspired styling and five-door versatility with the Civic’s world-class driving dynamics and Honda direct-injected turbo engine technology. It offers an appealing combination of sporty styling, efficiency, interior utility and premium features. The hatchback features a 1.5-liter direct-injected turbocharged four-cylinder.

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