Honda, and its subsidiary, Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) are the world leaders in 4-stroke performance engine design. In Superbikes as in Formula One, they define the state of the art. They don't always win, but it is reasonable to to say that nobody has bettter technology than HRC.

This is not a biased opinion:
There are four members in my family, and since 1984, we have owned 9 Hondas. Some were leased, some were financed -- so we kept each for different periods of time.

Among the 5 financed cars (the ones we kept until they died), the average milage on each was about 345,000 miles. That's unheard of for most cars. I cannot speak for the leased cars, because we turned them in after only a few years.

My last car (a 1992 Honda Civic DX Sedan), had 342,761 miles on it. My repair records show that I replaced the clutch one, the clutch cable twice, the alternator once (don't hook up 60 amps worth of stereo equips to a 75 amp alternator), and I had my air conditioning repaired (not standard on the DX that year, I had to request it special). I have no record of my tires, belts and the like -- but that is all expected repairs.

They are, in my unbiased opinion, one of the best car companies around.

I often get other Americans (I am American) complaining that I don't buy American cars. Their worry is that Honda doesn't provide any jobs for American workers. Well, it isn't an issue, because Honda builds their cars (and almost all their parts for said cars) in Ohio. Honda is built more in the United States than most "American" cars. I thought I'd inject that before anyone feels the need to complain to me.

Honda in Australia

The Honda corporation has a distinct division operating in Australia, which does not necessarily have the same structure, or sell the same vehicles, as in other parts of the world.

I make no apologies for injecting my personal opinions alongside the cold hard facts.

The History

Soichiro Honda founded the company in Japan in 1946, based on his experience as a mechanic and his talent for technological innovation. It was originally a motorcycle manufacturer, but in 1961 they announced their intention to enter the car business.

Australia was actually the first foreign export market for Honda motorbikes, beginning in the 1950's. Honda had no corporate presence in Australia at that time, and distribution of the imports was handled by a local company. In 1969, Hidehiko Shiomi arrived from Japan with $100,000 to start Honda Australia Pty. Ltd. Things didn't really get going until the launch of the Civic in 1972, which was really the turning point for Honda in Australia. An unprecedented number were sold, and continued to sell throughout the 70's. The Accord was brought here in 1977, and the first generation Prelude the year after. The Legend was introduced in 1985, and the Integra in 1986, and then finally, the NSX in 1990.

The assortment of vehicles in the fleet stayed very much the same, until quite recently when Honda revised their Australian strategy. First came the release of the S2000 in 1999, then the upgrade of the Integra in 2001, accompanied by the discontinuation of the Prelude. The Civic was given a serious facelift in 2002, and the Jazz was released soon after.

Acura? What's an Acura?

Something that causes a little bit of confusion is the Acura label. It simply doesn't exist in Australia. The only reason an Aussie would be familiar with the name is if they are an international motorsport enthusiast, and have heard of the Acura NSX. Around these parts, the NSX, and any other Acuras which are sold here, are thought of as Honda.

The Image

I thought I'd briefly describe some of the prevailing attitudes and stereotypes associated with Hondas, and those who drive them. By its very nature, this section of the writeup is going to be highly subjective. With that in mind ...

An aside ... there is a very large portion of the Australian population which is extremely loyal to one of two car manufacturers. These are Ford and Holden. The two are widely considered to be rival factions, and there is even a long standing racing event (Bathurst) which pits the best V8 street cars Ford and Holden can come up with against each other. That's all well and good, but unfortunately, many of the people who are caught up in this rivalry are unable (or unwilling) to see beyond it. The simple fact is that Ford Australia and Holden do not represent the best the world has to offer, either in terms of sheer quality or in terms of value for money. They don't represent the worst either, but that's not the point.

So, that's just a little background. If you disregard the hordes of insular minded nincompoops who ignore Honda because it isn't Ford or Holden, it is a widely respected maker of quality vehicles. Honda is known for its speciality in producing relatively small - yet extremely powerful and efficient - four cylinder engines in a front wheel drive configuration. Most of the Honda fleet is designed with an emphasis on fun and style over any kind of utilitarianism. So, in general, a Honda is more likely to look nice and handle well than it is to have a large boot. Although I have heard that being able to fit a full bag of golf clubs in the boot is a design specification on all Hondas.

Predictably, Honda's road presence is fraught with rice boys, whose cars can be identified by the abundance of racing stickers, and the heavy after-market modification both inside and out. Sometimes these rice mobiles are the real deal, and the mods squeeze a frightening number of kilowatts out of the engine bay, occasionally leaving you wondering what the hell just happened at the lights. Other times, they make a lot of noise, they cough a lot of smoke but they don't actually do anything.

The silver 'H' is still reasonably prestigious, and not as common as the BMW, especially somewhere like Canberra. The idea that you're not driving the same car as every third person on the road is quite appealing. The price line is not necessarily as astronomical as it is for badges such as Alfa Romeo and Lexus, but the standard of engineering and attention to detail remains superior, in my opinion, to the like of Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota and so on.

See also Cars in Australia.

The Cars

Here's a listing, and brief descriptions, of the cars currently on offer by Honda in Australia at time of writing.

  • Accord

    A medium sized luxury sedan with a classy, sedate image. It's not sporty, but certainly has a convincing amount of power.

  • Civic

    For a long time the smallest and cheapest car in the fleet, but by no means a shabby piece of work. The Civic's latest incarnations are pretty smooth. Lots of different engine variants, comes in either a sedan or hatch.

  • CR-V

    The only four wheel drive, and IMHO the lamest car Honda sell here. In all honesty, this "double-decker shopping trolley" is not designed for serious off-road activity.

