Driving Torque

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Archive for the tag “Diesel”

Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC – Driven and Reviewed

Civic certainly couldn't be mistaken for anything else

Civic certainly couldn’t be mistaken for anything else

Within the last decade, Honda‘s ever-so-popular Civic has gone through something of a transformation, particularly in the identity department. It wasn’t so long ago that the Civic moniker was seemingly plonked on just about any size or shape of Honda, as if they’d actually exhausted the world’s supply of car names. Seriously – just Google ‘1990s Honda Civic‘ and the range of images that appear is strangely reminiscent of a bag of pick and mix – they may all be sweets, but no two are the same.

Not any more though. The modern-day Civic is definitely a mid-size hatchback in the Focus/Golf/Astra mould, which means it’s picking some pretty brave fights with some serious competition. This particular Civic is equipped with Honda’s much-lauded new 1.6 litre Diesel engine, dropping it right in the middle of what must surely be the bloodiest of fights, as families and businessmen alike strive to achieve as much bang for their buck as possible, either on the forecourt or in the tax office.

Exaggerated wheel- arches and hidden rear door handles add a certain sportiness

Exaggerated wheel- arches and hidden rear door handles add a certain sportiness

This generation of Civics has been with us for a while now and yet it still manages to stand out as something a little bit different. It could be said that it’s styling was deemed a little controversial upon launch and some of the previous generation’s charm had been sacrificed in favour of a flurry of awkward angles and design features. Personally, I find the Civic’s quasi-futuristic appearance and apparently absent rear door handles increasingly appealing, especially when set against the backdrop of some of its competition, many of which seem to be morphing into the same, staple shape.

Dual level instruments offer a slightly unusual sensation

Dual level instruments offer a slightly unusual driving experience

The theme continues inside the Civic with a multitude of eye-catching shapes and features that set the car apart from, well, anything else. Sit in the driver’s seat and the first detail of note is the two-stage digital dashboard, adorned with near day-glo illumination. This dual-height approach to the information one requires when driving could initially be described as a little unnerving; just as the perfect driving position is achieved and one feels very much ‘in’ the car, rather than ‘on’ it, a glance at the lowermost dials completely alters one’s perspective, encouraging more fettling of the seat and steering wheel to feel less upright. The answer is to overcome this urge to modify and stick with it, it doesn’t take long for the whole experience to feel completely natural with an engaging driving position.

Multimedia buttons are small and plentiful - strangely reminiscent of a Casio Calculator Watch

Multimedia buttons are small and plentiful – strangely reminiscent of a Casio Calculator Watch

An easy trap to fall into with the Civic’s interior, in particular it’s slightly lairy dashboard and Casio-calculator-watch-esque multimedia system, is to start wishing that the whole thing were a little more, well, German. This fondness for the subtle, understated approach to things, that certain manufacturers such as Audi have adopted is entirely understandable, if a tad unfair. Honda are proud to be Japanese and are quite rightly doing things their way. It’s good to see this approach every now and again as life would be so boring without individuality. I say – if you want a car with a Germanic approach to interior fittings, buy a German car.

This class of car simply wouldn’t work if its interior space were significantly inferior to the competition and this possibly explains the Civic’s expansion over the previous model. I felt comfortable and well accommodated in every seat, my only slight wish would be for a touch more headroom in the rear for long journeys.

Rear light cluster may look pretty but it does nothing to aid visibility

Rear light cluster may look pretty but it does nothing to aid visibility

Sit in the driver’s seat of the Civic and a glance in the rear view mirror presents something of a fly in the car’s ointment – a large bar dissecting your view of what’s being left behind. It may look pretty from the outside but the truth is that this dual-screen effect which Honda are so keen on utilising does, in reality, irritate. All but the lowest spec Civics come complete with a rear view camera and I’d say it’s almost essential to assist when reversing. Our top of the range EX test car was also blessed with parking sensors, I’d tick this option every time to counteract the compromised view and hopefully save a few trips to the bodyshop.

Civic is covered in fins - here's a sharky one.......

Civic is covered in fins – here’s a sharky one…….

