Tag Archives: Honda Civic

2023 Nissan Kicks SR

Low-cost Kicks loaded with a bevy of standard features …

Remember when entry-level cars were bare bones beaters?

I’m thinking Ford Mavericks, Chevy Vegas, and AMC Gremlins of my youth, or more recently Honda Civics, Toyota Tercels, and Nissan Sentras.

Times change and this week’s cute low-cost two-tone mini crossover is chock full of modern electronics and features that you might not anticipate at this price point. Heck, some cost extra even on higher-end vehicles.

Meet Nissan’s snazzy Kicks SR, that’s the top of three trim levels, but don’t let that worry your cost-conscious brain.

The name alone is fun, and memorable. At least more so than a certain electric EQB I drove recently.

No, the Kicks is not the bargain basement beater of yore.

Standard is a bevy of safety equipment including (hold on now) blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, rear sonar, high-beam assist, rear automatic braking, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian sensing, and an AroundView (360-degree) camera. Even that last item is optional on many vehicles costing much more.

OK, so what are we calling entry-level these days?

How’s $21,585 strike you for the base S model? Need a bit more in the way of features, then move up to the SV model at $23,445, or this top-end SR for $24,145. That’s a deal that should have you doing the happy dance right up to your credit union’s loan officer.

What else will you find on this high-end low-balling Kicks SR?

Heck, there’s intelligent or smart cruise control just like all the fancy cars and trucks now have, plus a very readable 7-inch touchscreen, 4 USB ports, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote start, push-button start, rear seat heat ducts, and I know you younger readers will like this, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. Bingo, hook up the phone, iPad, etc. and crank the tunes or use your own navigation system.

The Premium Package here adds nearly everything a buyer would want inside.

Now you may be saying, that’s all well and good, but I need a fancy sound system and heated seats, minimum. And a heated steering wheel and WiFi hot spot would be primo too, and cloth seats are for poor folk, I need at least a good-looking leather imitation.

Hold on buster, a Premium Package that adds just $1,390 to the price tag includes all of that, starting with a Bose 8-speaker audio system, plus NissanConnect Services via Sirius XM and a security system.

The test car added a snazzy two-tone gray and black paint scheme to increase curb appeal, and that’s only a $650 option and includes a small black spoiler over the rear window.

Watch Mark’s video: 2023 Nissan Kicks SR review by Mark Savage

Less necessary options included a $435 exterior package with crossbars for the standard black roof rails, plus finished exhaust tips. If you intend to pile stuff on the roof this is a smart choice.

This interior does not look, feel, or function like a bargain basement model.

Less necessary yet is a $575 interior electronics package with 20-colors of ambient colors that can be dialed in to impress your friends or significant other, plus a door pocket light and frameless rearview mirror with universal remote.

A visual upgrade, the $495 17-inch black alloy wheel option is something most of us would welcome, along with the $225 carpeted floor mats and cargo mat.

No power hatch back there, but there is a wiper, a Wisconin necessity item. And excluding things like a power hatch and AWD helps keep Kicks among the lowest cost vehicles you can buy new. Even with add-ons the tester hit just $27,915, one of the lowest priced test cars I’ve had in the past couple years.

A hatch in back allows for easy loading and the back window wiper is standard.

If you want to consider others look first at the Hyundai Venue that also doesn’t offer AWD, but is in the same size and power category as the Kicks and also looks like a crossover.

Moving up a bit in price and power is Toyota’s equally cute C-HR, or less cute Corolla Cross, which does offer AWD. One also could check out the Honda HR-V that I tested a couple months back, or the Hyundai Kona, Kia’s Niro, Soul, or Seltos. Again, some offer AWD. Finally, for more power there’s Mazda’s awesome CX-30.

As for the Kicks, it touts just 122 horsepower from its 1.6-liter I4, but the automatic CVT (continuously variable transmission) is programed to give it a fair amount of oomph from a standstill. So acceleration is good for in-town stoplight getaways. Of course the engine works a little harder than those offering 140+ horses, and you’ll hear it. But it quiets down once you’re cruising.

Sharp looking tail for an economy model.

Road noise is noticeable at highway speeds, but certainly not an issue in city driving.

