Honda JDM Odyssey pure minivan excitement

October 20th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Honda JDM Odyssey fq

Minivans are traditionally unexciting and bland people movers, the design team at Honda don’t believe that for a second. They have already created the Honda JDM Odyssey, which is known as one of the best handling minivans in Japan, and now for 2009 they are going even further. A new sleeker exterior will sit over a reworked chassis sporting double wishbones at all four corners, optional all-wheel-drive and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder i-VTEC powerplant putting out 171 hp in standard form and 203 hp in the range-topping Absolute model.

The interior comes with all manner of high tech tidbits including a sci-fi inspired dash and a new multi-positioned camera system that allows drivers to get a bird’s eye view of the vehicle. The seating is smart and can be arranged in a multitude of layouts including folding flat into a bed. Good times for new Odyssey owners everywhere.

Honda Legend launched in NZ

October 10th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Honda Legend fq

The newly launched 2009 Honda Legend has recently been launched here in NZ, but what can we expect from the latest version of this well known luxury model.

With a larger 3.7 litre V6 engine the 2009 Honda Legend delivers more power and more torque than the previous model. The 2009 Legend has undergone a redesign with the inclusion of new lights, bonnet, grille, front wings, boot lid, bumpers and the adoption of standard 18″ alloy wheels. Under the restyled bonnet the much bigger 3.7 litre engine provides 226kW of power at 6,300pm, up from 217kW at 6,200rpm, and 370Nm of torque at 5000rpm, up from 351Nm.

The Legend comes standard with satellite navigation and built in reversing camera, front seats feature 10-way power adjustability and the steering wheel has been redesigned for greater comfort. The 10-speaker Bose Sound System has been improved with the addition of a USB socket to enable the easy connection and control of an iPod or other MP3 device.

Driving performance is enhanced by the inclusion of Honda’s Super Handling-All Wheel Drive system (SH-AWD) that distributes torque between the front and rear wheels, up to 70 percent either way. When powered through a corner the Legend can send 100 percent of the rear torque to the outside rear wheel, to increase the turning precision and help steer the vehicle through the corner.

The Legend’s 5-speed automatic transmission now has wheel mounted paddle shifters to offer the driver more control. Live gear selection is available all the time in D-mode, reverting back to automatic selection after a short period of relaxed driving, while S-mode offers full manual operation.

The combined effects of the improved transmission and increase in torque mean that the new Honda Legend can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.1 seconds, 0.2 seconds quicker than previously. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions have also improved over the previous model, despite the increased acceleration performance.

The ergonomic placement of trip computer, audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel is designed to  minimise distraction. The main controls for the audio and air conditioning are available on the centre console and are enhanced through the centre control panel’s two-way selector. Functions available include trip computer, GPS positioning with compass, calendar with memo function, calculator and conversions. Trip details are also available on the dash display.

The Legend comes with dual stage, dual threshold front airbags, side airbags with occupant position detection system, side curtain airbags and front seat active head rests. Front seat pre-tensioners are present to take up the slack whilst driving and also pyrotechnic pre-tensioners in an accident. ABS, Electronic Brake Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist are also standard as is VSA to assist in avoiding any accident.

The 2009 Honda Legend is priced at $93,000 (plus on road costs) The Legend is available in Alberta White, Obsidian, Gunmetal, Tuscan Gold, Silver Jade, Royal Ruby Red, Super Platinum Silver and Opulent Blue.

Honda develops an even safer airbag

September 23rd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Honda has developed an even safer airbag – the world’s first driver-side i-SRS airbag system – that continuously stages the volume of airbag-inflating gas, thereby combining enhanced occupant protection with reduced occupant impact. Honda plans to implement the new continuously staged inflation i-SRS airbag system on the driver’s side of the Life minicar to be released in Japan in November 2008.

A Honda innovation, the new i-SRS airbag system features a spiral-shaped seam structure and gas release control valve to control airbag deployment and pressure for faster deployment, reduced occupant impact and a longer period of inflation and occupant protection. As a result, the new system accommodates a broad range of occupant positions and potential collision situations.

