MAY 2012
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida


Test-drive stories by NITISH S. RELE,

The newly-redesigned Honda CR-V (Comfortable Runabout Vehicle) is 0.8 inches shorter, 1-inch (AWD) and 1.4-inch lower (FWD) in height and even weighs less than the previous model. Introduced in 1997, the compact SUV undergoes a major transformation, visible on the outside with a far more aggressive and sleek look. Ensconced on the unit-body structure is a horizontal three-bar grille surrounded by deeply set multi-reflector headlights, and vertical rear brake lamps.

Offered as a front-wheel or all-wheel drive, the CR-V is available in just one power train: a 2.4-liter inline-4 cylinder engine that puts out 185 horsepower (up by 5) @ 7000 rpm and 163 pounds-feet of torque @ 4400 rpm. Power is put to the road via a slick 5-speed auto transmission, which is smooth, precise and quick. Suspension is handled through an independent MacPherson strut front and a multilink rear system so occupants are isolated from road noise and rough bumps. An Electric Power Steering, which nixes use of hoses and pumps, translates into gas savings.

Step into the spacious cabin and you will find that the 60/40 rear seat is now easy to fold. Just pull the small levers located near the tailgate and you have a flat seat to haul cargo. Our test-drive EX-L came with rich-looking leather on the seats, steering wheel and shifter knob. Honda has been able to eke out more savings at the pump with the 2012 model (at least 2-4 mpg over its predecessor). And for further boost in fuel efficiency, just press the eco button on the left of the instrument panel. Also standard are dual-zone auto climate control, navigation system with voice recognition and rearview camera, power moon roof, 10-way power driver’s seat, 328-watt audio system and driver information center.

Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag with rollover system, Vehicle Stability Assist, traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, three-point seatbelts, front/rear crumple zones, front-seat active head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.

Indeed, the restyled CR-V maintains not just its car-like ride but also is a satisfying mix of people- and cargo-hauling practicality, outstanding gearbox, and admirable fuel mileage. Honda’s reputation for durability and dependability should help seal the deal.

Tires: 225/65R17
Wheelbase: 103.1 inches
Length: 178.3 inches
Weight: 3,424 pounds
Fuel capacity: 15.3 gallons
City: 23 mpg
Highway: 31 mpg
Base price: $28,545
Web site:


THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2012 Kia Soul subcompact wagon.

DOWN THE ROAD: The cool front-wheel-drive ride for the urban driver drew numerous looks, whether we were at the neighborhood supermarket or cruising the Tampa Bay area highways. Credit goes to the funky, tall and boxy styling of the car, which has been one of the turnaround vehicles for the rapidly-growing Kia.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: It’s not a power house but the 1.6-liter DOHC inline-4 cylinder is sufficient to get the job done. The subcompact puts out 138 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 123 pounds-feet of torque at 4850 rpm. The 6-speed automatic transmission is accurate, offering absolutely seamless shifts. The Electric Power Steering is quick, precise and perfectly weighted. An independent McPherson strut with stabilizer bar in the front and the torsion beam rear suspension soaks obstacles with skill, sure-footedness and self-assurance.

LOOK & FEEL: It’s stylish and playful but practical. Grabbing attention is a chrome grille surrounded by clear-lens headlights with bulged LED accents, body side moldings and vertical rear combination lights etched into the body-color panel. Step inside and the Soul shines equally with its three-dial instrument cluster and LCD illuminating center console. USB and auxiliary input jacks and iPod and MP3 controls are within easy reach. The outside temperature and digital clock are nicely located in the radio. Storage areas are plentiful such as the two-tier glove box, center armrest bin and best of all a huge under-floor cargo organizer. Other standard amenities include air-conditioning, 60/40 split fold rear seat, tilt/telescopic steering column, power windows and door locks, outside temperature display, driver information center and dual front cup holders.

SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes, Electronic Stability Control, traction control, front active headrests, front and rear crumple zones, front seatbelt pretensioners with force limiters and tire pressure monitoring system are standard.

OUT THE DOOR: $16,700, plus taxes, tag, delivery and destination charges.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 195/65R15; wheelbase, 100.4 inches; length, 162.2 inches; weight, 2,960 pounds; fuel capacity, 12.7 gallons; city, 27 mpg; highway, 35 mpg; Web site:

WHY DIG IT: This is an attention-grabber. It will stop anyone in their tracks. At the same time, the wagon delivers a decent amount of power to result in a comfortable and sophisticated ride quality. Plus, the Soul comes with exceptional power train, basic and anti-perforation warranties. Now, that’s a tough act to beat.


THE RIDE: Two-door, five-passenger 2012 Honda Civic Si coupe.

DOWN THE ROAD: Forget the previous power train. The redesigned, front-wheel-drive Civic gets a bigger engine, more power and pounds-feet of torque. Translation? The ninth-generation Si is an even more brisk and fun-to-drive coupe with an exceptional ride and superb handling.

TECH & PERFORMANCE: A potent 2.4-liter (up from 2.0) inline-4 cylinder engine blasts 201 horsepower (boost of 4 hp) @ 7000 rpm and 170 pounds-feet (up from 139) @ 4300 rpm. It is mated to a sprightly 6-speed manual gearbox, offering smooth upshifts and quick downshifts. Absorbing noise vibration with ease is the MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension with front/rear high-performance springs, dampers and stabilizer bars. The all-new Motion-Adaptive Electric Power Steering feels sharp and precise.

LOOK & FEEL: Shorter by 1.1 inches in wheelbase, the Si sports a mesh grille flanked by multi-reflector halogen headlights and integrated fog lamps. The rear shows off a deck-lid spoiler and a serious-looking chrome exhaust tip to enhance the bold appearance. An all-new Multi-Information Display (i-MID) includes a 5-inch LCD screen that shows readings for audio, trip computer, fuel economy and navigation. But the Civic retains its familiar two-tier red backlit instrument panel of digital speedometer and analog tachometer. The Si model specifically gets a new rev-limit indicator and power monitor, which will perk up performance-oriented drivers. The front seats have larger side bolsters to hold you in place quite well, especially at sudden turns. Also standard are a tilt/sliding sun roof, 360-watt audio system, aluminum pedals, front center console with armrest, tilt/telescopic steering column, 60/40 split fold rear seat and aluminum pedals.

SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, Vehicle Stability Assist, traction control, side-impact door beams, front/rear crumple zones, limited slip differential, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard.

OUT THE DOOR: $22,205, plus taxes, tag, delivery and destination charges.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 215/45R17; wheelbase, 103.2 inches; length, 175.5 inches; weight, 2,877 pounds; fuel capacity, 13.2 gallons; city, 22 mpg; highway, 31 mpg; Web site,

WHY DIG IT: Easy on the pocket, well-balanced, lively and nimble. The only hurdle is the cramped rear seat. But that’s a small price to pay for an enjoyable engine, which is peppy, fun to rev and provides enough punch around town.

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