QotW: What Honda model is the most Honda?

Honda has made some fantastic vehicles in its 75 years as a company. But if you had to pick just one car to represent the distilled essence of Honda, what would it be? From the humble Civic CVCC to the world-beating NSX, there’s a tremendous breadth of engineering excellence under the H banner. Is it even possible to narrow it down to just one? Maybe not, but make your arguments here.

What Honda model is the most Honda?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s your favorite Japanese car commercial?“.

Speaking of Honda, the company has put out some truly great commercials. Whether it was the epic “Impossible Dream” as suggested by Ian N., the Formula 1 infusion suggested by JJ, or the surreal comedy of the Element “I Pinch” spot that Walter reminded us of, there’s huge range there.

Nissan had some great ones too, especially for the Z. f31roger ‘s “Black Gold” is the epitome of 70s kitsch, while Jeremy A‘s 300ZX Ridley Scott-directed Superbowl ad is not only cool but had the misfortune to have aired only once, and who could forget Sammy B‘s Nissan ad where GI Joe takes Barbie for a joyride in a R/C Z?

You almost expected a laugh track in MikeRL411‘s nomination of an ad where a Japanese exec is training an American salesman to pronounce Isuzu, such was its 80s sitcom vibe. On the opposite end of the spectrum, daniel chose an entire Argentinian soap opera that featured prominent Isuzu product placement. Meanwhile, the lone Subaru pick came from Australia courtesy of Ian N.

Toyota had its share of memorable spots, starting with the iconic Toyota jump, as suggested by Crown and Lee. Jonathan P. unearthed a Corolla ad from an English-speaking Asian country that had an AE82 doing AE86 stunts. In the end, the winner this week was Banpei, whose selection of the late, great Sonny Chiba saving a shiba inu in a Toyota Carina is both bizarre and hilarious:

My favorite commercial is by far the one where Sonny Chiba is saving a Shiba Inu puppy with his Toyota Twin Cam Turbo Carina GT-TR TA63 and Kenji Utsumi narrates the whole ordeal!

Nowadays we all know slapping a turbo on an engine will increase its output and your car is becoming faster, but in the early 1980s people had to be educated! So what’s the use for adding a turbo? This commercial outlines it within 30 seconds: having a turbo means you’re just in time to save a puppy from meeting its doom when it drifts down the top of a waterfall. Without the turbo? The puppy would have died! So if you have to choose between life and death, choose a (twin cam) turbo!

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19 Responses to QotW: What Honda model is the most Honda?

  1. Mercilessmings says:

    The N series cars, obviously. Mr. HONDA wanted to keep things air cooled.

  2. Legacy-san says:

    The car that all current Hondas came from…the Civic. The Accord was a longer and wider Civic, the integra was the sports version sold at “Honda Verno” dealerships, the Prelude was the Civic with the Accords larger engine, the Legend was a luxury Accord sold at “Honda Clio” dealerships and the S2000 was a roadster Civic.

    Discuss amongst yourselves.

  3. Aaron Cake says:

    The 2000 – 2006 Honda Insight. It is the perfect example of Honda engineers being told “this is your goal, now have at it”. I fear that after the Insight, Honda lost a lot of their Hondaness as they fell back to producing high volume, conventional vehicles.

  4. TheJWT says:

    The NSR500.

    After decades of experimenting with unconventional 4-stroke engines due to Soichiro’s distain for 2-strokes, (250cc inline sixes, oval piston v-fours, even a prototype oval piston turbocharged v-twin) they finally, begrudgingly joined the crowd. In doing so, they made the most dominant race bike of all time. The final iteration could make over 200hp from 500cc

  5. nlpnt says:

    Talking about Isuzu ads; “On the opposite end of the spectrum…” I see what you did there.

    Interesting question. I’ve already laid a marker on the gen 3 manual Fit as the last really “Honda” Honda, so I could extrapolate that to the 1984 Civic Wagovan as the origin of that type of space-maximizing design. Another candidate could be the original S360/600/800. And the one-off dark horse, the experimental Chevy Impala modified to CVCC heads to show it could be done.

