Honda Odyssey MPV

Price range

$37,100 – $44,920

Overall

Good: Brilliant packaging – the classy interior has sufficient space inside yet the Odyssey is far sleeker on the outside than any competing people-mover. Class-leading ride & handling, high levels of standard equipment and value for money.

Not so Good: The 2.4-litre engine can feel underpowered. Unfortunately no matter how good the Odyssey is, the vast, vast majority of seven-seat shoppers today end up driving off in an SUV (when so many of them would be better off in something like an Odyssey!?).

Design and Engineering

Good : The current generation Odyssey arrived here in April 2009 and retains the overall silhouette of the groundbreaking previous model. Significantly lower in height than its MPV competitors (and SUV’s as well).

The Odyssey is a packaging masterpiece; looking relatively compact on the outside yet offers genuine space for seven inside.

Not so good : More of an evolution of the previous model; not as groundbreaking as the previous Odyssey which launched here in 2004 (however, why change a good thing?).

We’re not so sure about the lower body kit which looks like a bolt-on aftermarket kit (which fortunately are becoming less of a feature today than in the 80’s & 90’s!?)

Interior and Styling

Good : The Honda Odyssey has received an updated interior with silver metallic panels replacing the previous wood grain; we think this gives the Odyssey a fresh feel rather than the daggy and outdated wood grain.

The entry level Odyssey gains A-pillar mounted Bluetooth for mobile connectivity and reverse parking sensors for added safety. Meanwhile, the top of the range Odyssey Luxury receives a satellite navigation system with reversing camera, DVD player, integrated Bluetooth for audio streaming, SUNA live traffic updates and USB connectivity.

The Excellent interior features a futuristic dash and a low-set driver’s seat. Unlike in any SUV, it doesn’t matter which row of seats you’re in, as space is sufficient for adults in all 3 rows, plus there is plenty of storage compartments for everyone!

The Luxury grade adds leather-trimmed seats (which are power adjustable), leather steering wheel and a leather wrapped gear knob that further lift cabin ambience while the 2nd and 3rd rows receive roof mounted air-conditioning vents.

Not so good : We found some of the instruments could be clearer and the controls moved closer to the driver for better useability. The audio system in the entry-level grade looks a little cheap & out of place in an otherwise modern dash. This is a smaller vehicle than the extra-large People Movers (i.e Volkswagen Caravelle, Kia Grand Carnival) so obviously the Odyssey has less 2nd & 3rd row legroom.

Performance

Good : The 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is mated to a 5 Speed automatic that features Grade Logic Control & Shift Hold; this combination produces 132kW of power and 218Nm of torque. While the engine may be smaller in capacity than the usual six-cylinder petrol engines in mid-size SUV’s – the Odyssey is a couple of hundred kilo’s lighter than most seven-seaters and ‘soft roaders’ so is able to get by with only 4-cylinders, plus the magic of Honda’s i-VTEC helps matters also.

The official combined fuel consumption for the Honda Odyssey is 8.9-litres per 100km, which is pretty good considering this is a people-mover.

Not so good : It does manage to ‘get by’ with a four-cylinder, but forget spirited performance! If you ask too much of the engine you’ll of course loose the benefit of the fuel economy a four-cylinder provides.

Ride and Handling

Good : The Honda Odyssey features sedan-like ride & handling, the steering feels light for a vehicle of this size, while the suspension is nicely balanced offering the perfect mix of comfort and performance in its class.

If you’re about to purchase a mid-size SUV, we’d strongly suggest taking the Odyssey for a test drive.

Not so good : The steering might be missing the feedback of a sports car, however for the majority of buyers this really isn’t an issue.

Buying and Owning

Good : For a luxurious, spacious interior that seats seven, there isn’t a new SUV on the market that has such a classy and usable interior for the same money. The Honda Odyssey has electronic stability control as standard and all seats feature proper lap/sash seat belts.

Not so good : It’s hard to fault the Honda Odyssey as it is a leader in its class. It offers a stylish package that is spacious and great value for money.

However, a bigger engine would be nice and as mentioned before the 2nd & 3rd row seating could do with a little more legroom, but these are minor complaints on an otherwise solid package.

Honda Accord Sedan

Price range

$28,190 – $47,290

Overall

Good: Refined, spacious interior – large boot – quality engines – a great highway car yet still fine on twisty roads. Overall: excellent value for money!

Not so Good: The exterior design is fairly conservative; the steering lacks the feedback of more ‘sporty’ rivals and the rear seats don’t fold down.

Design and Engineering

Good : The current Accord was launched in February 2008 and is a larger car than the previous model – it is now truly a ‘Large’ (i.e. Falcon & Commodore sized).

Not so good : The exterior styling is on the conservative side; with the Medium sized Accord Euro looking the more aggressive of the two!?

Interior and Styling

Good : The larger design translates to a very spacious interior; and the quality of materials is very good and the build quality appears excellent (a Honda strength). Whilst the centre console features a high number of buttons they are all logically placed.

