Honda Used Car Advice
History of the Honda Marque
This marque was created by a man named Soichiro Honda, whose passion for motors and pursuit of technological excellence became the guiding spirit behind the successful multinational corporation that we know today. As a boy, Honda worked first in his father’s bicycle repair shop, then for a while in a garage in Tokyo. He developed a keen interest in manufacturing, began to study engineering and set up a workshop where he made piston rings for Toyota. He then progressed to designing and building his own engines, and in 1946, seeing post-war Japan’s desperate need for affordable personal transport, Honda started to design motorcycles. In 1949 he set up Honda Motor Company, and within little more than a decade Honda had become the world’s number one motorcycle manufacturer.
The car division of the business was not launched until 1963. From the very early days the company focused on developing engines with low emissions and good fuel economy (it’s said that Soichiro Honda always loathed the noise, smell and fumes that filled the streets of post-war Tokyo), and Honda reliability is arguably second to none. Until 2004 all Honda’s own engines were petrol, though diesel models were produced in joint ventures with Isuzu and Rover. In 2004 Honda launched its first diesel engine, the superb 2.2-litre 4-cylinder i-CTDi (“intelligent common-rail turbo-charged direct injection”).
Honda was an early pioneer of petrol-electric hybrid technology. Its first hybrid came onto the market in 1999 but was a commercial failure. Ten years later another hybrid was launched with the same name. The reborn Insight was a success and subsequently more hybrid models have been added to the Honda range alongside, the petrol and diesel models whose clean engine technology continues to evolve.
Buying a Used Honda
Honda engines have an excellent reputation for efficiency and longevity, and their environmental credentials are impeccable. The one problem Honda faces is one of image; traditionally, the company has played safe with styling, introducing unremarkable body shapes that are nice enough but rarely radical. Consequently it has been criticised for being too conservative and has found it hard to shake of its ‘boring’ image. As a rule the cars are anything but boring to drive, with models such as the Type-R being very highly rated for their sporty performance. In spite of this slightly negative image, used Hondas hold their resale value extremely well.
Honda - Model by Model
The 2009 Honda Insight was a pioneer of petrol-electric hybrid technology. Its only real rival was Toyota Prius and the challenge was to convince mainstream motorists of the benefits of hybrid. Besides tremendous fuel economy the Insight offers very low road tax and is generally exempt from city centre emissions taxes. The driver can maximise or minimise the impact of the hybrid technology; there’s an ‘ECO’ button to manually switch in and out of economy mode, with dashboard instrumentation that allows you to monitor your driving. Cabin spec, comfort and trim are good. There is, however, some trade-off in terms of acceleration and power; this isn’t a fast car. To make the most of it you may need to adjust your driving style. If you don’t want to do that, and if economy and going green are low on your list, don’t buy it; but if they’re high on your list, the Insight is well worth considering. The new 2012 Insight should cause some drop in used prices.
When the 8th generation Honda Civic was unveiled in 2005, its futuristic styling from a manufacturer not known for its design flair cause quite a stir. The range comprised 5-door hatches with a choice of 1.8 or 2.2 petrol, or 2.2 diesel, and subsequently expanded to include a 4-door Hybrid, the sporty Type-S 3-door hatch, and last but not least the high-performance Type-R, introduced in 2007. Spacious, well-equipped, fun to drive and distinctive in appearance, this Civic became a best-seller, and its biggest drawback as a second hand choice is likely to be the purchase price.
The 2003-08 Honda Accord shifted several notches upmarket from its predecessor, heading toward the business and executive buyer rather than the family motorist on a budget. The hatchback was dropped and the new range comprised a saloon and a tourer, both with sporty looks and sophisticated cabins providing plenty of driver comforts even in the basic ES trim. The new 2008 Accord continued the move into the premium market, offering the highly acclaimed 2.2 iDTEC diesel engine.
In JDPower customer satisfaction surveys both the 2001-08 Jazz and its successor have been consistently ranked top or nearly top of the supermini class. An initial complaint was the harsh suspension; this was remedied in 2003. Apart from that the Honda Jazz really is hard to fault, and consequently it holds its value very well.
The Honda CR-V is essentially a ‘softroader’. Many people buy them as practical, safe family transport or as company cars. As long as you’re not looking for a serious off-road vehicle, this is generally reckoned to be one of the truly outstanding medium-sized 4WDs. It’s chunky on the outside; it’s well-equipped and comfortable on the inside, even with basic SE trim; it’s reliable, economical and enjoyable to drive. All models have automatic four-wheel-drive (A4WD) which means that during normal road use it is front-wheel-drive only, with 4WD engaging only when called for by road conditions.
The summer of 2010 saw the arrival of Honda’s 2+2 sports coupe hybrid, the Honda CR-Z, offering motoring that’s fast, fun and eco-friendly. It’s been extremely well received and occupies a niche all its own. Not surprisingly, the first models filtering through to the used market have lost very little value.
This sports convertible was in production between 1999 and 2009. It’s not a Porsche or a BMW but it is a very well-made and highly credible sportscar. The 2-litre GT delivers true sports performance at 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds. Also available as a hardtop. The Honda S2000 is not cheap.
The combination of outstanding reliability and exceptionally high residual values makes older Hondas a more attractive second-hand buy that most other marques of equal age. There’s a long list of Honda models that were discontinued with no direct successor: the sporty Prelude coupe and the Integra, the prestige Legend, the funky HRV, the pre-2003 Accord hatchback, the old Aerodeck and the Concerto which was also badged as the Rover 216. There was even a previous and shortlived incarnation of the Insight, a hybrid born before its time in 1999 and rarely seen these days. Any of these models, in good condition, is worth a second look.