Greatest Honda's of All Time From Around the World
The Greatest Honda Cars of all time
The Honda Motor Company has become synonymous with producing some of the best naturally aspirated engines in the world over the years, matched to some of the best in class cars. This was especially true of the 1990s when Japan ruled the world with their fast, cheap cars which offered high tunability for modifiers. Whilst Nissan and Toyota offered superb turbocharged engines and cars that set the standards for affordable sports cars even to this day, Honda focused on high revving NA engines, epitomised by the VTEC engine. By providing relatively small capacity high reeving naturally aspirated VTEC engines, Honda created a unique feel of car with racing car / motorbike style engine characteristics. This gives Honda's from this era to this day, a cult following.
This article looks at some of the best Honda's from around the world as a reminder for Honda to get back in the game and get their act together as recently Honda have been, like most Japanese manufacturers, a shadow of their former self.
Honda Integra Type-R DC2
The Honda Integra had been around in several forms before the DC2 came along. With it came the what was described as the best handling front wheel drive car of all time the Honda Integra Type-R. Its 1.8 litre VTEC B18C engine produced 195bhp. Like so many Honda Type-Rs, over 100BHP per litre from a NA engine, something reserved for some of the best engines in the world such as BMW M3 and Ferrari V8's. Many enthusiasts at the time said it is the closest to a motorbike experience you can get for a "normal" car. The DC2 Integra Type-R is probably THE car you think of when you imagine a high reeving VTEC. Fun, fast, rare and affordable. You can get a JDM DC2 for around £4000, whilst UK cars demand more. If you can find a standard one, cherish it and you have a classic on your hands. It is a car that if you know about cars, you respect its performance and what it stands for. The later DC5 Integra Type-R is a great machine also, however it failed to capture the following of the DC2, partly due to fewer imported numbers, but also it isn't as class defining as the DC2 was. A superb car nevertheless.
Honda Civic Type-R EK9
The EK9 was the first Civic to get the Type-R brand name, and was only available in Japan. For many people it rivals the DC2 as the ultimate Type-R. Some of this is due to rarity, but mostly its due to the light weight chassis with an immense 1.6 litre 185BHP VTEC engine. Even to this day no car this size comes close. It holds no prisoners and is very sharp handling car for what is a family hatch after all. Its track performance is enhanced by a standard LSD, and tuned suspension. It iss fast, light and uncompromising as a Type-R should be. Unfortunately real EK9 Type-Rs are rare and expensive to buy, and even rarer in standard trim. Again, a modern classic car from the Type-R division.
Evolution of the Civic Type-R
Honda Civic Type-R EP3
The UK made Honda Civic Type-R EP3 transformed what was a dull generation of Civic into one of the premier Hot hatches of the time. Power came from a 2.0 K20 engine with 197BHP. It was powerful and manic as you would expect from a Type-R but still returned 33MPG. The car also had much success in the British Touring Car Championship which helped cement its racing credentials. Its dashboard mounted 6-Speed gearbox gave a touring car feel, which was one of the reasons the car became so popular besides THAT engine. The car still to this day is very popular in the UK and it was a marketing success for Honda. It is arguably the best Civic Type-R as it is easy to live with everyday, but if you want to take the back way home it will have you smiling all day long. The JDM version offered 212BHP with improved intake manifold, LSD, exhaust system, camshafts and ECU tuning. But more disappointingly for Honda Type-R enthusiasts it also came in Championship White in Japan which to this day UK fans are annoyed at and many have imported these JDM cars.
Despite this, the car won many "Hot Hatch of the Year" awards, and is a favourite of many car magazines. Whilst it did not dominate statistically compared to some more powerful but heavier turbocharged European hot hatches, the car was fun to drive and was arguably the last great non-limited edition Honda you can buy. The tuning community love it, and it still turns heads today. The car also never made it to the US, where Honda USA refused and continue to refuse to release a Civic Type-R despite a huge cult following of tuner fans. American Civic fans instead got a terrible Si with an engine similar to the Type-S with 160BHP. For Honda fans of America seeing this was frustrating until they got the replacement Si with a full 200BHP K20a for the next generation, which improved things but still is no Type-R as displayed by Best Motoring International. Its follow up in the UK FN2 failed to improve on the cars performance at all. Some critics panned it for lacking the Type-R feel, especially compared to the FD2 from Japan.
The EP3 remains the modern Type-R of choice and will continue to do so in the UK until we see if the next Civic does any better.
K20a Club - Ep3 vs DC5 vs Euro R
Honda NSX-RClick thumbnail to view full-size
When it was introduced the Honda NSX shocked the motoring world. Developed with Ayrton Senna, the Honda NSX set the tone of the Tokyo Motor Show in 1989 when much of the car world realised Japan was to dominate the next few years of car standards in terms of design, performance and most importantly quality. The NSX for example was designed purely to be better than the Ferrari 348, similar to how Nissan more recently benchmarked the R35 GTR against a 911 turbo. the NSX achieved its aim but not only that it was developed over time, including a lightweight Type-R model and a facelift to continue to 2005, an impressive 15 year lifespan.
During its final years Honda created its crowning glory, and the Honda NSX-R was released. A revised 3.2 litre V6 (small for the class as per most VTECs) produced only 290BHP, however extensive weight reduction meant the car only weighed 1270kg, compared to many rivals much heavier cars. This gave the NSX, now relatively underpowered a track focus, which is displayed in Best Motoring International's battles featuring much more modern and more powerful machinery against the NSX-R. The car was also highly rated on Top Gear and scored an amazing lap time in the wet. A 2003 NSX-R lapped around the legendary Nurburgring road course in 7:56, a time equal to a Ferrari F360 Challenge Stradale, a car two generations newer than the NSX's original 348 rival. Along with the Nissan Skyline GT-R the Honda NSX is the ultimate Japanese supercar for fans. Due to pedestrian crash regulations, its low slung smooth 90s body will remain unique and iconic for generations of car fans to come.
