By the time you read this, the second-generation Fit will be here. Well, not here, here, but "here" meaning Japan. The redesign holds true to Honda's long-time approach: "man maximum, machine minimum," an approach that Honda's placing its bet on to be enough to not only make first-generation Fit aficionados happy but to also make others look to get behind the wheel of something of the burgeoning B-segment variety.
Body and styling changes aren't radical, but they're there. A longer wheelbase, wider stance and front pillars pushed forward allow for increased interior room. Sure the new Fit's only 55mm longer with a 50mm longer wheelbase, but extra wheelbase is extra wheelbase. The added length affords the interior enough room to add four-mode Ultra Seats that flip around more ways than you'd probably ever care to flip-increasing cargo space and even folding completely out of the way. Five new colors will also be offered, making for a total of 12 Fit flavors.
Two engines will be available for the JDM Fit, a 1.3L SOHC i-VTEC and, of course, the 1.5L SOHC i-VTEC offered in the RS model. Both are mileage-friendly powertrains but the 1.3-liter is nothing short of a fuel miser with its ability to stop half the engine's intake valves from moving at low engine speeds for more effective exhaust gas recirculation and improved mileage. Of course, all is at the sake of horsepower with the 1.3L measuring in at only 100 ps. The 1.5-liter betters the smaller powerplant by a good 20 ps due to more aggressive valve timing characteristics on the intake side and extra displacement. The continuously variable transmission is now offered as an option for those looking for further improvements in terms of fuel consumption and, according to Honda, better off the line performance. Still, we'd opt for the now standard all-wheel-drive drivetrain mated to the five-speed automatic gearbox. Now if we could only get this in a manual. Also of note are a revised electrical power steering system featuring a larger capacity and a more rigid steering box for improved feel. A vehicle stability system-a first for manual transmission-equipped cars of this class-will also be offered with RS models.
If you went to the L.A. Auto Show in November, then it's likely you didn't walk past Honda's next generation hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicle debut without notice. The FCX concept Honda's been touting for the last year was unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show, then again in L.A. and is likely to be available for purchase early next year-or at least something like it will be.
Honda's recent breakthroughs in fuel cell technology are beginning to open up levels of performance, interior space, comfort and styling that, until now, generally just didn't go hand in hand with fuel cell cars. Honda's FCX concept makes use of electricity stored within its lithium-ion battery pack to power the vehicle's electric motor. The FCX is equipped with a V Flow fuel cell platform consisting of a compact, high-efficiency fuel cell stack arranged in an innovative center-tunnel layout. This new fuel cell stack design is 20 percent smaller and 30 percent lighter than current stacks yet produces more power. It's not only better performing but it's also more energy efficient. The FCX concept's vertical-flow design lets gravity do its part in discharging byproducts of water, which further improves its efficiency. All of this results in more stable power production and higher output.
As of now, Honda is the first and only automaker with a fuel cell vehicle fully certified to meet all applicable federal government emissions and crash-safety standards. What's more, Honda is the first and only automaker to lease a fuel cell vehicle to an individual customer with a second customer added in 2007. Want to be the third?
Open Your Wallets; Mugen Si Price Set
Yeah, yeah, we know we've already given you the scoop on the '08 Civic Mugen Si sedan but now it's official; it's here and you can buy one. The MSRP is about what we previously speculated at $29,500. In case you aren't in the know, famed Honda tuner Mugen reworks the Si four door's foundation with the company's suspension for a 1.6-inch lower stance resulting in about 24 percent more stiffening when compared to the regular Si-a suspension setup dialed in exclusively by Mugen's wizards. Mugen goes on to add 18x7.5 forged rims, which happen to shed a good 27 percent worth of wheel weight from the sedan and are fitted inside BFGoodrich g-Force KDW 215/40ZR-18 rubber. Of course, Mugen also added a body kit with an adjustable rear wing and an exhaust system only they could devise. The full vehicle aero package adds front and rear spoilers, side skirts and a rear bumper diffuser. The sport-tuned exhaust system reduces backpressure downstream from the catalytic converter. The Civic Mugen Si sedan is available exclusively in Fiji Blue Pearl and includes front and rear Mugen emblems. Inside, a Mugen limited edition placard is located on the center console along with a Mugen aluminum shift knob. The powertrain remains untouched in terms of the Si versus the Mugen Si.