Large, comfortable, soft front seats and a supportive large rear bench seat with lots of legroom on offer. Good sized boot.

Not so good : Rear seats can’t fold down to create a larger boot/cargo carrying area (however, there is a small ski-port for carrying…um…ski’s and ski-sized things…)

Performance

Good : The 2.4-litre four-cylinder and 3.5-litre V6 are both very good engines, refinement is high and compared to petrol-powered competitors the two engines are economical. The V6 also features Variable Cylinder Management whereby the Accord can run on as little as three-cylinders when power is not needed to improve fuel economy. Of course the V6 is significantly more powerful than the four and offers excellent acceleration from standstill and has good overtaking ability.

Not so good : Honda doesn’t seem keen on bringing the European Turbo Diesel’s to Australia so it’s petrol only for the time being. What are the odds of an Accord hybrid engine being offered some time in the future? Hmmmm…

Ride and Handling

Good : A far nicer drive than the previous Accord; the ride is very comfortable and the handling is perfectly suitable for most Accord buyer’s; the steering is good for a front-wheel drive… The VTi’s standard 16-inch alloys have larger tyre profiles than the V6 variants (with 17-inch) and so it is the pick of the two for comfort. If you’re looking for fun on a twisty road then choose the four-cylinder VTi as it has less weight over the front wheels…

Not so good : Lacks the sports car handling of a number of Falcon and Commodore grades (but Honda is not trying to build a sports sedan, so this is not necessarily a negative point!?) The steering is also on the light side and feels a touch lifeless on the highway.

Buying and Owning

Good : The Accord is great value considering the body size and features offered in each grade; it’s an excellent vehicle for travelling long distances and thankfully a full size spare tyre (not a space saver) is fitted.

Not so good : Large sized sedans aren’t the most trendy choices these days so we wonder if future resale will be as good as a similar sized SUV? But don’t let this thought put you off as for most driving conditions the Accord is a far more enjoyable drive than a large-ish SUV.

Honda Accord Euro Sedan

Price range

$30,340 – $43,140

Overall

Good: A fantastic handling car that’s truly worthy of the Sports Sedan tag with a 2.4-litre engine that loves to rev! The interior is classy. Typical high levels of Honda quality.

Not so Good: It’s debatable whether the larger body is a design improvement over the previous Accord Euro? No sign of a Turbo Diesel engine for Australians?

Design and Engineering

Good : The second generation arrived on our shores in June 2008 and received a mid-life face lift in July 2011. With the face lift came styling upgrades that include a new two bar grille replacing the previous three-bar version, revised front bumper, fog light surrounds and air vents. The rear lights have been re-coloured a soft red and there is now a chrome strip on the boot-lid.

Not so good : The Accord Euro is sleek and stylish however it is beginning to show its age when compared to its competitors.

Interior and Styling

Good : The interior has also been upgraded, with new satin-finish highlights on the door handles, console, steering wheel and other interior components. An anti-dust feature has been applied to the cloth trim of the entry model.

Upgrades for the Accord Euro range include steering wheel integrated Bluetooth, a new foldaway key design, USB connectivity and Trailer Stability Assist on all models. The entry model gains auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers and the option of 18-inch alloy wheels. The Luxury Navi gains new bi-HID headlights with auto low/high beam and a cornering function which operates at speeds up to 40kmh.

The front seats offer up plenty of side support (especially the backrest) and the thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel feels great under hand. The centre console has a large number of buttons and knobs, whilst at first can seem like a lot, they are all useful and logically set out. Second row seating is fine for two adults.

Not so good : If you’re larger than average you may find the front seats a little tight. The rear bench seat is styled in such a way that the two outer passengers are kept well supported – but at the expense of the middle person.

We also found the centre mounted info display was set a little deep in the dash and would benefit from being moved forward for better visibility.

Performance

Good : The naturally aspirated 2.4-litre engine generates an impressive 148kW of power (but at a very high revving 7000rpm). The five-speed auto has gear shifting paddles behind the steering wheel which are especially fun to use when the transmission is in Sport mode.

As is the case with all Honda’s the manual transmission is very smooth when shifting through the gears, the clutch is also well weighted for an easy driving experience.

Not so good : Cruising around town the Euro doesn’t feel especially quick, as this engine really likes to be revved.

Ride and Handling

Good : Who said front wheel drive cars can’t be excellent driver’s cars? Not us! Truly excellent handling on offer here – the Accord Euro feels light on its feet and is just as at home swooping down a twisty mountain road as it is driving to the supermarket. Even under hard braking the Euro’s chassis still stays composed. The Honda Accord Euro is a well-balanced car that is comfortable and fun to drive.

Not so good : When pushed hard you may notice the slight torque steer (but we’re being picky here). The electric steering system also feels a little ‘unnatural’ at high speeds.