  • Insight

    An interesting technological innovation, but it does look like it was beaten with an ugly stick. The Insight has a hybrid engine (electric with petrol assistance), with which Honda claims to have achieved the best fuel economy of any mass produced vehicle. Nifty.

  • Integra

    Extremely nimble sports coupe, with a 2 litre, four cylinder, front wheel drive engine. Competitors include the Nissan 200SX, Toyota Celica and Ford Cougar. Comes in two varieties, the GSi (standard edition) and the Type-R, which is equipped with a far more powerful VTEC engine, a 6 speed box and enhanced diff and suspension systems. The Integra has a proud history of attracting buyers with its good looks and excellent cornering.

  • Jazz

    This appeared very recently. Its most distinct feature is how small it is. It carries a surprisingly low price tag, and runs on a 1.3 or 1.5 litre plant. It will be interesting to see how well it is received by the public.

  • Legend

    It's big, it's beautiful and it's expensive. A 3.5 litre super-luxury sedan.

  • NSX

    For the price of a decent four bedroom house, you too can own this incredible hunk of machinery. Inspired by Honda's Formula 1 expertise, and raced against the likes of the Lamborgini Diablo and Dodge Viper. A pleasure to look upon.

  • Odyssey

    A people-mover with a luxury focus, with 7 seats and all the creature comforts.

  • S2000

    I find it difficult to node about the S2000 because I have to keep wiping the drool off my keyboard. With a super-long bonnet, sleek lines and an agressive profile, this gorgeous little beast has six gears, two seats, a convertible roof and the highest specific power output of any mass produced car. It pulls a ridiculous 176 kilowatts out of a 2 litre VTEC engine. Oh yes.

  • Prelude

    The Prelude was recently discontinued, because the latest model of the Integra stepped up to occupy the Prelude's sports/luxury role in the fleet. It is quite likely that at some point this extraordinarily popular car will resurface.


Facts and figures taken from
http://www.honda.com.au
http://world.honda.com
http://www.superhonda.com/honda_history.html

The following is region specific to the United States and is not particularly applicable in Europe or other parts of the world.

Honda makes some reliable cars and they are one of the better buys in the new car market. However their reliability is almost a myth of almost epic proportions. Yes it is quite true that some Honda vehicles surpass the 300,000 mile mark, however the average Honda still hits the junkyard somewhere around 200,000 miles, just like the average car from most other manufacturers that are capable of producing a passable vehicle in the first place. However the Honda myth does drive people to easily handwave pricey repairs on their old Hondas because Hondas are "reliable" and "worth it", when they would junk an American car needing the exact same repairs.

Cars that do super high miles tend to be purchased new and driven to the grave by one owner who maintains them religiously. Under those circumstances a lot of otherwise ordinary vehicles can and will do extraordinary mileage, and that isn't something that is really restricted to the Honda brand, or even something that the Honda brand even truly excels at. Most of the real mileage champions out there have been european cars, mostly Mercedes Benz (particularly the 300D model), although there is a Turbo Saab running around out there that has over a million miles on it and there is a 1966 Volvo P1800 out there that has over 2 million miles on it.

The Honda is no magic bullet and it is not the answer to all your vehicular woes. Yes, they do very well on reliability surveys, but you have to understand what that data truly means. You see this is no longer 1954 and most cars do not break down all the time. The reliability of almost all cars made from the 1980s onward is incredible compared to older models. The actual real-world difference might mean that your "ultra-reliable" Honda is going to break down 3 times in the next fifteen years rather than four. I won't really get too far into the fact that Honda vehicles tend to rust out earlier than many other makes, nor will I fixate on the fact that they have a lot of trouble living past twenty years old, but those are some things you might want to think about if you are a potential long-term owner. Detroit was not outselling Japan 200 to 1 25 years ago, yet surviving Detroit iron of this vintage outnumbers surviving Japanese cars of the same vintage by about that margin.

One might ask themselves where is this Honda-hating author was I going with all this? I was going right down to the used car lot actually. People often seem obsessed with getting a reliable car, because apparently a $300 repair once a year would break the bank, while a $350 monthly payment is no problem at all. These people have built Honda up into this sort of obsessive little icon that can do no wrong. This means that a Honda on the used market will often literally sell for 180-300 percent of the price of a comparable American made model. This makes a used Honda (regardless of age) basically the worst value on the planet.

Most auto makes tend to have a sweet spot in their used purchase price curve, where they represent a great value at a certain age and mileage. This just isn't true with Honda. It is fairly normal for a 5-6 year old used Honda to sell for around twice the price of similar American cars. Are they a little more reliable than those other cars? Sure, maybe a little bit, but they simply are not that much more reliable. You are talking about paying double on the used market to save maybe $500 over the life of the car, if even that, since plenty of Hondas end up needing pricey repairs too, and people just dump the money in them because they are "reliable" and "worth it".

In fact the price disconnect between a used Honda and a used Ford is so great that the difference in price would actually be enough to replace the entire drivetrain on the Ford and have money left over. In fact, research done today on past eBay sales show that a six year old Honda Accord with about 80,000 miles on it sells for about $9,000. Those aren't asking prices, those are a rough average of what a whole bunch of similar 2002 Honda Accords recently closed for on ebay. A 2002 Ford Taurus with the same mileage on it is all of $3000. If you are willing to spend as much as $4000 then you can get one with half that mileage. Does that reliable Honda still look like a good deal now? It shouldn't, not if you can do math. You say, "but I heard some anecdote about someone who had a Taurus with transmission problems". I say, so what, I heard the same anecdote, a rebuilt Taurus transmission costs $600 to buy and maybe another $400 to put in, and that still leaves you with $5000, and chances are pretty high you won't actually be replacing that transmission.

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