Of course, the name Mugen symbolizes Honda performance throughout the world. Mugen, under license by M-TEC Co., Ltd. of Japan, has been closely associated with Honda for more than three decades in the design and manufacturing of racing and premium aftermarket performance products.
The limited-production Civic Mugen Si sedan is even backed by the standard factory Honda warranty. Only 1,000 are going to roll out, so find one while you can.
Formula One Recap
Fuji: Honda Racing F1 team's Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello battled through atrocious weather conditions at Fuji Speedway, bringing their RA107s home in 10th and 11th positions. The rain-soaked 67-lap race promised much for Honda, with Button lining up in sixth position on the grid. But a coming together with Nick Heidfeld on lap 21 (where he lost his front wing), a throttle problem and a couple of Safety Car periods played against him and he was eventually forced to park his car on the final lap after Takuma Sato hit him, resulting in a damaged suspension.
Barrichello, meanwhile, started in 17th place, dropped back to 19th during early laps but battled his way through to 12th by the time of the second Safety Car period in lap 42. Barrichello later climbed to seventh but ultimately finished 10th. "It's hugely frustrating that we weren't able to take advantage of our strong qualifying performance in the race today," Button says. "The conditions and visibility were so bad that it felt really dangerous out there and it was really difficult to keep the tires warm enough to be effective."
China: Button re-confirmed his position as one of Formula One's greatest wet weather players when he brought his RA107 home in fifth position in the Chinese Grand Prix. He bettered Honda's championship tally by four crucial points and achieved the team's best performance of the season. Barrichello, meanwhile, endured a tough race, finishing 15th.
Conditions were hot, wet and humid for the start of the 56-lap race at the Shanghai International Circuit. Both Honda drivers began with wet tires and Button lost one position away from the line to end the opening lap in 11th place. He spent the next 23 laps mixing it in the midfield until making his first pit stop on lap 24, where he became one of the first drivers to switch to dry tires.
For the next 18 laps Button charged through the field, setting a series of fastest lap times. He immediately found grip, which enabled him to climb up to fourth but then dropped to fifth, which is where things ended up. Barrichello's race was compromised on lap two when he was running in 15th place. As he braked for Turn 1, he collided with Anthony Davidson and dropped to the back of the field.
Brazil: The 71-lap Brazilian Grand Prix took place in scorching temperatures at the Interlagos circuit. The 100-degree temps made for tough conditions for the drivers, while track temperatures reached a 142-degree high, making tire durability an issue. Barrichello and Button lined up in 11th and 16th positions on the grid and made good starts, however, Barrichello was handed a drive-through penalty for jumping the start. He took the penalty on lap eight while in 10th place and rejoined in 17th position. He did well to battle back to 11th place on his home circuit but he was forced to retire on lap 41. Button made up two places at the start and was running in 10th place when his engine lost power on lap 22 and he was forced to pull over.
American Le Mans Update
Road Atlanta: The Petit Le Mans 10th anniversary sports car classic at Road Atlanta ended up being a survival test. The rate of attrition was staggering on the 2.54-mile, 12-turn road circuit. The 1,000-mile endurance road contest saw rough-and-tumble action with some of the world's most expensive racing machines and, when the dust cleared, there was a large amount of carnage and worn-out parts. The No. 9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a dodged its share of spinning cars and flying pieces in one of the most grueling races in the series. By the event's end, drivers David Brabham, Stefan Johansson and Robbie Kerr brought the Highcroft Acura home to the sixth position in the LMP2 category, following a 23-minute pit stop to replace a faulty starter in the middle of the nine-hour, 22-minute race. At the finish, the Highcroft Acura completed 365 laps.
Misfortune struck the other two Acura-powered prototype organizations with Lowe's Fernandez Racing placing eighth in LMP2 and Andretti Green Racing in ninth.
The Lowe's Fernandez team of drivers, Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz, ran in the top five in the first three hours of competition before Diaz was caught up in a three-car crash. The Lowe's Acura squad changed the entire bodywork and right rear suspension in under an hour to return to action. However, another suspension part broke on lap 87 and the team was forced to retire from the event.