Honda first began fundamental airbag research in 1971, and in 1987 became the first to introduce a driver-side SRS airbag system in an automobile manufactured in Japan. In 1990, Honda was the first automaker to introduce a passenger-side SRS airbag system in a vehicle manufactured in Japan. In 1998, Honda introduced the world’s first inflator with a two-stage deployment system, as well as an i-side airbag system with an occupant position detection sensor. Continuing its tradition of innovation, Honda continues to be a world leader in researching, developing and introducing new automobile safety technologies.

Prius fighter: Honda shows its new Insight

September 5th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham


Honda will reveal a concept version of its new small hybrid vehicle, to be named Insight, at the 2008 Paris International Auto Show, October 2. The new Insight Concept shares styling cues with the Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle and will provide an early look at the highly-anticipated five-passenger hybrid vehicle.

We don’t have a release date for New Zealand, but it will be on sale in the U.S. next spring most probably significantly below the price of current hybrids like the Toyota Prius.

The Insight Concept defines a new stage in the evolution of hybrid technology by utilising a more cost-efficient version of Honda’s Integrated Motor Assistâ„¢ (IMAâ„¢) hybrid technology. Evoking the innovative styling cues first seen in the FCX Clarity, the Insight Concept is designed with a low centre of gravity and a generous five-passenger cabin. Aerodynamic design assists its fuel efficiency, and by all accounts it should be reasonably roomy and practical with five doors, a hatchback and a folding rear seat.

Numerous technologies, including a function to assist customers in achieving more fuel efficient driving habits, will be applied to achieve a further improvement in real world fuel efficiency. Along with the Civic Hybrid, the new vehicle will be produced at an expanded hybrid vehicle production line at the Suzuka factory in Japan.

The Insight is expected to have annual global sales of 200,000 units per year – approximately 100,000 in North America. Following the launch of the new Insight, Honda also plans to introduce another unique sporty hybrid vehicle based on the CR-Z, first shown at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. All together, Honda’s global sales of hybrids should increase to approximately 500,000 units a year, or more than 10 percent of its total worldwide annual automobile sales.

The original Honda Insight was introduced in December 1999 as America’s first gas-electric hybrid car. The first vehicle to break the 70-mpg (3.36l/100km) fuel economy barrier, Insight was designed from the ground up to demonstrate the ultimate potential for fuel-economy in a two-seater subcompact automobile.

A leader in the development of cleaner, more fuel-efficient mobility products, Honda introduced the first low-emission gasoline vehicles; America’s first gas-electric hybrid car and the world’s first EPA-certified hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, the FCX. In 2007, Honda was named “greenest automaker” by the Union of Concerned Scientists for the fourth straight time.

Revised Honda Civic for 2009

August 22nd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham


Honda has unveiled a slightly facelifted Civic for 2009 with enhancements inside and out including new exterior styling, colours and features like Bluetooth, HandsFreeLink® and a USB Audio Interface 1. An exclusively-equipped Civic LX-S Sedan debuts with alloy wheels and sportier interior styling. A new Civic DX Value Package (DX-VP) Sedan builds on the Civic DX Sedan’s standard features by adding air conditioning and an audio system.

All 2009 Civic sedan and coupe models boast redesigned exterior styling features, including a new front bumper cover and grille design and new headlight and taillight color combinations, featuring clear turn indicator lenses with amber bulbs. New alloy wheel designs are introduced on the Civic EX, Civic EX-L and Civic Si models, along with the addition of fog lamps for the Civic Si model.

Interior enhancements come by way of technology-friendly additions. Bluetooth, HandsFreeLink is added to Navigation-equipped models and a USB Audio Interface added to Civic EX, EX-L, Hybrid and Si models. The Civic Hybrid gains the option of leather-trimmed seating surfaces with heated front seats and side mirrors. Additionally, new cloth materials and patterns on seats, door linings and armrests (when equipped) have been updated to further enhance the interior’s look and feel.

Jamie Lee Curtis has a moment of Honda Clarity

August 21st, 2008 by Darren Cottingham


The first Honda FCX Clarity customers have taken delivery of their zero emission cars in California. Up to 200 customers will begin leasing the fuel cell vehicles in the United States and Japan over the next three years.

