TFLcar’s Five Little Steps to Modern Baby Crossovers #3 – the Honda Civic 4WD Wagon.
Recently, TFLcar witnessed a huge surge in the baby crossover market at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. There, we discussed the exploding small/baby crossover market with industry experts and were floored to see how big this nearly nonexistent market is becoming. The next year will see baby crossovers like the Fiat 500X, Mazda CX-3, Jeep Renegade and Chevrolet Trax, among others.
A “Baby Crossover” is a super small SUV/crossover that’s based on a small car platform. For instance: the 2015 Honda HR-V, which is based on the tiny Honda Fit. They are front wheel drive-biased with all-wheel drive (AWD) optional. Very few are capable of any real off road excursions, but most are capable in foul weather and snow.
Is this category reallythat new?
Based on the regular Civic Wagon, the 1985 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon was raised to a ride-height of 7-inches, given mud-flaps, a beefier rear bumper and new badging. Like all Hondas of the day, the Honda Civic 4WD Wagon had to be revved hard to get anything out of it. The overall packaging was nowhere near as unique as the Tercel Wagon, but it was a clean design that; like all Hondas of the day, never offended anyone.
Like the Toyota Tercel SR5 4WD Wagon, the Honda Civic 4WD Wagon came out in the mid-1980s with a rather simple 4WD/AWD system. Known as a part time (any-speed) four-wheel drive system, it required the driver to push a button on the dashboard to engage the 4WD system. Powered by a 76 horsepower, 1.5-liter 4-cylinder that made 84 lbs-feet of torque, the 1985 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon came with a 6-speed manual transmission. Like the Toyota Tercel SR5 4WD Wagon, the six-speed manual in the Honda Civic 4WD Wagon was more of a 5-speed with the gearing on 1st being so low (SL for “Super Low”) it worked best as a low or “granny” gear.
So, the first Civic 4WD wagon was a lot like the Toyota 4WD wagon – right? Indeed it was, but it’s the advent of its second generation 4WD system that brings it to this list. In 1987 Honda introduced its first generation “Realtime” four-wheel drive system that worked automatically. It used a viscous coupler that connected the front and rear propeller shafts when front wheel slippage was detected. Even by today’s standards, it is a very effective system that set the benchmark for AWD/4WD systems used in small crossovers and AWD cars.
Driving characteristics of the Honda Civic 4WD Wagon: I’ve driven both versions of the early Honda Civic 4WD Wagons – the early model with the push-button 4WD and the first generation with “RealTime” four-wheel drive. Both vehicles were a bit underpowered, but never felt as sluggish as the Toyota Tercerl SR5 4WD Wagon. The push-button engagement was (usually) seamless, unless you were revving too hard, down-shifting or driving in reverse. In those cases, interesting noises were made. Still, once engaged, the little Honda Civic 4WD Wagon is very competent in snow and crusty ice.
In snow, the later Honda Civic 4WD Wagon with “RealTime” 4WD was outstanding. Simply aim and plow, letting the system dole out power as needed. With good snow tires, it’s remarkably capable in snow far too deep for “normal” cars AND many trucks. Handling was much better than the Tercel 4WD Wagon with a nimble, almost playful bent on cornering.
As the figures on the 2016 Honda HR-V come out, it’s interesting to see that, despite its dimunitive size, it’s still bigger, in nearly every conceivable way, than its grandparent.
1985 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon – 160″
2016 Honda HR-V – 169.1 ”
1985 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon – 96″
2016 Honda HR-V – 102.8″
Horsepower and Torque
1985 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon 1.5-liter 4-cyl – 76 hp & 84 lb-ft of torque
2016 Honda HR-V 1.8-liter 4-cyl – 138 hp & 127 lb-ft of torque
1985 Honda Civic 4WD Wagon – (approximately) 2,300 – 2,450 lbs
2016 Honda HR-V – *Honda has not released its curb weight; however, we can [logically] assume it’s about 500-lbs heavier than the Honda Fit it’s based on. So, Honda Fit’s max curb weight = 2642 lbs + 500 lbs = 3,142 lbs-(ish)
Honda will offer a six-speed manual available for its front-wheel drive 2016 Honda HR-V’s and a continously variable transmission (CVT) available for FWD and standard for AWD. That new AWD system can draw a line to the original AWD/4WD system Honda build years ago. It’s that remarkable performance of the first generation “RealTime” 4WD system that pointed the way for may automakers to follow for future crossovers.
Speaking of the 2016 Honda HR-V crossover…
Did you know that people mod the hell out of these wagons?