Honda is back engineering great cars again

Honda Applies Its Engineering To Modern Hybrid And Pure Electric

Honda is squarely back doing what it does best, engineering great cars. I drove its Accord Plug-In Hybrid and Fit EV to prove it.

The Honda we respected is back, shifting its engineering to produce exotic alternative energy propulsion systems. If the test drives of the Honda Fit EV and the Accord PHEV are anything to judge, Honda is on the right road again and is building on past success. After all, Honda is an engineering automobile company and is now turning its sight away from chasing futile market shares to focusing on what it does best. And great engineering is the word of day.

Zesty Fit EV. My original Fit EV drive back in September left feeling ambiguous about the car. If it has plenty of zest with enough get up and go, but it’s front drivetrain needs more work before matching the gasoline version. The three driving modes are excellent. Eco for normal everyday traffic driving and you have that generous 20 kWh battery pack carry you well into the 100 mile range zone. Put it in Sport mode and its 92kW high-density coaxial electric motor beats its gasoline version from 106 lb-ft of torque to 189, a healthy a 77% increase.

If this car is perfect in many ways, it will only disappoint the adrenaline junkies coming out of corners accelerating. The Fit EV has a tendency to over torque, understeer when accelerating out of corners. The Michelin tires do their best to keep up but the front drivetain could gain in stiffening to turn this electric car, EV into a true Honda driving experience. Nonetheless, it’s fun to drive, economical to operate and has plenty of space.

Smooth Accord Plug-In Hybrid. This is Honda’s claim to being back on top of its game. Technically sophisticated on paper, I was afraid the drive would be more vanilla than its potential suggests. It did not disappoint, in fact, it surprised me a lot. Smooth, comfortable, with enough power to zip away from unwanted road hazards, this new Accord is nothing like others. Honda strikes a brilliant mixture of comfort, smooth and stable ride, with enough luxury but not over the top. In short, it’s a real Honda.

The Accord PHEV delivers on the promise of freedom a plug-in hybrid platform offers. Drive it in gasoline mode if you wish, hybrid when you want and pure electric when needed. I took the car around Los Angeles on its deteriorated roads with the sedan feeling comfortable and at ease. Cornering hard, it felt sure footed and as much we are not in a Maserati performance world, it had nothing to blush about. Seamless smooth transitions from electric to hybrid to gasoline and all of the above, the Accord PHEV negotiates any road conditions with aplomb. On Highways, the Accord felt equally at ease on fast portions to bumper-to-bumper traffic. In fact, I smiled realizing I was in EV mode in 15 to 20 mph traffic when my poor neighbor drivers were forced to used their highly inefficient gasoline engines to deal with this congestion. I had a peaceful zen experience, quietly cruising, sipping electrons next to irate gasoline gobbling, frustrated drivers. Can you put a price on that?

CR-Z, Where Are You? Another car deserve a second look is the CR-Z. The CR-Z keeps on getting better. Currently in its second version, as I wrote about a few days ago, this little car is pure Honda engineering and will give you a twist on what hybrid means. See our story titled 2013 Honda CR-Z Sport Hybrid Coupe Gets Performance And Styling Upgrades.

To wrap it up, Honda is back at doing what it does best, engineering fine cars aimed for mass-production. In an ideal world, I can see an urbanite family owning the Fit EV for everyday commuting, a CR-Z for fun outings and the Accord PHEV for family treks or shuttling important clients. But Honda, how about commercializing that amazing little EV-Ster? Congratulations Honda for going back to what made you so unique, drivetrain we look forward to the success of your Accord Plug-in Hybrid, your Fit EV and the CR-Z.

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