Honda and Toyota are the silent killers. Year after year they continue to pump out high quality vehicles that resonate with buyers and make the executives at other companies sweat. The cars you see in today’s post will probably be responsible for killing off long running nameplates like Legacy, Impala, and Passat. And they’ll be doing it in style.
A lot of digital ink has been spilled recently in regards to the waning influence of the sedan. A few years ago the idea of an auto show Accord being devoid of any humans would have been unthinkable. Now its the norm. Yes, even the new Accord garners less attention these days, even if it remains near the top of the food chain.
Perhaps I wasn’t being entirely honest. There was a popular Accord at the show, it just wasn’t the white one. You know how I keep saying that color matters? It’s true. This is the car that little kids want to photograph.
And this is the interior car bloggers want to photograph. Yes, even Honda is taking inspiration from Mazda. Only they’re doing it better. That shouldn’t be surprising, right? The setup in the Accord is superior because the infotainment screen is a really nice width. Plus, its not one of those units that require the user to interface with a mouse type of device or buttons near the shifter, which a lot of modern Mazda vehicles have.
The Accord also got some very nice digital displays in the cockpit.
We’re moving on from the Accord, despite what you might think. That display is deceiving and I had to go back and enlarge this picture just to be sure, but the car is in fact the new Insight. You may remember the old Insight as a mediocre Prius wannabe. The new generation is more unique and it looks much more competitive than its forebears.
Instead of a Civic hybrid, buyers can opt for a sedan based on the same platform that gets 55 mpg highway and 49 mpg city in its more basic trims. That’s within spitting distance of the Prius, which achieves only a negligible amount more.
And the Insight does so in a more attractive package, inside and out. Honda may have copied Mazda on the Accord but in the Insight they took the floating screen motif and molded it into a very original design.
Overall, the Insight is the Civic variant that resonates with me, due to its more mature look, great fuel economy, and reasonable price. The Insight starts at $23,725, but I’d opt for the EX, which starts at $24,995. That gets you the 8 inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, among other things.
Other vehicles based on the Civic aren’t as fuel efficient but they’re far more popular. The CR-V, like the RAV4, Escape, and Rogue, now outsells its sedan brethren. And that’s probably a permanent shift too. The current generation of crossovers, no matter the size, are better than ever. And Honda’s latest continues the tradition of forward momentum, even if it isn’t the best selling in its class.
Like the Civic, the CR-V adopts a quasi-floating screen design. It’s a good look that Honda should spread throughout the rest of the lineup.
The rear end of the Honda may be a bit busy, but its not the Rogue, which is really just an anonymous blob.
This was the first year I was able to get a decent shot of the HR-V. It’s a decent looking subcompact crossover. And the recently refreshed model looks good too.
And the interior is a nice place to spend time in, but that comes at a price. As Alex Dykes points out, the Honda will cost about 25 percent more than competitors like the Nissan Kicks, a vehicle that is just starting to trickle into Nissan dealers around the country. Based on my experience with both, my conclusion is that the Honda is definitely worth checking out if you value a quality interior.
The Clarity definitely won’t pull in numbers comparable to its crossover stablemates, but it does have an available fuel cell powertrain, which is pretty cool. At the auto show, pretty much no one cared.
But I care! Actually, no. This thing is fugly. Fortunately Honda can build an attractive alternative energy vehicle. They just chose not to with the Clarity. And don’t let the vehicle’s profile fool you: that’s a sedan, not a hatchback.
Even a slow seller like the Ridgeline will be more popular than the Clarity.
And it’ll find customers by being available with some interesting visual packages like the Black Edition. Outfitting a vehicle with blacked out alloy rims, mirrors, and body cladding is all the rage these days, so it makes sense Honda decided to equip their pick up with the stuff.
Yup, those are some pretty black rims. Honestly, I don’t find black appearance packages bad on cars with black paint.
Honda also decided to outfit their vehicles with one other thing. Let’s call it the Protective Film Package. I’ve never seen anything like this before on any display vehicle, including models from luxury automakers. Does the film actually prevent scratches? And did Honda explicitly have a problem with their show cars being torn up? Are their lower door trim materials especially susceptible to this sort of thing? I have so many questions.
Over at Toyota, the new Corolla hatchback looks pretty damn good. This will be the first Corolla based on the TNGA platform, which already underpins the Camry, Prius, C-HR, and Avalon. It also marks the elimination of the iM nomenclature, which originally debuted when Scion still existed and carried on after the division’s demise by being branded as a Corolla. This hatch is also known as the Auris in other markets.
Toyota already released early examples of the hatch to the automotive press so they could review them. The overall consensus is that the car has very good handling that is a step up from the current model. Will the sedan also handle as well?
Probably not. The hatch comes standard with an independent rear suspension that will likely be swapped out for a torsion beam to cut costs. The Corolla has never commanded high prices in its segment and I doubt Toyota will change that.
And here’s the interior. I spent about a day trying to figure out what car this interior belonged to without realizing that it was the 2019 Corolla all along. Ugh! Anyway, it’s about what you’d expect from a Corolla. Very nice buttons and high quality materials up top. Cheaper stuff below the knees.