Buying and Owning

Good : The Honda Accord Euro ticks the safety box with six airbags, stability and traction control, electronic brake distribution and ABS brakes as standard. Considering the petrol engine loves to perform the fuel economy figures are also pretty impressive.

Not so good : Lack of a full size spare tyre in the higher grades (the ever-increasing Space Saver is standard) limits interstate driving confidence. There is only the choice of one petrol engine – will Honda offer a turbo diesel engine option in Australia?

Honda City Sedan

Price range

$16,490 – $20,490

Overall

Good: Roomy interior; refined driveline. Honda reliable nameplate.

Not so Good: Feels and drives like a Supermini (unfortunately), but for the same price you could be in a Small class sedan with a bigger engine.

Design and Engineering

Good : Arriving Down Under in February 2009, the Honda City’s smart, distinctive styling will appeal to a different target market than the funky Jazz hatchback; typical quality Honda build.

Receiving a mid-life facelift in May 2012, the City line-up received a number of tweaks both inside and out.

Both variants received redesigned brake lights, revised front and rear bumpers and a new chrome ‘look’ grille.

The VTi received a new rear micro antenna while the VTi-L received a set of new look 16-inch alloy wheels.

Not so good : Basically, it’s kind of a Honda Jazz with a boot. Whilst the Honda City is noticeably longer due to a stretched wheelbase, the width stays the same – so it’s narrower inside compared to similarly priced larger sedans.

Interior and Styling

Good : The comfortable seats are positioned high ensuring good visibility; rear seat space offers plenty of legroom and decent head room; boot space is fantastic, is’t even larger than a Commodore! With 60/40 split folding rear seats for carrying longer items.

The mid-life facelift in May 2012 saw a number of tweaks both inside and out.

Inside, both variants received aluminium-look treatment for the interior panels and trim, while the VTi-L got a little bit more blinged out with chrome look treatment to the audio and climate control.

Not so good : Missing the myriad clever compartments of the Honda Jazz Hatch; The dashboard has too many hard & cheap looking plastics and rear seats don’t fold fully flat.

Performance

Good : The smooth 1.5-litre engine sits happily at highway speeds while road noise is kept to a minimum in the cabin.

Honda’s 1.5-litre that is also featured in the Jazz produces 88kW at 6600rpm and 145Nm at 4800rpm when mated to a 5-speed manual (5-speed automatic optional).

Not so good : 145Nm of torque is nothing to excited about – if you purchased the city for the big boot and intend to fill it, then the Honda City might struggle.

Ride and Handling

Good : On most roads the City’s suspension provides a comforting ride, soaking up most bumps and pot holes seen on our unique Australian roads.

Not so good : The electric power steering lacks feedback which is a turn-off for driving enthusiasts. However, in Honda’s defence the Honda City isn’t meant to be a sports car; Handling is only competent.

Buying and Owning

Good : Excellent fuel economy for a vehicle with this much interior space; A full size spare tyre instead of the now all-too-common space saver wheel and six airbags as standard!

Not so good : Once price is taken into consideration the Honda City struggles to compete against a number of larger small family cars that are priced similarly; no Electronic Stability Control (ESC).

Honda Civic Hatchback

Price range

$20,650 – $29,590

Overall

Good: The Civic’s radical exterior design and futuristic dash is like nothing else. Two grades to choose from and an improved 1.8-litre four cylinder i-VTEC engine.

Not so Good: Rearward vision is a little lacking across the range. The interior is starting to age when compared to its competitors.

Design and Engineering

Good : Arriving Down Under in June 2012 featuring a design that hasn’t really changed much since the previous generation. The hidden rear door handles are still present on the 5-door hatch.

The Honda Civic still looks remarkably well considering the designs that are coming out of Hyundai and Kia.

Not so good : Styling might be a tad bold and ‘unusual’ for some and the plunging rear window comes at the has cost of visibility – rearward vision is below par.

Interior and Styling

Good : The dual-level driver’s instrument layout is quite futuristic and works quite well, matching the exterior better than the sedan. The centre console knobs are large and easy to use and there are lots of useful storage compartments.

The driving position is excellent, with a small steering wheel and the gear lever is positioned close by.

Decent levels of rear seat space are available PLUS, ‘Magic’ folding rear seats create extra cargo space when required. Cargo capacity with the rear seats folded down is very generous.

Not so good : Unfortunately the dash plastics are behind its competition, the soft-touch materials found in the Volkswagen Golf are evidence of this.

Performance

Good : The Civic Hatch is available in two variants; the VTi-S and the VTi-L. Both are powered by an improved 1.8-litre four cylinder i-VTEC engine producing 104kW of power and 174Nm of torque. Available with a 5-speed manual or 6-speed Sports Automatic.

The 1.8-litre four cylinder i-VTEC engine is a great little unit that offers up smooth power delivery and quick gear changes – the auto isn’t half bad either.

