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Auto blogTue, 26 Mar 2013
Much of the minivan segment's volume has been sucked up by the industry's ever-increasing appetite for crossovers, but a few major players are hanging in there, eager to serve as beasts of burden for America's families. Chief among those players is Honda, which is showing its revamped 2014 Odyssey at this week's New York Auto Show with a potential game-changing feature - an in-car vacuum.
Co-developed with Shop-Vac, the HondaVAC system will come standard on the range-topping Touring Elite model. The system includes a replaceable filter and canister bag, along with a range of attachments located in the cargo hold. Honda says this first-ever feature includes a hose that is long enough to clean the entire interior. Better still, the vacuum will run for up to eight minutes after the vehicle is turned off, so you can get every last Cheerio out of the seat cushions, and it never needs plugging in or recharging, as it runs off of the vehicle's electrical system.
In other news, the 2014 Odyssey gets a new aluminum hood and fenders to pair with its revamped grille and lower fascia. Headlamps get a more sinister look thanks to darker surrounds, and there are new LED taillamps out back, as well as revamped side mirrors on the doors. Underneath the skin, Honda says the 2014 Odyssey has received structural changes to help it ace the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety's new small-overlap frontal crash test, and it's also added active safety features like lane departure warning and forward collision warning to the optional features list.
Like just about every other auto publication we've seen, we loved the way the Mazda3 drove when we reviewed it a few months ago, but those glowing reviews apparently aren't helping its sales. The new compact may be falling victim to a sales war between the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, with the newcomer getting squeezed out by those with more established names and bigger marketing budgets.
According to Automotive News, Mazda3 sales have fallen every month since last August, and its sales are down 27 percent in the first two months of 2014. It certainly isn't helping that the entire compact segment is down five percent this year as well.
The biggest problem for the new model seems to be its price compared to rivals. Mazda is not offering the incentives that are on the hood of competitors. With the previous generation, the company offered more than $2,700 on the hood to move them out, but the current model only carries about $1,233 in markdowns, according to AN.
Make no mistake about it: Honda is big in racing. It was the first Japanese automaker to enter Formula One, remains the most successful and is set to return as an engine supplier next season. It's powered more IndyCar race winners and champions than any other manufacturer, hands down. Honda has won races and titles in Super GT, WTCC, even motorcycle racing. Just about everything this side of NASCAR, really. And that includes endurance sports car racing.
In fact Honda Performance Development prototypes claimed over 70 victories and numerous titles in the American Le Mans Series, and took the first LMP2 title in the FIA World Endurance Championship. And with sportscar racing in the US now grouped together into the United SportsCar Championship, Honda is back with a new chassis design.
Called the ARX-04b, it's Honda's first closed-cockpit LMP2. Like previous LMP2 and IndyCar projects, it's a joint development between HPD and Wirth Research, and packs Honda's HR28TT engine - a 2.8-liter twin-turbo V6 based on (and using many of the same components as) the J35 engine you'd find in a contemporary Acura. Designed to exceed the latest safety regulations, the ARX-04b features low-drag bodywork, quick-change front and rear panels, the same locking fuel filler system that Honda pioneered for Indy, top-exit exhaust to meet noise regulations, a 75-liter fuel tank and a gearbox that can easily be optimized for individual circuits.