  6. Land Ark says:

    The 4th Gen (CB) Accord could very well be the very definition of the word “car” so it stands to reason it would also define Honda In the ubiquitous shades of gold they came in they benchmarked reliable, engaging, and low cost family transportation. There is no one reading this blog (over 25 or so) that hasn’t known someone who had one or had one themselves. They took Honda from being a growing car company into being a major player in the industry.

    If you close your eyes and someone tells you to think about what a car is, you might think Camry but you will probably visualize a CB Accord.

  7. Taylor C. says:

    I think the S2000 is about as Honda as it gets. A long time ago I picked up an SAE article on the F20C engine, and realized that Honda design and built this car as a gift to themselves, to celebrate 50 years in the automotive business. As such, they basically incorporated all the technology, as well as their tradition into the car.

    A two-liter engine screaming to 8900 RPM and 240 hp, that’s pure Honda.

    Double wishbone suspension typical of most of their sporty Hondas

    A Roadster design to carry the tradition of the S600.

    A manual gearbox with a shifter that’s arguably better than an Miata NA’s.

    Mod-friendly, just like the other Hondas.

    Easy to maintain, just like other Hondas.

    I know when you ask someone to say the first word that comes after “Honda,” most will say “Civic.” However, just because it’s the most popular does not make it the most “Honda.” I fell the S2000 really embodies that Honda philosophy.

  8. Land Ark says:

    Please rescue my comment from jail, it’s innocent, I swear! 😇

  9. Ryan Senensky says:

    I want to say the most-peak Honda would be EK9 Civic Type-R. More-so than the DC2 ITR, the EK9 represents taking a literal sub-compact commuter car and making a world-class homologation model utilizing parts that are mostly bolt-ons or variants of existing items. The ITR represents the peak of FWD sports car development, which could be arguably a great choice as well.

    The allure of Honda is how accessible they are and that’s why I chose the EK9. You could feasibly make 90% of an EK9 in your garage from existing factory parts and some machine work on the head. They didn’t reinvent the wheel, they just let the engineers have at it.

    Furthermore, the 6th gen Civic as a chassis was really the peak of true Honda development, the roots of that chassis date back to when Soichiro Honda was still with the company. When you look under even a 6th gen Civic DX, you can see that it’s not a normal car. Where a beam axle would be sensible in the rear, there’s a multipoint trailing arm system, and a MacPherson strut would have been fine up front but alas there’s double wishbones there.

    These are truly special cars and I will argue are more special and more representative of the company than even the NSX and S2000 could ever be.

  10. Trey says:

    How can IT be anything but¿:
    Honda Accord …folks¡

  11. Evil Twin says:

    Taylor C gets my vote for best comment.
    He took most of the words right out of my mouth.

    Although as the owner of an AP2 I am biased.

  12. Lakdasa says:

    Agree with Taylor C, Honda comes from a motorcycle back ground and the screaming engine in the S2000 harks back to that heritage. If it wasnt a 4 wheeler you could say the SuperCub would take the cake. Simple, long lasting and very good at what it does. Took on the giant motorcycles and won hearts of many.

  13. RainMeister says:

    The 1967 Honda RA272 gets my nod, even though it is a race car.

    Consider that when Honda entered Formula 1 in 1964, it had only been making four wheel vehicles for less than a year (T360 Kei truck and the S500)! One can only imagine that it was the butt of jokes among the established fraternity of F1 teams like Ferrari, Lotus, BRM and Brabham. Yet, Honda had the chutzpah and the courage to take on the challenge.

    The following season, Honda entered its second racer, the RA272. This was a home-grown chassis and engine combination that qualified in the top 3 over four of the eight races it entered, winning the Mexican Grand Prix! Back then, only Ferrari and BRM designed and built a complete Formula One car, as others relied on independent engine suppliers like Climax, Repo, Ford and Maserati. What other auto maker can claim to achieving such success so quickly at the pinnacle of motorsport?