Not so good : Although the 1.8-litre petrol engine feels good it misses out on direct injection or turbocharging technology seen in a number of competitors.

Ride and Handling

Good : The electric steering offers good feedback, turns in very quickly and is happy to receive driver corrections.

Not so good : The inexpensive torsion beam rear suspension creates too much road noise in the cabin.

Buying and Owning

Good : The Honda Civic hatch has received a significant price reduction and as a result are now far more sensibly priced in comparison with competition. The six-stack stereo, dual zone climate control and smart looking 17-inch alloys. A high safety rating and plenty of airbags are fitted across the range of Civic hatches. Standard reverse parking sensors will get lots of use.

Not so good : Lack of diesel power plant might sway buyers into the hands of some of Honda’s competitors.

Honda Civic Sedan

Price range

$20,490 – $35,990

Overall

Good: Typical Honda handling and drive dynamics; Fit and finish; Fuel efficient; Rear Legroom

Not so Good: Dated interior; Engine noise; Road roar; Bland exterior design; Over-the-top futuristic dash

Design and Engineering

Good : Hitting our shores in February 2012, the ninth generation Honda Civic sedan is poised to take it to its competitors with improved driving dynamics, better fuel economy and more interior space.

The exterior design of the ninth gen Honda Civic is fairly conservative; the front bumper features sharp lines, a sleek grille and integrated headlights that give the civic a crisp look.

The side profile remains mostly unchanged, the most notable exception is the shoulder line that now runs to the rear of the car and forms part of the tail light.

The most noticeable change appears at the rear of the Civic, the tail lights take on a completely new shape and design. The tail lights are more compact with sharper angles.

The rear bumper and boot also feature a new design with sharper more aerodynamic lines.

Not so good : Some folks might find the design of the Civic a little too conservative. The aerodynamic alloy wheels found on the Civic Hybrid may be functional, but in our opinion they look ugly.

Interior and Styling

Good : The futuristic styling of the Honda Civic is fairly similar to the previous model. The dash features a tiered design; the top section displays vehicle information like trip computer, average fuel consumption, average speed, outside temperature and can also display custom wallpapers that you can load into the system. To the right of the information display is your speedometer that also displays your current fuel level. Just under the top tier is where the conventional rev-tacho lives.

All vehicle displays are clear and easy to view, especially the top display, because it sits high the distance the eyes have to travel from the road to display are kept to a minimal, this is particularly good for safety.

Not so good : Fit and finish is top-notch but it seems Honda hasn’t taken this opportunity to refresh the interior or give it any character; instead the interior looks as though it has been lifted out of a car from the 80’s.

Boot space is rather tight on the Hybrid model.

Performance

Good : The Honda Civic range is powered by the choice of three power plants. First up, the Honda Civic VTi-L is powered by a 1.8-litre Inline four-cylinder i-VTEC petrol engine that produces 104kW of power and 174Nm of torque when matched to a 5-speed manual or 5-speed with Grade Logic Control and paddle shift (option). Next up, the Honda Civic Sport is powered by a 2.0-litre Inline four-cylinder i-VTEC petrol engine that produces 114kW of power and 190Hm of torque when matched to a 5-speed with Grade Logic Control and paddle shift as standard. Rounding out the model line-up is the Honda Civic Hybrid, powered by a 1.5-litre Inline four-cylinder i-VTEC petrol engine and a 17kW electric motor, combined they produce 82kW of power and 172Nm of torque when matched to a 5-speed with Grade Logic Control as standard. The Honda Civic Hybrid is our pick of the bunch, the 1.5-litre combined with the electric motor is great and very fuel efficient. The 5-speed with Grade Logic Control transmission is smooth during the daily commute, however it can be little noisy during highway driving.

Not so good : The 1.8-litre found in the VTi-L is very noisy especially when pushed hard, although fuel consumption isn’t too bad.

Ride and Handling

Good : The entire Civic range feature superb handling dynamics, and steers and brakes well with consistent feeling. You feel confident driving the Honda Civic with a little enthusiasm on twisting country roads. To put it simply, the Civic is a comfortable, safe handling small car.

Not so good : The hybrid model’s small and narrow 15” wheels don’t offer much ‘spirited cornering’ grip and road roar is noticeable.

Buying and Owning

Good : If you want to drive a Hybrid without shouting it to the world, then the Civic Hybrid is the answer. The Hybrid achieves very low fuel economy and emits minimal amounts of nasty carbon dioxide. It’s also priced fairly competitively compared to other hybrids on the market. Honda build quality is definitely up there amongst the best and reliability is also one of Honda strong suits.

Not so good : Hybrid loses its price advantage when compared to a fuel efficient non-hybrid diesel small car.

Honda CR-V SUV

Price range

$27,490 – $42,290

Overall

Good: Brilliant ‘car’ like handling in a Compact SUV; Excellent Honda build quality; Interior is a family-friendly zone with lots of storage compartments; Rear seats that fold flat into the floor giving you plenty of cargo configurations.

