Ultimate paradox: Wonderful, agile driving FUN in an ugly body. I loved it!
One single breakdown - in spite of its age & close to 200.000 km (well over 120.000 miles) = really GREAT.
What happened was a mysterious freak breakdown of the distributor arm. That took some head scratching to find, since many alternative faults are much more common, and much more likely.
The ignition spark was shortened to ground through the arm, and it broke down while idling - just like the snapping of fingers.
Anyway, it was a 4.- $ part that took about one minute to replace.
It then started IMMEDIATELY - as it always did.
Simply GLORIOUS engine!!! Words cannot describe it. Read below...
Best steering I've ever used: it's got progressive servo (power assist), which means it is wonderfully light at parking, and STILL gives absolutely first class feedback at speed!!! Mind-blowing! The power assist backs off as the speed increases, and from ~ approx. 35 mph (~60 kph) and up, it is 0% (no power assist).
Add to that a superbly sharp precision in the steering, and you're almost in Nirvana! =D Almost? Well, the minimum turning radius is the Achilles heel of the steering. The radius is, to be honest, ridiculously big. Add it all up, the steering get 9 stars of 10. Superb!!
Overall, this is a very lightweight car. That makes for very nimble handling, even quite agile - even with stock suspension and tyres. The wonderful power steering adds to the perception of a super quick & agile little car. Yet at speed there's no nervousness, but a healthy stable precision in keeping its line.
Provoking this little gem reveals a slight understeer - just enough to keep things on the safe side. Balance is otherwise quite close to neutral. Handling gets 8 stars out of 10. Great!
Brakes were good on my particular car. They could, or should, have been overhauled to a better state, but I didn't get the time to fix that, and they worked well, so... Power assist left just enough feel, and wasn't over-sensitive as on some newer cars (which becomes a safety issue in stressed situations).
I found one really neat feature at the brakes: incorporated in the rear suspension, I found a mechanical brake force distribution control! Cool! Great stuff!
A lightweight car really gains enormously from controlling rear brake power, preventing lock-up at inspired driving!
Brakes get 7 stars out of 10.
The jewel in the crown. The motor is honestly an overwhelming display of WORLD DOMINATION !
You probably know that Honda is the world's biggest manufacturer of combustion engines.
I've worked with, and used almost every ICE type there is through much of my life; racing two-strokes, high-revving motorcycle four strokes, high performance turbocharged four strokes, and much more.
No other internal combustion engine, any category, has performed such impressive characteristics as this one. It delivers the ultimate combination of steady, high-torque performance, and lively yet smooth revving-happy entertainer.
Here, Honda have produced a motor with characteristics that any engineer would be proud of!
That unbelievable flexibility is achieved by Honda's experts in part by the motor's quite unusual concept:
- True LONG-stroke layout
- Twelve-valve concept
- Dual-port carburettor feed
- Small-dia exhaust
Of course, that is just the concept > everything then has to be made to play together, just like an orchestra. And Honda made it play, believe me!!!
Let me put it like this: the difficulty of driving this engine lies in fully taking advantage of its capability. The words here cannot - I'm sure - convey the power band this motor has:
It's so wide that it aids acceleration substantially. With equal power-to-weight ratio, this car beats ten years younger competitors - simply because of the excellent power band.
Obviously, this also means you'll enjoy an incredibly driveable and laidback character, as it's BOTH quick AND easy to drive at the same time.
Usually, engines with ample low-down torque runs out of breath at higher rpms, but this is an eagerly revving engine way past 6 grand. Remember this on an engine that has full pull power from 1000 rpm... In this lightweight car, I got between 7 - 9 litres per 100 km (35 - 25 miles/ gal US.), but with some effort I did manage 5 litres per 100 km (47 mpg US) Not bad for a 20+ year old car, with 100 hp.
For an ICE motor, I can't find any fault! The motor is 9 stars out of 10. Fantastic!
Gearbox is excellent! Short and very very distinctive strokes, yet not hard and 'mechanical'.
Quick and sure gear selection! Clutch was OK, but like the brakes could have been overhauled to achieve perfection as it was twenty years old, I'm sure.
Transmission get a good great 8 out of 10!
Seats were - again - twenty years old. They were good for their age, and I found a good driving position with good comfort. Suspension was not on the soft swampy side, but not too hard either. Comfort gets 6 out of 10, which is quite OK: no complaints.
As the paradox of all paradoxes, this car is one of the uglier I know of, regarding looks. Design is really a mix of that old horrendous Japanese design, and later, more western-oriented (and anonymous) styling.
In fairness though, I'll have to say that the hatchback layout made for some surprisingly easy luggage loading. Even the luggage volume is worth mentioning. When fold the rear seat, which is a breeze, you have a 'mini-estate'. That's practical, really.
So ugly design and practical layout. Bodywork gets 5 out of 10, which is quite OK... but it won't pick up girls ... ;)
* This was a lot of words... but believe me -
you have to drive one of these to really comprehend what I've described; as you drive it, you don't look from outside at the body style ;)
- you rather get a big grin on your face when you're behind the wheel! *
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 7th January, 2009