Why did I take a picture of the shifter? It felt pretty small in my hands. Notably smaller than other shifters I’m familiar with. Obviously not a big deal, but I thought it warranted a mention.
Whether or not you like Toyota’s design choices on their most recent vehicles, you’ll probably agree that their new models look more interesting than they ever have. The Prius, Camry, C-HR, and Avalon are less boring than their predecessors, for better and worse. This white sedan is the new Avalon, and it definitely looks a bit less sedate than the previous generation. Although the front grille on this particular trim level is a bit garish. I actually think this may be one of the rare vehicles where adding a front license plate improves the look. Otherwise that gaping maw is just too big.
Out back things are a bit more conservative. In fact, the rear borrows pretty much all its style from the previous generation. But that’s not a bad thing, because the evolutionary changes make the car look far more premium than it previously did, even if the designs are largely similar.
Toyota, like other manufacturers, is focusing on increased differentiation between trims, at least on certain models. The white Avalon at the show was a Touring model while this example is a Hybrid Limited. The more sedate grille is the most obvious difference between this and the Touring model, which seems to be oriented more towards sportiness, with a hint of luxury.
The Limited is definitely luxury-oriented. The trim gets exclusive leather seating with non-traditional perforation and two tone stitching, along with real wood. While the idea of an upscale flagship may seem redundant given the existence of the ES, there are people who live too far away from a Lexus dealer that may still want a luxurious product from Toyota. For example, I’d have to travel at least 40 minutes to get to one.
Regardless of trim, all Avalon owners will get an interior with a floating center stack. This is probably the best use of the floating motif to date. I really dig it. And those buttons are reminiscent of ones you’d find on older stereos from the 80’s or 90’s.
Toyota recently announced it was remaining a “full line” auto manufacturer in response to the decline of the passenger car. Obviously that term is generally used to describe a car company that offers a sedan in every size class. Otherwise the term wouldn’t apply to Toyota, since they don’t offer any commercial vans or a mid-size crossover. Regardless, one way the company has managed to stay in the game is by offering The Car Formerly Known As The Scion iA, essentially a rebadged Mazda 2, to its customers. I’m curious if we’ll see more rebadged vehicles in the future. Given the corporate partnership between Mazda and Toyota, it would make sense for the next generation 6 to switch to being a Camry in different clothing. Mazda’s car lineup doesn’t exactly sell in self-sustaining numbers these days.
The 2019 model fully shakes off its Scion roots by being renamed a Yaris. Yes, Scion is truly dead. May all their quirky cars rust in peace.
The Camry’s influence may be waning, but its still a juggernaut in the segment, and will likely be one of the last mid sizers standing after other automakers purge their cars from their respective lineups. Toyota finally created a mid size that isn’t boring. Crazy, right?
On the inside and out, the new model has style and color!
Cockpit Red adorns the cabin of this XSE Camry. It would have been unthinkable for Toyota to equip their mid size with something similar to this five years ago, but with the RAV4 now leading the pack, the company can attempt to sell the Camry to those looking for something that handles a bit better than the average crossover.
Like the Avalon, the Camry gets a very unconventional center stack adorned with buttons that hark back to a different era. Somehow it all works. Just don’t forget to leave your micro fiber cloth at home. You’re gonna need it to clean off all those fingerprints!
Two tone color schemes: no longer limited to the Ford Flex or the Mini lineup.
Another vehicle that offers an available two tone paint scheme is the 2019 RAV4. Like the Camry, the compact crossover gains some confident new styling. It also joins its stablemates by migrating to the TNGA architecture, which means it should handle better than the current model.
Toyota definitely borrowed some design elements from the Tacoma and 4Runner for the RAV4. The end result is a much more aggressive look.
In addition to two tone paint jobs, the new model also gets an all wheel drive system that can completely disconnect the rear driveshaft. Presumably this allows the vehicle to return fuel economy numbers as close to a front wheel drive model as possible. GM started equipping its newer crossovers with the same type of system. I wonder how many people actually use it.
I forgot to take a pic of the rear, so here is the butt of the RAV4. Not bad! Overall I’d say the new model looks way more impressive than the current one.
And let’s not forget the interior! Unlike the Avalon or Camry, the RAV4 plays it safe. Of course its has to, now that its the best selling vehicle in the Toyota lineup. I don’t see anything unreasonable here. Just a simple cabin. Nothing wrong with that.
Genuine concept cars are a rarity at the show these days, so it was a treat to see the Toyota “Fine-Comfort Ride” made an appearance. I wonder if it was a Scion at some point, because it sure as hell looks like a concept for a new xB or something similar.
Toyota is still flirting with fuel cell vehicles, just like Honda does with the Clarity. Are they just compliance vehicles? Probably. But maybe the technology will gain more traction in the near future. Probably not though.
I believe I’m contractually obligated to include at least one shot of a swag display case in every post on the auto show, so here you go! Interested in a Toyota branded watch, headphones, or gloves? Worry no more, because those things exist.
I conclude this section with all the vehicles adorned with graphics of the New York area sports teams.
Stay tuned for part 7!