Not so Good: More of a soft-roader than a true off-roader; Lack of low down torque in both petrol engines. Aging touch screen unit.

Design and Engineering

Good : The current shape Honda CR-V arrived Down Under in November 2012, featuring lower and shorter proportions than before.

The fourth generation Honda CR-V takes on a more aggressive and aerodynamic stance with bolder sculpting of the bodylines and aggressive front end. The front bumper’s smooth and flowing lines are joined by a chrome threebar grille design.

At the rear the CR-V features the signature vertical rear brake lights with a modern touch, which have featured on every generation of CR-V.

The CR-V’s large flared wheel arches further emphasise the bold on-road presence.

Not so good : The Car Verdict team agree that the new exterior styling looks great, but what about the interior? Keep reading to find out…

Interior and Styling

Good : Interior styling looks smart and build quality is top notch. The dash-mounted gear lever creates more space for the front row; the front seats are very cushy & comfortable and the steering wheel adjusts for both tilt & reach. The lowered hip point ensures drivers can achieve a more ‘car’ like driving position rather than the high SUV seating position.

There’s plenty of storage compartments on offer for the entire family; the rear seats offer adequate leg room for three adults and the seats can slide, flip and fold flat into the floor to create a very large flat cargo carrying area.

Boot space measures 556 litres with the rear seats in the upright position, and with the 60:40 split rear seats folded down total storage is increased to 1120 litres.

Not so good : Some of the interior plastics used feel hard and are a step behind some of the competitors. The indash touch screen is beginning to date.

Performance

Good : The Honda CR-V comes equipped with the choice of two petrol engines driving two or all-four wheels depending on variant.

Featured in the VTi and VTi Nav 2WD the 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder produces 114kW of power at 6500rpm and 190Nm of torque at 4300rpm when matched to a 6-speed manaul (VTi) or 5-speed automatic transmission (VTi Nav).

VTi, VTi-L and VTi-S 4WD models come equipped with a 2.4-litre in-line four-cylinder that produces 140kW of power at 7000rpm and 222Nm of torque at 4400rpm when matched to a 5-speed automatic transmission.

Both engines like to rev and deliver power in a smooth and linear fashion. The 5-speed automatic handles power delivery quite well and finds the right gear to suits most occasions.

In and around the city all Honda CR-V models are very zippy and the car like handling make it a joy to drive.

Not so good: Like the previous model the CR-V weighs more than Honda’s Euro Accord Medium Sedan and yet has less torque? The lack of low down torque is noticeable when trying to overtake or tackling a hill with a full load of passengers.

Ride and Handling

Good : The Honda CR-V drives more like a car than a bulky 4WD SUV. The handling stays relatively composed over the majority of our unique Aussie road surfaces.

Honda has revised the MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension systems with an increase in damper volume and also increased body rigidity.

The fourth generation CR-V features a Motion Adaptive Electric Power Steering system (MA-EPS), which has been refined to combine easy manoeuvrability with increased feedback and response at higher speeds.

The Car Verdict team all agreed that the Honda CR-V is one of the best handling compact SUV’s currently on the market. If you’re looking at owning a compact SUV we definitely recommend you take the CR-V for a test spin.

Not so good : The turning circle is quite large and the ride is on the firm side. The CR-V is more of a city dweller than a bush basher.

Buying and Owning

Good : Honda’s CR-V achieves a 5-Star ANCAP safety rating, with safety features including Vehicle Stability Assist and traction control, three-point seat belts for all seats, front seatbelt pretensioners, whiplash-reducing front seats with active head restraints, adjustable rear head-restraints, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, plus front, side and curtain airbags. There is also a 3 years / 100,000 km Warranty that is backed by Honda’s brilliant build, fit and finish.

Not so good : Because of the high revving nature of the petrol engines, fuel economy is only average when compared to turbo charged diesel competitors.

Honda CR-Z Sport Coupe

Price range

$34,990 – $40,790

Overall

Good: Sharp exterior styling; Handling; Manual gearbox; Instant torque.

Not so Good: Interior styling; Price; Rear seat room/access; Rearward visibility.

Design and Engineering

Good : Honda released their second Hybrid vehicle in Australia in November 2011. The sleek and stylish CR-Z evokes memories of the once iconic styling of the 1980’s CR-X.

The new CR-Z hybrid also features a world first in that it offers a 6-speed manual transmission matched to a hybrid drivetrain. Pretty cool huh?

Not so good : We think the exterior of the CR-Z is fantastic. Minor improvements would be a lower ride height and some bigger and more aggressive alloys to fill the wheel arches.

Interior and Styling

Good : The cabin has been designed with a driver focus in mind, there is a cockpit theme that clusters critical controls close to the driver, and the instrument panel has an eye-catching and hi-tech 3D gauge design.