Handling is light and responsive, not sporty, but sort of fun on winding roads. Plus the suspension is pretty compliant for a short-wheelbase vehicle. There’s some jiggle, but the ride never becomes severe or bothersome.

Gas mileage, and this is a gas-powered car, is quite good too. I got 31.7 mpg in about 60% city and town driving. The EPA rates Kicks at 31 mpg city and 36 highway.

Inside, the fake leather seats are well-shaped and two-tone gray with orange stitching on the dash and steering wheel to add a bit of pizazz. The touchscreen is easily read and used and includes both volume and tuning knobs, a bonus. This driver’s instrument panel has an old-school analog speedometer, but digital info screen to the left of that giving mpg and other important info. Again, all easy to read.

The steering wheel also is heated and is a flat-bottom number allowing for easier in and out as there’s more knee room below the wheel than with a standard wheel. Bravo too that Nissan includes extenders on the sun visors, often needed but rarely found in newer cars.

In back is enough room for two adults provided the front seat folks are not NBA recruits and a third adult could fit for a short pizza run. If a child is about to head off to college the Kicks also offers generous cargo room for stuff and things, measuring 25.3 cubic feet with the rear seat in place of a massive 53.1 cu.ft. when the split rear seat is folded.

Practical, cute, perky and loaded with safety equipment, that’s Kicks. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives Kicks a good rating in all six of its safety tests. Kicks is a must consider first car, college car, or second city car.

FAST STATS: 2023 Nissan Kicks SR

Hits: Cute low-cost two-tone mini crossover, quick handling, adequate acceleration and good gas mileage. Better than average cargo room and seats four comfortably, heated seats, heated D-shaped steering wheel, push-button start, visor extenders, good info screen and Bose sound system. Great safety features standard, plus a 360-degree camera and standard Android Auto/Apple CarPlay.

Misses: No AWD available, ride can be a bit jiggly, but not severe, and there’s a fair amount of road noise at highway speeds.

A fine screen and easy controls in Kicks.

Made in: Mexico

Engine: 1.6-liter I4, 122 hp/114 torque

Transmission: XtronicCVT automatic

Weight: 2,685 lbs.

Wheelbase: 103.1 in.

Length: 169.1 in.

Cargo: 25.3-53.1 cu.ft.

MPG: 31/36

MPG: 31.7 (tested)

Base Price: $23,075 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Options:

Premium package (Bose audio w/8 speakers & amp, Prima-Tex seats, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, security system, cargo cover, Nissan Connect services w/WiFi hotspot), $1,390

Exterior pkg. (crossbars, exhaust finisher), $435

Electronics pkg. (door pocket light, frameless mirror w/universal remote, 20-color ambient lighting), $575

2-tone paint (gray/black) w/rear spoiler, $650

17-inch black alloy wheels, $495

Carpeted floor/cargo mats, $225

Test vehicle: $27,915

Sources: Nissan, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Nissan

2023 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L

Larger platform, refined styling make HR-V a better family car choice …

Surprises can be pleasing or concerning, something to celebrate or something to require pulling the bedspread up over your noggin.

Honda’s new 2023 HR-V, its small SUV/crossover, is full of the former, yet seeing a starting price of $24,895 I had concerns. I anticipated a homely yet efficient box on wheels, as per the first gen model that debuted as a 2016 model, a real party animal if you’re a family of accountants.

But nooooo, the restyled, redesigned HR-V now rides on Honda’s larger Civic platform, not the former’s Fit chassis. It’s longer, lower and wider, all good things for performance, while remaining svelte at just over 3,200 pounds.

The styling leans toward sleek with a roofline that elegantly sweeps down in back and a new nose and tail that look as modern as any competitor. Additional sound deadening, an active noise cancellation system, and acoustic glass make it quieter inside too.

But the big deal is a multi-link rear suspension to replace the former torsion beam, improving ride quality to the point of HR-V not feeling so small. It corners with confidence and the steering is lively too.

Power also increases from 141 horses to 158 from the new 2.0-liter I4. No turbo here, but that would make it a blast. Still, at this weight and with this crossover’s handling ability the HR-V seems perky and peppy and downright fun to drive, much like Mazda’s CX-30, almost.

The automatic continuously variable transmission is super smooth too, giving the HR-V solid off-the-line performance, almost like a regular variable gear tranny.

