Day 2: Seattle to Portland
I’d like to say we get an early start, but by the time our little Civic Conestoga wagon hits the Oregon Trail, we’ve all got Seattle coffee and pastries under our belts – except for my daughter, obviously. It’s just around noon, and the roads are busy.

If you’ve ever rattled down the I-5, you know how loud America’s concrete roads can be, and while Honda certainly seems to have dialled down the road-noise with their Civic’s redesign, it’s far from quiet in here. Crossing a bridge, the Space Needle is off to our right, as well as the EMP (Experience Music Project), a brightly coloured building that’s supposedly designed around the cacophony of a smashing guitar. It’s not quite that bad in the cabin, but this is no mini-Accord.

2013 Honda Civic Touring
2013 Honda Civic Touring. Click image to enlarge

Dicing up traffic, we’re soon in the high-occupancy vehicle lane and making good distance. Stopping in Centralia, the aptly named midway point, there’s time for a quick burger at the kitschy Olympic Club. This place is a McMenamin’s establishment, one of a series of historical buildings throughout Portland and Oregon that’s been bought up by a microbrewer that decorates the places with a unique folk art style. Well worth a visit.

We also brim the Civic’s fuel tank; living in expensive Vancouver makes the $3.69/gallon ($0.97/L) price seem cheap. Using some quick math, we’re averaging close to 7.0 L/100 km, not bad considering the stop and go that the Civic’s run through at the beginning of the week.

To get back on the highway, a full-throttle run from a dead stop to 70 mph (112 km/h) is required; loaded up with three people and plenty of stuff, the 1.8L four-cylinder engine needs every whinny of its 140 hp. Well, I say “whinny”, this four-cylinder sure shouts about how hard it’s working.

However, at speed, the little Honda’s five-speed auto settles into the groove, keeping its powerplant spinning at around 2,500 rpm. Wind noise isn’t bad, the worst offender being the roar of the tires.

Economy mode – press a big green button to the left of the steering wheel to engage – keeps the five-speed upshifting early and dulls throttle response back to the point that you really have to stomp on the gas to make the transmission kick down. Cruising along, this isn’t really a problem. Need to pass a slower car? Make sure you flick it off before you wander out into the fast lane and just sit there blocking traffic.

2013 Honda Civic Touring2013 Honda Civic Touring2013 Honda Civic Touring2013 Honda Civic Touring
2013 Honda Civic Touring. Click image to enlarge

As we approach Portland, time to fire up the Civic’s navigation system and punch in the hotel address – or at least, that’s the plan. Honda locks out most of the touchscreen functions, preventing a co-driver (my increasingly frustrated wife) from entering the address. No problem, let’s use voice commands.

Well, you might as well be issuing voice commands to a cat. Not only does the system query with a “Pardon?” every third command or so, it requires that I spell out “Portland” letter by letter, having to touch the voice-command button twice to do so each time.

Honda is reportedly going to put Apple’s Siri system into some of their models. Can’t happen soon enough.

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