The interior layout has the flexibility to extend usability, with rear seats designed to fold easily and quickly to increase cargo space quite substantially for a sports coupe.

Not so good : The CR-Z’s interior just misses the mark, when you take into consideration the sleek and stylish exterior design.

The interior is dominated by large slabs of black material; there are also shiny silver highlights that just don’t seem to gel with the overall aesthetic of the interior. However, the futuristic instrument cluster does add some redeeming value.

Performance

Good : The CR-Z comes with the choice of two grades – Sport and Luxury. The CR-Z Sport pairs a 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine and Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, for a combined power figure of 91kW with 174Nm when mated to the 6-speed manual. Meanwhile, the CR-Z Luxury pairs a 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine and Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system, for a combined power figure of 91kW and 167Nm when mated to the CVT.

Not so good : The Honda CR-Z isn’t a true hybrid when you take into consideration fuel consumption figures. However, it is one of the most enjoyable hybrids that you will ever drive.

Ride and Handling

Good : Forget everything that you know or think about hybrids, because this one breaks the mould. The Honda CR-Z is definitely set-up on the stiffer side of the suspension scale, but it is comfortable enough to live with on a daily basis. The Honda CR-Z performs well on winding country roads; the steering is solid and direct offering the driver plenty of feedback.

Not so good : Some drivers might not like the stiff suspension setup and would prefer something a little more on the comfortable side. But where would the fun be in that? This thing is built to be driven fast around corners.

Buying and Owning

Good : The Honda CR-Z is for the environmentally conscious driver that wants something fun to drive but doesn’t want to hurt the environment.

Not so good : There are only two models to choose from in the CR-Z range. The Luxury model doesn’t have the option for the smooth and quick shifting manual transmission.

Honda Insight Hatchback

Price range

$26,990 – $30,490

Overall

Good: The Insight looks futuristic, is comfortable, spacious and encourages economical driving to complement the impressive real-world fuel economy. It is a safe car.

Not so Good: The interior is smaller than many similar priced economical small cars and it suffers from a fidgety ride over rough surfaces. The Insight is neither that quick, nor that cheap.

Design and Engineering

Good : The second generation Insight arrived in Australia in December 2010; roughly seven years after the super niche first generation left our shores. The distinctive teardrop styling features an impressively slippery .28Cd drag coefficient. It actually looks attractive in an aero kind of way, and very different to the Jazz hatch and City sedan, though all three share the same light car platform.

As the looks suggest, the Insight is a hybrid model with the petrol and electric motor working together to drive the car and charge the battery.

Not so good : Some of us wish it had a stronger stance as the wheels don’t exactly jump out of the bodywork, but yes, this would be a disadvantage to the drag coefficient.

Unlike the competing Toyota Prius, which has two separate motors that can work independently of each other, the Honda is more of a mild hybrid. This equates to very low rather than amazingly low fuel economy.

Rear drum brakes are old school technology in such a technology focused vehicle, but they still do the job for a car of this size.

Interior and Styling

Good : The dash styling is funky and futuristic, but still with comfortable and supportive seats. Head and legroom up front and plenty of rear legroom as well make the Honda Insight a spacious car with first rate vision.

The large front door pockets with bottle holders are convenient and the 60:40 split/folding rear seatbacks extend the versatility of the wide but shallow boot, which is a decent 400 odd litres, with a temporary spare wheel sitting under the floor and sharing space with the batteries. The rear hatch opens nice and high.

Not so good : There are lots of hard plastics on the dash that don’t feel at all special to touch and the floor carpets look cheap, but then it is based off the Honda light car platform. The rear bench seat delivers little support and the middle position is not remotely adult friendly.

Rear visibility is limited when it rains as the lower section of the rear window fast gets dirty and keyless entry would benefit such a future laden car over the conventional ignition key. Although it is good on space, the boot really is just too shallow.

Performance

Good : The Insight combines a petrol engine (a naturally aspirated 1.3-litre four cylinder motor) with an electric motor to produce 72kW of power and 167Nm of torque.

With a speedometer that changes colour depending on how gentle you are with the accelerator pedal, the Insight is the kind of car you want to drive economically – deep blue when fuel slurping changes to a bright green when fuel sipping, not that the Insight can really drink fuel at a fast rate. Furthermore, the ECO button on the dash limits engine oomph and increases the regenerative braking which provides charge to the cars’ power providing batteries. Finally, the little four cylinder petrol engine can also deactivate its cylinders to run as frugally as possible.

The electric motor ensures that the Insight feels quicker than your typical 1.3-litre powered vehicle. The performance should be more than adequate for most city based drivers.

Somehow the Insight encourages you to drive economically, and it’s strangely enjoyable to do so.

Not so good : Like the Toyota Prius, the Insight is noisy at high revs and tends to deliver more noise than acceleration when flooring the throttle. The CVT Gearbox is passable in this kind of car. The Insight needs more oomph.