So, that’s the living space covered, what about the oily bits? Honda’s new 1.6 Diesel engine has been received with much fanfare and is destined to find its way into as many Honda products as is reasonably possible. So what’s all the fuss about? Cold start-ups – traditionally the leveller of oil-burners due to unrefined rattles, present very little in the way of noise or vibration, even on the outside. Once thoroughly warmed however, you’d be hard pressed to hear which fuel you were burning, the noisiest aspect at civilised revs being the car’s air-conditioning fans.

The manual ‘box in the Civic is a joy and seems so well suited to the torquey nature of this Diesel lump. Changing gear can become something of a novelty, as the engine’s 300NM of torque pulls the car along across the entire rev-range with little complaint, even at lower revs where one might usually expect some labouring.

.........here's a not so sharky one

………here’s a not so sharky one

Honda claim that the Civic, when mated to the 1.6 Diesel will achieve 78.5mpg and 94g/km, making it VED exempt. These economy claims are sometimes unattainable though and history has taught us to take them with a sizable pinch of salt. Apparently not so in the Civic though; when brimmed with Diesel, the range is a predicted 650 miles. After two days of care-free driving with little thought for conserving fuel, the needle on the Civic’s fuel gauge was still stubbornly clinging onto ‘Full’ like a long, thin limpet, the range had also somehow crept UP to 850 miles. Have Honda secretly achieved perpetual motion? Hmmmmm…..

Handling in the Civic is civilised and reassuringly predictable. It flows through corners with constant communication through the steering wheel so that any understeer is expected and easily corrected. The power steering is massively assisted though, so don’t expect handling to be quite up to the standards of the eminently impressive Focus.

The engineering expertise that Honda are so renowned for simply screams out of the Civic in a way that belies its sub £20K starting prices. Driving one is a pleasure, with a sensation of quality that would put many, far more expensive products coming out of Bavaria to shame. All this, mated to Honda’s  excellent new engine and the usual extras found as standard, results in a package that’s very hard to argue against.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC EX, Transmission –  manual, Layout – Front engine, FWD, Power – 120ps, Torque – 300Nm, Emissions – 94g/km CO2Economy – 78.5 mpg combined, Acceleration – 10.5s 0-62mph, Price – £23,175 OTR, £23,675 as tested.

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New Honda CR-V – First Drive

2013 Honda CRV front side

Honda’s New CR-V

Let there be no confusion at all here regarding the importance of this new CR-V to Honda. If you are under any illusion, just count how many of them you see on your next car journey, they really are everywhere. Since it’s launch in 1995, its accumulated sales of over 5 million, over 3 generations and, being a Honda, most of them are still on the road today.

Having won over 140 awards worldwide during it’s career, one could say that this 4th gen CR-V is under a certain amount of pressure to perform and, from the offset, it seems to handle it very capably. A reduction in CO2 emissions of 12% across the range is always a good place to start these days and, although it may not set the pulse racing, it’s this fact that will probably prove to be a huge attraction to many potential buyers. The fact that the CR-V continues to be assembled right here on home soil, as it has since 2000, can only add to it’s pulling power as it adds a sense of patriotism to the mix, albeit with a Japanese twist.

The CR-V is offered with the familiar 2.2 i-DTEC Diesel and 2.0 i-VTEC petrol engines from launch but by providing stop-start technology, engine optimisation and coupling them to a choice of five-speed auto or the excellent six speed manual ‘box, emissions have been cut to a potential 149g/km and 168g/km respectively.

Honda CR-V 3 gens

The CR-V through the ages

One feature that’s available for the first time on the CR-V is permanent 2wd which historically has proven to be very popular on ‘soft roaders’ in this country. It’s only available on the petrol engined variant from launch which is somewhat surprising but if the demand was sufficient for the 2wd to be mated to the torquey 2.2 Diesel, surely this model could come into fruition?

Visually, this 4th gen model is full of clean angles and lines. The most prominent of which is the line starting at the front three-bar grille, following the headlights, running smoothly with the belt-line and rising to a point at the D-pillar before joining the roof line. Losing the ‘lantern-jaw with moustache’ look of the 3rd gen CR-V has resulted in a far prettier face and overall, it’s a combination of ruggedness and charm that’s fresh and appealing.

