Six owners down the road, this is what you get
Starter motor broke (literally, including gear) during the very first hour of ownership. Advised by the dealer that it was an aftermarket component re-manufactured with Chinese parts. Dealer did not have a complete starter off their shelves, so they re-manufactured it again as best as they could. Starts have presented an ugly, upsetting metallic noise ever since.
Many loose parts inside the doors, under the hood, in the trunk, dashboard; needed about a kilogram (no joke) of screws, nuts and washers to fix them to the chassis and stop the rattles. Multi-piece dashboard and central console showed that joining them to get a perfect fit did not work after several years of expansion and contraction due to thermal differences.
Hoses were all dry-cracked. Warned by the dealer, but waited too long to comply and the engine overheated. All the hoses were changed.
Main pulley was wobbling. Changed, with all the accessory belts. Engine came out much quieter after that repair.
Many oil leaks at the oil pan, valve cover. Many fluid leaks in the hydraulic steering system.
Fuel gauge did not show full. Changed.
Advised by the dealer that the front right lower suspension ball-joint was worn out and about to break. I said, "OK, I will bring it back next week". During the intervening weekend, hit a deep street hole at speed, and a couple of city blocks later the suspension failed, bending arms and breaking the right inner constant-velocity joint in the process.
Exhaust silencers were rusted and full of holes.
Ignition coil and firing computer burned out. The car was stranded on a busy avenue. Ignition system was totally overhauled by the dealer after that.
Carburetor was out of order and could not be repaired anymore. Dealer advised a new carburetor, but it was no longer in production, so searched for a used one in the best possible shape, and the dealer overhauled it with as many new parts as possible. Worked fine afterwards, except for a little hesitation during warm starts.
Right after the new carburetor was fitted, the car began to stall after about half an hour of driving. The dealer discovered that some previous owner/mechanic fitted the wrong fuel pump, i.e., the one designed for the fuel injection model. New fuel pump, the correct one now. No problems after that.
Speedometer sensor failed, with the needle having a life of its own. Changed, no problems after that, including the fine work of the gentle sound reminder of speeds over 110 km/h.
Changed three of the four door ajar sensors.
Hood hinges were worn out, so the hood rattled a little. The trunk lid torsion bars were wrongly reinstalled by some previous owner/bodywork specialist after a small crash in this car's past life.
Changed brake bulbs a few times.
Glovebox handle broke. Plastic aged and dry-cracked due to solar radiation. Why don't they use more durable metal parts? OK, the car is not designed to last more than ten years, or it is?
Changed main brake pump (master cylinder and vacuum servo), front brake rotors and pads, rear drums rectified, shoes changed. Good stopping power afterwards, but annoying pedal travel remained, i.e., even though the wheels were braked until locking, if pressing hard, the pedal could still be forced downward until hitting the floor. Dealer suspected a rear brake cylinder problem.
Small transmission fluid leak at the kick-down lever seal ring. Non-significant, but afraid of a costly transmission overhaul if the leak increased.
Water pump failed and the engine overheated once again. Previously inspected, but not changed during camshaft timing belt change, following maintenance factory instructions. I thought "Why not change if the part is inexpensive?". Intuition proved better than the factory maintenance instructions.
Main front crankshaft o-ring seal failed. Oil ran down in a few kilometers, barely enough time to reach the dealer's location.
Two out of four engine mounts broke. The third, at the rear, proved to be from the manual transmission version, not the electro-pneumatic mount standard for the automatic transmission powertrain. Lousy care by some previous owner/mechanic.
In a visual inspection, found a Toyota headlamp relay under the hood instead of a Honda one. Some previous owner/mechanic's lousy, cheap-as-humanly-possible care.