Film director Ron Yerxa was the first customer to get the keys to an FCX Clarity, followed by actress Jamie Lee Curtis and her husband, Christopher Guest.

“I really wasn’t expecting it to be so luxurious,” said Curtis. “I love the interior layout, design and access to controls. It is user friendly and very modern.”

The FCX Clarity is Honda’s next generation, hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle. Driven by an electric motor that runs on electricity generated by a fuel cell, the car’s only emissions are heat and water. Its fuel efficiency is three times that of a modern petrol engine.

New Honda Jazz release scheduled for late 2008

July 30th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham


Honda will follow-up one of the most successful models in supermini history when its all-new Jazz goes on sale this Spring.

By enhancing its strongest qualities, Honda engineers have taken the innovative design and versatility of the current Jazz to the next stage. Greater flexibility, more interior space and lively, but economical engines raise the bar even further in a class that’s struggled to match the Jazz for customer satisfaction and reliability.

And the famous Honda Magic Seats are back — but now they dive down in one action, making carrying large loads even easier. Their versatility is equalled by a new Double-Trunk boot feature in the luggage bay that can be configured in four ways to accommodate different-sized loads. Total luggage space in 1.4 models (with Double Trunk) now measures 399 litres (VDA) — greater than some MPVs and bettering all in the B-sector.

Two new, low emission petrol engines are designed to appeal to customers who might be downsizing, as well as those looking to achieve fuel economy comparable to diesel models. Adopting Honda’s i-VTEC variable valve timing technology, the 90PS 1.2-litre and 100PS 1.4-litre engines deliver lively performance with exceptional economy.

The 1.2-litre engine achieves an exceptional 5.1L/100km (combined), while CO2 emissions are also improved, at 120g/km. It’s a similar story with the new 1.4-litre engine. Compared to the previous i-DSI unit which produced 83 PS and 119Nm, power is up to 100PS and torque is 127Nm with fuel economy from 5.2L/100km (combined) for the manual model. CO2 exhaust emissions are as low as 123g/km.

There’s also the option of Honda’s next-generation 6-speed i-SHIFT automated manual transmission on the 1.4-litre engine — a first in this class. The unit is a development of the system first fitted to the Civic, with improvements made including; reduced gear change times, smoother shifts and more intelligent automatic mode shift logic.

The new SIL (Shift Indicator Light) fitted to manual models, similar to that found on the new Accord, provides a visual prompt of the best gear shift points to maximise economy.

Ride comfort has been much improved through a number of suspension revisions, which contribute to the ‘big car feel’ of the new Jazz. Meanwhile, a longer wheelbase (by 50mm) and wider front track (by 35mm) give the car greater agility. Honda’s stability assist, VSA, is now available across the range.

Stopping ability has been increased with larger brake front callipers, and the brake pedal has been tweaked to improve feel. Front ventilated discs and rear discs are matched with ABS, EBD and Brake Assist.

The overall height of Jazz remains the same (1,525mm) but the length of the car has increased slightly by 55mm (to 3,900mm) and it is also slightly wider, by 20mm (to 1,695mm).

Getting in and out is now much easier, thanks to wider-opening rear doors which open in three steps — just like their front counterparts — for added convenience in tight parking spots.

Once inside, the cabin is now even more spacious for driver and passengers, with greater headroom and an improved driving position.

The slightly increased exterior length and width have helped improve passenger space, as has the ‘pushing forward’ of the windscreen. Rear seat passengers now have 37mm greater kneeroom, while the distance between front and rear passengers is up by 30mm. The slightly wider body also means shoulder room increases by 44mm in the front and 43mm in the rear.

Visibility gets a considerable boost, too. Reduced width A-pillars, a larger windscreen and quarter windows three times the size of those in the previous model make for more relaxed driving, while retractable rear headrests ensure the view out of the rear window is now totally unobscured.

Increasing the feeling of spaciousness and freedom, EX models are equipped with a panorama roof that extends over the rear seats for an expansive sky view. Heat absorbing glass and a power sun shade ensure a comfortable cabin environment.

