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The Top Ten Hondas the U.S. never saw
September 11th, 2015
It has been long known that the United States gets the short end of the performance stick when it comes to cars that are offered here as compared to their home country. This typically boils down to a few factors like EPA regulations restricting its sale on our shores, demand, pride, etc, etc. With Honda there were numerous cars that could have been sold on U.S. dealer lots but never got the chance. Today we take a look at our top 10 list of Hondas that would never be for the American buyer.
Our criteria is simply opinion based, as we looked at how popular the car was overseas, what it offered as opposed to the US version (if there was one), and how badly we wished Honda brought it over here
There are so many that were held from us that it was truly difficult to narrow this down, as so many great models & versions were offered and unfortunately, some didn’t make our top 10 list. We’d still like to show them love though so here are a few that just missed out
1989-1993 Integra XSiDeveloped for the NSX, VTEC is a polarizing acronym. It’s either an amazing technological advancement, or the subject of numerous internet memes about ricers. Regardless of your standing, no one can argue it’s what makes Honda…well Honda, and it was first introduced in the Acura Integra XSi. The reason this car fails to make our list is simple. By the time VTEC made it to the U.S. with the 1992 Integra GSR, tuners had already brought the engine over here making what would have been a cause for celebration into a collective, “What took you so long?”
1986-1987 Accord AeroDeckOne of the most interesting and arguably coolest looking Hondas, the AeroDeck was a 3 door hatchback “shooting brake” Accord, and was only sold in Europe from 1986-1987. Now while this car may seem rather cool now, sales were terrible as people preferred the sedan version, and when the Coupe came out in 1987, the AeroDeck was cancelled. We still think it would be an awesome car to own anyway.
2007-2010 Civic Type-R HatchbackThis impressive hot hatch not only charmed European owners for its run winning Top Gear’s “Hot Hatch of 2007” Award, but dominated the world of British Touring Cars. Powered by a similar adaptation of the K20 found in the previous generation Type-R, it made good power but was heavily criticized by some including Jeremy Clarkson who said it "just doesn't feel that quick" and that "all the poise and controllability that you used to get in the old car is just sort of... gone". Other publications agreed, and after the rivals Ford Focus ST and GTI introduced their newest versions, the FN2 Type-R was a clear afterthought.
2001-2002 Toreno Euro ROnly really hardcore Honda fans are going to know what this car is. For the rest of you, don’t feel bad, as this car didn’t really last long even in Japan. Derived from the Honda Accord, the Toreno was only sold through certain dealership channels in Japan through 1997-2001, and was a Honda Accord in a different wrapper. The Euro R version though was a factory modified powerhouse and sported an H22A engine making 220hp, Recaro seats, MOMO steering wheel, helical-torsen LSD, and it even came with a stainless steel 4-2-1 header. Sales suffered compared to the Accord though and the Toreno was scraped after the 2002 model ear.
#10 - 2001-2004’ Integra Type-R
The DC5 Integra - or the Acura RSX as it is known here, was the replacement to the legendary DC2 generation Integra that many consider the best FWD car of all time. Now while the DC5 wasn't quite a good as it's older brother, it was still a much better option in the U.S. over the Civic Si that was offered. What's sad for us Americans is that as we were able, oh so briefly, to experience the Type-R trim in some form with the USDM DC2 Interga, Honda apparently didn't deem us worry of it's successor when it was released for the 2002 model year.
#9 - 1991-1995 Civic/Ferio SiR
Honda in the 90’s was a glorious time…for anyone NOT in the United States. American buyers finally got a taste of a 4-door performance-based Civic with the 8th generation Si, but it was nowhere near as cool as the Civic Ferio SiR. Basically a 4-door Integra with a Civic badge, this B16A powered, limited-slip differential equipped performance sedan would have been the perfect fit for a 90’s family looking for Civic with some balls.
#8 - 1987-1992 CR-X SiR
The CR-X is just one of those vehicles that invoke warm memories of when Japanese cars were simply the most reliable, economical and fun to drive ones you could find for the money. Now even though the CR-X was one of Honda’s best offerings, owners still yearned for more performance. With a 160hp engine, 4-wheel disc brakes, and an optional glass roof that nearly spanned the entire length of the top, the CR-X SiR was what the people wanted. It was probably for the best it wasn’t brought here though, as the lack of performance helped pave the way for the engine-swapping shenanigans we have come to expect from Honda tuners.