2013 Honda CR-V interior

CR-V interior – well thought out and attractive

The story continues on the inside of the car with much work obviously undertaken to keep the CR-V feeling innovative and modern. Everything is thoughtfully laid out and within easy reach, with ‘less is more’ being the order of the day. Honda have kept the switch-gear to a minimum which cleverly sidesteps that sensation of being overwhelmed by buttons. One button that is hugely enticing is the ‘Eco’ mode – it not only activates the essential ‘stop-start’ facility, but illuminates two boomerang shaped lights around the centrally positioned speedometer. I had pondered initially whether these lights would prove too ‘nanny state’ and result in my rapidly deactivating ‘Eco’ mode but far from it. I actually found the lights quite attractive and the game of keeping revs low and green lights lit is surprisingly addictive.

Honda CR-V eco lights

It’s actually pretty easy, being green

The interior quality is usual Honda fare but one huge improvement is the grade of material used. If leather seats are your thing, there’s no, near-ruched, cow-hide present anymore, it’s high-grade all the way. Visibility is excellent as you’d expect from a car with such a large glasshouse, the D-pillar is quite wide but the oversized nature of the door mirrors seems to combat this issue.

Space in the rear of the CR-V is excellent and it passed the ‘six-footer behind six-footer’ challenge with flying colours – at no point did I feel cramped when I sat behind my own driver’s seat. The relatively low belt-line would mean any children travelling in the rear should have a great view of outside and thus hopefully avoid any feelings of travel-sickness. The story continues in the boot of the CR-V where it’s actually class leading with a 589 litre capacity, easily beating the likes of Toyota‘s Rav4 and Volvo’s XC60.

With prices starting at £21,395 for the 2wd i-VTEC S model and rising to £32,650 for the range topping i-DTEC EX auto, we tested three models in varying guises and specs to gain a true perspective of the CR-V.

Honda are confident that petrol engines remain relevant in SUVs, a fact compounded by their reluctance to offer 2wd as an option on their Diesel variant. If petrol is resolutely your fuel of choice, the free-revving 2.0 i-VTEC on offer here does very little wrong. It’s smooth, quiet and will potentially propel its occupants from 0-62mph in just ten seconds. One area where the petrol engine does suffer is an apparent lack of torque and I found myself having to work the manual gearbox quite vigorously to maintain momentum. This can of course be avoided by opting for an automatic ‘box on 4wd variants. Doing this however, will not only make the CR-V more sluggish, but the economy, emissions and driving experience as a whole suffer to a point where the petrol engine is increasingly difficult to justify

2013 Honda CR-V frontHaving driven both, the 2.2 Diesel engine would undoubtedly by my engine of choice. Although only available as 4wd, the emissions and economy are still impressive and with the latest generation of Honda Diesel engines proving to be nearly as quiet and responsive as their petrols, it all just makes sense. The absence of Diesel rattle both in and outside the CR-V is almost eery, this coupled to some useful low-down grunt means the CR-V suits the i-DTEC engine perfectly.

If changing gear oneself isn’t your preference and you usually require an auto, I’d still give the manual a chance to shine before making a final decision. The automatic can feel lazy and sluggish in comparison and somehow doesn’t do justice to the rest of the mechanical components. When the 2.2 Diesel engine offers such impressive levels of torque, changing gear to suit a situation sometimes just isn’t required and the car will pull on through regardless.

Honda have evidently put a lot of effort into the ride quality of the new CR-V in order to achieve a more car-like quality from an SUV. They’ve utilised McPherson struts on the front and on the rear it’s multi-link suspension. I tested the ride on a particularly challenging stretch of road that runs the length of Loch Long near Glasgow. It incorporates rapid changes in camber, direction and height – oh, and it was raining too. The CR-V felt surefooted at all times, inspiring confidence. No, it’s not going to get from point to point as rapidly as, say, an Impreza but then, no-one ever said it was.  To eliminate body roll as well as Honda have here whilst maintaining comfort is quite admirable.

