Jun 152012
 

Astute readers of this site will probably note that I have had some difficulty keeping Car of the Week a truly weekly piece. Some of that is laziness on my part and some is actual schedule and personal conflicts. Whatever the case, though, in the coming weeks we will be trying something new. Astute observers may also have noticed that Gearheads Anonymous has also gained a few new writers over the last month. So far they have only been contributors of individual opinion pieces, but that is about to change. Next week, for the first time, the Car of the Week will be written by someone other than me.

This does not mean that I am not going to do them at all anymore, but if several people are writing them my hope is that some variety and a sense of freshness is injected in to the process. Want to write one? Use the contact info in the “About Gearheads Anonymous” tab above. I’m always happy to have contributors.

This week, though, I have for you a car that brought Honda back to its roots in the U.S. market:

2007 Honda Fit

Why?

By 2006 the “small” Honda Civic had grown in size by 10 inches and 600 lbs over comparable Civics from the late ’80s and early ’90s. The Civic, in fact, was about the same size in 2006 as the midsize Accord was in 1990. The Civic is not unique in this, though. Most cars in the U.S. market have grown at a similar rate. It is startling to take a moment and consider, though. Sure the Civic still gets good gas mileage, and it is still smaller than the Accord, but it has lost some of that small car feel that made it so enticing in years past.

With the Fit, Honda sought to bring that feel back to American car buyers. Though it had been on sale for several years in Europe and Asia (under the Jazz name), 2007 was its first year in the U.S. and it made a splash. Where Toyota’s Yaris felt and drove as cheaply as it looked, the Fit immediately earned a reputation as a quality small car.

It did all of the things those early Civics did — got great gas mileage, handled well and looked good without looking outrageous — and managed to stay small without being spartan. Only one engine option (a 109 horespower, 1.5-liter four cylinder) was available, paired to either an automatic of five-speed manual. The car itself (which was only available as a 5-door) could had in either base or “Sport” trims. Both were priced well below $20,000.

The Fit, then, checked all the right boxes at just the right time for many American consumers. It will probably never outsell the Civic, but to me the Fit is the more interesting car. It does more with less, which is an equation that has always appealed to me.

About the Car

The Fit was introduced to the rest of the world as the Honda Jazz in 2001 and 2002 but, as I said above, did not hit American shores until late 2006 as a 2007 model. Different regions of the world get different engine options, but here there was only one: the 1.5-liter gasoline engine.

The Fit ran in that form until it received a substantial update for the 2009 model year. The body was redesigned, but retained its 5-door wagon layout. The sole engine option remained a 1.5-liter four-cylinder in the U.S. Other regions got a hybrid option, but Honda decided that a Fit hybrid would compete with its new Insight and existing Civic Hybrid models, so it was not offered to American buyers.

A limited-production electric Fit (or Fit EV) is currently scheduled for the 2013 model year, but no additional major changes are expected to the model line in the next couple of years.

Other Resources

Fit Owners Club
Fitfreak.net Unofficial Honda Fit and Honda Jazz forum
Wikipedia: Honda Jazz and Fit (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Car & Driver long-term road test of the 2007 Fit

Some photos in this article were freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with usage of any image, please contact me and I will remove it.

Apr 202012
 

If you have been paying attention, you will notice that this is the first COTW that isn’t a carryover from my old site. For the past several weeks I have been allowing the older cars to run in review while I worked on other areas and got the new, official site up and running. Now, though, we can get back down to business. For my triumphant return to COTW I wanted to pick something that would be interesting to a large number of people; something that is both powerful and economical; something that in some way represents the future. Why, then, did I pick a truck? Read on.

This weeks (brand new!) car of the week:

2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost

Why?

My Uncle recently bought one of these and several aspects piqued my curiosity. First, he is a boat owner and uses his truck to tow his baby to and from the arena. His past several trucks have been Dodge Rams, but Dodge’s recent aversion to leasing drove him to the Ford brand. Despite the fact that this F-150 is a V6, the torque numbers and tow ratings are pretty impressive. According to Ford, the EcoBoost engine makes 420 lb-ft. of torque at a startling 2500 rpm. Not bad for only 3.5 liters.

In spite of its power, though, the truck is capable of fuel mileage as high as the low 20s on the highway and unlike the big V8 trucks, that mileage doesn’t drop off a cliff when you attach a load to the back. Ford’s boost management keeps the fuel consumption linear and manageable.

Finally, I just think it’s cool that there is a twin-turbo V6 in a truck. That may be sacrilege to some, but turbos have always provided a remarkably efficient way to make more power. It was only a matter of time before they became a true displacement alternative in the highly competitive gas-powered truck market.

About the Car

Ford debuted the EcoBoost concept in 2007, but it did not see production until the 2010 model year. That year it was used in the Ford Flex, several Lincoln models and, most notably, the Ford Taurus SHO. Ford used this last platform to tout its ability to make a high-performance sport sedan without using a large-displacement engine and without sacrificing fuel consumption. Models available with EcoBoost engines continue to increase each model year.

EcoBoost engines use a direct injection system that deposites fuel directly in to the combustion chamber. This enables very close control of the amount of fuel and the timing of injection. In combination with the additional air provided by the turbo system, this results in an extremely efficient mixture.

Although the V6 engine is the centerpiece of the program, Ford also builds several other EcoBoost engines, including a 1.3 liter 3-cylinder, a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder and a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder, available in various applications around the world. As manufacturers are forced to use turbochargers in order to make horsepower while meeting stringent fuel consumption guidelines, EcoBoost will take a more prominent role in Ford’s entire model line. Should be interesting to watch.

Other Resources

Ford F-150 home page
Wikipedia: Ford EcoBoost (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Wikipedia: Ford F-series (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Automobile Magazine F150 EcoBoost review

Some photos in this article were freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with usage of any image, please contact me and I will remove it.

Mar 052012
 

It amazes me sometimes what people believe to be true. Even more so how they will cling to those truths, even in the face of clear facts and reasoned arguments. Indeed, when it comes to talking about cars I often find myself shaking my head at the stubborn dogmas that people hold on to.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in discussions on fuel economy.

With fuel prices and social consciences high, people are looking for any way possible to reduce their own usage of fuel, cut down on our nation’s dependence on oil from other countries, and limit the environmental impact of our cars. These are all both reasonable and noble goals. Unfortunately, many of the steps that are being taken are not really effective ways to reach them.

But don’t tell that to someone who believes he is saving the world.

Nevertheless, I have decided, dear readers, to share with you a few common misconceptions about driving, cars and fuel economy that I have encountered over my years of automotive enthusiasm. You can take my advice or leave it, of course. As long as I have succeeded in getting you thinking, I will be happy. Continue reading »