Top 5 Cars Honda Has Made
#5: The Accord Coupe: I have some bias to this. It’s one of my favorite cars I’ve daily driven, and I got to take the last U.S press car out for a final drive and say goodbye before it was retired. We may never see a coupe version of the Accord again, but it shouldn’t be forgotten. The relentlessly reliable V6 with a manual transmission gives the highway cruiser a muscular edge and makes any year model come alive. It’s a testament to how Honda can build a drivers car without it having to be a race car for the road.
#4: The first generation Insight: It was hideous, even in not that horrid green. But, it’s one hell of an under-appreciated hybrid. Despite being overtaken in sales, the Prius didn’t match ithe Insight’s insane 70 mpg highway and 61 mpg in the city until 2015. According to Honda, there have been less than 200 battery failures beyond warranty coverage since its introduction in 1996. When you consider that 100,000 units were sold, that’s pretty impressive for a car built on last century’s technology. Even now, it has a cult following and there are aftermarket batteries available for an upgrade.
On top of that, it dominated Formula 1000 Rally in the United Kingdom to the point it the organizers asked for it to not enter again.
#3: The first generation Honda Civic: It was the car Honda used to infiltrate the American car market effectively. Much has been written about the importance of this car, and mainly the CVVC (Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion) engine. That’s because it was crazy important, and has one of the best trolling stories in automotive history attached to it.
The short version stems from the fact that 1970s America car companies had to meet strict new emissions standards. Honda had developed the CVCC engine so it wouldn’t need expensive and inefficient catalytic converters. Ford and Chrysler signed up to use the technology, but GM’s CEO, Richard Gerstenberg, said: “Well, I have looked at this design, and while it might work on some little toy motorcycle engine…I see no potential for it on one of our GM car engines.”
Soichiro Honda heard about this put-down, and then got motivated. GM was about to learn that you don’t patronize talented and gifted engineers with huge business acumen. Honda bought a 1973 Chevy Impala with a ridiculous 5.7L V8 and had it shipped to Japan. There, Honda got his engineers to work their CVCC magic on the lump before shipping it back to the U.S. There, they handed it to the EPA and it promptly passed the new emissions requirements without either a catalytic converter or any power loss.
#2: EP3 Honda Civic Type-R: The second generation brought the Civic Type-R to Europe and changed the hot hatch game forever. Granted, only the JDM version had the trick helical LSD and red Recaros despite actually being built in the UK to be shipped to Japan, but that didn’t stop it from getting all the love it needed from British journalists and real-world enthusiasts alike. It has the agility of next doors cat and weighs about the same, but that wouldn’t mean much without the extraordinary engine. Honda’s approach to the EP3 was to make something that rewarded the driver taking it to the 8,600 RPM redline time and time, and time, and time, and time, and time again.
The EP3’s legacy is its success and the spread of the Civic Type-R around the world now. The FK8 version is the widest spread yet, and letting every other hot hatch maker know what’s up. It’s still front-wheel drive, but you’ve probably already noticed pretty much every comparison made in the automotive media is against more expensive all-wheel drive hatches rather than their FWD counterparts.
#1: The NSX. That picture is, indeed, of the modern generation. Yes, we all know about the original. Ayrton Senna, affordable supercar, the Type-R… But this is more important simply because it’s a hybrid.
The new NSX is a demonstration of what can be done for performance with a hybrid for the road. Porsche is currently beating that drum with the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid a few years after the NSX debuted. Hybrid tech is the way forward for the foreseeable future for both passenger and sports cars, and it seems Honda understands that. Honda also likes to build enthusiast cars. It’s very likely the next Civic Type-R will end up with hybrid tech and it’s likely it’ll be as big of a bombshell dropped on the hot hatch segment as the current FK8 chassis.
The NSX gets the number one spot here because it has pushed into new territory in the same manner as the first one but on the cusp of the sea-change of how cars are being powered. Honda didn’t do it first, but they did it right. It’s a real-world concept car at a real world price, and the technology is setting Honda up for the future. This generation’s NSX may be being dismissed by a lot of people right now, but history will remember the groundwork it has laid.
What have I missed? What would you have put in the list? Which car should have been edged out for it? Let us all know in the comments…