#7 - 1991-1995 Beat
The “Kei” car movement in Japan was based solely on vehicle taxes, and no Kei car has garnered more admiration than the Honda Beat of the early-mid 90’s. This micro-sized, mid-engine sports car would have been neat to see in the unites States, and with all the attention the S660 received with rumors of making it over here, there is no doubt Honda should have and still should provide us with a version of our own.
#6 - 1994-1997 Accord SiR
The Honda Accord had never been the epitome of motoring pleasure. It’s made to be soft, compliant, and sacrificed every ounce of performance in favor of driver comfort, and refinement. That is until Honda released the Accord SiR in 1994. This version took the mild mannered Clark Kent-like Accord to a phone booth, only to be unleashed as a Superman-like budget performance compact no one in Japan saw coming. Featuring a higher compression H22A, the only manual transmission to grace an SiR trim at the time, and proper suspension tuning, the Accord SiR gave you less mind numbness, and more endorphins you ever thought possible from its nameplate. It’s an absolute shame it was only sold in Japan.
#5 - 1983-1986 Honda City Turbo II
The 2016 Civic will be the first U.S. market Honda to come with a factory turbocharger, but isn’t the first Honda to come with that glorious piece of hardware. In 1982 Honda Introduced the City Turbo, a car that gave Kei car owners performance in a tax friendly package. It was the brainchild of Hirotoshi Honda, son of Honda founder Soichiro Honda as well as founder and owner of Mugen. Now this car didn’t make it to the U.S. as the CR-X had a firm grip on the segment, and Honda didn’t want to steal sales away from it, but the U.S. could have used a small turbocharged car in the gas rationing days of the 80’s.
#4 - 2006-2008 Accord Euro R
As the 2000’s saw the birth of the S2000, refresh of the NSX, and the return of the Civic Si, the Accord stayed as plain and as boring as ever in the U.S., while in Japan and Europe the Accord got an awesome performance version known as the Euro R. Now we know the Japanese and European Accord was sold here as the Acura TSX, but this version was much more stout. Featuring a 220hp K-series engine, lightweight 6-speed transmission and Type-R like seats and interior trim options, it still baffles us how Acura couldn’t have borrowed this for a performance version of the TSX.
#3 - 2007-2011 Civic Type-R Sedan
2006 saw the introduction of the 4 door Civic Si, and as the fans of VTEC would discover the sedan was just as good as the coupe, but they would soon realize, just like getting your older brother hand-me-downs, they got stuck with a second rate version as the best 4 door Honda was about be unleashed to the world; The Civic Type-R sedan. This Type-R would reset the bar as far as Type-R’s go sporting a bonkers 222hp K20A, unique front fascia, standard Type-R red & black interior, & optional Championship paint job which screams Type-R just about as much as it’s red Honda badges. It could easily be #1 on our list, or anyone’s for that matter.
#2 - 2002-2005 NSX-R
Now while the NSX was offered in the United States under the Acura brand, Honda released the NSX with a bit of a handicap. Honda engineers made certain compromises to the final design in order to strike a balance with the bean counters between performance and everyday drivability. This obviously did not please them as they soon offered a lesser compromised NSX-R in 1992. This car was more track-focused than the standard NSX, but in 2002, Honda decided to give the NSX an update. This resulted in a new NSX-R, which utilized more weight reduction with the use of carbon fiber, remapping of the accelerator among other things to create a car capable of competing with the top sports cars of the day, even after its debut 10 years before. It is an example of Honda’s engineering excellence, and is still a car many wished had left Japan.
#1 - 1997-2001 Civic Type-R
This one should be a no brainer. Ever since the Civic hatchback’s refresh in 1997, the EK generation Civic hatchback is arguably the most popular version of the Civic with tuners all over the world, and the 1st generation Civic Type-R is considered the best Civic to ever be built. The Civic Type-R was Honda’s version of the legendary DC2 Integra Type-R, still considered one of the greatest FWD cars ever produced. With its close-ratio gearbox and limited slip differential, it remains one of the best most desirable drivetrains Honda has ever produced. Couple that with the 185hp B16B engine (still the most powerful naturally aspirated 1.6 4cylinder ever made), a seam welded chassis for more rigidity, and a fantastic suspension setup, it should have made it here with the Type-R Integra, and will forever remain the one Honda that should have made it to showrooms here in the U.S.
Well there you have it. The top Ten Hondas that should have been sold in the United states but weren't. The good news is that it seems like lists like this may cease to exist in the future as car makers, including Honda are recognizing the demand U.S. buyers have for more performance minded cars like the new Civic Type-R. We for one, can't wait to see want other versions are going to be bound for U.S. shores.