Elsewhere, high quality materials, stylish design and tasteful colours give the cabin an upmarket feel. More comfortable front seats have been fitted, along with a height adjustable driver’s seat and a steering wheel that’s adjustable for reach and rake on 1.4 models.

A single CD/radio is integrated into the fascia, offering MP3/WMA playback and speed-dependent volume adjustment. In 1.4 EX models, a USB adapter is located in the centre console storage box, which enables fifth generation iPods and a variety of other portable music devices to be played via the Jazz’s audio system.

The new Jazz benefits from Honda’s ACE body structure, a concept that is being progressively rolled out across the Honda range. In particular a front polygonal main frame helps to prevent misalignment between vehicles of different sizes and construction and multiple energy absorbing pathways disperse impact energy to prevent cabin deformation.

Dual front and side airbags are standard on all models, as are full length side curtain airbags and three-point seatbelts in all five seating positions (those in the front have dual-stage pretensioners). The front passenger airbag can also be deactivated to allow a rear facing child seat to be fitted to the front seat and for the first time Jazz is equipped with seatbelt reminders for both the front and rear seats. Front seats are also fitted with active headrests to minimise the potential for whiplash injuries.

Honda Accord VS V6 Mugen 2008 Review

July 27th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham


If, like me, you purchased your first car in the early or mid-1990s then there’s a good chance you will have lusted over the Japanese rockets that started coming into New Zealand cheap at around that time. Mazda Familia GTR and RX-7, Nissan Skyline and Silvia, Subaru Impreza and Legacy, and Mitsubishi Evo satisfied the rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive market.

If you were a fan of front-wheel drive and VTEC, though, it was the Integra Type R, the CRX and the Civic Type R that would have caught your attention. Many of these arrived in New Zealand with a Mugen sticker somewhere on the flank, or hidden on a piece of body kit.

What we have here is the grownup’s version of those iconic cars. With an ostentatious body kit — some of it is carbon fibre — this Accord V6 Mugen allows people of my generation who now hold corporate jobs to have a sensible, businesslike car while recapturing some of that mid-90s, ‘clear taillight’ flavour.

It sports 18-inch wheels, but going up an inch in size would fill the arches better because the body kit gives the car a very inflated presence near the ground, with its sculpted lip and angular rear skirt that houses the quad tailpipes.

A car like this shouldn’t be all show and no go, so there’s a 3.5-litre i-VTEC V6 engine on tap. Does the i-VTEC scream like a real VTEC should? Those expecting a VTEC howl and the ability to wrap it around to an 8000rpm redline will be disappointed — the Accord tops out at around 6800rpm, and judicious use of your right foot liberates a smooth V6 roar.

The engine has variable cylinder management and there’s a small green Eco notification in the instrumentation cluster to encourage you to use it by reminding you when you’re being a lead foot. For moderate cruising, deceleration and low engine loads just three cylinders operate, giving an effective engine capacity of 1.75l. Under mild-to-moderate acceleration, and mild gradients four of the cylinders work (two from each bank.) Only when you bury the throttle pedal into the carpet and require the all of the urge of the engine will it fire up the other two cylinders.

What this means is a fuel consumption figure more like that of a 2.4-litre four cylinder (like, for example, Honda’s CRV). At just 10l/100km, it saves approximately 17 per cent over the previous version.

The auto gearbox has a sport mode with paddles behind the steering wheel. 202kW and 339Nm is released from the six cylinders and sweeps you towards 100kph in an almost seamless seven-second surge of acceleration. Using the paddle shifters the enthusiastic driver can ensure the Accord is in the correct gear for exiting a corner, even while in D-mode. Move the gear lever to S-mode and it’s the paddles all the way.

Gear Logic is always assessing the conditions and attempts to match gears to the requirements of gradient, cornering and acceleration — for example, it will hold a lower gear while coasting downhill, and will attempt to anticipate when you need acceleration out of a corner. While this type of system will never be absolutely perfect, it’s better than nothing at all, and with the backup of the paddles, it makes for a more dynamic drive.