For Japanese touring car Honda released five NSX-R GTs as this was needed for homologation. Honda never confirmed what changes are made from the NSX-R in terms of engine, so the closest you can get to this car is Forza Motorsport 3 or Gran Turismo 5. The fact that the NSX was used until 2010 in JGTC shows the racing pedigree installed in the car from Ayrton Senna, to the tweaks over time to create the ultimate Type-R, the Honda NSX-R. It has won over fans worldwide including Drift King Keiichi Tsuchiya who owns his own tuned version of a NSX (see video below). To see the car's impressive potential watch the other video below of the Honda NSX-R against a Lamborghini Gallardo, Murcielago, Ferrari F360, NSX-R, Porsche 911 Turbo and a BMW M3 CSL on the East Motegi Circuit. Incredible display of track power by the old timer NSX.
Great Video about Keiichi Tsuchiya's NSX-R
The Future? Mugen Honda Civic Type-R FN2
Like previously mentioned the Honda Civic Type-R FN2 failed to inspire like the EP3 as a standard car. Only once the Championship White edition came out with the LSD did it show its true potential. An Evo magazine feature showed "it [the Championship White] knocks more than 3sec off the lap time set by the regular version – a staggering improvement that I wouldn’t have believed possible if I hadn’t done the driving myself". But against the competition power is now down 40BHP to some rivals as they gave the car just 1 more BHP from the EP3 which left many fans cold.
This want has been partly answered by the long awaited arrival of the European division of Mugen. And to showcase to the world they produced the Mugen Honda Civic Type-R. A lightweight highly tuned 237BHP 2.0 K20a powered hot hatch. With nearly 40BHP more AND lighter weight, Mugen set out to take back the hot hatch crown off the Renault Megane R26.R, a virtual track car for the road. In that same Evo feature the Mugen displayed the speed to do so, "It knocks 3.2sec off the Championship White’s time and in the process undercuts the R26.R by an impressive 0.4sec too". The potential for this car is amazing however the problem lies with Mugen themselves. They are still getting into gear, and this car is limited run for a very expensive price, plus the JDM only FD2 Mugen RR had the same power and similar focus. However if this nods towards the next Type-R we could be back onto a winner in the future. If anything this Mugen Type-R just how poor the standard FN2 Type-R was. It did not deserve the name.
Mugen Honda Civic Type-R review
Mugen Civic Type-R vs Audi R8 V10 on the road
Japan get better treatment but its not a Hot Hatch - The FD2
Whilst looking much more conservative that its UKDM cousin, the JDM FD2 is a miles better car. It is far more driver focused and more hardcore. It has a 222BHP version of the k20a and is sharper, with a rock solid suspension and featuring a LSD as standard like a Type-R should. The chassis is much more agile and "alive". One can only presume that UK Honda thought it would be too hardcore, but that is what a Type-R should be. My only problem with this being a Civic Type-R is that it should not be a saloon. While I do like the look of the FD2 saloon, this chassis and engine should be in the UK hatch as the Type-R Civic should always be a hatchback in my opinion. Japan seems to agree as they have recently decided to import back the UKDM hatch as the Euro Type-R in Japan. However this JDM car is a superb car in its own right. UK TV program Fifth Gear took the UKDM Civic against the JDM saloon and it destroys the UK car by 3 seconds over a lap. Best Motoring International also benchmarked the new Euro Type-R against the facelifted FD2 with similar results. The videos are fascinating to see the differences. In spirit this is everything the FN2 should of been, and something the FN only gets close with the LSD equipped Championship White.
UKDM Civic Type-R FN2 vs JDM Civic Type-R FD2
Japanese Perspective of the Euro Type-R vs JDM Type-R FD2
The Situation of Honda and Japanese Manufacturers Today
Since the early 2000s, Honda and Japanese manufacturers have failed to capitalise on this
1990s dominance and the legion of fans that follow it. Toyota are focusing on hybrids and don't offer a single sports car in the UK Market. Whilst the only Japanese
supercars are the Nissan GTR and the highly limited Lexus LF-A. Despite
huge protests from fans Honda seem to refuse to produce a successor to the NSX to
bring the challenge back to the GT-R. Until this stance by Honda
changes, fans of 90s Japanese cars will have to repair and rebuild these
90s classics like the DC2 and EK9 from Honda, which are becoming 15 years old now. While at least Toyota seem to
be trying to rebuild the affordable sports car market with the FT-86, Honda continue
to let us down with cars like the CR-Z which fail to deliver what we
want. A car that takes it to the world and battles its countries best offerings. If you want to buy an affordable practical sports car, you have to look to Europe for hot hatches like the Focus ST, Renault Megane RS,
Golf GTI or Golf R, and if you want a Japanese supercar it is GT-R or
nothing as you have to be out of your mind to buy the superb but
ridiculously priced LFA.
In the truly small car segment its even worse. Honda don't offer a single sporty Yaris, whilst Toyota's current Yaris SR is failure of a relatively huge underpowered engine and poor sporty credentials. Compared to the Abrath Fiat 500, or the Renaultsport Clio and Vauxhall Corsa VXR it is a complete embarrassment for a market that popularised the fast small car. A new EK9 style Jazz with a powerful VTEC around would be most welcome, as would a 200BHP CR-Z. Bring back the Toyota vs Nissan vs Honda battles from supermini to supercar! Japanese car fans demand it.