2013 Honda CR-V

2013 Honda CR-V

When considering which spec to kit your CR-V out in, there are four levels to choose from – S, SE, SR and EX, with EX representing the top of the range. With features such as dual zone climate control and vehicle stability assist provided as standard across the range, there really isn’t a requirement to overspend here. As pleasant as heated, electric leather seats can be, I found the SE spec to be the perfect compromise of kit versus cost, especially when any higher spec incorporates upgrading from 17” to 18” wheels. Doesn’t sound like much, I know but I felt that that extra inch had a negative effect on an otherwise compliant ride.

Overall, I’d say that this 4th gen CR-V represents a huge step forward for Honda in terms of desirability that should continue the model’s enduring popularity. If you’re in the market for an SUV but find Toyota’s new Rav4 anonymous and the Freelander’s reputation for unreliability worrying, the CR-V ticks many, many boxes.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; 2.0l i-VTEC S, Layout – Front engine, fwd, Power – 155ps @ 6500rpm, Torque – 192Nm @ 4300rpm, Emissions – 168g/km CO2, Economy – 39.2mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 10.0s 0-62mph, Price – £21,395 OTR

2.0l i-VTEC EX, Transmission –  manual, Layout – Front Engine, 4wd, Power – 155ps @ 6500rpm, Torque – 192Nm @ 5300rpm, Emissions – 177g/km CO2, Economy – 37.2 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 10.2s 0-62mph, Price – £28,900 OTR

OUR CHOICE  2.2l i-DTEC SE, Transmission – manual, Layout – 4wd, Power – 150ps @ 4000rpm, Torque – 350Nm @ 2000rpm, Emissions – 149g/km CO2, Economy – 50.4 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 118mph, Acceleration – 9.7s 0-62mph, Price – £26,105 OTR

Devolution – Why Mitsubishi’s Evo is doomed

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X in red

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X

Reliable sources at Mitsubishi have recently confirmed that their will be a successor to the highly coveted Evo X although due to a ‘policy change’ towards EV technology, the new model will not be ‘advancing the concept in the same way as before’.

I’m not even an unreliable source at Mitsubishi and I can categorically confirm that the Evo bloodline as we know it is breathing its last, for the simple reason that it’s successor will be a diesel-electric hybrid.

Just to reiterate my stance on using heavy oil to power a vehicle, I have a few rules which I feel must be adhered to. They are as follows.

  • Always have a diesel in large 4×4’s; it’s what they were designed for.
  • Never combine a convertible with a diesel engine. You’ll put the roof down once and never put it down again. All diesel engines sound dreadful.
  • Never try to convince me that you prefer the diesel option regardless of frugality, this is a lie.
  • Never expect a torquey, oil burning power plant to feel remotely similar to a high revving, turbocharged engine. It may sport the same bhp but that’s where the similarities will end.

It’s this final point that I refer to when I voice my opinions on the news from Mitsubishi. What made the Evo so popular over the last 19 years was undoubtedly its fun factor, you demanded performance and it arrived almost instantly in a tidal wave of noise and acceleration. It made you feel like you were a winner with skill levels comparable to the likes of Makinen or Burns as it never seemed to run out of either power or grip. Whatever anyone says, this feeling cannot be replicated using a diesel-electric hybrid, it’s very nature does not lend itself to the type of driving Evo owners have become accustomed to.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Rally Car in snow

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution doing what it does best – rallying

Love it or loathe it, the Lancer Evo is iconic, a legend in it’s own lifetime. This and the Impreza were the working class heroes of their generation, true performance cars yet realistically attainable in the same vein as the Capris and Cosworths of years gone by. If a car manufacturer feels that a certain model has come to the end of its usefulness, they should do the honourable thing and kill them off, draw a line under the whole affair and start afresh. A good example to highlight would be the mess Ford managed to make during the ‘70’s and 80’s by refusing to let go of the legendary Mustang name. It was so watered down that it bore absolutely none of the qualities that were so endearing from the original.

The Lancer Evolution, I feel, has earned the right to go the way of all true legends: – Live fast, Die young and leave a good looking corpse.

By Ben Harrington

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