2017 Honda Civic Si
No doubt, the latest Honda civic is a winner. But it really became a winner in our hearts when Honda announced that new hi-output turbo SI and Type R were headed our way as well. And while the fast and furious crowd are surely salivating over the fact that we’re finally getting a real Type R here, it’s the more attainable SI that arrives first. And here’s why we’re so happy that that wait is finally over.
“Sport Injected” Honda Civics are hardly new, having in some form or another, been available off and on here in the States for over 30-years. But, since the latest 10th generation Civic is clearly the best one yet; does it follow that the 2017 Honda Civic Si is the best of its kind as well?
Well, for starters, our Si Sedan felt just as expertly put together as other Civic 4-doors. A Coupe is also available, but as of right now, no Si hatchback.
Both bodies get their own unique updates, the sedan’s a little subtler in nature. There’s a distinctive fascia with gloss black trim and larger air intakes up front, 18-inch split-spoke alloys underneath, and central-mounted hexagon exhaust tip in back.
It’s a great looking package that earned more than a few “that’s a Civic?” questions from casual observers.
The engine is a 1.5-liter I4 turbo. True, it’s the same one in other up-level Civics, but now with cranked up boost to over 20-psi. So, horsepower rises 31, to 205; torque climbs 30, to 192 lb-ft.
A 6-speed manual is the only transmission available. And, it’s a really good one.
As is the Si in general, provided you have the proper perspective. It’s not meant to be a no holds barred performance car. That’s for the Type R. Rather, the Si is a much more interesting daily driver.
And, it is a total pleasure to drive, not harsh or too “fast and furious”. And that’s where this car seems to have run afoul with many online haters. They clearly wanted more.
V-TEC snobs are also bemoaning this new car’s lack of an on/off power switch, but it’s time to move on people. For better or worse, we’re in a new turbo-4 era, and this engine puts out more power, and delivers it sooner, than any Si before it.
And allow Honda to introduce something the old 2.4 never had, it’s called mid-range torque, and there’s a decent amount of it here. Peak power is delivered at 2,100 RPM and it basically just stays there.
Things can get a bit noisy inside, otherwise it’s very comfortable, with nicely supportive sport seats.
Steering has good weight to it, and there is a thick wheel for getting things in motion.
This Si handles corners with ease; it’s nimble and light, and indeed it is almost 100-lbs. lighter than before.
The suspension has of course been “sport tuned”, complete with new adaptive dampers. As before, a limited slip differential is included.
Add in super sticky Good Year Eagle F1 summer tires and things stay very flat.
As for straight-line kicks, there’s decent grip at launch, provided you mind the revs. Torque steer was not a problem as we leapt to 60 in 6.5-seconds…about a half second better than the last 2.4.
Maintaining peak boost from the little turbo is a delicate job however, but Honda has included some shift lights in the gauge pod to help. Just wait a beat after you see them, and you’re golden. Shift too soon and there’s a definite lag in boost.
The shifter itself, is slick and precise, but we could sure use a little more clutch pedal feel. 15.2-seconds was our ¼ at 95 miles-per-hour.
The brakes are even more impressive. We averaged 102-feet from 60 with no fade, no dive, no drama. Here, pedal feel is excellent.
All that and it still delivers improved Government Fuel Economy Ratings; 28-City, 38-Highway, and 32-Combined on Premium.
Si trim may not come as feature-packed as some might like, but then pricing starts at just $24,775, for both Sedan and Coupe.
Clearly the base Civic has come a long way in recent years. Yet Honda has managed to take the 2017 Civic Si even further. Yes, it is the best Si yet. Still, as with many things new and improved, they lose a little soul along the way. But, don’t judge this Si until you drive it. And, we’ll bet, that if you love your current Si, you’ll want this one even more.
- Engine: 1.5 liter
- Horsepower: 205
- Torque: 192 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 6.5 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 15.2 seconds @ 95 mph
- EPA: 28 mpg city / 38 mpg highway
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
Crossed Up Corolla Gets More Efficient
Toyota offers a hybrid powertrain in just about everything they make, so it did seem odd that last year, when they debuted an all-new SUV version of their long-time best-selling Corolla, a hybrid was nowhere to be found. Well, it didn’t take long for Toyota to correct that situation, delivering this Corolla Cross Hybrid for 2023.