Ride and Handling

Good : Ride is slightly firm, not unlike a sports car and this makes for a surprisingly decent car to drive.

The electric steering is well weighted, with more accuracy and positive road feedback than a number of competitors (Prius included). It’s light but offers enough feel for cornering adjustment.

The luxury grade wears 16 inch wheels and 185mm wide tyres, wider than the entry level grade which sits on 15 inch wheels and 175mm wide tyres, so for maximum handling grip the former is the pick of the two.

Not so good : Ride quality is overly firm on poor road surfaces, and whilst the light bodyweight contributes to impressive fuel economy, you can feel the effect of heavy side winds more than with most similar priced competitors.

Buying and Owning

Good : The Insight features high levels of standard equipment and ticks the safety box with six airbags, stability control, ABS brakes and EBD as standard.

The official combined fuel economy is a low 4.6 litres per 100kms. On one 35km trip averaging 55km/h (highway and urban driving) we averaged a remarkable 3.8 litres per 100kms and that’s driving at the same speed as other road users! Urban fuel economy is the Insight’s key strength – especially as it features clever stop-start technology.

The Insight is a good deal roomier than a number of far smaller superminis, and the Insight’s nickel-metal hydride battery pack is warranted for eight years/unlimited kms and can be replaced for under $2,000. Most estimates predict a battery lifespan of fifteen years.

Not so good : Fuel economy can’t match the larger, more expensive Toyota Prius. It also faces tough competition against frugal turbo diesels such as the Volkswagen Golf or even the Hyundai i30.

In ECO mode the excellent stop-start technology saves fuel by turning off the petrol engine at the lights but this can also mean the air-conditioning turns off as well which doesn’t sound like fun on a 40 degree day.

Honda Jazz Hatchback

Price range

$14,990 – $22,990

Good: Excellent levels of interior space & economical to run – a very good city car. Eerily quiet cabin in the Hybrid model.

Not so Good: Engine performance is only satisfactory considering the price of the car.

Design and Engineering

Good : Arriving Down Under in September 2008 and receiving a facelift in April 2011 the second generation Honda Jazz improves on the original design of the first generation model in a number of ways. The front quarter windows are now significantly larger, front and rear visibility has increased thanks to slimmer pillars and a longer wheelbase creates even more interior space and also makes it easier to park.

The facelift Jazz receives LED tail lights, sporty mesh-style grille and two new colours – Fresh Lime and Polished Metal.

While the VTi and VTi-S share new sporty front and rear bumpers, side skirts, fog lights and a gunmetal grey grille, the VTi-S adds a tailgate spoiler and new 16-inch alloys.

Honda introduced its super fuel efficient Jazz Hybrid in February 2013, the hybrid model’s distinguishing features include chrome blue headlight surrounds, clear rear LED tail lights, chrome blue front grille, a chrome tailgate garnish and special hybrid badging.

Not so good : A design that provides class-leading interior space and visibility ensures that it can’t be the sexiest or sleekest Supermini however; the facelift does give the Jazz a sharper look.

Interior and Styling

Good : The facelift Jazz also receives a number of changes on the inside – first up is a new look satin finish centre dash, a new multi-function display unit and Bluetooth and USB connectivity now come standard across the model range.

Offering both tilt and reach steering wheel adjustment, we found this impressive for a SUPERMINI; comfortable front seats; modern styling with 10 drink holders and a dual glovebox design. The ‘magic’ rear seats can slide ‘forward and down’ into the floor leaving a huge cargo capacity allowing the Jazz to swallow a mountain bike quite easily, it could even be used when moving house (more than one trip may be required, though).

Inside, the Honda Jazz Hybrid features a few tweaks that set it apart from the rest of the range. Sitting behind the steering wheel is a set of tachometers that are unique to the Hybrid, unlike other models the Hybrid’s tachometers glow different colours depending on how you drive the car, there’s also a ‘Charge & Assist’ bar the tells drivers when the electric motor is assisting the petrol engine.

Not so good : There are cheap & hard plastic mouldings around the interior, however, at this price you can’t really complain too much.

Performance

Good : The Honda Jazz comes with the choice of three engines a 1.3-litre naturally aspirated petrol, a 1.5-litre petrol and a 1.3 litre engine coupled with Honda’s electric motor IMA system.

The 1.3-litre i-VTEC engine produces 73kW of power and 127Nm of torque when matched to a 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic (optional).

Sitting under the bonnet of the Honda Jazz Hybrid is a 1.3 litre i-VTEC engine mated to a IMA system and Variable Cylinder Management. This combination delivers 72kW of power and 167Nm of torque from as low as 1,000-1,700pm. For better fuel economy the Jazz Hybrid is matched to a Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) with Grade logic Control.

Last but not least the 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine produces 88kW of power and 145Nm of torque when matched to a 5-speed automatic as standard.

Both manual and automatic transmissions are smooth shifters; the 1.3-litre engine offers excellent fuel economy for a petrol engine.

