Active safety tech is now more widely available than ever before, and that might be the best reason to buy a new car today. Whereas features like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control were once limited to high-tech luxury flagships like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, those features are now standard on a base Honda Civic LX starting under $23,000.
These advanced features are included as part of the Honda Sensing collection of driver assist active safety and convenience features. Keep reading for everything you need to know about Honda Sensing features and which Hondas have them.
Honda Sensing: The Basics
Every vehicle with Honda Sensing includes six features, which can be grouped together in pairs. First you have the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS in Honda speak), also called automatic emergency braking, with Forward Collision Warning (FCW).
Sensors on the front of the vehicle can detect when you’re rapidly approaching another vehicle or a pedestrian in a way that may result in a collision, which triggers an audible and visual alert to the driver with a prompt to hit the brakes. If you don’t brake soon enough yourself, the system uses emergency braking to prevent or mitigate a collision.
Next, a Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) uses a camera to sense lane lines when possible and keep the vehicle centered in its lane with automated steering assistance. The LKAS system works great on well-marked lanes with gentle curves, and we like how the instrument cluster glows green when the system is active. If the vehicle drifts out of its lane without signaling, the vehicle will issue an audiovisual Lane Departure Warning (LDW), prompting the driver to steer back into the lane. If the driver fails to correct the vehicle’s path, the Road Departure Mitigation System (RDM) can adjust the steering and brakes to recenter the vehicle.
The final feature included in the basics is Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). This system allows the driver to set an intended speed and following distance. If the vehicle is travelling at the selected speed and senses a vehicle ahead, it will apply brake pressure to maintain that following distance. When the car ahead speeds up or changes lanes, the ACC system applies throttle to ease the vehicle up to speed. When we tried this system in the Accord, it didn’t always brake smoothly and sometimes felt sluggish accelerating back up to speed.
Honda Sensing: Extra Features
Some Honda Sensing-equipped vehicles have additional, advanced features like Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR), which uses a camera to notify drivers of posted speed limits. There are also Auto High-Beam Headlights. When driving at night above 25 mph, this feature toggles between high- and low-beam headlights to provide maximum visibility without blinding drivers traveling the opposite direction.
Honda doesn’t stop there. Some cars feature Honda LaneWatch, which sends a video feed from a camera mounted to the passenger-side mirror to the infotainment display whenever the driver activates the right turn signal. Opinions on this feature are mixed at MotorTrend; some feel it’s helpful while others find it distracting. A Blind Spot Information System (BSI) with Cross Traffic Monitor—sometimes called blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert—is included on some higher-trim Hondas.
The BSI system illuminates a warning light on the side mirror if a vehicle is in your blind spot on the corresponding side of the car, and Cross Traffic Monitor issues an audiovisual alert if the Honda is in reverse and another vehicle is approaching perpendicularly, like when backing out of a space in a busy parking lot. One Honda also includes a Rear Seat Reminder system to ensure quiet children aren’t accidentally left in the car.
What Hondas Have Honda Sensing?
Honda makes the basics of its Honda Sensing suite standard on most of its models, but not all vehicles can be had with the extra content. The Civic includes all the basics plus automatic high-beams, and EX trims and above add LaneWatch. Honda’s Civic-based Insight hybrid gets the same features, but instead of LaneWatch, the Insight EX and Touring get blind-spot monitoring (BSI) with rear cross-traffic alert.
Looking at the midsize Accord, all models come standard with the basics and auto high-beams plus Traffic Sign Recognition. The blind-spot/cross-traffic system is included on the Accord Sport 2.0T, EX-L, and Touring, the latter of which also gains low-speed rear emergency braking and a head-up display. In the case of the plug-in hybrid Clarity, both trims feature the basics plus LaneWatch.
On to SUVs, the pint-sized 2021 HR-V is the only Honda that doesn’t feature any Honda Sensing features as standard. Buyers who forgo the LX and Sport trims and spring for the EX or EX-L get all the basics plus LaneWatch and automatic high-beams. Stepping up to the popular CR-V yields better results; all models include the basics and auto high-beams, and EX trims and above add blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
Toward the larger end of Honda’s lineup, the three-row Pilot SUV and midsize Passport offer the same deal as the CR-V: basics and auto high-beams standard with BSI and the cross-traffic alert system included on higher trims. The Odyssey minivan has the basics, auto high-beams, TSR, and rear-seat reminder as standard, with the BSI/cross-traffic system included on the EX trim and above.
Honda’s Ridgeline pickup truck features just the basics in its base Sport trim. Mid-level RTL models add BSI with cross-traffic monitoring, and the top-spec RTL-E and Black Edition trims gain automatic high-beams.
What Are the Safest Hondas?
Honda offers a handful of vehicles that earn 2021 Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS, indicating not only impressive active safety tech, but also strong crashworthiness and headlights. The Civic is a Top Safety Pick, but only with the Good-rated LED headlights that are included on the Touring trim; the standard units get a Poor rating based on inadequate visibility. That said, the Civic-based Insight hybrid is a Top Safety Pick+, meaning all Insight trims meet the Top Safety Pick requirements. The redesigned 2022 Honda Civic makes its debut with a newer version of Honda Sensing with a single-camera setup instead of earlier tech that used radar and cameras.
The Honda Accord is a 2021 Top Safety Pick+, too, as is the Odyssey minivan. Honda’s popular, top-ranked CR-V crossover is a 2021 Top Safety Pick, but only with the proper headlights. Touring models get Good-rated LEDs, non-Touring hybrid examples are rated as Acceptable, and non-Touring standard models earn a Moderate headlight rating.
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