    At about that time, Honda was facing an even greater enemy in the form of the Japanese government. The Ministry of Trade & Industry was trying to force Honda to remain out of the car business as the bureaucrats sought to rationalize the domestic industry into a few national champions. Honda steadfastly refused to play by those rules. To this day, Honda remains an outsider, remaining fiercely independent while the rest of the Japanese auto industry coalesce around two groups led by Toyota and Nissan.

    Honda is the only Japanese automaker to have won the Formula One mfrs championship multiple times, and through two different eras no less. Today, they dominate the GP circuit just as they did in the late 80s and early 90s, having won all 14 races held this year. It was only 6 years ago that Honda was again the butt of everyone’s jokes as their supplied engines to McLaren kept detonating. The lesson here is to never, ever bet against Honda.

    The early spark of Honda’s legendary fearlessness, perseverance and engineering prowess in all things four wheels are embodied in that RA272.

    • RainMeister says:

      *Typo: The RA272 debuted in 1965. Honda’s ’67 F1 entry was the Lola-based V12 powered RA300. Movie trivia: “Team Yamura” and actor Toshiro Mifune played the role of Team Honda and Soichiro Honda respectively in the 1966 movie Grand Prix. Team Yamura would win the “Italian GP”and the championship with James Garner’s character behind the wheel. In a case of life imitating art, Honda would actually win the Italian Grand Prix a year later with John Surtees in the RA300.

  14. dankan says:

    For me, the most Honda of Hondas would need to be a family machine. It cannot be a sports car, because although Honda have done a few excellent ones, the company thrives by providing brilliant engineering for the masses, not by putting the cherry on top of an ego sandwich.

    I’m tempted to just say the Honda Cub, and leave it at that, given that is the most successful machine with an engine in it ever sold. But to me that’s not peak Honda. The Honda of the 80s was a weird moment where a company’s engineering and styling matched the era perfectly, and so to me, the most Honda of Hondas needs to be from the 80s. And while the Honda Accord Aerodeck is a masterpiece, the 4th-gen Civic Shuttle takes the cake. A veritable Tardis on wheels with 4-wheel drive and insane fuel economy, but it’s also great to drive? And priced so normal humans can afford it? Ladies, gentlemen, and everyone else, the line for peak Honda forms to the rear…

  15. f31roger says:

    I was at the Greddy Honda/Acura event a couple weekends back and it just brought back so much memories of when I first got into the car scene.

    Civic to me is Honda. An Integra also. Between those 2 models… it’s hard to say what one is best.

    EG Hatch and DC2 Integra are kind of timeless looks to me.

  16. エーイダン says:

    The most Honda of Hondas……. The Super Cub dirtbikefrom the 1970s. Independent, free-roaming and fun by the shipload. Like Honda itself in a way, as most Japanese marques were established by larger parent firms looking to make money, it is the outlier.

  17. JJ says:

    The most Honda of Hondas is, at the outset, an easy question. For the average layperson it’s the model most associated with the company, Civic. Which is a fine answer, but I think is a tad superficial. In my mind there are two Honda Companies, one run by the accountants and one run by the engineers.

    When run by the accountants Honda seems to focus on safe, reliable, economical models that will sell, and not even a whisper of a thought is given to performance, modification or enthusiasts. The original Pilot, CR-V, Odyssey were created within this mindset, and only illustrate how far the focus had gone from high-revving insanity. In my mind the most Honda of Hondas for this aspect of the company is the 1995 CR-V, a vehicle created to answer a question that no one was asking. It was as if they said, “We need a Civic Wagon, but let’s ignore our model history and make it worse”. Combined with the RAV-4, it helped usher in the current crossover era that has almost eliminated fun-to-drive cars from the marketplace. But they made Honda a ton of money, so mission accomplished.

    When run by the engineers, I feel that it’s the S2000 for all the reasons Taylor C. stated above.

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