The Honda Jazz Hybrid has great low down torque that helps when taking off at the lights or tackling a steep hill with a car load of people.

Not so good : Entry level 1.3-litre lacks the get-up-and-go of larger 1.5-litre engines, especially with a few people on board; not quite as sporty when compared to its competitors.

Ride and Handling

Good : The Honda Jazz has an excellent turning circle which is very helpful when parking. It is also very good driving down city lanes as the Jazz is very nimble. The steering is far better than the first gen model, the wider track and improved front suspension has increased cornering and overall stability.

Surprisingly enough, the Honda Jazz Hybrid appears to be unphased by the added weight of the electric motor and handles much the same as its unassisted brothers.

Not so good : Still not quite as good in terms of steering feel and the engagement as some of the class-leading cars; handling still suffers over rough roads with the car becoming a tad too bouncy (better suited to an urban environment).

Buying and Owning

Good : High-level features such as keyless entry, power windows all ’round, Bluetooth and USB connectivity. Safety features include front, side and curtain airbags, seatbelt reminders, ABS with Brake Assist and Vehicle Stability Assist all come standard. So expect good resale when it finally comes to sell or trade-in.

Most importantly all Honda Jazz models receive a 5 Star ANCAP safety rating.

Not so good : The Honda Jazz isn’t the best looking SUPERMINI on the market and the interior looks a little on cheap side but it does have a lot to offer.

Honda Legend Sedan

Price range

$76,990 – $76,990

Overall

Good: High levels of refinement; Smooth engine; High tech all-wheel drive system = impressive handling capabilities.

Not so Good: Average fuel economy; Questionable value for money (compared to Honda’s impressive and far cheaper Accord); Re-sale rating.

Design and Engineering

Good : The current generation Legend hit Australian shores in August 2006 and received a mid-life facelift in September 2008 that saw the old 3.5-litre petrol V6 engine replaced by a new 3.7-litre that brings along a slight jump in power (up 9kW) and torque (up 19Nm). On the styling front the newly designed seven-spoke 18- inch alloys with relatively low profile tyres (245/45’s) help fill out the wheel arches.

Not so good : A conservative design with large front and rear overhangs, and lines that ensures the Legend blends in rather than stands out in traffic. The mid-life facelift brings a bolder front grille, however the styling of the ‘new’ front bumper and lower cooling air intakes gives the Legend a grim look. A kerb weight of 1,865kg is on the heavy side for a vehicle of this size; however in Honda’s defence the standard features list is extensive, items like 8-way powered seats and extensive sound deadening material are heavy.

Interior and Styling

Good : High quality fit and finish relate to an impressively quiet cabin this is also thanks to extensive use of sound deadening materials. The ‘acoustic windscreen’ and the fancy noise-cancelling acoustic system also ensure that the cabin is whisper quiet.

The amazingly comfortable heated 10-way power adjustable front seats offer up a good level of support for both driver and passenger. The steering wheel is electronically adjustable for both reach and tilt. The 10-speaker BOSE sound system offers up crisp and clear sound.

Not so good : The rear bench seat doesn’t sit three adults as comfortably as one would imagine.

Performance

Good : The 3.7-litre petrol V6 offers an impressive 226kW of power and 370Nm of torque. The V6 is an impressively smooth unit that ensures a carefree driving experience; this is also thanks in part to the 5-speed automatic transmission that shifts seamlessly.

Not so good : Although the V6 produces 226kW the vehicle weighs in at almost 1,900kg which does dampen performance. The five-speed sequential SportShift transmission with sports mode and steering wheel-mounted paddle-shift controls is good, however the competition now offer six, seven or even eight speed Automatic gearboxes. Overall fuel consumption is less than impressive for a V6.

Ride and Handling

Good : The Legend’s handling is impressive for such a large and luxurious car. High levels of grip and a nicely balanced chassis ensures that spirited driving over a twisting road is definitely not out of the question. Much of the credit should go to the ‘Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system, which in demanding cornering situations boosts torque delivery to the outside rear wheel, improving handling and sure-footed feedback to the driver. The larger 18-inch tyres with low profile side walls also help.

Not so good : The Honda Legends suspension is on the soft side and doesn’t match the impressive SH-AWD system’s handling capabilities. The electric power steering is overly light in feel for driving enthusiasts.

Buying and Owning

Good : The Honda Legend ticks the mandatory safety box with standard Anti-lock brakes, Electronic Stability Control and six airbags. Competing offerings from German luxury brands cost significantly more for the same level of performance and struggle to match the Legend’s high level of standard features.

Not so good : Misses out on Bluetooth and the temporary ‘space saver’ spare wheel is less attractive when undertaking an interstate holiday. Whilst the official fuel economy has dropped from 11.8L/100km to 11.3L/100km (3.5-litre to the current 3.7-litre) in the real world it is disappointingly high (especially against the competition).