Watch Mark’s video: 2023 Honda HR V AWD EX L review by Mark Savage – YouTube

Honda equips the crossover with three drive mode toggles too, Normal, Eco and Snow, the latter being something us northern states folks appreciate. No Sport mode here to pump up the power, but I didn’t miss it, much. Yet Honda does include as standard a hill descent button on the console in case you get off road and need to slowly creep down an incline while retaining good traction.

Make no mistake, this new HR-V has no business going off-roading, but the tested EX-L model included AWD that will help traction in winter slop. AWD costs $1,500 on all three trims.

Honda is also generous with safety equipment with the base LX model featuring forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assist, smart cruise control and automatic high beams. The tested EX-L adds low-speed braking control, parking sensors, driver attention monitor, and blind-spot warning too.

Slip inside the HR-V (still a less than inspired name) and the interior looks and feels roomy, but also more upscale than one might expect in this price range.

The Nordic Forest Metallic (a snazzy blue-gray that costs $395 extra) sported a black leather interior and black to gunmetal honeycomb dash trim that reflects that of the nose’s grille. This is real metal, if that matters to you, and adds a bit of youthfulness to a car aimed at – you guessed it – young buyers.

Incredibly the door panels, arm rests and any area where an elbow may touch are well padded to create a luxury feel. Remember the cheap hard plastic of previous value models? Not in this Honda.

The steering wheel is leather-wrapped and the EX-L model upgrades the info screen from the standard 7-incher to a 9-inch touchscreen that’s simple to use and see. There also are dual climate control dials below the screen and a wireless phone charger tucked under the center stack.

Honda includes a power driver’s seat here and both front seats are heated and well contoured. Honda redesigned its seats for the HR-V to create more support and that’s obvious for the lower back and hips. Front and rear seats also are roomy so four adults could easily take a trip in this crossover.

Lots of cargo room behind the split folding rear seats too. Gone are the former folding “magic seats”, but these seats fold flat and create a cavernous cargo hold if the rear seats are lowered. One thing you don’t get is a power rear hatch, but then this is a high value model and really, it’s not difficult to close a small crossover’s rear hatch.

I like the traditional console-mounted stick shift too because it’s simple to grasp and does not require you look down at the console as so many of today’s buttons and rotary knobs do.

OMG, a shifter you can actually get ahold of!

Did I mention the small sunroof? No, but you get that standard on the EX-L, along with a 180-watt 8-speaker audio system.

And all this costs just $30,195, including delivery, for the AWD-equipped EX-L. The test car added only the handsome blue-gray paint scheme, so listed at $30,590. As mentioned earlier the base LX starts at $24,895 and a well-equipped Sport model starts at $26,895.

One downside, for now, there is no hybrid model. Yet for a gas-only crossover the HR-V is rated at a solid 25 mpg city and 30 highway. The front-drive models get just a bit better mileage and I managed 30.6 in about 70% highway driving with up to four folks aboard.

Seems hard to beat this feature-packed small crossover considering Honda’s fine reliability record. Other challengers in this market include the sporty Mazda CX-30 and Subaru CrossTrek that feature AWD standard. The Toyota C-HR, Hyundai Kona and Kia Seltos also are solid competitors.

Don’t let anyone tell you there are no good cars/crossovers for $30 grand or less!

FAST STATS: 2023 Honda HR-V AWD EX-L

Hits: Confident handling, peppy power, good ride and AWD. Fine MPG, roomy and quiet interior, small sunroof, and wireless phone charger, plus 9-inch info screen, dual climate controls, power driver’s seat, well contoured seats, heated front seats and normal stick shift. Full range of safety features standard along with hill descent control.

Misses: No Sport mode among toggle drive-mode selections, no power hatch.

Made in: Mexico

Engine: 2.0-liter I4, 158 horsepower/138 torque

Transmission: CVT automatic

Weight: 3,219 lbs.

Length: 179.8 in.

Wheelbase: 104.5 in.

Cargo: 24-55.1 cu.ft.

MPG: 25/30

MPG: 30.6 (tested)

Base Price: $30,195 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Major Option: Nordic Forest paint, $395

Test vehicle: $30,590

Sources: Honda, kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

#Honda

2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL

Elantra offers value with distinctive looks, spunky performance  …

Surprises tend to hang out at the low end of the automotive market, where expectations may be lower because, well, prices are lower.

