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2004 new car guide, model guide, new car reviews, by brand


HondaPassenger cars developed by Honda - a worldly automaker originating in Japan but now with extensive design and production facilities in North America - represent a diverse fleet that collectively ranks as the least-polluting line in the American marketplace.

Honda's 2004 collection, in fact, contains two unique hybrid vehicles that carry both an ultra-efficient gasoline-powered engine as well as a battery-powered electric motor. The two draw energy from both plants in an unusual hybrid arrangement designed to maximize fuel economy and reduce emissions.

Honda's original hybrid, the Insight in a daring design with two-seat coupe format, scores as the most fuel-efficient production vehicle in America. Then Honda's Civic sedan , the country's best-selling compact, spins off a variation called Civic Hybrid. It too is a gasoline-electric hybrid but stocks a 1.3-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine plus an ultra-thin direct-current electric motor.

Gasoline-powered Civics in sedan and coupe variations return to the 2004 class with restyled bodies flashing revamped hoods, headlights and grilles. Civic Si, a long and tall hatchback coupe with rakish lines, sporty manners and a high-tech engine on tap, also repeats but rolls on larger 16-inch wheels and gets new silver trim on the instrument panel.

Honda's midsize Accord series, recast in 2003 with a seventh-generation design for the stylish four-door sedan and slinky two-door coupe, gains standard equipment on deluxe editions such as XM satellite radio service.

Then comes Honda's raucous two-seater, S2000, in classic roadster format with a front-mounted engine directing forceful power to the two rear wheels. A new engine worth 240 hp with revamped transmission gearing plus revised suspension tuning brings more enthusiasm to Honda's roadster, and new color choices are available like Rio Yellow Pearl.

Honda Accord
2004 Honda Accord

Honda's midsize sedan and coupe debuted last year with slick new exterior styling, new powertrains aboard and expanded cabins with more room for riders and more standard equipment. The glittery face and edgy lines shaping the sedan look sophisticated, even expensive. A steep rake to hood and windshield adds notched corners and multi-lens headlamp clusters in geometric formats. Fenders and flanks reveal not only hard and straight lines denoting strength and speed but also complex curves with both convex and concave angles for artistic sculpture.

Accord the coupe borrows enough styling cues from the sedan to maintain a family resemblance yet the two-door seems to hunker down on pavement due to a lower roofline and the high beltline with elongated doors plus sweeping rear fenders that suggest speed and agility. The impression of strength and speed is supported by a pair of engines from Honda developed expressly to out-perform predecessors in terms of power and efficiency as well as fuel economy.

Accord's base four-cylinder engine displaces 2.4 liters with output extending to 160 hp. Both coupe and sedan carry the base engine. In the sedan, it comes with three trims of DX, LX and EX, while the coupe shows LX and EX issues. Both also offer an aluminum 3.0-liter V6 with single overhead cam and VTEC controls. It runs up to 240 hp. An available five-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission or six-speed manual slips into the top coupe edition, EX V6.

The fancy five-seat cabin features LED lighting for instruments and separate climate controls for driver and passenger. Trims EX-L and EX V6 add XM satellite radio as standard equipment, while curtain-style side air bags are now optional on EX four-cylinder models. Deep Green Pearl is one of several new body shades available for both coupe and sedan.

Honda Civic
2004 Honda Civic

The compact-class four-door sedan and two-door notchback coupe from Honda show new body styling with reshaped front and rear bumpers plus a new hood, headlights and front grille. Sedan and coupe designs measure the same for wheelbase and share key components, although exteriors differ because the coupe is slightly wider and lower and its windshield tips farther back for slicker streamlining.

Four trims apply, with the mileage-leading Civic HX using a lean-burn version that achieves 117 hp and DX and LX equipped with a standard edition at 115 hp but EX souped to 127 hp. A new Value Package (VP) for Civic DX stacks on additional gear like air conditioning, a CD player and front console with armrest and storage bin. Civic EX has new 15-inch alloy wheels, while the LX gets a new keyless entry system.

Honda Civic Si
2004 Honda Civic Si

The name traces to 1984 in Honda lore with the Civic S hatchback. When fuel injection was added in 1986, the badge became Si, with the lower-case i indicating injection. Other Honda innovations followed, including the first North American application of Honda's VTEC wizardry of valve control.