With prices for everything seemingly going up daily, we can all use a little more cost efficiency in our lives. That’s a mission that Toyota has been undertaking for some time now and continues to do it with this 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.
The Alabama-built Corolla Cross arrived just last year as Toyota’s attempt to bring their best-selling nameplate into the SUV era, and give them an additional entry into the most popular automotive segment going right now, small crossovers.
There are some RAV4 styling cues here, but the Corolla Cross is mostly its own deal, and the Hybrid is more than just a fuel efficient option, it has added performance too. So, it’s offered only in Toyota’s S line of trims S, SE, and XSE, where the standard Corolla Cross is available in base L, LE, and XLE.
There are some differences outside, most notably unique front and rear fasicas; the front with a much more aggressive look, with larger grille and blacked-out trim.
Black trim and logos in back too, along with a redesigned bumper; plus, you can optionally go 2-tone by adding black paint to the roof.
Great packaging has it feeling roomier inside than most small 5-seat utes, straddling the line between subcompact and compact. And seats are way more comfortable than your typical urban-minded utility.
In fact, the entire interior feels quite upscale, and the layout will be very familiar to those stepping up from an actual Corolla.
Those who put off buying a Corolla Cross until now will be rewarded with upgraded infotainment, as all Hybrid’s will come with Toyota’s latest 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system standard.
The Hybrid’s small battery is located under the rear seat, so there’s minimal loss of rom, with a good 21.5 cubic-ft. of cargo space available; expanding to 61.8 with rear seatbacks folded.
Getting to the heart of the matter, the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s fuel-sipping ways are courtesy of the 5th generation of Toyota’s Hybrid System which outputs a combined 196-horsepower through its trio of electric motors and naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine. One of those motors operating strictly the rear axle for standard all-wheel-drive.
At our test track, there was a nice little chirp of the tires off the line, but that’s where the excitement ended.
So while a 7.5-second trip to 60 may not raise your blood pressure, it’s a full 3-seconds quicker than the standard Corolla Cross we tested last year. We’ll take that!
CVT automatic means engine revs and engine noise both hang relatively high throughout the whole ¼-mile, which took us 15.6-seconds to complete, finishing at a reasonable 90 miles-per-hour.
The Hybrid also gets a “sport-tuned” suspension, and indeed it felt light and nimble through our cone course, very neutral too, with no noticeable understeer or oversteer. Steering was light but still provided good feedback. With some grippier tires, this would certainly give the best handlers in the segment a run for their money.
But the real reward comes in Government Fuel Economy Ratings which are 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined. We averaged a great 43.3 miles-per-gallon of Regular; that’s a 40% increase over the 30.9 miles-per-gallon we averaged in the standard Corolla Cross last year.
But, that does come at a cost, though it’s difficult to make direct comparisons with separate trim families, but pricing starts at $29,320 for the Hybrid, about 3-grand over a base all-wheel-drive non-hybrid. Top XSE comes in at $32,400.
As influential as Toyota is in spreading the hybrid doctrine, it was indeed odd that the Corolla Cross arrived last year without a hybrid option. Smartly, it didn’t take them long to right that wrong, as it was always part of the plan, and the Corolla Cross has benefitted from it greatly. The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is not just more efficient, it’s more capable, and a much better small utility all around.
- Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
- Horsepower: 196
- 0-60 mph: 7.5-seconds
- MW Fuel Economy: 43.3 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: e-CVT
- Torque: 139 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 15.6-seconds at 90 mph
- EPA: 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined
2023 Lexus UX 250h
More Fun Than Premium, But That’s Just Fine With Us
Entry-level models are always tough for luxury brands to pull off well. You can’t deliver the full experience, but you have to give buyers enough of a taste so they’ll eventually trade up for more. Well one marque, Lexus, has been very successful at doing just that, and this week we look at their latest starter SUV, the UX.
