JULY 2016
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Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE, motoringtampabay@gmail.com

Honda could very well have removed the Civic name on the 2016 model and replaced it with another. After all, this is like an entirely new vehicle added to the Japanese carmaker lineup.

For starters, the 2016 Civic length is up by 2.9, width by 1.9, wheelbase by 1.2, front and rear headroom by 0.31 and 0.4 inches respectively. Trunk volume sees a hike of 2.6 to 15.1 cubic feet and passenger space by 3.2 to 97.8 cubic feet. Lest we forget, this year’s version is 68 pounds lighter than its predecessor. Honda also has enhanced the Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure with additional high-tensile steel to absorb force in a front collision. Noticeably lowered are noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels.

And there are changes under the hood with a fresh power train: a 1.5-liter DOHC turbocharged engine that develops 174 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 162 pounds-feet of torque @ 5500 rpm. The sedan is coupled to a continuous variable transmission. The fully independent suspension is handled via a MacPherson strut but the rear gets an all-new multi-link independent system. And leading the car to its destination is the dual-pinion electric power steering with variable ratio.

The freshly styled, 10th-generation sedan shows off sleek, swept-back body lines to portray an aggressive appearance. The chromed Honda “wing” all across the front fascia fits in with the LED headlights while the rear shows off C-shaped “light-pipe” LED tail lamps and a body-colored deck lid spoiler. A first for Civic is cap less refueling. So is the mammoth center console that can now hold 7.2 liters of belongings. Other standard features in our Touring trim included eight-way power driver and four-way passenger leather seats, tilt/telescopic steering column, 7-inch audio touch display with 450-watt sound system, remote engine start, electronic parking brake, dual auto a/c, heated front and rear seats and door pocket bins.

EPA mileage estimates are impressive at 31 mpg city, 41 highway and combined 35. We averaged about 38 in city/highway driving, while fetching nearly 44 on highway.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag with rollover sensor, stability assist and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes, forward collision and lane departure warnings, lake keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

With its cheeky styling in and out, smooth but solid ride and frugal fuel consumption, the overhauled Civic is a no-brainer. Honda’s reputation for durability and reliability only adds to the compact car’s value.



Two years ago, we test drove a K900 with a 5.0-liter V-8 power train under the hood. This year, Kia has added a 3.8-liter V-6 engine pumping 311 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 293 pounds-feet of torque @ 5000 rpm. Also revamped in the Korean carmaker’s rear-wheel-drive premium flagship is the front grille, while the rear gets fresh chrome trim, exhausts, tail lamps and a new bumper. And 18-inch wheels are standard on the V-6, which is still mated to an effortless 8-speed auto transmission.

The cabin is as top-notch and upscale as any of the German competitors with Nappa leather on the front heated/cooled seats, power tilt/telescopic steering column and shifter. A knob in the center console operates audio, navigation, telephone and UVO eServices. Six-footers can sit at ease in the sofa-like and well-appointed back seat. Other standard features include head-up display, power open/close trunk door and rear sunshade, three-zone auto a/c control, 12.3-inch LCD instrument panel, manual side sunshades, Lexicon 900-watt sound system to thrill audiophiles, panoramic sunroof, revised 9.2-inch navigation display and 15.9 cubic feet of trunk space.

Standard safety features in our test-drive version are dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic stability and traction controls, side impact door beams, blind spot detection, rear-cross traffic alert and lane departure warning, advanced smart cruise control, front/rear camera display and parking sensors, front and rear three-point seatbelts, tire pressure monitoring and daytime running lights.

If you ever wanted to be treated like a member of the royal clan, the K900 will fulfill your desires. And more. That it comes with a 10-year or 100,000-mile power train, a five-year or 60,000-mile basic warranty and roadside assistance, and a three-year, 37,500-mile complimentary scheduled maintenance is a plus.



After a major facelift just two years ago, the Mazda3 maintains its status quo except for a standard rearview camera in all its trims, among minor tweaks. Based on the CX-5 SUV and the Mazda6 sedan, this best-seller for Mazda is a fun ride for the daily grind.

The power train in our third-generation Mazda3 sedan was fitted with the direct-injection Skyactiv technology, which uses a torque boost via a high compression ratio for stretching fuel economy. The 2.5-liter inline-4 cylinder engine cranks out 184 horsepower @ 5700 rpm and 185 pounds-feet of torque @ 3250 rpm. Mated to the hot-selling car, which is available as a sedan or hatchback, is a 6-speed auto gearbox.

The front matte-finish grille, flanked by bi-xenon HID headlights, sports an aggressive look than ever before. Just above the central analog tachometer gauge encircled by wing-shaped digital displays is a heads-up display for a digital speedometer. Switch on the ignition and a panel pops up above the meter hood to display speed and navigation directions. The 7-inch touch screen, part of the Mazda Connect navigation/infotainment system, is a breeze to use. Other standard amenities include push-button start, a/c, tilt/telescopic steering column, fold-down rear seat, power windows and door locks, and AM/FM. Other notable firsts are front/rear running LEDs. Also available are 18-inch wheels, rearview camera and steering wheel paddle shifters.

Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, stability and traction control, hill launch assist, active front-head restraints, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, rearview camera, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

Base-priced at $26,495, Mazda3 is a compact car, so we will excuse the tight rear seat for passengers. And it’s not headed to the racetrack since power at the front wheels is just right. This great fuel-sipper with the impressive Skyactiv technology is affordable, stylish and a pleasure to drive.



More than 100 engineering and design improvements have been made to the 2016 Outlander. And it shows with just one look at this Mitsubishi crossover utility vehicle. Unless you look under the hood. Then it’s the same 2.4-liter, inline-4 cylinder power train that puts out 166 horsepower @ 6000 rpm and 162 pounds-feet of torque @ 4200 rpm. The boisterous Continuous Variable Transmission continues as is.

No doubt, the Outlander now sports an aggressive look with refreshed front and rear fender fascias, HID headlights and LED tail lamps. The interior carries a fresh appearance with is redesigned steering wheel, seating surfaces, accent trim and all-new 6.1-inch touch navigation and display audio interface. The leatherette/fabric front and rear 60/40 fold-down seats offer sufficient head and leg room. An Eco indicator on the instrument panel can be a convenient fuel saver. The black instrument panel with silver accents conveys elegance found in high-end vehicles. Several goodies are offered such as auto a/c, leather tilt/telescopic leather steering column and shifter, eight-way power driver and four-way manual front-passenger seats, driver information center, 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate sound system with nine speakers, under floor cargo hold, and a rear seat armrest with two cup holders.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, active stability and traction control, hill start assist, four-wheel antilock brakes, anti-theft alarm, front-pedestrian impact crumple zones, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system.

Lacking in power, the four-cylinder Outlander results in just an OK performance. However, it makes up for the deficit with substantial cargo and passenger space, good fuel mileage (our mixed driving average was 26) and a price that’s competitive in the CUV market.


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