The Sebring-winning No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a from Andretti Green Racing, with drivers Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan and Vitor Meira, also was a victim of crash damage when the No. 20 Dyson Porsche struck Herta's mount and punctured the Acura's side radiator.
Monterey: Veteran drivers Fernandez and Tony Kanaan made the last American Le Mans Series season finale at Laguna Seca Raceway a thrilling finish for the large crowd at the 2.238-mile, 11-turn legendary road circuit.
The two open-wheel stars came to the ALMS campaign in 2007 and left an indelible mark on the thousands of fans who cheered them through the four-hour sports car feature. At the end of the 157-lap contest, Fernandez had driven his No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura Lola to third place in the LMP2 division, with Kanaan taking the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a to fourth.
The Acura factory drivers returned to Laguna Seca to battle the vaunted Penske Porsches wheel-to-wheel and they didn't disappoint. Throw in a sterling drive by the Highcroft Racing Acura of Brabham and Johansson and the three Acura-backed prototype cars left a superb impression on fellow competitors and cheering fans.
The day didn't start well for the Acura teams as drivers Bryan Herta and Brabham spun on the opening lap of the event. But both drivers regrouped to bring their cars back into contention.
Fernandez' co-driver Diaz raced for the overall lead in the first hour of action before handing his mount off to Adrian for the final two hours. Herta was relieved by Kanaan after 90 minutes and the Andretti Green squad came from two laps behind to battle for the lead at the end of the race.
Brabham drove back to sixth after two hours in the No. 9 Highcroft Racing ARX-01a and co-driver Johansson promptly passed the cars ahead to third place. However, the Highcroft charge was cut short when Johansson's machine was hit from behind and stopped in a runoff area. The car was not reparable and finished ninth.
Meanwhile, Fernandez and Kanaan dodged slower traffic and raced side-by-side with the more powerful Audis and the potent Penske Porsches. At the checkered flag, the Penske cars of Romain Dumas and Ryan Briscoe finished one-two followed by Fernandez and Kanaan.
Sema Show 2007
More than 17 Honda project and concept vehicles-including the Accord HF-S concept-were on display at November's Las Vegas SEMA show. Besides the Accord, 15 more unique vehicles filled Honda's booth, including the all-new S2000 CR and the Mugen-equipped Si. A specially prepared S2000 CR was modified by Team Honda Research to compete in the '07 National Auto Sport Association's 25 Hours of Thunderhill endurance race in December. Another race car, the "One Lap Odyssey" modified by Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, LLC, made its SEMA debut after winning its class in Car and Driver magazine's '07 Cannonball One Lap of America.
Honda's Accord Coupe HF-S concept was built to demonstrate how the customized use of technology could allow vehicle owners to fine-tune performance while adding their own sense of style. Key exterior and conceptual powertrain modifications represent functional performance and driving experience enhancements. The shape of the front bumper is designed to create a vortex effect to enhance high-speed aerodynamics and engine cooling, while the carbon-fiber panels on the sides of the vehicle decrease negative speed force around the wheel arches. The rear bumper diffuser is designed to reduce drag, while the trunk spoiler is a prototype design that was engineered for high-speed downforce. The metallic color of the exterior is accented by Cadmium Orange Pearl-a color derived from super-heated metal. Using this color for the brake calipers, badges, grille accent and interior details underscores the vehicle's high-performance appearance.
The exhaust is a two-stage design, engineered to be exceptionally quiet during relaxed cruising and elevate high-performance driving situations. The Sports Suspension package reduces ride height by about 25mm, lowering the vehicle's center of gravity and enhancing the Accord Coupe's sporty road-handling characteristics. Larger wheels and tires include 19-inch, 10-spoke alloys designed for high-performance 245/40R-19 tires. A full aerodynamic body kit further elevates the style quotient of the entire vehicle. Interior and exterior Honda Factory Performance (HFP) emblems complement the package. Except for the suspension, Accord Coupe HFP components can currently be purchased individually, while the full package including suspension will go on sale this spring.