This Lexus UX arrived for 2019 as the brand’s smallest SUV yet. Priced in the mid-30s, it delivered a heck of a lot of the Lexus experience for a modest amount of money. And with capable handling, easy maneuvering, and thoughtful features, it was an affordable entry-level luxury ute that was easy to love. For 2023, Lexus makes this little premium runabout even better.
For starters, the UX is strictly hybrid now as the previously standard naturally aspirated 2.0-liter is no more. And while the Hybrid used to be exclusively all-wheel-drive, Lexus has now made a front-drive version available with AWD an option.
Lexus Hybrid Drive pairs 2 electric motors to a 2.0-liter I4 for a total combined output of 181-horsepower. All-wheel-drive versions add an additional motor in back to drive the rear wheels.
Front-wheel-drive versions get an improved Government Fuel Economy Rating of 43-City, 41-Highway, and 42-Combined; all-wheel-drive versions remain 41-City, 38-Highway, and 39-Combined. We averaged 39.9 miles-per-gallon of Regular in our all-wheel-drive tester.
That’s a much better than average Energy Impact Score of 7.6-barrels of oil consumed yearly with 3.7-tons of CO2 emissions.
If there was any shortfall of the original UX, it was that it was a tad noisier, with perhaps not quite as refined a ride as what we were used to from Lexus. Well, for ’23, they have enhanced the body structure with more welds, and quieted down road noise with new tires. One thing that didn’t need changing is that its small size makes it a real joy to whip in and out of traffic…
…or the cones of our handling course at Mason Dixon Dragway, stopping just short of sport sedan territory with quick steering and excellent feedback.
Overall handling is very neutral, with minimal body roll, and it seems to know where you want to go before you move the steering wheel.
That’s courtesy of the F Sport Handling package which adds an Active Variable Suspension with performance dampers, as well as additional bracing for the steering system.
On the acceleration front, there’s a nice little jump off the line, but economy is definitely the priority, with a slow and steady trek to 60 of 8.1-seconds; though that is 2/10ths quicker than the Hybrid we tested in 20-19.
No fake CVT shifting, just consistent high-revving throughout the ¼-mile; though there are paddle shifters on the wheel to select through 10 simulated gears if you choose. Our best time was 16.2-seconds at 87 miles-per-hour.
A good firm pedal and ample feedback made panic braking above par for a luxury utility. Some nosedive, but stops of 115-feet from 60 miles-per-hour were stable and consistent.
Despite being the brand’s entry-level SUV, it doesn’t look much like a traditional utility vehicle, appearing more like a sleek overachieving hatchback, especially with F Sport Design upgrades.
Visibility is somewhat compromised by the minimal greenhouse, but that’s what we have cameras and sensors for these days.
With the F Sport Handling Package’s heavily bolstered sport seats, the front cabin experience is not quite the plush high-end Lexus we’re used to either. Still, we loved it.
Granted, rear seat room is really only adequate for pre-teens; but the total interior experience is well above typical entry-level expectations.
Thankfully, the UX joins the rest of the Lexus lineup in eliminating the frustrating Remote Touch Interface and upgrading to a touchscreen in standard 8 or optional 12.3-inch sizes.
Pricing starts at $36,490 and reaches $43,920 with F Sport Handling. All-wheel drive is now a $1,400 option with all trims.
While it’s an even better gateway into the Lexus SUV family than before, with its considerably handling performance and hatchback vibe, it does seem to be more of a global or urban effort than one designed for wide-open American highways. But that’s okay with us too. The Lexus UX is a fun little utility with great fuel economy, and just enough of the Lexus treatment to make you want to come back…and step up…for more.
- Engine: 2.0-liter I4
- Horsepower: 181
- 1/4 Mile: 16.2-seconds at 87 mph
- EPA: 41 City / 38 Highway / 39 Combined
- Transmission: CVT
- 0-60 mph: 8.1 seconds
- 60-0 Braking (avg): 115 feet
- MW Fuel Economy: 39.9 MPG (Regular)