A major problem was a water leak at the top of the windshield. The leak became apparent after heavy rains, dripping near the A-pillars. When I asked to change failed bulbs in the instrument cluster, the dealer discovered rusted wiring terminals, indicating water was running inside the A-pillars and into the dashboard. Windshield should be extracted, rust in the metal frame eliminated by a bodywork specialist, and fitted again. Dealer warned of a 70% chance of the glued windshield cracking in the process, so the repair could be expensive.
Rust perforation at the rear right door sill. Bad repair by some previous owner/bodywork specialist after a crash in this car's past life.
Changed the aged, dry-cracking Pirellis for expensive Michelins. Worth the money difference, as the handling is noticeably better with Michelins.
Rubber hoses of fuel lines dry-cracked near the fuel tank. Significant fuel leak.
Air conditioner worked fine, but the dealer let gas escape during a cooling radiator flush/maintenance and did not recharge the system. After a recharge, great cabin cooling again.
Heater radiator rusted and unusable. Water hoses were bypassed by some previous owner/mechanic.
Electric antenna gear mechanism failing. Antenna did not extend or retract properly.
Re-manufactured starter motor failed again. This time the dealer did have an OEM unit on their shelves.
Sold because the dealer advised that the car manufacturer only provides parts for about twenty years after model discontinuation.
After purchase, when it became evident that this car was full of problems, I reassured my wife: "It is a good car, it just needs love." And boy, I was proved true.
I bought this car as a bargain, attracted by the low mileage and well preserved bodywork/chassis/interior. In my country, it is hard to find a 15-year-old car that has not been involved in a major crash with chassis integrity consequences. It is much easier to change mechanical or electrical parts than to try to correct a chassis or major bodywork defect. And so I embarked on a Ship of Theseus voyage, spending three times more money than the purchase price.
First the minuses:
City fuel economy was poor, about 17 L / 100 km or 6 km / L.
Driver's seat was too low, and too narrow, with not much support. Rear leg room could be better.
Needs more power, especially in highway overtakes.
Equipment was relatively poor: I missed dearly a map reading lamp, expected in this category of car.
Dashboard engineering was poor, with too numerous, many plastic pieces, impossible to sustain aging, maintaining all their exact designed position and fit. Water leak at the windshield and rusting exhaust are known problems, per other reviews. Water dripping inside? Give me a break: this was a 1990's car, not a 1960's econocar.
Now the pluses:
The progressive steering is excellent, light in maneuvers, and at the same time offers good, safe, assuring road feeling at speed.
The steering wheel is well positioned, despite a lower than desired seat.
Dashboard ergonomics are very good.
Visibility is excellent in all directions. Rear view mirrors are well positioned and of large size.
The trunk is huge, with a wide-opening trunk lid and the car's rear suspension intrusion cleverly designed to accommodate things going in and out easily.
Leg room, shoulder room, and anything-else room are excellent.
Very comfortable in bumper-to-bumper hours of city driving, or during an entire day of long distance travel. Undeniably, ease of driving is the main factor in its comfort. The engine has a lot of torque, and the automatic transmission shift points are perfect, including torque converter lock-up (a real fifth gear).
The suspension performance is one of the best I have ever experienced: good road isolation, silent, but with a lot of stability. Not too sporty, but well balanced for what this car is intended to be: a good, safe, comfortable family car.
After the Ship of Theseus ground-up resurrection, the car was very reliable: no electrical problems, durable suspension even if beaten hard by horrible roads, quiet engine with no strange noises or vibrations, velour upholstery of excellent durability, etc.. My car was a special rough export version with 10 mm more ground clearance, transmission cooling radiator as standard, humid-climate spark plugs, low-octane compression ratio, steel wheels, and I suspect a heavy duty air-intake water trap.
Parts have similar prices as Toyota's, and reliability is on a par. But this is not a Toyota: you will never find "dull" and "Honda" in the same sentence. It is probably the most European of all Japanese cars.
If you want a middle-class family car, you will invariably end with the Honda Accord at the very top of your shopping list. Just try to avoid being the sixth owner down the road.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 23rd November, 2013