Why The 2014 Honda Civic Has A Fight On Its Hands

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Honda Civic EX-L
The 2014 Honda Civic EX-L

Honda Civic.

Those two words used to be the gold standard in small sedans.  They stood for simplicity, dependability, fuel economy, high quality and brilliant ergonomics.

The Civic is still a hit, despite wandering off course the past few years, cheapening materials to the point where even Consumer Reports (if the Amish had a version of Car and Driver...) noticed it and docked them points.

Honda got the message and re-contented the Civic.  But is it all the way back?


How I Almost Came To Love The 2014 Acura ILX

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Acura ILX Premium
2014 Acura ILX Premium.

Regular readers know I haven't been especially kind to the Acura ILX.  In April of 2013, I directly compared it to its close cousin, the Honda Civic, found the price differential to be too extreme and called it "silk purse/sow's ear stuff"...comparing it to the gone and completely unmissed Lincoln Versailles (badge-engineered from a Ford Granada) and Cadillac Cimarron (a tarted-up Chevrolet Citation).

More recently, just six and a half weeks ago, in fact, I reviewed the ILX Hybrid.

And found it lacking. Especially at the price ($35,495).

Now comes the ILX Premium...and it's different.  Instead of the poky hybrid or the 150-horsepower, 2.0-liter four with an automatic, this one had the 201 horsepower, 2.4-liter four.....with a stick.

Where The 2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition Is A Big Hit

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition
2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition.

Not six months ago, I wrote a review of the Toyota Tundra Limited and said that while we believed Toyota had gotten the big pickup formula right the year and generation before, buyers didn't agree (The Tundra ranks sixth in pickup sales in the U.S., behind the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, Ram 1500, GMC Sierra and the Tundra's little brother, the mid-size Toyota Tacoma). My take was that loyalty is huge in the pickup market and as good as the Tundra is, it hadn't found whatever it would take to make Ford, Chevy, Ram and GMC owners break ranks in sufficient numbers.

Not quite a month ago, the Phoenix bureau reviewed the Toyota Tundra 1794 Crewmax 4X4 and came to the same conclusion (including our other observation...the Tundra's gas mileage, which at 13 city/17 highway, is worse than Ford, Chevy, Ram and GMC).

But...it's still a very nice truck.  It's a Toyota, so it's likely to be trouble-free and last very nearly forever.  What's the problem?

Hoping for answers, I requisitioned a Tundra here in Sacramento and planned a roadtrip.  There are 5 models of Tundra (SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum and the new 1794 Edition), so I figured the odds were good that I'd get one of the three not reviewed here at TireKicker.  Instead, much to my surprise, a 1794 Edition was delivered. By no means a hardship, since I'd yet to see one in the metal, and I was curious how it would compare to its obvious target, the Ford F-150 King Ranch.


How The 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E Has Changed Everything

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E
The 2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E.

If you find yourself wondering "Whatever happened to Volvo?", you can't be blamed.  A status symbol of sorts as the thinking man and woman's car in the 70s, 80s and 90s, ownership changes--from the original Swedes to Ford and then to Geely of China--some less than stellar vehicles (the S40, essentially a re-badged Mitsubishi Carisma) and a loss of focus in what Volvo stands for have driven Volvo's sales to the point of near-invisibility.

This may be the turning point.


Why The 2015 Mazda CX-5 Keeps Its Crown

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Mazda CX-5
The 2015 Mazda CX-5.

There are very few constants in life. One of them, at least for the nearly six years of TireKicker's existence (and the 11 years as an automotive journalist before I founded it) is:  Mazda doesn't make bad cars.  In fact, they usually make cars that are arguably better and more involving for a driver than everything else in their class. Mazda 2Mazda 3, Mazda 6, MX-5 Miata, the CX-9...about the only Mazda that never won us completely over was the departed RX-8 (though that one got better near the end).

Mazda's small crossover is the CX-5.  Playing in an intensely competitive segment (Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox, Jeep Cherokee, Volkswagen Tiguan and others), it needs to stand out, and does...if you equip it right.

Where The 2014 Volkswagen Beetle Fits Today

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line
The 2014 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line.

There is great ambivalence about the Volkswagen Beetle.  Not the original and not the New Beetle, but the current model, which replaced the New Beetle two years ago.  It was thought the more angular, less round, less cute design would boost sales, and to an extent it has, but this is still nowhere near the phenomenon the original Beetle was in the 1960s.

The May sales figures for the United States show the Beetle selling 29th among small cars, lagging behind such automotive rarities as the Hyundai Veloster, Nissan Juke and Buick Encore. Dodge sells nearly three times as many Darts.  And the Dart is not a car that is setting the world on fire.


Could The 2014 Toyota Corolla S Be The First Desirable Corolla In A Generation?

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Toyota Corolla S
The 2014 Toyota Corolla S.
As the Phoenix bureau made clear in its review of the Toyota Corolla LE ECO about six weeks ago, Corollas have not historically been cars one aspires to.  You'd have to go back to the mid-80s Corolla GT-S and FX-16 to find the last time someone eagerly saved up their money with a Corolla as the end goal.  Since then, it's all been about reliability, fuel economy and price.  And Toyota has done just fine with that on the business end while making some dreadfully boring appliances (see my review of the 2013 Corolla).

That may have changed.  The Corolla certainly has.  While the Phoenix bureau is correct that the all-new Corolla is actually an artful blend of old and new, a salient fact was missing from that earlier review (as Executive Editor, I'll take responsibility...I should have caught it).  The new Corolla has a 3-inch longer wheelbase than the old one.  That has a lot to do with its better looks, and it greatly improves what was a none-too-wonderful ride.

But beauty is as beauty does...and if you follow one simple rule in your Toyota shopping, you'll find the '14 Corolla does exceptionally well.  That rule?  Skip the L, the LE and the LE Eco.  The one worth having is the Corolla S.


Why The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Could Give Toyota Trouble

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Nissan Pathfinder
2014 Nissan Pathfinder.

There are times when all it takes to win is to be in second place when the leader stumbles.

If you have read Michael's review of the 2014 Toyota Highlander, you have read the prologue to this review.  And if you have read his review of the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder from last August, you know the Pathfinder, in his view, improved greatly as a result of its redesign.


How The 2014 Toyota Highlander Got It Wrong

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Toyota Highlander
The 2014 Toyota Highlander. 

I've busted car manufacturers in the past for being overly cautious...so worried about messing up what's good in their vehicle in a re-design that they pull back and don't go far enough.

I may need to stop that.  Less than a year ago, I reviewed the 2013 Toyota Highlander and said about the only thing wrong with it was that it was "GeneriCar".  I also mentioned that the auto show photos of the 2014 model looked like they slapped a Tundra grille onto a Venza.  I wish it were as simple as that.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the '14 Highlander hits me as one homely machine, nose-heavy in the extreme. And the back 3/4 of it is nowhere near as svelte as a Venza.