Current version looks cool in a format that's a radical departure from the conventional stubby hatchback of previous Si iterations. The sleek shell and sturdy mechanical equipment may serve as a blank canvass that invites after-market modifications to build unique wheels. In three-door format inspired by diminutive European hatchbacks, Civic Si seems stout and stretches long over a wedge-shaped body.

For kicks, a high-output dual-cam four-cylinder engine displaces 2.0 liters and supports the latest version of Honda's VTEC technology. The plant produces 160 hp and connects to a five-speed manual stick, the only transmission offered.

Shift lever, mounted at the base of the center pod on the dash, extends upward to a point near the right side of the steering wheel. You can shift it quickly in the style of rally racers without moving your hand far off the steering wheel. This unusual placement for the shift stick sets the tone for an uncluttered but functional cabin design.

New 16-inch wheels replace last year's 15-inch rollers, while restyled headlights and taillights decorate the prow and tail as the instrument panel shows a silver lining.

Honda Civic Hybrid
2004 Honda Civic Si

The revised exterior styling for sedans and coupes in the Civic series also works on this gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle. There's a thrifty but conventional 1.3-liter four-cylinder plant that operates on gasoline plus a battery-powered electric motor of permanent-magnet design. But the beauty of Honda's dual-engine power system is that Civic Hybrid looks and acts like a conventional car and delivers more than adequate acceleration for city driving and even speedy moves on a freeway.

Honda Civic Hybrid - Continued

Virtually silent at start-up due to its electric motor connection, Honda's hybrid leaps to action on command with the gasoline engine kicking up fast-fired acceleration. Primary power comes from the four-cylinder gasoline-powered engine, an ultra-efficient plant composed of lightweight materials like aluminum, magnesium and durable plastics. It uses low-friction and lean-burn techniques with Honda's variable valve control to produce 85 hp.

Secondary power is delivered by the high-output permanent-magnet electric motor tied to a 144-volt nickel-metal hydride battery. It makes 10 kilowatts of power, or 13 hp. A power control unit called Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) regulates the electric charge from the battery, then uses electricity generated through vehicle braking and decelerating to recharge the unit so it never needs to be plugged in for recharging like an electric vehicle.

The hybrid Civic carries upgraded fabrics in the cabin, plus an automatic climate controller and alloy wheels, with standard safety features of an anti-lock brake system (ABS) and frontal plus side-impact air bags.

Honda Insight
2004 Honda Insight

The unique Honda coupe looks daring due to its slick shell featuring a prominent nose, windswept windshield, flat side panels with skirts covering rear wheelwells and a rear section that tapers in flanks to a blunt tail. It's a daring concept too with body weight pared through a lightweight aluminum frame and, to maximize fuel efficiency, both a modest three-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor are under the hood and working together to produce high fuel economy figures -- up to 68 mpg with the manual five-speed transmission.

In the comfortable cockpit, twin high-back bucket seats stand on either side of a center console, with ample space for body parts, including a generous stretch for legs. Convenience features range from power controls for windows and door locks to remote releases for fuel door and hatch.

A CD deck linked to four speakers now stand on the list of standard equipment for Insight, and a new paint color -- Navy Blue Pearl -- replaces Monte Carlo Blue Pearl.

Honda S2000
2004 Honda S2000

Honda's two-seat sports car is drawn in classic roadster format with a front-mounted engine directing strong power to the two rear wheels. It uses a rigid monocoque chassis, four-wheel double wishbone suspension, precise rack and pinion steering system, four disc brakes with anti-lock controls and a tight race-type six-speed gearbox. New is the high-tech 2.2-liter aluminum four-cylinder engine that rocks at 240 hp. The S2000 looks as aggressive as it acts.

A sleek wedge-shaped shell shows an extended prow and curt tail with the aerodynamic face marked by clear-lens high-intensity headlamps, a clean wrap of monotone bumpers and vast horizontal air port. Flanks bulge at front wheelwells with muscular shoulders accentuated by sheer vertical planes arching over the openings, followed by rolled side slabs and more contours from rear wheelwell extensions.

Two form-fitting bucket seats drop on either side of the high center spine, which has an improved console with twin cupholders and storage tray.



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