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