Known to be one of the most reliable car brands, Honda isn’t a carmaker you would associate with bad cars. And yet, there have been Honda cars that did not fall under the reliable or good umbrella, let alone the high-quality ones many have come to expect from the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market).
Of course, just because these Honda cars didn’t do well in one part of the world, doesn’t mean they sold badly at home. Sometimes, the car does not match the expectation of the buyers and gets relegated into the disappointing gamut. Here are 10 Honda cars that shook our belief in this reliable brand, for better or worse.
10 1990 Honda Prelude Si 4WS: Poor Sales
We can’t exactly call the Prelude a bad car for it had a long and fairly successful run from 1978 till 2001 – that’s a 23-year lifespan. And for a few years, from 1983 to 1987, the Prelude did more than well in sales. Loosely based on the Accord, in the later years, it fared poorly in sales because of the in-house competition from the far-better Accord itself.
So this was a prime example of a good Honda eating up an average one. From the 336,000+ examples it sold between 1983 and 1997, it sold less than 60,000 in its last years between 1997 and 2001.
9 2013 Honda Fit EV: Poor Power
The Honda Fit EV (electric vehicle) was introduced to take on the Nissan Leaf EV, which at the time was leasing more than 2,000 cars every month. Marketed as the Honda Jazz in other parts of the world, the gasoline engine version of this car did well enough.
But the limited-state EV failed to take off because removing the gasoline engine took away all the respectable power it had and turned it into a driving nightmare. The $389 per month three-year cost also was a little too steep for most buyers and the Fit EV died a rather unfit death.
8 1993 Honda Civic Del Sol: Unsporty & Dull
Honda has erred more than once when it comes to creating a specific car to take on the existing competition. Like the time Honda decided to challenge the very successful Mazda MX-5 Miata, and launched a disaster vehicle named del Sol, meaning “of the sun”.
Sales for this were not very sunny, primarily because of the car's lackluster sporty design and a leaky Targa top. While the car had power, its front-wheel drive system wasn’t as responsive or fun as the Miata. No one wanted the del Sol all that much. Finally, in 1997, it was on its way out after a damp squib of a run.
7 2005 Honda Element: Sparky Circuitry
The 2005 Honda Element was a tad boxy for an SUV, and it worked to create the new crossover market for Honda. The Element was tall enough to work as a good outdoorsy car and spacious enough to carry awkward-sized outdoor gear with ease.
The back seat could be folded or even removed to create a huge flatbed and the floor of the Element was also washable. Sadly, the car had an issue with electric circuitry and some examples did catch fire. Since a lot was being bandied about this car, Honda decided to withdraw it in 2011 to keep their reputation safe and solid.
6 1989 Honda Concerto: High Maintenance
The Concerto was a joint product by the Honda and the Austin Rover group so in some parts of the world it was also launched as the Rover 200 / 400. Since the chassis of Concerto was from the small cars of the Rover family, it came as a five-door sedan or hatchback option.
Engine choices ranged from 1.4-liter to 1.8-liter inline-fours and power was not a problem here. Sadly, the problem lay with the fact that the Concerto was prone to rust and there were issues with the ABS. Also, somehow, the Concerto needed a lot more TLC than its sibling Rovers and became to be known as a high-maintenance car – so by 1994, the Concerto was outed by Honda forever.
5 1998 Honda Capa: Much Too Meh
A rather bland design, poor marketing, and very modest power made the Honda Capa a very forgettable car. Powered by a 1.5-liter SOHC inline-four mill that coughed up 98 horses, the Capa did come with a four-wheel drive and four-speed automatic transmission.
It was also armed with features like Brake Assist to help a small family navigate the city safely but ultimately was one boring car to drive. Also, at that time, there were plenty of more powerful, better looking, and cheaper cars to choose from – so the Capa fell neither here nor there and was out by 2002, for good.
4 2007 Honda That’s: Weird, And How
No, that’s not a pun. The Honda That’s, also known as a Kei-car, belonged to the smallest Japanese car category that was introduced to benefit from taxes and insurance regulations. Built on its cousin, the Honda Life, the Honda That’s carried a .66-liter three-cylinder engine so married to a three-speed automatic transmission.
With a boxy design and a rather tall ceiling, the idea was to make a compact car that could still be a comfortable drive. But the power was low, and this wasn’t a fun drive either, so the That’s never really caught on. Plus there’s that name – who names a car That’s?
3 1999 Honda Avancier: Too Bulky
This one was not low on power at all – in fact, its 2.3-liter inline-four VTEC power mill thrashed out a decent 148 horses, that too on a four-speed automatic. For a five-door mid-size station wagon of 1999 built on the Accord platform, this was okay.
The problem lay with the aesthetics – the design was far too dull, big, and bulky. Maneuvering the Avancier into or out of parking was always a problem, in fact, turning it into tight lanes or driveways also became a bit of a hassle. Despite a bigger powerplant option, the Avancier was just too bulky to catch on and by 2003, it was out.
2 2004 Honda FR-V: Dull And Drab
Known as the Honda Edix in Japan, the Honda FR-V was introduced in the States as an MPV, a multipurpose vehicle in 2004. One of only two players in the market that gave you the option of a six-seat configuration in a compact minivan body - the other being the uglier Fiat Multipla – this was the perfect economy for a mid-sized family.
However much like the Fiat Multipla, which is often dubbed as the ugliest car of the world, the Honda FR-V’s design struck more nays than approvals. The power mill was adequate if not amazing, but the design was much too meh for the buyers to line up for this. By 2009, it was on its way out.
1 2010 Honda Insight: A Me-Too
The Honda Insight has been on the market since 1999. The model that didn’t do too well in the States but was award-winning and commercially-successful in Japan was the 2010 Honda Insight. For the American buyers, it looked too close to the Toyota Prius for the Insight to be a viable option.
This was also a hybrid, and two cars that looked and ran similar would not have done well. With the Prius already being a bestseller, the second-generation Insight did not take off. Plus, the Prius offered better fuel economy so the Insight did not prove very Insightful there and had to be taken off the market for a 2019 sedan revival.