However, what slightly spoils the drive is the steering feel. The steering is so light it actually makes driving on rough roads harder — it means you have to have more control over your arms because slight bumps on the road can inadvertently cause you to steer. It is so light that it feels like the tyres have three times too much pressure in them and that you’re driving on wet grass.

Inside the Accord is comfortable, but this base model has velour seat fabric — best get the next model up as I would imagine that come trade-in time that the leather would be more desirable.

As well as the less-than-desirable fabric, there are no reversing sensors, but the rest of the interior is more than adequate. There’s a sizeable glovebox, a large central binnacle with removable tray, and other places to store items. Instrumentation is easy to read, and there’s a large screen in the centre of the dash that displays additional setup parameters and functions (though not that many additional functions). It’s a long car and that means lots of legroom for rear seat passengers.

All passengers can be immersed in music assisted by the subwoofer that gives a nice kick to the beat (in case you want to relive some of those ‘techno’ moments).

The boot floor isn’t flat — it tapers away in a channel towards the lockable ski hatch — stuff rolls down here and it’s the furthest away from the boot aperture. Short people would find it hard to reach far enough in without actually climbing into the boot.

It’s an executive sports car that’s missing some important features. There are some significant omissions in the spec department in VS trim therefore I would expect most purchasers would plump for the leather seats, xenon headlights and rain-sensing wipers that come with the VL and VN models for $57,000 or $60,000 respectively.

It’s the technology that’s more impressive, though, and perhaps that’s worth the money. With 15 years of automotive experience since my first hot Japanese car (a Subaru Legacy RS-RA), I can now look back with fond memories while I look to the future and all the engine technology that will gradually filter down to other models, with Honda leading the way.

Price: from $52,500

What we like

  • Nice engine tone
    Smooth and sleek

What we don’t like

  • Steering is far too light
  • Missing critical pieces of kit for a car at this price point (trip computer, leather seats), so with all that hidden engine technology, it’s could be perceived as a bit pricey

Honda Accord VS V6 Mugen Specifications

Engine 3.5-litre 24-valve SOHC i-VTEC VCM
Maximum Power 202kW @ 6200rpm
Maximum Torque 340Nm @ 5000rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic transmission with Gear Logic Control
Front Suspension Double wishbone with stabiliser bar
Rear Suspension Multi-link with stabiliser bar
Wheels 17″ x 7.5″ 7-spoke alloy wheels
(For VS, VS Sport, VL, VL Sport, VN and VN Sport)

18″ x 7.0″ 7-spoke alloy wheels
(For VS Mugen, VL Mugen and VN Mugen)

Full size spare alloy wheel under floor.

Tyres 225/50 R17 (for 17″)
225/45 R18 (for 18″)
Vehicle Stability System Electronic Stability Control (VSA) incorporating Traction Control
Braking System ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), EBA (Emergency Brake Assist) and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution)
Front-ventilated discs 300mm. Rear solid discs 282mm
Overall Length (mm) 4945
Overall Width (mm) 1845
Overall Height (mm) 1475
Wheelbase (mm) 2800
Track – Front/Rear (mm) 1580/1580
Ground Clearance (mm) 146
Front head room (mm – 991 with sunroof) 1051
Front leg room (mm) 1079
Front shoulder room (mm) 1479
Front hip room (mm) 1438
Rear head room (mm) 978
Rear leg room (mm) 944
Rear shoulder room (mm) 1432
Rear hip room (mm) 1379
Interior width (mm) 1542
Kerb Weight
(kg-VS/VL and VN)
Seating Capacity 5
Boot Capacity (VDA litres) 450
Turning Circle (metres) 11.5
Maximum warrantable towing weight (kg) 1500
Tank Capacity (litres) 70 litre
Recommended Fuel 91 Octane fuel
Emissions Control LEV II (Low Emission Vehicle) emissions control and Euro IV international standards
ADR 81/01 Combined Consumption 10.0 L/100kms
Optimal NZ drive test Auckland-Taupo-Auckland 7.5 L/100kms
Fuel Saver Infomation
Make and Model: Honda Accord V6 / V6L / V6LN
Star Rating: 3½ stars out of 6

Words and photos Darren Cottingham