That continues to be the case with Hyundai’s popular Elantra compact sedan, refined and upgraded for 2021. I had the SEL model, just one up from the base and a sweet spot for Elantra to be sure.

In brief, here’s what it has going for it, price, reliability, performance, looks, and solid safety and comfort features. Oh, and did I say price? Yes, yes and yes! Continue reading 2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL

2021 Mazda3 Turbo Premium AWD

Turbo adds kick to Mazda3,  AWD gives it traction …

It’s possible that the current new generation of drivers will never know how much fun it is to pilot a car. Sad!

Crossovers and trucks are so big, so dominant in the marketplace that it’s almost unbelievable that some automakers are still making cars. Several have stopped, or scaled car models way back.

Thankfully Mazda is not one of them.

In fact, the Japanese automaker continues to improve its entry-level sedan/hatch the Mazda3. Last year it added all-wheel-drive to the sporty car and this year it ups the ante with a more powerful engine to deliver even more fun. Bravo! Continue reading 2021 Mazda3 Turbo Premium AWD

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE

Corolla Hatch a practical sharp looker … 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Back in the day I owned a Toyota Corolla, but then again, nearly everyone did at the time. The Corolla was to the 1980s what the Chevy Nova was to the 1970s, namely an inexpensive reliable car.

While much has changed in the ensuing 35 or so years, the Corolla remains its steady self, still offering high value to another generation of first-time car buyers. However, while a modest sedan still leads the Corolla lineup, a new hatchback has just been launched as a 2019 model, replacing the Corolla iM, a former Scion hatchback. Continue reading 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback XSE

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

A happy surprise, new 2017 Elantra arrives early …2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

Looks like 2017 is already here, at least at Hyundai.

My test car was a sparkling white 2017 Elantra Limited, the compact sedan that improves with each iteration. One thing that hasn’t changed is its stellar looks. Hyundai and its cousin Kia have been leading the styling charge for mainstream car buyers for several years now.

This new Elantra is another sharp looker with a bit of swept-back styling that looks more like a fastback than your typical compact sedan.

Another thing that doesn’t change (and this too is good), is excellent gas mileage. The Elantra is rated 28 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. I got 32.1 mpg in a 50-50 mix of city and highway driving.

Some might wonder if that’s because the new Elantra is made of cardboard and powered by a lawnmower engine. No, there’s lightweight high-tensile steel to keep the four-door at 2,811 lbs. and there’s a 2.0-liter I4 under the hood providing 147 horsepower and 132 lb.-ft. of torque.

2017 Hyundai Elantra LimitedCertainly that’s not monstrous power, but it is sufficient and with Hyundai’s smooth 6-speed automatic seems well suited to everyday driving. The previous Elantra I’d driven had a 1.8-liter I4 of similar power, but this one gave the car steadier pull from a stop. Plus Hyundai includes Drive Mode Select, a button that allows you to choose between Normal, Sport and Eco. You won’t need Eco to extend fuel mileage as I rarely used it and still got excellent mileage. Continue reading 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

2016 Fiat 500 Easy

Fiat 500 Easy: low price, low power, lower expectationsfiat1

Several years have passed since I last drove a Fiat 500, the mini-car Fiat re-launched its brand with in the U.S. market for 2012.

The 500 hasn’t grown any, nor changed much, which depending on your point of view may be good, or a bit sad. The 500’s cuteness level remains high. It still looks like a slightly more modern version of the original rear-engine 1957 model it’s designed to resemble. Continue reading 2016 Fiat 500 Easy

2013 Acura ILX Premium

A handsome winner that slots below TSX

Acura created one of the finest entry-level sport sedans with its TSX a few years back, but now introduces another winner to slot in just under the TSX.2013 Acura ILX

For 2013 Acura rolls out the ever so slightly smaller ILX to fill the entry slot as TSX has crept up to a $31,010 base price. The new ILX wedges in at a more approachable $25,900, yet is only about 6 inches shorter overall and rides on just a 1.4-inch shorter wheelbase. In reality, this is the size that cars like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Mazda 626 used to occupy before the Japanese car makers grew them to fit U.S. mid-market appetites. Continue reading 2013 Acura ILX Premium